RIO+20 Earth Summit: What can we expect?

by Judith Curry

The impact of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit is difficult to overestimate: it provided a primary foundation for the Precautionary Principle and fostered an agreement on the Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) which in turn led to the Kyoto Protocol. The 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit will be marked by the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (RIO+20).

From the website of the Conference:

The objective of the Conference is to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges.  The Conference will focus on two themes: (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development.

What can we expect from Rio+20?  A slightly scary hint is provided by this summary of a planning meeting held last January, some excerpts:

The 2012 summit is expected to agree on a political document that will guide action on sustainable development policy for decades to come and give birth to a World Environment Organisation.  Contributions to the summit’s discussions were submitted by UN member states, major stakeholders and international oganizations ahead of the meeting.  Among the wildest ideas are plans to introduce personal carbon quotas and birth control as means of reducing global consumption.

From a  post last March at Grist:

At a recent preparatory meeting in New York, the agenda for this next Earth Summit became clear. The leaders will issue a “focused political document” tackling the transition to a global “green economy” and reform of the international institutions responsible for sustainable development. This second “reform” strand could feasibly restructure everything ranging from the U.N. Environmental Program (UNEP) and the U.N. Development Program to the 500 different multilateral environmental treaties and agreements currently in place. These cover toxic chemicals, ocean conservation, biodiversity, desertification, climate change, ozone depletion, forest protection, and more. Given the rising trends of global temperature, hunger, water scarcity, and biodiversity loss, the existing mishmash of eco-governance is clearly failing to deliver. RIO+20 is a precious chance for decision-makers to take stock of where the world went wrong in the last 20 years and plan intelligently for the next 20. Hopefully RIO+20 will deliver a jolt of political will to the global environmental agenda, as well as a smart plan to get the planet back on track.

Or at least that’s the theory. And now we come to the bad news: Far from cooking up a plan to save the Earth, what may come out of the summit could instead be a deal to surrender the living world to a small cabal of bankers and engineers — one that will dump the promises of the first Rio summit along the way. Tensions are already rising between northern countries and southern countries over the poorly defined concept of a global “Green Economy” that will be the centerpiece of the summit.

Of relevance to food security, I spotted this in a recent post at Huffington Post:

Via Campesina — an independent international peasant movement dedicated to the principles of food sovereignty, comprised of more than 150 million farmers and producers — is already preparing its arsenal. The group and its allies are hoping to come together in force at Rio+20 — which will include discussions of food security and poverty alleviation — next summer to intervene, voicing their opposition to the development community’s track record of land grabs, environmental degradation, and displacement of subsistence and small farmers.

As much as the actions of the development community, it is their paradigm that troubles Via Campesina. In the movement’s eyes, “green economy” is a contradiction in terms. The entire concept of food conglomerates goes against the tenets of the Via Campesina movement, which prioritizes responsible local stewardship of land and waterways, as well as communities’ ability to cultivate and sell culturally appropriate and environmentally sustainable foodstuffs as they see fit. As we have watched food systems the world over go from diversified and decentralized to concentrated, homogenous and industrial, “peasants” (as Via Campesina members choose to identify themselves) have been systematically removed from the land and waterways from which they derive their livelihoods. Unless these patterns are reversed, Via Campesina argues, “development” programs will only continue to widen the economic divide — lining the pockets of the rich and exacerbating the oppression of and scarcity of resources available to the poor.

Pardee Center Task Force Report

In the midst of the raw politics that one might expect to dominate the Rio+20 Conference, the Pardee Center Task Force Report Beyond Rio+20 prepared by Boston University provides some perspectives from academics.  Five recommendations emerged from this report:

One. Think boldly and move incrementally. There is a need, instead, for what some participants called a strategy of “radi- cal incrementalism”—recognizing and strengthening those elements within the existing institutional architecture that work, identifying the strategic direction of change, and implementing measured and pragmatic shifts that can begin moving the system in that direction. Progressively evaluating the implementa- tion and progress of such measures and carefully adding to them to bring about the desired shifts is an important component of this process. One example of this would be to break the deadlock that often arises when we search for a single “perfect” solution by the adoption of a “portfolio approach” that uses a combina- tion of initiatives to raise a variety of resources including monetary resources, knowledge resources, capacity development, public support, and awareness- raising for effective global action on forests.

Two. Take economic policy seriously.  The most obvious case for a shift towards a green economy is in macro- economic policy instruments relating to structures and principles for international trade and finance issues. For example, the role of trade in resources—espe- cially in energy-related resources and also including the security implications of resource trade—is central to a green economy. Any shift in this area will require carefully crafted incentives to align international markets simultane- ously towards environmental and resource goals. At the micro-economic level, the institutional challenge is to create individual incentives (including negative ones) to realign consumption and production decisions that can have significant environmental and economic ramifications.

Three. Recognize what is working and what is not working. There is no need to re-invent the wheel. There are already a number of public and private sector initiatives and partnerships that seek to promote a transition to a green economy world. At the same time, current organizations, policies, and practices must be subject to critical evaluation and changed if they stand in the way of the realiza- tion of a green economy. . . The desire to fundamentally redesign things, to create new institutions without first thinking about what will happen to old ones, and to simply assume that the problems that have plagued institutions in the past will somehow disappear in the future remains as prevalent as it is misguided.

Four. Make implementation the focus. Such a focus involves at least two important changes. First, it will require better incorporating public, private, and civil society actors who are closer to implementation, including at the national and sub-national levels. This will require multilevel governance from major intergov- ernmental forums down to town halls and households. The subsidiarity principle should guide policy and management efforts, dealing with each issue at the lowest, most appropriate level to bring decision-making as close as possible to each citizen. Second, implementation requires evaluation, monitoring, and accountability. At each level, accountability issues are crucial to ensure change and implementation. This includes thinking hard and carefully about what kind of accountability mechanisms are needed and how they may be established. To this end, a host of scientific, economic, and political information needs to be generated and shared in an open and transparent manner.

