20 June, Rio Centro, Rio+20 summit
It is raining heavily here in Rio on the first day of the Rio+20 summit – and for the first time in the 10 days since I arrived. The current official text is almost devoid of ambition and does not show even the hoped for progress in some areas such as fossil fuel subsidies and sustainable development goals. So perhaps the weather today with the arrival of leaders from more than 100 countries is a perfect example of pathetic fallacy where in Thomas Hardy’s ‘Far from the madding crowd’ you knew something bad was going to happen to Gabriel Oak or Bathsheba Everdene because there would be a storm brewing and heavy rain would begin to fall!
However if you were a farmer in Ceará or Pernambuco or anywhere in northeast Brazil where there is currently the worst drought in 50 years and where 57% of the land is in drought conditions you would be looking to the sky for rain bearing clouds and would be overjoyed to experience the heavy rain falling here in Rio.
So is the rain a sign of something bad or something good about to happen in Rio? Civil society here is generally furious about the current text – and to mix up the metaphor – want world leaders to raise a storm to improve the current text. But will they? Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General was honest in his assessment today as you can see in the photo above – where in his speech to leaders he lamented the lack of ambition in the current text and after a strong push from civil society today seems to indicate that it would still be possible to revisit the text currently seen as agreed by countries.
Ministers and leaders have mostly given no indication that they are keen to negotiate further on the text – some feeling that just having international agreement of the current text between all countries on environment and development is a good result and also fearing that to open up the text may lead to it being further weakened… If heads of state are not going to try to make the text better here in Rio then what on earth are they going to do? Well Rio certainly has plenty of attractions – Corcovado, Pao de Acucar, Copacabana, Ipanema – to name just a few – but I suspect that in these times of economic crisis spending three days sightseeing would not go down well with their electorates – or at least it shouldn’t.
So what are our leaders going to do in Rio? – the next 72 hours are vital.