Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will lead the U.S. delegation at the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (dubbed Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the State Department announced Tuesday.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will act as alternate head of the delegation and Todd Stern, special envoy on climate change, will act as chief negotiator.
Days from now, some 130 heads of state and tens of thousands of activists from around the world will gather in Rio de Janeiro for the “Rio + 20” Earth Summit. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently laid out his vision for the conference in a New York Times article entitled “The Future We Want.”
Ki-moon expressed hope that the meeting will inspire new thinking, focus on people, and issue a “clarion call” for smarter resource use. He gave a nod to the importance of women, who “hold up half the sky,” and of young people, “the very face of our future.”
Still, one crucial ingredient went without mention: sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The inclusion of SRHR and access to family planning completes the jigsaw puzzle of a just and sustainable world.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stood at a podium outside the U.N. on Friday wearing a dashing bike helmet — only to break my heart.
A promise had been made to me that I would get to ride bikes with the secretary general. To be fair, the promise was only implied; the invite from the Embassy of the Netherlands and its associated partners read only, "U.N. Bike Ride." But I definitely was under the impression that the secretary general of the U.N. and I would very possibly be riding bikes simultaneously, in the same vicinity, in concert. Discussing issues of the day; inspiring others around us to celebrate the bike as a low-carbon -- high-fun! -- means of transport.
I hadn't been to the U.N. before. People that live in New York don't really go there. Only in New York City would an international organization tasked with keeping the world prosperous, healthy, and at peace be relegated to a strip of land by a murky river and then ignored. The complex sits like a once-great college campus at the end of 42nd Street, oozing stale optimism onto the highway that runs underneath it. It's a symbol, not a destination -- for this idea that we can all work together to change the world for the better despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary.
With the Earth Summit -- or as it's officially known, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (oh, bureaucracy) -- now days away, we're in one of our hopeful periods about the U.N., like we just bought a lottery ticket that probably won't pay off but-what-if-this-one-time. Maybe this time, the U.N. will shift the world on its axis.
And how better to inaugurate that sentiment than a bike ride through New York City? A rainbow-colored coterie of diplomats and press and New Yorkers sweeping out from behind the high gates of the U.N. like Willy Wonka stepping into the public light, a show of solidarity revealing a magic that inspired the world. Or, at the very least, a visible statement of the utility and rationality of using bikes in America's biggest city. I mean, it works in the Netherlands, and bike use is expanding in the U.S.
If you had just a few minutes to address world leaders -- to give the ultimate “My Fellow Earthlings” speech -- what would you say? That was essentially the question behind A Date With History, a challenge sponsored by the climate campaign Tcktcktck, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Climate Nexus. They invited anyone between the ages of 13 and 30 to write a speech addressing the attendees of the Earth Summit in Rio next month.
Tell the bigwigs about what kind of future you want, they said. The best speechifier will win a trip to Rio -- and possibly a chance to address the gathering in person.
The videos streamed in from the far corners of the planet. The web-surfing public narrowed the field to 22. And a star-studded jury including Leonardo DiCaprio and Daryl Hannah picked the winner.
Her name is Brittany Trilford. She’s 17, from Wellington, New Zealand, and yeah, she’s got some things to say to the folks who are in charge -- about broken promises, about the consequences of corporate and government actions, and about what we could learn from nature about how to run the planet.
Well, it’s not the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but it’s a start.
A coalition of U.S. environmental and social justice groups has asked President Obama to step up and attend the Earth Summit, a gathering of international bigwigs next month in Rio. It'll be an important opportunity to meet influentialpeople from other countries, attend criticalmeetings, and lead high-level negotiations. Oh, and figure out how to build a green economy, Van Jones-style, around the globe.
As you may have heard, President Obama is being cagey about whether he'll attend the Earth Summit in Rio next month. You know, it's just the FUTURE OF THE PLANET that’s up for discussion. Nothing big. Maybe he’ll go. Maybe not.
