The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) is just days away, but observers have already been griping for weeks that world leaders may not agree to any firm environmental commitments when they meet in Rio de Janeiro next week (June 20-22). However, a new survey suggests that the world’s people are rooting for concrete action.
A poll conducted by National Geographic and The Regeneration Project (a cross-sectoral collaboration that aims to accelerate progress in the transition to sustainable development) found that 55% of people worldwide want their government to “play a leadership role in making ambitious international commitments to reduce global poverty in ways that improve the environment.”
An additional 40% say they want their government to support moderate international commitments. The survey included 17,000 consumers across 17 countries.
Whether the poll results will put pressure on leaders to make hard decisions at Rio+20 remains to be seen, since there are many challenges competing for priority on the global stage, from economic recession to war and terrorism.
According to the survey, there is especially strong support for Rio+20’s goals in the host region, Latin America, with strong majorities in Mexico (80%), Brazil (74%), and Argentina (67%) calling for ambitious leadership. The next countries are India (63%) and Canada (58%).
Only 51% of those in the world’s two biggest economic superpowers, the U.S. and China, would call for strong leadership. Perhaps surprisingly given their strong commitment to renewable energy, Germans are the least likely among those surveyed to want the strongest government leadership at Rio (43%).
Overall, only 5% of respondents said they want their governments to avoid any international agreements, although 11% of Americans did take that position.
In a statement, Terry Garcia, executive vice president for Mission Programs at National Geographic, said, “Everyone heading to Rio should be heartened to hear that there is broad public support for leaders to take meaningful action on issues related to climate change. Surveys like this suggest there is real opportunity here.”
Lindsay Clinton, senior manager at SustainAbility, said, “While international treaties are not an expected outcome from Rio+20, the evidence that consumers want national governments to lead is a call to arms. If governments fail to act, we hope that the private sector will heed the call from consumers and exhibit leadership through their own sustainability commitments at the Summit.”
The poll suggests that the world’s people are interested in what happens at Rio+20, especially from the developing world. Hopefully the 50,000 or so leaders who plan on gathering in the Marvelous City can get some things done.