The Climate Emergency Institutes Appraisal of the Rio+20 Sell Out

20 April 2012

To advocates of sustainability, environmental protection and social justice.


We haven’t even begun to understand the damage we are bringing to bear on the sustainability of our planet. (UNEP’s Achim Steiner: Interview The Independent UK 9 April 2012)

The issues that Rio + 20 must address on an emergency basis are – sustaining world agriculture, civilization, the survival of billions of the most climate change vulnerable and innocent and socio economically deprived , the survival of indigenous sustainable cultures, the survival of humanity, the survival of the living oceans, and the survival of most life on Earth.

The Rio+20 zero draft remains carefully and deceptively worded in order to ignore and roll back the specific agreements made by governments and obligations on them of the 1992 Rio declaration, Agenda 21 and the Framework Convention on Climate Change, as well as ignoring their obligations under the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and their self-evident responsibility of protecting our sacred Earth.

This draft continues the insane global climate suicide pact of the dead locked UN climate negotiations. Specifically there is no commitment to even reduce greenhouse gas emissions- the draft language is with a view to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

World powers have the world committed (rather condemned) to a literal ‘end of the world ‘global average temperature increase from preindustrial of 4.5° C by 2100 which, because of the climate system inertia, is a commitment of 9° C over the centuries following 2100 (Climate interactive climate scoreboard).

Click on images to enlarge.

Committed losses to food production, ecosystems, and species

Agricultural yields are expected to decrease for all major cereal crops in all major regions of production once the global average temperature increases beyond 3° C (UK Met Office 2009).

This worst possible crime against humanity and Nature has to be challenged at the Rio 20 conference on sustainable development, and the peoples have to declare the planetary climate and sustainability emergency. It is a matter of our common survival.

If not – how? If not now – when?

The key terms and ‘red flags’ in the draft with respect to sustainability are ‘sustained economic growth’ and unjustifiable discrimination or disguised restriction on international trade.

So long as these are in the draft the agreements will not deliver anything but more words and continued business as usual deadly development that is even now pushing the world over the cliff of planetary catastrophe.

This Rio 20 agreement is therefore a very dangerous document to give any support to.

Sustained economic growth’ means the opposite of sustainable development. It means the continued business as usual unconstrained deregulated neoclassical free-market growth in maximum profits at all costs economics – which of course is the cause of the ongoing global environmental degradation and pollution and socio economic deprivation affecting billions of people.

Unjustifiable discrimination or disguised restriction on international trade’ is the economic globalization power of the privatized for profit world order (WTO) that gives financial interests the power to discriminate against environmental protection and the protection of human rights. It gives profit the precedence over environmental and social protection and costs.

Twenty years ago governments agreed to correct the unsustainable unjust economic system by applying the principles of pollution prevention, polluter pays and precaution. They agreed to apply full cost accounting and the internalization of socio economic externalities. Instead governments have brought in the opposite.

By stealth they connived with global corporations to impose the undemocratic and anti- democratic so called free trade rules of deregulated investment, unsustainable development, privatization, intellectual property rights and so-called nondiscriminatory free trade.

This zero draft is carefully worded so that governments are not committing to any of their 1992 Rio agreements at Rio +20 and it reinforces the above aspects of the free trade deregulation privatization agenda.

There is no full cost accounting and no internalization of externalized socio-environmental costs.

There is no pollution prevention – only pollution ‘reduction’ which is practically meaningless to persistent cumulative pollutants like atmospheric carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas halocarbons.

Because of this property of carbon dioxide global warming, climate change, and ocean acidification caused by atmospheric greenhouse gas pollution are practically forever.

The precautionary principle has been downgraded to the weak meaningless precautionary ‘approach’.

In the draft Rio+20 agreement it must now be assumed there will be no acknowledgement or sense of today’s dire planetary emergency.

The following proposed statements have some merit but it is clear they will not be in the agreement.

We reaffirm that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time, and we express profound alarm that emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise globally. We underscore that combating climate change requires the widest possible cooperation, and we express our commitment to an effective and appropriate international response. …
We are also deeply concerned that all countries, in particular LDCs, SIDS and Africa, are experiencing increased impacts from climate change, making it more difficult to address food security, efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development and that those impacts threaten the territorial integrity, viability and the very existence of small island developing states, thus making adaptation to climate change even more important. (proposal chairs)

Even so this is a cruel misrepresentation of the facts- making it more difficult to address food security, efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development. Even so clearly this situation even as stated is an abuse of human rights and it is a global emergency. It is a global emergency because of the extremely high unsurvivable degrees of global warming that the world has been committed to buy the world economy and world powers.

An estimated 300,000 people a year are being killed by climate change at today’s global temperature increase of 0.8°C (The Human Impact Report 2009). Climate system inertia has us absolutely committed to a global warming of 1.6°C lasting thousands of years.

World powers have committed (condemned) us to a global temperature of 4.5°C by 2100. This means the collapse of world food production. It means most of the world’s population is condemned this century to die (Prof Kevin Anderson Director Tyndale Climate Centre Warming will Wipe out Billions November 2009). This is a global climate emergency that must be responded to today.

Today’s committed global warming and climate change, that commits billions of people to deadly additional losses of water food and health, is the worst ever crime against humanity.

This is economic genocide disguised as development. Those people who cannot afford to pay for expensive declining fossil fuel energy, expensive declining water, expensive declining food and expensive basic health care are going to die. These will be added to the number of victims of entirely preventable global climate change – a number in the billions.

The recognition in the draft of all the problems the world faces without any obligation to act on them at all let alone on an emergency basis, is at best pointless and is a cruel message to the world that governments will continue not to act on them. In any case all governments have already acknowledged these problems more effectively by signing off on the UNEP 5th Global Environmental Outlook.

There are no real commitments by governments in this draft. All kinds of language is used but it all avoids commitments or requirements on governments.

We have the extraordinary new language of ‘voluntary commitments’, ‘promote commitments’ , and ‘calling for commitments’. There is much that is ‘called for’ in this draft but no commitments re-affirmed or made apart from the general commitment to sustainable development, the green economy, and UN human rights that will continue to be ignored and abused – by this draft imposing the business as usual economics and rolling back the commitments made 20 years ago.

While today’s already committed global warming and climate change commits the world to declining food crop yields affecting all regions and is committing the world to literal ‘End of the world’ Arctic sea ice meltdown and methane feedbacks – climate change is only in the draft to acknowledge it exists.

There is one single climate change commitment in the draft which is the 2C target to certain global climate catastrophe, and the draft language on this is with a view to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

James Hansen says 2C is a formula to disaster and in 2011 explained that 1C is the danger limit. James Hansen and other climate experts published a paper in 2007 has said Recent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions place the Earth perilously close to dramatic climate change that could run out of our control.

Last year the annual increase in emissions was the biggest ever. The powerful greenhouse gas methane, which has already increased two a half times since fossil fuel industrialization, is now increasing further- but this time the increase is due to methane feedback emissions produced by a warming planet. This is a most ominous sign of runaway global climate change.

In 2009 James Hansen warned that the world is facing a coming climate catastrophe and this is our last chance to save humanity.

One of the pioneers of sustainability Dennis Meadows (Limits to Growth 1972) has observed that global environmental degradation and pollution breached Earth’s capacity to sustain economic growth years ago and now the world must ‘strive for survivable development’.

Dr. Peter Carter


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