Five. The state remains central but non-state actors have to be better accommodated. A focus on green economic issues highlights the importance of markets and consumers to both ecology and politics. However, governments remain—and will remain—central to this enterprise. There is a tendency (often by those outside of governments) to downplay the importance of states; there is also a tendency (often amongst those within governments) to push the much of the responsibility for action and change on to non-state institutions. Both tenden- cies should be rejected. . .  Just as the state has to learn how to create a space where markets and citizens can spur institutional innovation at a planetary scale, it also has to retain and assert its role as rule-setter and enforcer. This is already evident in the area of cli- mate change and the creation of carbon markets—markets that can neither oper- ate nor be created independent of state action—and will become increasingly important in the management and greening of natural resource supply chains. As these market instruments may become defined more and more by national security concerns, the importance of the state will increase—not diminish—in the evolving institutional needs of the planet.

Five +1. Put equity at the center. A green economy and any institutions devised for it must make their core focus the well-being of people—of all people, everywhere—across present and future gener- ations. That essential idea puts the notion of equity—intra- as well as inter-generational equity—smack at the center of the green economy enterprise.

NRDC’s proposal for potential deliverables

The Natural Resource Defence Council (NRDC) has prepared a white paper on the subject of Rio+20.  The NRDC argues that:

A central goal of the 2012 Earth Summit should be to generate specific “deliverables”. Each of these “deliverables” should consist of: (1) specific, short-term commitments by countries, communities, corporations, and civil society groups; (2) commitments to work together where appropriate, including sharing technical assistance and coordinating actions; and (3) provisions for monitoring and reporting to ensure that the commitments are delivered on the ground. 

The NRDC has proposed a list of such actions, in the following categories: broad policies to support a green economy, enhanced governance, climate and energy, oceans, public health, and water.  Of particular relevance here are those for Climate and Energy:

CLIMATE AND ENERGY

While the climate negotiations will continue, governments, companies, and civil society groups should come to Rio prepared to take tangible steps towards greater deployment of low-carbon energy technologies; improved energy and water efficiency; reduced deforestation emissions; reduced black carbon emissions; and the stimulation of low-carbon economies, such as:

1. Develop and enforce best practice and minimum performance energy and water standards for appliances and equipment and ensure an ongoing process to develop all cost effective standards by 2015

2. Phase out inefficient light bulbs through the establishment of minimum energy efficiency standards that reduce energy use of new bulbs by at least 65%

3. Deploy renewable energy by countries undertaking specific commitments and programs to speed up the deployment of clean energy throughout the world

4. Promote clean and efficient vehicles that will cut greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles by 30% by 2020 and by 50% by 2030, including policies, programs and standards adopted by individual countries that address sales and use of new, and where appropriate, imported and/or used vehicles

5. Stimulate a market for clean cook stoves and invest in the efficient production of biomass fuels, with the goal of having clean and efficient stoves in 100 million homes by 2020 and thereby minimizing incidence of respiratory illnesses; deforestation; and destruction of local habitats

6. Replace polluting, inefficient, expensive, dangerous and unhealthy kerosene-based lighting with cleaner alternatives, such as solar lanterns.

7. Phase down HFCs by governments adopting new commitments covering these super greenhouse gases under the Montreal Protocol and by companies agreeing to phase down their use in products that they produce, use, or sell

8. Reduce deforestation emissions by key corporations committing to avoiding purchasing products that cause deforestation, such as soy or cattle from deforested lands in the Brazilian Amazon, palm oil from deforested agricultural land in Indonesia, or illegal wood and wood products throughout the world

9. Undertake large-scale, environmentally and socially responsible reforestation efforts

10. Strengthen and increase the use of green building technologies and standards by working with the new GLOBE Alliance

11. Phase out lending by public and private financial institutions for energy projects with high GHG emissions

12. Commit to systematically evaluating, and where cost-effective, applying ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation (e.g., rehabilitating mangroves may be more cost-effective against storm surge than building a sea wall).

13. Create and enforce standards to reduce environmental risks associated with natural gas development, including the use of “fracking” to access natural gas.

JC comments:  this compilation provides a range of perspectives on what we might expect from Rio+20.  The diversity of interests and raw politics has the potential for Rio+20 to go the same way as the Copenhagen COP 15 in December 2009.   The challenge is to define an appropriate role for international treaties and programs while preserving national interests in economic development. There is the potential for some scary ideas and policies to emerge from this, as well as for some sensible actions such as many of the action items proposed by the NRDC.

89 responses to “RIO+20 Earth Summit: What can we expect?

  1. I think all the participants should be committed to a Mental Hospital.

  2. Bad Andrew

    I wonder if there is a Rule The World Simulation Resort where we can offer to take these people so they don’t hurt anybody in real life.

    Wait… is that what this is?

    Andrew

  3. They could ban international conferences that through airline flights and what not create excessive CO2, pollution, and waste money. Or the participants could walk to it from where they live.

  4. “…As we have watched food systems the world over go from diversified and decentralized to concentrated, homogenous and industrial, “peasants” (as Via Campesina members choose to identify themselves) have been systematically removed from the land and waterways from which they derive their livelihoods. Unless these patterns are reversed, Via Campesina argues, “development” programs will only continue to widen the economic divide — lining the pockets of the rich and exacerbating the oppression of and scarcity of resources available to the poor…”

    Think “enclosure” in Great Britian. A tremendance amount of wealth was created by the Enclosure Act.. For the Greens out there, also think Travisity of the Commons. Better-off members of the European peasantry encouraged and participated actively in enclosure, seeking to end the perpetual poverty of subsistence farming. Subsistance farming can not compeate with modern large scale farming. Of course, if you like living in poverty and with the constant threat of famine, go right ahead and push to keep sunsistance farming.

    • From a quick scan of their web site, I’d imagine one might find more than a few soft hands amongst the “peasants” of Via Campesina.

  5. What can we expect? Well, we can expect them all to agree on one point: “IT’S WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT!

  6. “Far from cooking up a plan to save the Earth, what may come out of the summit could instead be a deal to surrender the living world to a small cabal of bankers and engineers — one that will dump the promises of the first Rio summit along the way.”

