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Rio+20 founders before it starts

Publish date: 12 June 2012
Issue Number: 265
Diary: Legalbrief Environmental
Category: Conservation

As scientists continue to warn that urgent action is necessary to avoid a future environmental catastrophe, the globally significant conservation meeting in Rio starting next week is already handicapped by dissent, writes Legalbrief.

Population growth, urbanisation and consumption are set to inflict irreversible damage on the planet, the UN said last week, and called for urgent agreement on new environmental targets at an Earth summit this month. A report on the PlanetArk site notes that the UN Environment Programme (Unep) sounded the alarm in its fifth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-5) report, published last week. The GEO-5 report, three years in the making and the UN's main health-check of the planet, urges governments to create more ambitious targets or toughen existing ones, most of which have failed to deliver. Full report on the PlanetArk site Report: 'Global Environment Outlook 5'

If global warming continues at its current pace, the planet will increasingly suffer irreversible damage to its biodiversity, natural resources and substantial losses of human life and territory, according to a joint report published last week by CARE International, Germanwatch, ActionAid and WWF at the Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany. According to a report on the Alertnet site, the joint report concludes that adaptation to climate change alone will no longer suffice. Governments will need to take new measures to deal with extreme impacts and prepare for losses due to climate change. 'The current political commitments do not match the urgent scientific realities,' Kit Vaughan, CARE International's climate change advocacy coordinator, is quoted in the report as saying. Full report on the Alertnet site Climate change report

Meanwhile, countries continue to bicker over the phrasing of clauses and key terms in the draft text for Rio+20, notes a report in The Guardian. The latest draft text that 180 governments are expected to sign up to at the end of the summit has been leaked to the Guardian. According to the UN, only about 20% of the wording has been agreed, so with just three days formal negotiating time before world leaders arrive in Brazil on 20 June, and with the most contentious language still in, there is unlikely to be a strong agreement. According to Third World network, the only non-governmental group to publish daily reports on the progress of the negotiations, developed countries are still firmly opposed to proposals by developing countries calling for the provision of 'new and additional financial resources'. According to the report, this has created serious tensions and frustrations with Pakistan, speaking for the G77 and China, saying there was no point in more discussions and no scope for more work and that it was better to 'eliminate the entire finance chapter itself', given the response of developed countries. The report notes WWF director-general Jim Leape is deeply concerned that the talks could collapse under the pressure of having to negotiate so much in such a short time. Full report in The Guardian

To make matters worse, major players are pulling out of the Rio Earth summit. This is an indicator of the awkward politics and negotiations required to move forward with climate change policies, an environmental organisation says. A report on the News24 site quotes Saliem Fakir, WWF head of the Living Planet Unit, as saying: 'There is a lot of scepticism around the Rio+10 and the Rio+20 agenda. It has become a cumbersome beast that I think has too many items for action and many of those are not really actionable.' US President Barack Obama has announced that he will not be attending the summit from 20 - 22 June, according to the report which notes UK Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have also declined to attend the summit. The heart of the Rio summit is focused on how countries should proceed on climate policy once the Kyoto Protocol lapses. It was signed in 1997 to force developed countries to commit to limiting their greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change. 'Despite the fact that some serious governments are not attending, we've got to figure out a way to make this work or not. We're also not sending a massive delegation because we don't want to increase our carbon footprint by having 60 people go and attend a meeting, but we are taking a strategic view on this: By trying to influence it, if we can, in the right direction,' the report quotes Fakir as saying. Full report on the News24 site

Damage from climate change could cost Latin American and Caribbean countries $100bn a year by 2050 if average temperatures rise 2°C from pre-industrial levels, as is seen likely, a new report says. According to a report on the PlanetArk site, the region accounts for only 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but it is considered particularly vulnerable to impact from climate change due to its geographic location and reliance on natural resources, the report commissioned by the Inter-American Development Bank said. The collapse of the coral biome in the Caribbean, the disappearance of some glaciers in the Andes and some degree of destruction in the Amazon basin were climate change damages highlighted in the report. Full report on the PlanetArk site