Rio+20 aptly gets its name from the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development that took place in Rio de Janeiro during June in 2012. Here, global sustainability leaders met with the same idea: to develop “a future we want.”
This meeting, the third in twenty years, was yet again a historic opportunity to create a greener and safer world for all. After Agenda 21, formed in the 1992 Earth Summit meeting also held in Rio de Janeiro, the UN successfully brought together governments and international institutes to come to agreements that will push the world towards a more sustainable future.
“At Rio, our vision must be clear: a sustainable green economy that protects the health of the environment [and] poverty eradication,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated. And the following success and beacon provided by the gathering is inspiring to many.
Skeptics are met with a long list of reasons highlighting the importance of meetings such as this one. The current world population is 7 billion, and in less than fifty years time, this number is projected to be over 9 billion. When today, one out of every five people lives on $1.25 a day or less, leaving over a billion people hungry, lacking proper waste disposal, and electricity, the creation of a sustainable and livable world is crucial.
By focusing on poverty eradication and creating greener economies in developing countries, Rio+20 hopes to “kill two birds with one stone.” Encouraging the use of renewable energy and stopping deforestation and over-fishing, the result of Rio+20 is to both prevent the adverse effects of climate change while creating stable economies.
While the costs to undertake many of these projects are high, the eventual rewards have proven to be higher. For example, in Kenya, using renewable energy sources has allowed the upstart of innovative finance mechanisms, which has stimulated new investments. In China, shifts to a low-carbon strategy have created jobs in new sectors surrounding the low-carbon industry. In France, an estimated 90,000 jobs were created in green sectors alone.
Rio+20 was a hub for governments, private sectors NGOS, and environmental stakeholders to discuss sustainable developments. In parallel, side events, exhibitions, presentations, and fairs all took place. These included things such as “zero-emission” races and displays of new green technologies.
Here in Rio, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), universal targets, were created to address food security, land, sustainable agriculture, energy, and water. These goals, applicable to all countries, hope to be developed by 2015.
In their publicized outcome document, members have stated that “eradicating poverty is the greatest global challenge facing the world today,” emphasizing that hunger as a result of poverty is a matter of urgency. Not only do they focus on putting a stop to the suffering of people around the world, but they also focus on the importance of empowering women and promoting gender equality. In countries were women still lack basic rights, education and employment are two of the most important factors to address.
The document addresses all aspects of creating a habitable future; one where children do not go hungry, women are provided equal rights, and where any means to accomplish these ends is their first and foremost goal.
Perhaps the strongest part of the message given by Rio+20 is the idea that it takes more than governments to build sustainable development. It takes communities, organizations, businesses, and most importantly, people.