Washington — The U.S. negotiator involved in drafting a legacy document for the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development expressed measured satisfaction with the end product that will go to top national representatives for a vote by conference end June 22.
Todd Stern told reporters in a June 19 briefing that the outcome will “advance goals” in sustainable development and the sensible use of resources.
A veteran of many negotiations as the State Department's special envoy for climate change, Stern said talks on the Rio+20 agreement ended as most do. “Everybody had things they were more pleased about and less pleased about, and certainly some things could have been improved,” Stern said. “But I think it was a good strong step forward.”
Stern cited the strong commitment to the environment expressed by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton with their action to place sustainable development beside diplomacy and defense as “the three pillars of U.S. national security policy.” The negotiated declaration — titled “The Future We Want” and almost 50 pages in length — represents progress in pursuit of those goals, he said.
Stern said the agreement calls for a few actions that should help bolster international institutions supporting sustainable development: strengthening the U.N. Environment Programme and creation of a new high-level U.N. forum focused on more efficient management of natural resources.
Traditionally, negotiating teams pass a recommended declaration to national leaders for approval, but a possibility still exists that the leaders may break the draft declaration open for renegotiation. Stern said he doesn’t expect that to happen, and that leaders will move forward on approval June 22.
The actions will have a cumulative effect, Stern said, to make sustainability a fundamental element of all development in the future. That outcome fulfills one of the baseline aspirations of international environmental negotiations as they began in the late 1980s, Stern said, “to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their needs.”
But the events under way at the conference in Rio de Janeiro encompass far more than this declaration. Corporate and nongovernmental organizations are sponsoring some 500 events — discussions and programs — from the preliminary phase of the meeting in mid-June to its conclusion June 23.
They address diverse topics such as creating a green economy, practicing sustainable agriculture, preserving environmental treasures and engaging in partnerships for sustainability.
With these activities, the conference is already moving toward achievement of one declaration commitment. Sustainable development “can only be achieved with a broad alliance of people, governments, civil society and private sector, all working together to secure the future we want for present and future generations,” the declaration says.