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Rio+20 or is it -20

by PhilLee — last modified Oct 26, 2011 03:05 PM
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My name is Lucia Ortiz. I've been working with Friends of the Earth Brazil for more than 10 years. In this period, I have joined Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) at UN climate conferences, Rio+10 (the United Nations conference on sustainable development) in Johannesburg and many civil society gatherings. In June 2012 it will be time for us to host friends again in Brazil for the Rio+20 conference.

Lucia Ortiz
Lucia Ortiz
The discussion about the outcomes and expectations for Rio+20 is starting in the federation, based on the views of member groups. As the national member in Brazil, we would like to share some of our thoughts in this space. We invite you all to have some fun and collective free thinking! 


How we see Rio+20 in Brazil

We've been a part of the Brazilian civil society facilitator committee for Rio+20 since November 2010, representing Rede Brasil on Financial Institutions along with twenty other national networks and social movements with diverse perspectives. In this process we have been developing our views from exchanges and collective thinking with our allies, while monitoring the Brazilian government's positions.

There is no real official process to cope with the three main and noble objectives of the conference: to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, to assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps (and why not their structural causes?) in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development since Rio92, and to address new and emerging challenges.

The Conference will also focus on two themes: the first, any guesses? Green economy! And the other one, Global Governance (or control?) of the environment. The most recent UN climate talks related to the issues of sustainable development, and the totally insufficient preparation process for Rio+20, can give us a clue on how controversy it can be.


Currently our main concerns do not lie in the outcomes or possible agreements at the conference itself, as a “zero draft” will be known only by January 2012.


As the official United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) “Road Map to Rio+20” clearly states, while some organisations, as well as corporations, keep busy with these official contributions, the ongoing process consists of "recommending domestic strategies (national policies) that developing countries (not industrialised countries) need to put in place to meet the challenges of transitioning to the green economy”.

The pressure to move to a "green" economy

The pressure to speed up these initiatives are already being felt by peoples in the South. 'Structural adjustment of environmental and land tenure policies', also known as land grabbing, is now taking place on a massive scale at an alarming pace. This is similar to the neoliberal adjustment of national policies in the 1990’s to liberalise public services, or to the rules imposed by TLCs/FTAs to open access to land and minerals by corporations. We are told we must now must adapt domestic laws to the new green capitalist phase which means to liberalise the environment for the markets.


So the transition to the green economy comes in a series of steps described very clearly by a community leader from Amazonia. The dismantling of forest laws, then the approval of so called climate change laws (that do not mention any decrease in fossil fuel consumption but centrally the creation of imaginary caps and carbon markets whose rights are assured by the state), then the new laws on REDD that allow certificates known as green titles to be traded in stock markets to offset pollution by industrialised countries (that do not need any transition to green economy), and finally the laws about Payment for Environmental Services (PES), or the domestic internalisation of The Economy of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB).

Instruments of the green economy, REDD and PES, mean the concrete interpretation of the results of the UN climate summit in Cancun, 2010 (COP16) and of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Nagoya, 2010 (COP10). This threatens the sovereignty of communities over their territories.


By generating green papers out of common goods, such as carbon, water, biodiversity and even cultural values, they are aimed at saving a discredited financial system rather than the people or the planet.


The difference of the Rio+20 tentative global green deal and the neoliberal consensus of Washington is that the last came before the structural adjustments, while Rio+20 will come after and put a green UN label on the false consensus that is green capitalism.

As Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, once said: "If Rio92 was known as the Earth Summit, Rio+20 can be known as the summit of the commodification of nature."


The problem is it's already happening!


Further information

See video testimony about REDD and FAS in the Amazonas region, Brazil (in Portuguese)


Read more about structural adjustment policies



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