EU plays down expectations for Rio Earth Summit


As negotiators in New York sift through hundreds of pages of ideas for the conference, Karl Falkenberg, the European Commission?s chief of the environmental directorate, said in Brussels that the EU was committed to its goals despite fierce opposition to some of its positions.

The EU heads to the Rio de Janeiro conference in June hoping to make a green economy based on sustainable growth one of its pillars, while also seeking to give the UN Environment Programme and possibly other UN agencies more power to oversee and enforce treaties.

But he acknowledged that ?there are major questions? from other negotiators about the EU?s positions.

Worried about growth

African leaders have expressed concern about European efforts to seek binding targets on sustainable development, fearing brakes would be applied to their economies by rich countries. An expanded role for UN agencies would face almost certain opposition from the United States.

?We have to show that the green economy roadmap is not just a European concept adapted to the realities in Europe, but that it is the only sustainable way forward to help developing countries grow and lift their populations out of poverty,? Falkenberg told the European Parliament?s Intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development.

Others also called for the EU to negotiate with a single voice and to seek treaties committing nations to conservation measures and targets for sustainable growth.

There is also pressure from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, with strong backing from the EU, to commit to investing in renewable electricity to end global energy poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions.

The Brussels meeting came on the second day of negotiations in New York, where national representatives are trying to hammer out recommendations that will be presented at the 20th anniversary of the first UN Conference on Sustainable Development. The meeting takes place in Rio de Janeiro on 20-22 June.

The goal is to produce a 70-page roadmap for the future.

Sharp differences have already emerged over the EU?s ideas.

Brazil’s chief negotiator at Rio+20, André Corrêa do Lago, has already said the Rio conference?s host country would not support a world environmental organisation.

And it is unlikely in an election year that President Barack Obama would back such a move knowing that the opposition Republicans have traditionally resisted giving UN agencies strong powers. Last year, the Republicans sought to block money for the UN?s scientific body on climate change. The US provides 22% of the UN?s budget.

More at stake than nature

But Antonio Vigilante, director of the UN Development Programme?s Brussels office, told the intergroup discussion that the cost of failure at Rio would have devastating consequences for the world?s poor.

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