Rio+20 blog: Private sector sees opportunity at the Earth Summit
Amongst the almost inevitable disappointment as the Rio summit closed, leading businesses show that real progress can be made
The speeches are over. Now the work begins.
That was the message various UN personnel delivered in the anticlimactic closing hours of the Rio sustainability conference as participants made for the airport – in what became a traffic jam of giant proportions – to catch the last planes out of Brazil before the weekend.
Were attendees running away from a failed process or leaving with heads held high? The answer depends on who you spoke with.
No bold action
Critics had ample reason to rip the UN for a consensus building process that, they say, just isn’t up to the task of bold action.
Whatever happened to the $30bn Global Fund for Sustainable Development or the Financial Transactions Tax? A Sustainable Development Index was talked about but remains in the study phase.
A Sustainable Development Council? That didn’t materialise, nor was there a commitment to a Global Fund for Education.
A World Environment Organisation seems to have a chance of taking shape through expanded powers granted to the UN Environmental Protection Agency, but that still remains to be seen.
But while these are valid criticisms, they miss a larger point, some say.
“The Rio summit rightly did not focus on new international treaties but on recommitment and on implementation,” said Andrew Deutz, director of international government relations for The Nature Conservancy.“There are pressing global conservation issues and we pretty much know what needs to be done.”
Private sector progress
The good news is coming from the progressive private sector, which is stepping up in understanding the value of nature – in seeing how environmental degradation is a business risk and how environmental improvement is an investment opportunity, Deutz said.
The summit’s final communiqué points to the more than $500bn mobilised, with more than 700 commitments made, prompting the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, to tell business leaders that “transformation is underway”.
“Where once we mostly burned our way to prosperity, today proven green growth strategies are on the rise,” he said. “Our challenge is to scale up and come together in common cause.”
Read Eric Marx’s full report about the Rio summit’s achievements and disappointments in the July-August issue of Ethical Corporation.