This week, world leaders will converge in Rio for what is gearing up to be the most important discussion on the environment and sustainable development in our lifetimes. Marking the 20th anniversary of the first Rio meeting, these leaders will come together to shape plans for how poverty can be reduced, how to advance social equality, and how to ensure environmental protection as the global population grows.
This conference will focus on a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication as well as the institutional framework of sustainable development.
But what’s at stake?
With so much hype surrounding the talks, it is important to understand the context of these talks, and how global leaders will hold up their end of the bargain.
Coming to an attainable decision at Rio+20 is not only important to ensure the sustainability of the earth and its resources, but also to ensure that those who will be most affected by climate change and sustainable development, the rural poor, have a fighting chance to develop their economies and their livelihoods, while still maintaining a healthy planet.
When we think about climate change, for example, it is easy to focus just on the environmental aspect. It is important to keep the earth healthy so future generations can enjoy clean oceans, abundant forests, and stunning plains, but climate change involves so much more that.
Climate change can play a drastic role in agriculture, food security, health, and education. If certain regions experience long-term drought, as many parts of Africa are starting to, agriculture slows, having a direct effect on any local agriculture markets and food production. Excessive flooding, on the other hand, can damage infrastructure like homes and schools and can also lead to health issues when drinking water becomes contaminated or malaria-spreading mosquitoes breed in the standing water.
Plus, climate change is much more likely to adversely affect those who live in rural, poor communities.
To ensure that we don’t send the earth into a harmful cycle of climate change, development must be centered around sustainability to ensure long-lasting solution to poverty.
Those who are attending Rio+20 have a lot of weight on their shoulders, as everyone’s future is dependent on their decisions and commitment to follow through with action. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has said that the summit is too important to fail. Hopefully this is the time when global leaders can come together to make important strides towards sustainability in economic, social, and environmental development.
To keep global leaders honest, let them know you are paying attention with the top reasons to come to an agreement at Rio+20 (as adapted from Oxfam America). Here’s what you can do:
Tweet #tweetG20: Tonight, 1 in 7 people will go to bed hungry. #G20 must act now to fix the broken food system.
Tweet #tweetG20: Brazil lowered #hunger rates by one-third from 2000 to 2007; #G20 countries can & should make ending hunger a priority.
Tweet #tweetG20: In 14 of 18 #G20 countries, inequality is on the rise.
Tweet #tweetG20: More than half of the 1.3 billion people who live on less than $1.25/day are in #G20 countries.
Tweet #tweetG20: #G20 must invest in farmers: agriculture generates 15% of exports and employs 70% of West African workers. #Sahel2012
That’s what’s so exciting about Rio+20. There is the potential to find a solution that maximizes global and individual economic growth that also incorporates the environment and a sustainable future, and we can let global leaders know that we are watching and eager for change.