    “The group and its allies are hoping to come together in force at Rio+20 — which will include discussions of food security and poverty alleviation — next summer to intervene, voicing their opposition to the development community’s track record of land grabs, environmental degradation, and displacement of subsistence and small farmers.”

    “Five. The state remains central….”

    “Phase out inefficient light bulbs through the establishment of minimum energy efficiency standards that reduce energy use of new bulbs by at least 65%.”

    The whole progressive spectrum, from the totalitarian dreamers to the merely idiotic, will be there.

    Save the world, change your light bulbs.

  7. lol.
    Rio, Kyoto, Bali, Cancun, Copenhagen, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. and not program calling for mitigation has worked.
    What an ironic cynical waste of resources.

    • They should meet in Detroit, Calcutta, Kinshasa, and Port-au-Prince. But they might lose the wheels off their limos.

  8. Hugh Whalen

    God save us from those who would save us from ourselves.

  9. So, the right wing whacknuts like me have been claiming that Global Alarmism is a thinly veiled grab for power by the elite. We, of course, are vilified. Yet, it turns out that all that is being pushed forward at these conferences are a thinly veiled grab for power.

    So much for us whacknuts.

  10. Realistically, there are a few (very few) good ideas in there.

    BUT – NONE of those good ideas require any kind of World Conference to implement. For example, these two from the NRDC (God forgive me for agreeing with anything they have to say) –

    6. Replace polluting, inefficient, expensive, dangerous and unhealthy kerosene-based lighting with cleaner alternatives, such as solar lanterns.

    12. Commit to systematically evaluating, and where cost-effective, applying ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation (e.g., rehabilitating mangroves may be more cost-effective against storm surge than building a sea wall).

    Yes to both of them, even though they overdo the descriptive negativity.

    But then, who will pay for those things? The local government, perhaps? Don’t be silly – they’re looking for US dollars to pay for them –

    OTOH, some of them are utter nonsense – like this one –
    1. Develop and enforce best practice and minimum performance energy and water standards for appliances and equipment and ensure an ongoing process to develop all cost effective standards by 2015

    Which proposes the setting of standards by bureaucrats rather than those who are professionals in the particular field. Do you really want your appliance standards set by global enviro bureaucrats – or do you want those appliances to actually work?

    And others – actually most of the rest – are aimed at control of everything that happens on the planet. IOW, massive bureaucracy that would make ALL major decisions down to the household – and probably, personal level. Witness –

    Four. Make implementation the focus. Such a focus involves at least two important changes. First, it will require better incorporating public, private, and civil society actors who are closer to implementation, including at the national and sub-national levels. This will require multilevel governance from major intergov- ernmental forums down to town halls and households. The subsidiarity principle should guide policy and management efforts, dealing with each issue at the lowest, most appropriate level to bring decision-making as close as possible to each citizen

    And again – who will be paying for that monster bureaucracy? You and me, of course.

    I think someone has already said that this looks like the environmental Christmas Wish List. And they’re hoping Santa Claus (the UN) will show up and make their dreams all come true.

    • al in kansas

      “to bring decision-making as close as possible to each citizen”
      Actually I don’t think they really mean this. This would be easily accomplished by letting each citizen make the decision themselves thereby eliminating the need for for any governance at all. So they’re all out of a job, no conference needed. :-)
      Now where did we leave the giant ark loaded with the rest of the telephone sanitizers and useless middle management ?? (Douglas Adams)

      • al in kansas –
        “to bring decision-making as close as possible to each citizen”

        Given the context, I don’t think that means what you think it means. It does NOT mean that the citizen gets a voice in the decision making process, but rather that the decisions are made for the citizen at the local level by an official who is as close as possible to that citizen. Think in terms of a Chicago Ward Boss, but even closer – like your next-door neighbor, the Climate Change and Green Lifestyle Overseer (think one of those per block. And then think about who pays all those Overseers.

      • al in kansas

        Yes, I know. I was being a bit sarcastic. This all sounds like the typical European top down solution. Maybe they think it works for them, but Kansas, not so much.

  11. Boston University provides some perspectives from academics………..
    5 Recommendations emerged from this report: Being academics expecting to go to Rio one always can improve on the requirements set out for the report to add:Oh, yes, and by the way, 5 + 1= (in academia that is still five) let’s put this at the end so “we” do not look like a bunch of tax grabbers that want to go to RIO: The People! Not zero, or 1 + 1 but at the end. Dr. Spock: Fascinating. Perhaps I should translate the 5 recommendations:
    One. Think boldly and move incrementally really means let’s talk and use big words about the final solution but take small steps so people will not notice.
    Two. Take economic policy seriously. Let’s make sure that the people still keep working so that we can go to Rio.
    Three. Recognize what is working and what is not working really means to know what we got away with last time and what got the “people” riled so we do not do that.
    Four. Make implementation the focus really means that we must make sure these peons actually do what we want and have systems in place to audit this.
    Five. The state remains central but non-state actors have to be better accommodated really means that if you actually get elected than OK, you are still the boss. But us unelected academics and civil non-elected non-government orgs also want to be at the table and be in Rio and feel important to make a contribution to the poverty (oops) welfare of the common people.
    And if there are any history nuts like me in Judith’s readers, think Wannsee.

  12. Latimer Alder

    We can expect a large number of corrupt politicians and their hangers-on in the green movement to have a nice holiday at somebody else’s expense. And issue international appeals for aid to help them buy the latest top of the range Mercedes and the new yacht.

    Pollies wives will have all the luxury stores on Rio opened for ;special shopping events’. And the organising committee will pick up the tab for all the stuff that’s nicked. Paying for it out of the aid budget (above)

    Rich kids on their gap years will have some fun waving banners and shouting a lot..maybe even breaking some windows and generally annoying the locals.

    Airlines flying to Rio will have a bumper month. As will 5 star hotels and the best restaurants

    The BBC will send about 250 journos and assorted staff on a long freebie (unless it clashes with Glastonbury).

