The following post is from Ashley Haugo, Legislative and Policy Aide for the BlueGreen Alliance.
Today marks the opening day of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), which convenes 130 heads of state to discuss the perilous state of the global economy and environment. However, as negotiations came to a close yesterday afternoon, there was an audible sigh . . . and unfortunately, it was not a sigh of relief but rather one of dismay. The final document, which will be presented to world leaders for adoption starting today, is weaker than had been desired – and needed – because it lacks decisive timetables and commitments. Adding to that, there are notable absences at the meeting table, including President Barack Obama, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Luckily, though, not all hope is gone. At Rio, delegates and leaders have the ability to demand a stronger, more meaningful text. At home, Sen. John Kerry took a stand on the Senate floor last night to strongly urge U.S. action to combat the threat of global climate change, warning President Obama that the “danger we face could not be more real.” And social media reminds us that Rio+20 is not just a conference for nations’ leaders — it is for all of us to step up to help create a more sustainable world: “I hope the outcome of Rio+20 will motivate people to go home and do BETTER.”
And stepping up in a big way are some of the world’s largest cities — including Austin, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Portland and Seattle. Today, these 59 cities announced they are joining together to form the C40 Cities XClimate Leadership Group, and cut their greenhouse gas emissions 248 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. That is equal to 44 million passenger vehicles! If these mayors can do that, imagine what the leaders at the Rio+20 convention can do together to create the just, carbon free economy we all need. To see how others are stepping up all across the world, check out the Rio+20 log of voluntary commitments.
In addition to the formal talks, which will run from Wednesday, June 20th – Friday, June 22nd, there are numerous side events and meetings as part of Rio+20. Stay tuned in the coming days for more updates and read BlueGreen Alliance’s policy statement on Rio+20 here. Also, follow the action on Twitter (#rio, #rioplustwenty, #rio+20), Facebook, or the UNCSD website.