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Rio summit opens

June 20, 2012

The Rio+20 summit focusing on the world's most urgent environmental problems, has begun in Brazil. Bold talk by world leaders has heightened expectations for results.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, left, and Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff.
Image: dapd

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday opened the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, more popularly known as Rio+20, in Brazil whilst warning participants not to “waste this chance.”

"Since the (1992) Earth Summit, progress has been very slow," Ban said. "Now we have a second chance ... Let us not waste this chance. The world is watching us to see whether words are reflected in action."

Ban added that the need for action in the area of sustainable development is becoming increasingly urgent.

"We have to think globally and long-term," he said. "Time is not on our side."

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Summit participants then listened to the moving testimony of 17-year-old Brittany Trilford, a student from New Zealand, who, on behalf of other young people across the world, challenged world leaders to take action.

"We, the next generation, demand change. We demand action so that we have a future and have it guaranteed. We trust that you will, in the next 72 hours, put our interests ahead of all other interests and boldly do the right thing. Please, lead. I want leaders who lead," Trilford said.

And Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, the president of the conference, said she was certain "that we will be up to the challenges that the global situation imposes on us."

A total of 191 speakers are anticipated to voice their views on the environment at the summit between now and Friday, when the event will culminate in world leaders backing a draft document that negotiators completed on Tuesday. The document provides measures to tackle many of the planet's pressing environmental problems and wrench billions out of poverty. It has a strong emphasis on sustainable use of natural resources.

sej/msh (dpa, AFP)

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