Rio agreement sends the ′right signals′ | Globalization | DW | 20.06.2012
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Rio agreement sends the 'right signals'

Leaders meeting in Rio are debating a document intended to pave the way for new sustainable development goals. EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik says the text is a step in the right direction.

Heads of state and government leaders from over 100 nations are in Rio for a UN conference on sustainability. The summit has been billed as an opportunity to rebalance global economic growth, social stability and environmental protection.

Ahead of the summit, negotiators hammered out a document that is to be approved by world leaders in Rio. It focuses on two issues that have been described as core themes of the summit - preparing sustainable development goals and encouraging nations to move to a "green economy." Janez Potocnik, EU Environment Commissioner, told DW what he thinks of the document.

DW: How do you evaluate this document so far?

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon shaking hands with Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff as Sha Zukang, secretary-general of the Rio +20 looks on at the opening ceremony

The conference has just begun; the agreement is already drafted

Janez Potocnik: I think it is a document which doesn't entirely match the needs which the world has concerning the challenges we are facing. But it is absolutely sending a signal that we are moving in the right direction. And that's important. That's why we have supported the document. We think there are many things in there that are a good signal for the future on which we are ready to engage. But as I said, we were striving during the negotiation process, which was long, to bring as much ambition and concreteness into the document and make things binding - so that we could send a clear signal, not only to our people but also to the business sector and to international financial institutions, that this is the direction we will go.

We heard from the other delegations that the European Union pushed hard during negotiations to get many things written into the document. What would you like to see in there that's not there?

Broadly, our ambition was that it was important that the goals, targets and actions in the document match the challenges we face. And that the institutions we will be agreeing upon and the changes of those institutions will be capable of matching that ambition.

In substance, we think we have reached quite far. We would have preferred it if there had been clear timetables and commitments in the document. When it comes to the institutions, our wish was to upgrade the United Nations Environmental Program into a full-fledged UN agency. This was not achieved but we are happy that the word "upgrade" is kept in the document. And we were happy that our African friends strongly supported the document.

Was there a classical division between rich countries and developing countries during the negotiations?

Janez Potočni

Janez Potocni thinks the final document represents progress

The interests of countries are not entirely the same - which is perfectly normal. I think what's important in those different interests that we try to understand each other, we try to step in each others shoes and we try to think also in a way that our partners are thinking. That's the only way you can reach agreement in the end. I think that these different interests were manageable and at the end there was agreement among all the delegations that the text as it stands is something which is acceptable. Of course it's not yet adopted because this is for the heads of state but I think obviously this divide was not such that it would harm the process: we were able to establish a satisfactory level of trust which is always needed in this kind of process.

Even when it came to finance?

Yes, we never hold back when it comes to financing. Firstly, we think that the green economy needs a different kind of production and consumption and this is connected with new investments which are needed. That's why we believe that all the sources of financing - whether domestic, foreign, private or public - should be activated. The process is difficult for some developing countries. We want to assist with technological help, with research activities, with official development aid, with direct help, capacity building and so on.

We have also committed at this conference - even in these difficult economic circumstances - that we want to reach 0.7 percent of GDP of official development aid in 2015. Currently, the level is about 0.41 - so that demands from us a very important commitment and it's something that we really take seriously. It's part of the job when it comes to helping others who deserve and need help so that they can catch up with the people who today live better lives.

Interview: Nadia Pontes, Rio / sp
Editor: Michael Lawton

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