Rio+20 Points the Way to a Green Economy Without Poverty

Rio de Janeiro, host city to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012. Photo: Hector Garcia, Flickr Creative Commons


The following is a guest post by Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, the Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs

In June 2012, Brazil will host the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+20.

The time is right: there are clear signs that the current development models must be reformulated. Countries—regardless of their wealth—face serious economic and financial crises, social inequality, hunger, unemployment, losses in biodiversity and climate change. These multiple crises point to the timely and urgent need to implement sustainable development models, i.e. national projects that take a balanced and integrated approach to economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental protection.

Rio+20 will be an opportunity to hold this discussion at the highest level. The Conference will be fundamentally different from its predecessor, Rio 92. The Summit held 20 years ago represented the final stages of long negotiation processes that culminated in the signing of important documents and conventions. In turn, Rio+20 looks to the future, building a new sustainable development agenda. To the extent that Rio 92 was a point of destination, Rio+20 may be considered a point of departure.

One of Brazil’s priorities in Rio+20 will be discussing the eradication of poverty and the strengthening of financial and technological flows in order to implement sustainable development commitments, which require significant public, private, and political resources.

The Rio+20 agenda is organized around two major subjects. The first is green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. On this, a general agreement has been emerging among the different countries on a few aspects: there is not one single model for green economy; and one must not think about a green economy without taking into account the eradication of poverty, that is, without pursuing social inclusion goals.

Each country will create its own green economy design, based on its national realities, the resources available, and the development challenges it faces. In Brazil, for example, green economy will be based on the widespread use of renewable energy, as well as on effectively combating deforestation and raising income levels for millions of Brazilians. The adoption of a single green energy standard for all nations could potentially create distortions, such as trade barriers, which would deepen the disparities among countries, aggravating social problems, particularly in the developing countries.Photo: Rio+20 logo

The second subject is governance for sustainable development. In other words, it is necessary to adapt the framework of the UN system, so as to strengthen multilateralism, reduce the democratic deficit and provide greater integration among the social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainable development.

Rio+20 may decisively contribute to tackling global warming, because sustainable development is the best answer to the challenges associated with climate change. Brazil has played a key role in the recently held United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, contributing to the Conference’s positive outcomes through its leadership and proposals. Thanks to Durban, the conditions are now set for a constructive exchange on global warming at Rio+20, which could potentially strengthen the international system regarding climate change. This should clearly be achieved without duplicating intergovernmental negotiations, whose legitimate forum is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The world looks to Brazil, the host of Rio+20, for leadership. We have solid credentials for that, as a nation at the cutting edge of clean and renewable energies and also inclusive economic growth policies. Brazil has demonstrated that it is possible to grow and to include, while protecting and preserving.

As President Dilma Rousseff mentioned in January 2012, at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre: after Rio+20, we want the word “development” to always be associated to the adjective “sustainable.”


Antonio de Aguiar Patriota is the Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs

Changing Planet