As it happens, we were in the same situation 20 years ago, as the 1992 Earth Summit approached and George Bush Sr. was giving it the old, "Well, maaaaaybe ..."
Back then, a group of the major, mainstream environmental groups in the U.S. rallied for the cause. To convince Bush he should attend, they enlisted none other than Darth Vader. Well, his voice, at least -- the actor James Earl Jones. They made the spooky film clip below, replete with -- is that the Pony Express or the Horsemen of the Apocalypse? -- and then ran it in movie theaters around the country. Jones did the voiceover. Need I even tell you that Bush Sr. decided to attend?
In my research into the 2012 Earth Summit, I’ve noticed very little action from the major U.S. greens. A handful of them, including EarthJustice, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Nature Conservancy, and the Pew Environment Group, have been involved, along with groups focused on clean energy, sustainable agriculture, and other issues, but where’s the old guard that sponsored the Darth Vader ad two decades ago? I decided to do a little poking around.
The sticker on the stall door in the women’s room at the United Nations had a simple message: “[stop bracketing / START DOING].”
That slogan would have made no sense at all to me just a couple of days earlier, before I sat and watched the preparations for the Earth Summit that will take place in Rio de Janeiro next month. (If you have no clue what the summit is, check out our primer.) The meetings in New York City, which will resume May 29, are called the “second round of ‘informal-informal’ negotiations on the zero draft of the outcome document.” Here’s what it looks like:
You walk into a cavernous room full of diplomats. Projected on a screen at the front of the room is a paragraph from the aforementioned “zero draft,” which will evolve into the working document that will be up for discussion in Rio. Each paragraph is picked over word by word, with delegations from dozens of countries around the world suggesting word changes and deletions, or disagreeing with other nations’ word changes and deletions. A guy at the front of the room types it all in for everyone to see, putting the suggested changes in brackets, like this:
We reaffirm support for the implementation of [national – Canada delete; Russian Federation retain] [and sub-national – US, Russian Federation] [energy – Norway] policies and strategies, [based on individual national circumstances and development aspirations – US delete, Belarus retain] [to combine as / using an – US, Belarus, Norway, Russian Federation] appropriate [the – US Norway delete] energy mix to meet development needs ...
In just two months, world leaders will gather in Rio to hammer out a new set of agreements on what sustainable development means, and more importantly, how both rich and developing nations can get there before it’s too late. Day by day, the buzz is building around this historic Earth Summit. But there’s a problem: The big plans being hatched for the occasion -- nicknamed Rio+20 -- leave women out.
Next month, the United Nations will hold a mega-conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil -- the Earth Summit, aka Rio+20. In addition to being an international Who’s Who of over 130 heads of state and leaders in sustainable development, it will also be a chance for young people to assert the urgency of the challenges we face and seize the opportunities presented to our generation to address them.
Yeah, I know you're probably still sour about the last global enviro conference that made headlines -- the 2009 Copenhagen climate negotiations. I understand that bitterness. I was there, a senior in college then, all wide-eyed and hopped up on hope. But in preparing to attend the Earth Summit with other youth leaders, I come with renewed enthusiasm that this conference will be different.
For one, we are all a little more sober heading into Rio+20. Few anticipate that it will produce a sweeping treaty that will plug our smokestacks and curb our passion for plastic. And after talking with U.S. State Department negotiators, I am assured that this is certainly not the course the U.S. is taking. (There are, however, many things that the State Department could warm to with a little pressure from the American public, like including at least one young person on the official delegation to represent American youth.)
Rather, Rio+20 will be a global conversation and test run in 21st century governance, driven by our planet's limitations and need for diverse stakeholder participation. This is an opportunity for those of us energized by the street and internet democracy that has proliferated in recent years to bring our voices to the table with world leaders.
News flash: World leaders will gather in two short months at the 2012 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to discuss the future of the planet. You may have caught the news stories last week about President Obama’s failure to RSVP. You’re forgiven if you missed them. You’re not the only one who just said, “Earth Summit, what?”
But this is for real. And there are a few things that you, good Jedi knights, ought to know about it.