    Various ‘activists’ will use it as a way to network and plan their next career move in bonkers land

    And Robert Mugabe will likely pitch up and give the opening lecture on Peace Freedom and Human Rights to rapturous applause. With guest appearances from the Syrian guy.

    In other words it’ll be just like every other such boondoggle always has been,

  13. “The challenge is to define an appropriate role for international treaties and programs while preserving national interests in economic development.”
    ______

    I used to think economic development in undeveloped countries was a good thing for the U.S. I’m not so sure anymore.

    • In what way?

      • The good thing: growing markets.

        A bad thing: growing competition.

        Another bad thing: more pollution.

      • M. carey –
        The good thing: growing markets.

        A bad thing: growing competition.

        Another bad thing: more pollution.

        Allow me to correct that –

        The good thing: growing markets.

        Another good thing: growing competition.

        A bad thing: more pollution.

        No competition = no innovation

        No innovation = stagnation.

        Stagnation = bad business>no business>dead business

        I spent 15+ years running a wholesale/retail business. THEN I got the MS (Technology Mgmt) and the ex got the business, which stagnated and died cause she thought your way was right. Watched that happen to two friends as well. Don’t diss competition – if you’re smart, it’ll keep you alive. If you’re not smart….. you need to do something else with your life anyway.

      • Seconded.

        And I’d expect that the more developed the rest of the world becomes, the cleaner it will become.

      • Gene –
        Not only cleaner but better educated (including women), healthier, better fed, less real poverty and starvation, less disease, more resilient, more free.

        Not to mention lower infant death rate/ lower birth rate = less population growth – although that carries it’s own problems.

        Tell me again – what was that “green/alarmist” rationale for keeping Third World countries from building power plants and providing electricity for their people?

      • “more resilient, more free. ” Jim, you might have added “and more clean and efficient in their use of carbon.” So much of the “decarbonising” yearned for by warmists is to be achieved by the very process of ’embourgeoisement’ that their misanthropic policies would thwart.

      • TomFP –
        You’re right – it’s really hard to have a clean and efficient dung-burning stove.

        BTW – did you now that the IPCC considers livestock residues to be viable renewable energy?

        http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/press/content/srren-press-release-updated-version.pdf

      • Sure, everyone knows the more coal and oil the world burns the cleaner the … COUGH …. GAG… air is.

        Ground level ozone is … GASP… WHEEZE …

        over rated.

      • You might want to compare air quality and level of development in Beijing vs Seoul vs most any city in the US. There may be an initial drop in quality as you move out of the stone age, but then as you begin to acquire the time and money to worry about things like air quality, you begin spending on it. Historically, people have been very willing to trade ground level ozone for cleaner water, food security, modern medicine, etc.

      • When I was in business if an employee had told me what my business needed was more competition, my first thought would have been to fire him on the spot.

        I am amused by the notion American producers and their workers benefit from Chinese competition.

        Didn’t you say in a previous post you worked 40 years or 50 years for government? If that was you, and you were in a wholesale/resale business for 15 + years, you must be pretty long of tooth.

      • M. Carey –
        Didn’t you say in a previous post you worked 40 years or 50 years for government? If that was you, and you were in a wholesale/resale business for 15 + years, you must be pretty long of tooth.

        You might say that. NASA contractor – 42 years and 15+ concurrent business + another 3 yrs concurrent auto shop; several years reactor design for the
        Navy; and a hitch in USMC. I was busy.

        my first thought would have been to fire him on the spot.

        Think about that – what kept you sharp and prodded you to grow/innovate and not get fat and lazy? Let me know when you figure it out. BTDT and have the T-shirt to prove it.

      • The desire to make money was all I ever needed to keep me sharp and motivated. And there’s always the challenge of making more.

        You may be pleased to know I half agree with you on competition. While as a seller I don’t want competition from other sellers, as a buyer I want competition from lots of sellers.

  14. I predict nothing but hot air and a waste of (tax payers) money.

    It’s ironic, the green movement lambast the ‘other side’ for being manipulated and controlled by a core set of industrialists/bankers, yet what they propose is exactly the same (if not worse), but from their side. Forced adherance to what they hold dear.

    Granted, there are many issues that need looking at, but forced at from high, across borders, with no accountability?

    No thanks.

    • Joe Lalonde

      The problem is that these are suppose to be “experts in the field” that are creating science into a circus for massive funding and control.

  15. Oh I know. Let’s give everyone an acre of land and some hand tools to till the land. How quaint – all those peasants toiling away under the sun. What a picture of green heaven. :(

  16. “Preserving national interests”?? Preserving their own interests more like.
    This is hugely scary – worse than the worst of communism!
    I like the watermelon analogy – green on the outside, bright red on the inside.

  17. On that final list, I could support No.s 5, 6, and 8. The rest are arrogant and idiotically dangerous. Which pretty much describes the whole Rio+ initiative and participants.

  18. I think these conferences are fantastic. Like Copenhagen, it doesn’t really matter what is “decided” by the participants. But it sure is a great opportunity to gather a large representative sample of alarmists in one place so that the world can see who they are, how they live, and what they believe. The more attention paid to the participants and proceedings at these luxury vacations, the better.

  19. Steven Schuman

    Could someone define what a “green economy” is and who will be the arbiter of just which goods and services meet the guidelines.

  20. Rio+20 What can we expect. My comments to the list of initiatives.

    1.Develop and enforce best practice and minimum performance energy and water standards for appliances and equipment and ensure an ongoing process to develop all cost effective standards by 2015

    Good idea. Turn it over to the appliance suppliers, such as Siemens, GE, etc. to implement as a cost-saving marketing idea (keep the government out of it).

    2. Phase out inefficient light bulbs through the establishment of minimum energy efficiency standards that reduce energy use of new bulbs by at least 65%

    Good idea. Turn it over to the light bulb suppliers, such as Philips, etc. to implement as a cost-saving marketing idea (keep the government out of it).

