The third day of the Earth Summit is slowly coming to an end. Just now, there was an event in the park behind the conference halls – two different society forces tried their hand at a tug of war. On one side were the managers of international corporations in their dark suits. On the other were the civil society and the environmental organisations. The contest was about 1,000 billion dollars of subsidies for the oil industry. Right in the middle of the action there was a papier mache figure of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. She had it in her hands to prevent the Earth Summit from ending in a minimalist compromise. Activists chanted „Save Rio+20!“ – but now it’s too late.
The outcome of the Earth Summit was already clear before this UN Conference on Sustainable Development even started. The conference was marked by empty, weak words, a lack of clear goals and a roadmap for their realisation. Rio+20 became the Summit of shame for the coming generations. There was no vision for a really green closed-circle economy. The environmentally harmful subsidies will not be phased out in the foreseeable future. Oil, coal, gas, and nuclear power will continue to be diligently subsidised. Agriculture and industrial fishing will further exploit our natural resources. The ecological footprint will keep getting bigger, and biodiversity depletion will go on. There is no clear commitment to a timetable for the implementation of sustainable development goals.
But the second Earth Summit in history was not entirely pointless. The government of Great Britain has announced that 1,000 companies will have to measure their ecological footprint. This could develop to an actual model in Europe. Eight development banks intend to invest 175 dollars over the next years in the development of city transport and cycle tracks. The Brazilian Minister of Environment Izabella Teixeira announced last night that 250 million dollars will be raised from public and private funds for the protection of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. Of course, this is just a drop in the ocean in comparison to what the world would need to provide enough water, food, and sustainable energy until the end of the century – and not with the help of genetic technology or nuclear power but using earth-friendly ways that take account of our dwindling resources.
Outside, in front of the conference centre, you can still hear the drone of army helicopters. Soldiers and police are guarding the last prime ministers of the rich countries, who will be making their speeches of justification until late in the afternoon. There are still hundreds of journalists around trying to conduct their final interviews with the politicians. But after nine days, the conference in Rio has run out of steam. Now the mega-complex looks like it’s lost in a cloud of valium in contrast to the huge stress of the first week. I and my WWF colleagues are also breaking camp today. We’ll enjoy a peaceful weekend after this marathon of countless events, hundreds of interviews, talks, and negotiations.
Outside, young people from Germany are giving out bracelets made of green thread to the delegates. These should remind political decision-makers of their responsibility for our planet even after the end of the Earth Summit. Because it’s all about the future of a humankind that needs to change its way of thinking. The tug of war between nature and our fragmented humankind will continue. This is what this Summit has clearly shown. We’re just wondering who will win in the end…