The world is in danger, and yet the biggest high level international summit to save our planet was a complete failure. The summit was over before it was officially opened. This time we will not report the voices of the environmentalist, not even the voices of scientists. Here are a few comments from the major columnists in the world.


The Indipendent - A lot of high-flown rhetoric ushered in last week's UN Conference on Sustainable Development. Rio+20 was the biggest summit the UN had ever organised. Some 40,000 environmentalists and 10,000 government officials gathered with politicians from 190 nations for a meeting which the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said was "too important to fail". But fail it did. It ended on Friday with an unambitious, non-binding statement which made few advances on what was agreed 20 years ago. Activists such as Greenpeace International called it "an epic failure". Technocrats such as Maurice Strong, who ran the 1992 summit, called it a "weak" collection of "pious generalities". Politicians such as Nick Clegg called it "insipid". No wonder in Brazil protesters ritually ripped up the final text and renamed the summit "Rio minus 20".

Die Süddeutsche Zeitung - To be sure, all of the great questions facing humanity make an appearance in the document, but without any attempt at a binding agreement. The Rio+20 conference, which really should have provided a new spark, has instead shined the spotlight on global timidity. Postpone, consider, examine: Even the conference motto — "The Future We Want" — sounds like an insult. If this is the future we want, then good night. If all countries are satisfied with the lowest common denominator, if they no longer want to discuss what needs to be discussed . . . then the dikes are open. There is no need anymore for a conference of 50,000 attendees. Resolutions that are so wishy-washy can be interpreted by every member state as they wish. No one needs Rio.

The New York Times blog - The final statement from Rio, “The Future We Want,” is 283 paragraphs of kumbaya that “affirm,” “recognize,” “underscore,” “urge” and “acknowledge” seemingly every green initiative and environmental problem from water crises and creeping deserts to climate change and overfishing. Women’s rights, indigenous peoples, children, mining, tourism, trade unions and the elderly also get shout-outs in the document. The word “reaffirm” is used 60 times. (...) Mr. Naidoo called the final report the “longest suicide note in history.” Jim Leape, director general of the wildlife fund, said it was “a colossal failure of leadership and vision from diplomats.”

The Indipendent - Politicians have a history of being followers rather than leaders in such matters. They had to be dragged by Jubilee 2000 activists to forgiveness of unpayable Third World debt. It was ordinary people, through Make Poverty History, who forced them into the great leap forward in aid that came at Gleneagles. We may now need a similar bottom-up mass movement of individuals to get real progress on saving the planet. 

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