    3. Deploy renewable energy by countries undertaking specific commitments and programs to speed up the deployment of clean energy throughout the world

    The development will be performed by private industries in this sector, such as GE, Siemens, ExxonMobil, etc. plus some small newcomers. If any of these have specific longer term basic research projects that could use some government startup help, consider this on a case-by-case basis, but keep government subsidies out of product development or installation phases to avoid fiascos like the corn for ethanol program.

    4. Promote clean and efficient vehicles that will cut greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles by 30% by 2020 and by 50% by 2030, including policies, programs and standards adopted by individual countries that address sales and use of new, and where appropriate, imported and/or used vehicles.

    Sounds very good. As with renewable energy (above), limit direct government financial involvement to the basic research phase on a case-by-case basis. Local governments can consider lower road taxes as incentives for hybrid or all-electrical vehicles.

    5. Stimulate a market for clean cook stoves and invest in the efficient production of biomass fuels, with the goal of having clean and efficient stoves in 100 million homes by 2020 and thereby minimizing incidence of respiratory illnesses; deforestation; and destruction of local habitats

    The elimination of indoor burning in impoverished nations is a good goal (according to WHO an estimated 2 million people die annually from complications caused by this). “Bio-mass fuels” may not be the answer, though. How about simply supporting the poorest nations of this world in efforts to build up a low-cost energy infrastructure, in order tp eliminate the primary problem, rather than introducing a solution to a totally different problem? Put “bio-mass fuels” back in the “renewable” section above.

    6. Replace polluting, inefficient, expensive, dangerous and unhealthy kerosene-based lighting with cleaner alternatives, such as solar lanterns.

    Another case of trying to solve two problems by putting a constraint on the choice of solution for the real problem. Getting rid of dangerous petroleum lights in the poorer nations is a good goal. How about doing that the way we did it in the industrialized world, i.e. by building uo an energy infrastructure that delivers affordable electrical energy to everyone? If fossil fuels are locally available, use these. If cleaner alternatives for achieving this are the most affordable for these poor nations, great.

    7. Phase down HFCs by governments adopting new commitments covering these super greenhouse gases under the Montreal Protocol and by companies agreeing to phase down their use in products that they produce, use, or sell

    Based on recent studies, this whole issue may be a “red herring”. HFCs have been reduced worldwide with no real impact. Let’s wait and see whether our actions to date are working before we enter a massive roll-out program.

    8. Reduce deforestation emissions by key corporations committing to avoiding purchasing products that cause deforestation, such as soy or cattle from deforested lands in the Brazilian Amazon, palm oil from deforested agricultural land in Indonesia, or illegal wood and wood products throughout the world

    Illegal wood and wood products do not lead to added CO2 emissions, but if they are “illegal” for some reason or another, they should be stopped simply by enforcing existing local laws (no global help needed). The issue of deforestation for agricultural land can only be solved if these people have a more viable alternate or if local governments put a price on deforestation that makes it unattractive. Getting key companies to commit to avoid purchasing commodity products from deforested regions would involve paying them some sort of money to dis-incentivize this – who should pay this? Keep our governments out of this arena – they have been unable to accomplish anything so far – and leave it up to local governments.

    9. Undertake large-scale, environmentally and socially responsible reforestation efforts

    This is a good program, already underway in many countries, It should be expanded. To make it financially attractive it should probably be combined with harvesting older trees. A good job for (what used to be called) lumber companies, working with local governments, who understand the local or regional conditions.

    10. Strengthen and increase the use of green building technologies and standards by working with the new GLOBE Alliance

    A good thing that should be supported. GLOBE has the right approach of doing this regionally and locally, with building codes, local incentives, etc.

    11. Phase out lending by public and private financial institutions for energy projects with high GHG emissions

    Not necessarily a good idea. Any “incentives” given to these companies at taxpayer expense should be reviewed critically and eliminated wherever possible. Stopping private investors from financing these projects is not a legal option in most nations. This is a top-down “big brother” idea that will not be accepted in democratic nations.

    12. Commit to systematically evaluating, and where cost-effective, applying ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation (e.g., rehabilitating mangroves may be more cost-effective against storm surge than building a sea wall).

    Good idea. I’d add the word “common sense” If adding a mangrove means forcibly resettling a few thousand families, I’d day the levee is a better idea, for example. But the concept is good and should be implemented on a regional and local basis.

    13. Create and enforce standards to reduce environmental risks associated with natural gas development, including the use of “fracking” to access natural gas

    Oops! This one sounds like a red herring that has slipped in to slow down or stop shale gas development. Reducing environmental risk with any mining or drilling activity related to exploitation of natural resources is already under local, regional and federal regulatory bodies. If these bodies feel it is necessary to develop new safety or environmental standards for gas “fracking” based on local geological conditions, they should do so with no global involvement.

    I like JC comments (sensible actions or scary ideas?) and would add:
    the more items Rio+20 puts on its plate, the less likely it will produce anything but hollow political posturing, like Copenhagen and Cancun.

    A wonderful (but highly unlikely) outcome would be a firm statement

    we recognize that the science on man-made global warming and resulting climate change is not settled, therefore we commit to settling this first before we talk about any next steps

    Max

    • Max, you say “2. Phase out inefficient light bulbs through the establishment of minimum energy efficiency standards that reduce energy use of new bulbs by at least 65%

      Good idea. Turn it over to the light bulb suppliers, such as Philips, etc. to implement as a cost-saving marketing idea (keep the government out of it).”

      Max, most of the time I agree with you completely, but this time I disdagree strongly. Any inefficiency of standard light bulbs becomes heat. The higher the latritude, the more heat one requires inside buildings, which is where the lights sre. So the savings for “energy efficient” ight bulbs are a function of latitude. At Alert, Nunavut, Canada, there will be almost no savings when phasing out standard light bulbs. Here in Ottawa, Canada, the savings are far smaller than people claim.

      However, when you get to lower latitudes, particularly in developed countrise, there is a double whammy for standard light bulbs. Not only do you not need the heat inside buildings, you need to use air conditiooning to get rid of the heat.

      So, please when you support the phasing out of “inefficient” light bulbs, would you remember the latitude effect.

      • Jim Cripwell

        Agree with you on latitude effect (by-product heat from incandescent light bulbs).

