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Rio+20 issues environment, poverty blueprint

RIO DE JANEIRO -- The biggest U.N. summit on sustainable development in a decade approved a strategy on Friday to haul more than a billion people out of poverty and cure the sickness of the biosphere.

But critics branded the plan a cruel failure, saying it had been gutted of ambition by national interests.

The gathering of 191 U.N. members crowned a 10-day forum marking 20 years since the Rio Earth Summit, where leaders vowed the world would live within its environmental means.

In a sprawling 53-page statement, the three-day summit voiced dismay at entrenched poverty and mounting ecological stress.

Entitled "The Future We Want," the statement highlighted the many perils facing a planet whose human population is set to surge from seven billion today to 9.5 billion by 2050.

The long list includes climate change, desertification, fisheries depletion, pollution and deforestation.

"Sustainable Development Goals" will replace the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals from 2015, although defining the aim will be left for future talks — a process likely to be long and fiercely fought.

No Funding Figures

Despite the demands of developing nations for US$30 billion in help, the text stipulated no funding figures to achieve sustainability goals.

A registry that was opened during the conference showed that nearly 700 commitments, mobilizing US$513 billion, had been made for sustainable development by governments and businesses, the U.N. said on Friday. It gave no details about whether the funding was new.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the outcome "provides a firm foundation for social, economic, environmental well-being."

President Dilma Rousseff told a press conference that Brazil, the host country, had secured the compromise after months of haggling.

"The consensus is a point of departure, not arrival," she cautioned.

In the green movement, many activists branded Rio+20 a disappointment to rank alongside the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit.

"The only people dancing in Rio tonight will be those who continue to benefit from a broken economic model that puts profit ahead of people and planet," said Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth.

"Rio+20 has been a failure of epic proportions," said Greenpeace's executive director, Kumi Naidoo.

Ban had named the Conference on Sustainable Development as the cornerstone of his plan for fairer, cleaner growth, the "No. 1 priority" of his tenure.

But talk of a summit that would draw as many 130 heads of state or government to give a push to his goals was way off the mark.

In the end, less than half of the U.N.'s roll call of countries sent their leader, with the remainder represented by deputies, ministers or simply chief negotiators.

Absentees included US President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

1 Comment
June 24, 2012    rudy@
An absolutely staggering failure and, worse yet, there is no worldwide protest on the streets. It appears a mega-pandemic -- natural or man-created -- that culls an overwhelming majority of the population is necessary to forcefully change things. As one who will probably be among the victims, I hope it is brief and painless.
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From left to right, U.N. General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al Nasser, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's Secretary of the Conference Luis Figueiredo Machado, and Rio+20 Secretary-General Sha Zukang attend the closing ceremony of the Rio+20 U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Friday, June 22. (AP)

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