Rio + 20 Part II

Rio + 20 Part II

4: What has happened since Rio92?

Many meetings, processes and documents have seen the light of day since 1992. The two most important processes have been on climate and biodiversity (biodiversity). The actual climate convention from Rio did not in principle place any restrictions on the countries’ emissions of greenhouse gases. Nor did it contain any implementation mechanisms.

Instead, the convention opened up for further negotiations on additional protocols, which will set limits on emissions. The most important protocol so far is the Kyoto Protocol. Since the entry into force of the Climate Convention in 1994, states have held annual Conferences of the Parties (COP) to evaluate progress and negotiate more binding protocols.

In December 2012, according to, COP19 takes place (in Doha , Qatar). In other words, the original climate convention has not really come to fruition yet, if we look at it a little critically. The greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have only increased, the average temperature on the planet has increased, and countries are still arguing about who should cut the most, when and how.

The Biodiversity Convention was finally approved (ratified) in 1993 and has similar party meetings as the Climate Convention. But here the parties go further in adopting rules and procedures, and in 2010 the Nagoya Protocol was adopted. Among other things, it allocates financial compensation to countries of origin for genetic resources. The agreement also contains new plans to prevent more loss of biodiversity (animals, plants, etc.). At the same time, the globe is losing biodiversity at a speed we have not seen since the time of the dinosaurs.

Other important processes in the years after Rio92 have been the so-called Millennium Conference in the year 2000. Here the UN member states decided that it needed extra focus and power to improve social and economic conditions in the world’s poorest countries, while preserving the environment. This is also an indirect follow-up of the Rio process.

Eight millennium goals were adopted, with 21 defined sub-goals, and many so-called indicators to measure results. The Millennium Development Goals must be met by 2015. So far, some people are doing well, but are unable to reach others.

The next major global summit took place in Johannesburg , South Africa in 2002. It served as a summary of how far the world had come since Rio92. New goals were set for water and sanitation and food production. The major environmental and development challenges have also become part of the curriculum for every school student.

5: Man affects – the planet strikes back

We understand perhaps more of our dependence on nature today than we did twenty years ago. But we have still not sufficiently managed to turn understanding into action. Various UN reports , including the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)’s latest report from 2012, Global Environment Outlook 5 , give us good analyzes of the situation we face. It is a nascent understanding that we have managed what no one before thought was possible – to influence our globe system in such a way that we have become masters of our own future. We can not blame nature if things go badly.

We affect nature in such a way that it strikes back at us. This means that we rule over air, water and large and small living beings. For millennia, mythology explained to us how the gods warned humanity against their arrogance (hubris) and lifestyle, and saved us when it looked blackest. Like when Noah was appointed to save the fauna, by building an ark and taking two of each species.

Today we care less about such myths; we have global «whistleblowers». The UN has appointed its own science panel , both for climate and biodiversity. They regularly send out their own reports and warn us about what may happen in the future. But are they heard?

It is hard to believe that humans should be able to influence the nature around them. When the last great ice age ended about 10,000 years ago, we were still in the geological epoch of the Pleistocene . A warmer and more stable climate heralded the emergence of a new era in which we still live – the Holocene. Free from the cold shadow of the ice, man could make his mark on the earthly life around him.

Within a few thousand years, we left the hunter-gatherer culture behind us and became farmers with permanent residence. With that came cities and civilizations. We no longer adapted to the environment. The environment adapted to us. The globe as a whole seemed little affected by this – at first. The biogeochemical and physical system is resistant. We were few, the technology was simple and the consumption then.

But through the industrial revolution and the increasing use of fossil energy, we have become many. We have put the whole globe under us and filled the atmosphere with greenhouse gases. Now there is no room for more , so it gets warmer around us, and the poles melt. Wildlife and plant life suffer. Researchers have created databases over 26 areas that show the enormous impact we have had on the biosphere.

How many environmental sins from the past lie in wait for the future