        In central Europe we usually heat our homes 6 months of the year and do not have air conditioners for summer (plus nights – when lighting is needed – are short in summer)., whereas in places like Houston or Hong Kong the net warming impact might be a negative factor, as you point out.

        In places like California, AC units run during the day when it’s hot and lights are off.

        And there are other factors related to the environmental “costs” of producing the “energy efficient” light bulbs, as well.

        Whatever the net pros and cons, I think this issue should not be part of a global focus, but should be turned over to the light bulb companies to use as marketing arguments.

        Max.

    • “Just as Friedrich Hayek taught, no central planner can know or foresee enough to produce the beneficial results regularly produced by competition in free markets regulated in accordance with the rule of law. And no central planner can accurately predict the course of innovation that can be achieved in decentralized markets.”
      http://washingtonexaminer.com/politics/2011/06/free-market-not-government-policies-drives-energy-boom

      Michael Barone recently wrote that, about how free market entrepreneurs “cracked” the issue of how to get natural gas and oil from rock formations. A process now under attack from greens who were counting on peak oil to further their dreams of decarbonization, and the never ending government jobs and funding they require to save the world from itself.

      To quote the immortal Governor William J. Le Petomane (in Blazing Saddles): “We have to protect our phoney baloney jobs here, gentlemen! We must do something about this immediately! Immediately! Immediately! Harrumph! Harrumph! Harrumph!”

      • “We have to protect our phoney baloney jobs here, gentlemen! We must do something about this immediately!”

        When I got up this morning I would never have predicted that someone would be quoting Blazing Saddles on Climate Propaganda, Etc.

        I love it, though. :)

        “Gentlemen, the affairs of state must take precedence over the affairs of state!”

        Andrew

  21. As so often with Greenery, I’m reminded of Churchill’s observation that “Bomber” Harris risked “spoiling a good argument [in favour of night area bombing] by overstating it.”

    Time and again I find myself attracted by ideas championed by these folk, only to be repelled by the unworldliness of the means they propose to realise them. Yes, those currently living a marginal agrarian existence should have the opportunity to possess equity in their enterprise, but no, they can’t expect to go on growing food in the way they traditionally have. For all its faults, and it has many, large scale, high-tech agriculture is likely to be the only way to produce food sufficiently cheaply for those producing it to move away from the margin of survival.

    By the way, these are the same people that express their support for 3rd world development by trying to ban the airfreight of Kenyan beans to Europe on the grounds of the “carbon footprint” implicit in their “food miles”.

  22. Joe Lalonde

    Judith,

    I would be more worried of the damage they do to the credibility of science.
    Mind you, it does not explain why current science is so closed to anything which is innovative and can help further science and not hinder it’s development.
    The phrase “if it ain’t math, it ain’t science” does come to mind when dealing with statistics and temperatures that is not an action/reaction event.

  23. marcopanama

    So if one were cooking up the location for such a conference in order to minimize the group carbon footprint, one would want to pick a location close to the geographic center of the participant’s populations. Does anyone know the geographic center of the world’s population? Eyeballing Google Earth, I might guess at Svalbard with its wonderfully named capital Longyearbyen. Any other guesses? Certainly not Rio.

    In truth, if they were true to their sustainably sustainable sustainability goals, they would hold the conference in Second Life, where the only carbon consumed would be to operate the data center, which operates anyway. And in SL, they can fly around to their heart’s content without using an ounce of carbon or even needing airplanes. This sounds like a joke, but considering how cheap it is, how come they are not doing so already? One could create and populate an entire continent in SL and practice governing and managing its political life and ecosystem. These results could be applied to the real world. Oh wait, I forgot – Second LIfe is only a computer model of reality, not unlike the GCMs that Real Climate Scientists use.

    • Latimer Alder

      Splendid comment :-) :-)

      But the humour will not be appreciated by the alarmists.

  24. marcopanama

    Minimum Carbon Footprint Climate Conference Location Found!

    According to Wikipedia, ” the world’s center of population is found to lie “at the crossroads between China, India, Pakistan and Tajikistan”, essentially located in Afghanistan…”

  25. Jeff Nelson

    JC comments: “The challenge is to define an appropriate role for international treaties and programs while preserving national interests in economic development. ”

    My understanding from reading about this conference is that the participants do not see this as “the challenge” at all and that is the problem.

    It may be more useful to do a honest bullet-point eval of what we’ve learned in the 20 years since the first Rio:
    1. Wind and Solar are still too expensive and wholly inadequate to the challenge. Nuke plants and natural gas are still the most viable alternatives to coal and are limited only by the junk science offered by so-called “greens.”
    2. International limits on GHG emissions that exempt China and India are still illogical and unobtainable. This remains one of the “greens'” top priorities.
    3. Capitalism, Democracy and free trade remain the most successful economic/political approaches for environmental protection, freedom from oppression, and wealth distribution. So-called “greens” continue to insist on ending both capitalism and democracy as a prerequisite to emissions reductions.

    • Jeff

      Excellent points.

      I would add that the economic issues confronting the EU and the US for the foreseeable future will vastly reduce the amount of economic assistance that will be available to developing nations.

  26. Just what we need – for peasants to become better peasants. As if making slaves more comfortable in their work is the answer. To be a true peasant is to be one harvest away from starvation. The man who owns his own peasant allotment also owns the right to die on his own land. The best off working people in Zimbabwe were those who worked on large, white-owned farms. The best thing you can do for peasantry is to end it.

    By the way – I liked the bit about the light bulbs. Just another rat-bag of green dreams.

  27. Why don’t they just do a teleconference?

    How do they qualify participants to go?

    Who pays for it?

