The U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, was held in Rio de Janeiro on June 20-22 as a follow up to the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit), also held in the Brazilian city. Since 1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Kyoto Protocol have gone into force, thus deepening global consciousness and discussions on global environmental problems.
Unfortunately, the statement adopted by Rio+20, titled “The Future We Want,” failed to get individual governments to express their clear political determination to resolve problems and to incorporate concrete programs.
Economic development in the 20th century was achieved at the cost of environmental destruction. To prevent a global catastrophe, it is imperative to fundamentally change the shape of economic activities and to promote the “green economy” by making serious efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to economize on the use of natural resources.
The number of wildlife species facing extinction is rising. Every three years, forestland as large in area as the Japanese archipelago is lost. Fishery resources such as tuna and cod are rapidly declining.
At the same time, global economic disparity is widening. While developed countries are squandering large amounts of energy, some 2.3 billion people in developing countries do not have access to modern energy sources. Yearly some 9 million children die before reaching the age of 5, mainly due to poverty.
“The Future We Want” referred to the importance of promoting the green economy. It was decided that “Sustainable Development Goals” would replace the U.N. Millennium Development Goals from 2015, but pursuit of the green economy was left to the discretionary decisions of individual governments.
“The Future We Want” document contains few proposals for concrete action and few promises to achieve the goals.
Developing countries feel that the green economy may hamper their economic development. They also believe that efforts by developed countries to protect the environment are inadequate. Developed countries must heed these countries’ voices, which are warning that they cannot pursue the green economy without support and assistance from developed countries.
Regrettably, leaders of developed countries such as U.S. President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and German Chancellor Angele Merkel did not attend Rio+20.
Still suffering from the Fukushima crisis, Japan should be the first to realize that nuclear power is hazardous to the environment and strive to build a model economy based on renewable energy sources. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be happening.