The global environment summit concluding Friday, which drew nearly 100 world leaders and more than 45,000 other people to Rio de Janiero and cost tens of millions of dollars, may produce one lasting legacy: Convincing people it’s not worth holding global summits.
The U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, a once-a-decade meeting aimed at reconciling economic and environmental aspirations, has produced a nonbinding declaration, committing the world’s politicians to modest goals. The proposals set out at the beginning, such as providing universal energy access and doubling renewables by 2030, have been left on the cutting-room floor.
“I don’t know if they’ll ever do this again, and I don’t know if we’ll need it again,” said the Pew Environment Group’s director of international policy, Susan Lieberman. She said she was at least pleased that oceans received more attention this year. “It’s a 12-ring circus here.”
The so-called Rio+20 Earth Summit has featured plenty of theatrics, including Greenpeace’s unfurling Thursday of an “Arctic Scroll,” signed by legends such Paul McCartney and Robert Redford, to be planted on the North Pole seabed to draw attention to global warming. And it has hosted dozens of serious policy discussions.