  28. Another attempt at re-framing. The Hartwell Paper did that better.
    https://judithcurry.com/2011/04/10/hartwell-paper-game-changer/#comment-74235

    A successful solution to food insecurity has already been demonstrated. Unfortunately for RIO, it does not involve world government and bureaucrats: a non-starter. Some suggestions for Via Campesina:
    https://judithcurry.com/2011/06/08/climate-change-and-food-insecurity/#comment-74427

    Light bulbs as a means of population control?
    Watts, Anthony. 2011. Do CFL twisty bulbs explode? Scientific. Watts Up With That? April 20. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/04/20/do-cfl-twisty-bulbs-explode/

  29. With all the communication technologies we have today, why in the world do we need to have all these delegates hypocritically get on planes and go to conferences with limos, etc to drive them around while they are there. It seems to be just another, “Do as I say, not as I do” gathering.

  30. “Five +1. Put equity at the center. A green economy and any institutions devised for it must make their core focus the well-being of people—of all people, everywhere—across present and future gener- ations. That essential idea puts the notion of equity—intra- as well as inter-generational equity—smack at the center of the green economy enterprise.”

    This was the founding principle of Communism. The notion of “equity” is in the eyes of the beholder. All people are equal, but some are more equal than others.

    The market problems created by “equity” have been shown time and again in the real world to lead to economic disaster. The net result is that over time everyone ends up equally poor.

    For example, foreign aid. When we give food to starving countries this leads to the collapse of their local farming communities. They cannot compete with “free” food. The next year the famine is even worse, because we wiped out their farmers. This then allows the aid donor to create foreign markets through foreign aid, by destroying the local economies of trading partners.

    These same sorts of problems happen within countries. For example, Canada. There is a program of transferring tax dollars from wealthy provinces to poor provinces. This has undercut the local economies in the poor provinces, by artificially driving up demand, leading to higher wages, leading to increased unemployment. Over time the aid from rich provinces has destroyed the economies of the poor provinces, making them even poorer.

    For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Every time we try and create “equity”, we end up creating something that we did not intend, of equal and opposite direction.

  31. These proposals are a bunch of you know what. Again, the need for control is shown in these people. I want none of it. None of it.

  32. “Replace polluting, inefficient, expensive, dangerous and unhealthy kerosene-based lighting with cleaner alternatives, such as solar lanterns.”

    I have to laugh at this one. These folks have obviously never had to live without cheap electricity delivered to their door.

    Kerosene lighting is fantastic as compared to battery/solar. A tiny amount of cheap kero throws a great light from a mantle lamp. Used correctly they are neither dangerous or unhealthy. Eye strain from trying to read from an expensive, solar powered lantern, that is unhealthy.

    We spent nearly 20 years off the grid. Solar has its place, but it is expensive, fragile and unreliable. A cleaner alternative to kero is gas and much of the 3rd world is already switching over.

    This goes for cooking as well as lighting. Forget the idea of wood/dung stoves. All over Asia for example, a tank of gas and a cooking ring is the standard that has replaced charcoal.

    Instead of dreaming up impossible solutions, look to see what is already working and adapt that to other parts of the world.

    • marcopanama

      Excellent comment Fred.

      We live in Panama where our neighbors across the street are families of coffee pickers. They live in block houses without glass windows or closable doors. They can buy a 25 pound tank of propane for $5.50, subsidized by the government. Lasts them for several months of cooking. The electricity company installs a service drop to their property, but “forgets” to install a meter. Their electrical demand for a very adequate life includes a few light bulbs and a radio.

      One of the profound culture shocks that we experienced in moving here is that these people who “have nothing” are always perfectly groomed, wear beautiful clothes (the women at least), are optimistic, happy and proud of their lives. Unlike many of the neurotic, unpleasant, over-possesioned, over-fed Europeans and Americans who are moving in – and shortly, out – distressed by the lack of a nanny state and Starbucks.

      Lecturing the “poor people” of the world by the over-extended, over-stressed, over-medicated, incompetently-governed “developed world” is an exercise in hubris beyond redemption.

  33. The best thing to come from this conference would be for the delegates to agree to not hold another, and to apologize for wasting so much time and good faith and money from people the world over.

  34. “Among the wildest ideas are plans to introduce personal carbon quotas and birth control as means of reducing global consumption.”

    “There is the potential for some scary ideas and policies to emerge from this, as well as for some sensible actions such as many of the action items proposed by the NRDC”

    The proposed list includes some sensible ideas, but unfortunately contains “wild” ideas and “potentially scary ideas.”
    My first concerns is that a meeting of international bureacrats will gravitate towards the “wild” and potentially “scary” ideas, especially when they do not share a common outlook that highly values human freedom and dignity.
    My second concern is that even some of the more sensible ideas need to be evaluated carefully for unforeseen consequences, which crop up whenever governments intervene in market transactions. For example, one empirically demonstrated effect of improving the fuel efficiency of automobiles is that it reduces the marginal cost per mile of automobile usage, thereby causing increased driving. As a result, the benefits of such increased fuel efficiencies are overstated.

  35. Michael Larkin

    I tend to get philosophical about this.

    If there’s one rule of the universe, it’s that things evolve, and they don’t evolve through externally imposed design. These guys think they have evolved to the point where they can direct things like a God.

    No one designed in advance modern technological society; it just grew like Topsy. Attempts at “managed evolution” invariably fail through the law of unforeseen consequences.

    Capitalism has succeeded simply because it works and has lent itself to natural evolutionary processes. That isn’t to say it’s the be all and end all and will never be superseded, still less that it doesn’t and hasn’t created a number of problems. I think it has, and feel that things are ripe for change. But that can’t and won’t arise according to a predetermined human plan. It will arise, if at all, despite and not because of it.

    Who knows, maybe we have to go through all this silliness and hubris in order for something new and useful to emerge. Maybe things have to play out like the rants of a hysterical teenager – that’s often enough been the pattern in the past.

  36. If the aim is to initiate change in food security, academics are not the people who need be present. Academics can help develop GMC manipulating the genome. It takes boots on the ground literally, walking the fields suggesting adding this amount of manure, clearing that drainage ditch, increasing acreage to be more efficient with the resources one has, etc. In short, an Agricultural Extension Agent. This information makes the land more productive. Peasant farmers are most likely to produce less food from the same soil, damage the environment as there is no money to do otherwise and regulations by governments are seen as money grabs. Redistribution of land, where ever it has occurred has led to less food security not more. Adding a green agenda, implying piggy backing upon the fruits of the Green Revolution, just adds many non knowledgable voices to an already complex and highly politicized situation, ensuring nothing gets done. If you want to learn about farm policy, begin by visiting a working family farm, walk the fields, ask lots of questions, listen, don’t give advice, and then maybe incorporate what you have just seen and heard into you food security paradigm. Such an approach gives visual, tactile and olfactory credence to an otherwise intellectual exercise.

