Rio Earth Summit ‘political failure’ in delivering sustainability roadmap


As reports continue to come in outlining the ‘political failure’ of Rio +20, it couldn’t be clearer that governments are unlikely to move together to take on the economic, environmental and humanitarian consequences of climate change as long as they are under the influence of the fossil fuel industry.


RT @GlobalEcoGuy NGOs, civil society, academia, and business showed some real leadership in #Rioplus20. Too bad most government “leaders” did not.

Key Points

  • Civil society groups from around the world and across all sectors have rejected the political outcome of the Rio+20 summit.  The document adopted by government leaders fails to effectively tackle the biggest challenges for people and planet, such as climate change.
  • At Rio, individuals in civil society, NGOs, academia and progressive businesses championed solutions aimed at preventing the worst consequences of global climate change and showcased the benefits of taking action.
  • To scale up inspiring examples of action on the ground, governments still need to agree on binding international frameworks and incentives for a cleaner economy. Rio demonstrated this is unlikely as long as the fossil fuel industry holds a tight grip on governments.
  • A key issue for leaders at G20 and Rio+20 was ending fossil fuel subsidies. Despite a global grassroots effort and staggering national debts worldwide, these leaders decided to continue handing out US$1 trillion in harmful subsidies to the highly profitable fossil fuel industry.


The Rio+20 conference was seen as an opportunity for the international community to come together and hammer out a plan aimed at shifting the world to a more sustainable path by addressing key challenges such as climate change. By setting targets and agreeing timelines for sustainable energy development, creating a framework for dis-incentivising carbon pollution and incentivising clean energy sources, and shifting US$ 1 trillion worth of subsidies from dirty fuels to renewable solutions, governments could have helped the world avoid dire environmental, economic and humanitarian consequences caused by climate change.

Actions and case studies by civil society groups, NGOs, youth organizations and the business community at Rio+20 showed that these solutions exist, are economically viable, deliver direct and immediate benefits on the ground, and enjoy public support. These global movements, however, fell on deaf ears as governments leaders gathered at the Rio summit failed to agree a strong and transformative roadmap to the future, instead opening up new  so-called ‘sustainable’ energy initiatives to gas, coal, oil and nuclear power. While there are certainly some positive elements in the political Rio outcome, as well as in the unilateral commitments made by governments at the summit, overall the Rio outcome – titled “The Future We Want” – falls far short of delivering the future people and and planet really need and demand.


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