From: EurActiv
Published July 3, 2012 07:12 AM

The real disappointment of the Rio+20 Conference

World leaders attending the recent Rio+20 conference agreed to promote sustainable consumption and production, but analysts say getting businesses and buyers to do just that will require far more than words on paper.

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To the immense disappointment of environmental groups and even some multinational corporations, Rio+20 failed to produce binding commitments or a plan on how to strike a balance between consumer demand and the availability of natural resource.

"The current deal on the Rio table is really scraping the barrel — with woolly definitions, old ideas and missing deadlines," said Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth's director of policy and campaigns. "It doesn't come close to solving the planetary emergency we’re facing."

The stakes are high without some action. Consumers International, a London-based group, says humans are already consuming 50% more than the planet can replenish.

The most sober projections from the United Nations suggest there could be shortages of freshwater, food and essential industrial minerals within two generations as the world population lurches towards 9 billion or more from 7 billion today, and as people in today's emerging markets become wealthier and more eager consumers.

Dutch MEP Bas Ecikhout (Greens) says firm actions are needed to address the challenges ahead. "We really have to think about pricing, how we deal with our taxation, what kind of products maybe [should not be] allowed anymore," he told EurActiv.

"We really have to have that discussion, and we need to go further than just labeling."

At the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio, there was no commitment to remove fossil fuel subsidies — which environmentalists see as one of the world’s most glaring impediments to sustainable consumption. The Rio concluding documents signed by more than 100 global leaders promoted sustainable use of natural resources without setting any binding commitments.

Dripping water faucet via Shutterstock.

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