  37. It’s time to cut NGO’s off at the knees – stop funding them.

  38. Can any warmer, denier, skeptic, lukewarmer, or anyone who has an opinion about CO2 and temperature, accept that any of these are good suggestions?
    Who is going to this conference? Only those who wish to return to Communism?
    Honestly, the whole agenda appears a tad insane.

  39. Judith Curry

    The comments are still coming in, but have slowed down. So far this seems to be sort of a summary from the bloggers here (sorry for those I missed):

    (Hugh Whalen)
    God save us from those who would save us from ourselves.

    (GaryM)
    The whole progressive spectrum, from the totalitarian dreamers to the merely idiotic, will be there.
    Save the world, change your light bulbs.

    (Jim Owen)
    Realistically, there are a few (very few) good ideas in there.
    BUT – NONE of those good ideas require any kind of World Conference to implement.

    (Latimer Alder)
    We can expect a large number of corrupt politicians and their hangers-on in the green movement to have a nice holiday at somebody else’s expense.

    (fred berple)
    Instead of dreaming up impossible solutions, look to see what is already working and adapt that to other parts of the world.

    (Labmunkey)
    I predict nothing but hot air and a waste of (tax payers) money.

    (Joe Lalonde)
    The problem is that these are supposed to be “experts in the field” that are creating science into a circus for massive funding and control.

    (hunter)
    The best thing to come from this conference would be for the delegates to agree to not hold another, and to apologize for wasting so much time and good faith and money from people the world over.

    (marcopanama)
    Lecturing the “poor people” of the world by the over-extended, over-stressed, over-medicated, incompetently-governed “developed world” is an exercise in hubris beyond redemption.

    (Michael Larkin)
    Who knows, maybe we have to go through all this silliness and hubris in order for something new and useful to emerge. Maybe things have to play out like the rants of a hysterical teenager – that’s often enough been the pattern in the past.

    (Jim2)
    It’s time to cut NGO’s off at the knees – stop funding them.

    (Roy Weiler)
    Honestly, the whole agenda appears a tad insane.

    (manacker = me)
    A wonderful (but highly unlikely) outcome would be a firm statement

    we recognize that the science on man-made global warming and resulting climate change is not settled, therefore we commit to settling this first before we talk about any next steps

    And, probably the best:

    (sunshinehours1)
    I think all the participants should be committed to a Mental Hospital.

    Not a very glowing reaction, Judith

    Max

  40. Pooh, Dixie

    Test of whatever is going on with logins.

    • Pooh, Dixie

      It looks like one must allow cookies from wordpress.com: Tools | options | privacy | Third Party Cookies | Exceptions | enter wordpress.com, “allow”

      • Pooh, Dixie

        Ooops :-(
        It looks like one must allow cookies from wordpress.com: Tools | options | privacy | Accept cookies from sites | Exceptions | enter wordpress.com, “allow”

  41. Via Campesina should align itself with the capitalists.

    … As we have watched food systems the world over go from diversified and decentralized to concentrated, homogenous and industrial, “peasants” (as Via Campesina members choose to identify themselves) have been systematically removed from the land and waterways from which they derive their livelihoods. Unless these patterns are reversed, Via Campesina argues, “development” programs will only continue to widen the economic divide — lining the pockets of the rich and exacerbating the oppression of and scarcity of resources available to the poor.

    One of the most fundamental requirements of a capitalist economic system—and one of the most misunderstood concepts—is a strong system of property rights. For decades social critics in the United States and throughout the Western world have complained that “property” rights too often take precedence over “human” rights, with the result that people are treated unequally and have unequal opportunities. Inequality exists in any society. But the purported conflict between property rights and human rights is a mirage. Property rights are human rights.

    The definition, allocation, and protection of property rights comprise one of the most complex and difficult sets of issues that any society has to resolve, but one that must be resolved in some fashion. For the most part, social critics of “property” rights do not want to abolish those rights. Rather, they want to transfer them from private ownership to government ownership. Some transfers to public ownership (or control, which is similar) make an economy more effective. Others make it less effective. The worst outcome by far occurs when property rights really are abolished (see tragedy of the commons).
    http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/PropertyRights.html

  42. Where are the giant sinkholes when you really need them?

    • Where are the giant sinkholes when you really need them?

      At the other end of the <em<"pipeline" (where half of the global warming is “hidden”)

  43. What should be expected from Rio + may depend heavily from the annual IPCC meeting in Durban net fall ; if Kyoto’s renewal gets through, it may provide a lever for Rio to make some breakthrough. Is this likely today ?

    • An eventuality devoutly to be shunned. The renewal of Kyoto would be an inanity leveraging a potential breakdown of the planet’s economy courtesy of Rio.

      May they fail spectacularly, with bells and whistles and loud detonations!

  44. My organization overbooked at a hotel in Copacabana, with one extra room booked for June 14 to June 21 and the other for June 16 to June 20. Anyone or any group interested in purchasing them from us?
    Thanks,
    Emily
    ESchuckert@daraint.org

    • Latimer Alder

      I wouldn’t be seen dead at your utterly pointless gabfest.

      But I hope you enjoy your British taxpayer-funded holiday in Copacabana. It’s a tough job saving humanity and the planet ain’t it?

      PS : I do hope that all your delegates are walking there. No nasty airmiles involved?

    • Peter Lang

      Try Australians: Bob Brown, Senator Christine Milne, Senator Hanson-Young, Kevin Rudd (and the 120 people he took to Copenhagen on his taxpayer paid junket). Prime Minsiter Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan I expect would be happy to pick up the bill, and may want to go too.