Rio 20+

So, it’s the Rio summit again. And it seems that over the last 20 years, we have gone backwards. We have made some changes, sure. But worst of all, we seem to have stopped caring. With some of the world’s most powerful leaders not even turning up (hello, Obama, Cameron and Merkel) and the likely feeble outcomes, it’s hard to see why they’re even bothering. The text so far has been described as notable only for it’s “lack of clear commitments, timetables, financing or means of monitoring progress” (The Guardian). The problem seems to be partly the same as that at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009 – dilution of many of the goals by developing nations who are often unfairly disadvantaged by them. But it’s also partly an apparent lack of imagination and willpower amongst nations that should be setting the way forward.

The cause of this failure of leadership is likely to be the current economic crises around the world. The environment is being pushed onto the backburner, while politicians scramble for ways to reboot their countries’ economies. It’s understandable…but it overlooks a few key things. Firstly, investment in clean energy technology is likely to generate more job growth which in turn will impact the rest of the market – more jobs means more disposable income, means more spending in other parts of the economy. In 2009, the Pew Center described the clean energy economy as being ‘poised for explosive growth’ and there are numerous examples of where green energy investment has led to significant job creation (one such example is Ontario, Canada).

Secondly, unless action is taken now, we will be paying dearly later. If climate change reaches its predicted worse-case-scenario, there will be enormous numbers of hungry, poor and ill environmental refugees turning up on the doorstep of these developed nations. And we won’t know what to do about it.

I’ll be interested to see how the summit progresses, but I can’t say I’m hopeful.  At the moment it seems like a fancy, empty PR exercise on the road to nothing.


2 thoughts on “Rio 20+

  1. “Firstly, investment in clean energy technology is likely to generate more job growth which in turn will impact the rest of the market – more jobs means more disposable income, means more spending in other parts of the economy.”

    YES! As I read the first sentence of that paragraph, I had exactly the same thought. You know what they say about great minds thinking alike…

    Before coming to your site, I read a post at Climate Progress ( which highlights how women’s reproductive rights have also be neglected in the latest text from the summit. This is very disappointing since reproductive rights and gender equality are a critical part of sustainable development.

  2. Hello and thank you for this article. So-called environmentally induced migration is multi-level problem. According to Essam El-Hinnawi definition form 1985 environmental refugees as those people who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat, temporarily or permanently, because of a marked environmental disruption (natural or triggered by people) that jeopardised their existence and/or seriously affected the quality of their life. The fundamental distinction between `environmental migrants` and `environmental refugees` is a standpoint of contemporsry studies in EDPs.

    According to Bogumil Terminski it seems reasonable to distinguish the general category of environmental migrants from the more specific (subordinate to it) category of environmental refugees.

    Environmental migrants, therefore, are persons making a short-lived, cyclical, or longerterm change of residence, of a voluntary or forced character, due to specific environmental factors. Environmental refugees form a specific type of environmental migrant.

    Environmental refugees, therefore, are persons compelled to spontaneous, short-lived, cyclical, or longer-term changes of residence due to sudden or gradually worsening changes in environmental factors important to their living, which may be of either a short-term or an irreversible character.

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