Differences galore over the commitments made at the Earth Summit
As the leaders met in a mountain-girdled Brazilian town for the crucial official round of discussions on the Rio+20 text, what was most noticeably missing was the kind of excitement that was witnessed two decades ago, when more than 172 governments, as many as 108 of them sending their heads of state, participated for the first-of-its-kind global awakening event. The developed nations are seen advising the developing nations to “look forward” and not to “look backwards,” to the promises made in 1992. They have made it known that they would remain non-committal on most of the issues by taking a stand that Rio+20 is not be treated as a “pledging event.”
The differences are over reconfirming the commitments made at Rio Earth Summit —its vision, financial commitments and sustainable development goals.
When the 1992 summit could come out with the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development — which consequently paved the way for the signing of the Kyoto Protocol and the UN Action Plan on Sustainable Development or the Agenda 21 —the nations are now fighting shy of any commitment on the promises they had made at the first summit, not to speak of making fresh commitments.
No developed country, many of them facing financial crises back home, want to carry out the commitment they had made on contributing 0.7 per cent of GNP to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This time there has not been much talk about “North-South cooperation.” The emphasis has appeared to be on “South-South’ or even triangular cooperation.
The jugglery over words has led to rephrasing of “technology transfer” to “technology development,” and “green economy” to “green economy policies.” The European Union, Australia and New Zealand wanted “technology transfer.” These countries want to remove any reference to Intellectual Property Rights and patent rights held by the rich nations in green technologies. The U.S. and Canada are averse to making any commitment on increase in overseas development assistance.
The rich nations have taken a stand that the additional finances will have to come through South-South collaboration, Foreign Direct Investment and the markets.
The G-77 countries, of which India too is a part, argued — rather successfully this time — that the use of the expression “green economy’ could be misleading and faulty as each country’s situation varies and hence each should be allowed to figure out what is “green” for it. The title, “technology trap” in the text has been changed to “technology” with a reference that technology transfer would on the basis of “mutual agreement.”
As for the SDGs, there is a suggestion to appoint a steering committee of 30 experts by the forthcoming 67th meeting of the UN General Assembly.
The steering committee would be asked to present its proposal to the UN General Assembly at its 68th meeting.
As the draft undergoes changes and mutation, the responses too vary.
The developing countries now find it more acceptable. Yet they criticised it for ‘failing’ to address issues of finance.
The Algerian Chair of G-77 termed it “more reassuring” as it would lead to some outcome for Rio +20. Yet, the Algerian Ambassador was quoted as saying that the developing countries were being asked to take up new obligations without being given anything new in return.
Senior Brazilian officer Luiz Machado, involved in the discussions on the resolution, said if anyone was unhappy that was only normal in an exercise of this magnitude.
Coming out perhaps with the harshest response, the European Union termed the text “not worthy of being presented to the heads of states.”