Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, has admitted that the Rio+20 deal is “disappointing.” He blamed China and other developing countries that have huge reserves of coal and want to continue using fossil fuels to grow, for failing to back plans for the green economy. “The political significance of Rio is that the G77 nations are antagonistic to our European ideas on the green economy,” said Mr Clegg.
More than 190 countries are gathered in Rio for the largest ever United Nations summit on the environment.
Held 20 years on from the Earth Summit in 1992, ‘Rio+20, was supposed to set the world on a new development path powered by renewables rather than fossils fuels like coal.
However Mr Clegg admitted that the deal is “disappointing”. Plans to shift to a ‘green economy’ by scrapping fossil fuel subsidies and pumping money into new technologies like wind and solar have been watered down.
‘The Future We Want’, as the deal is known, commits the world to new ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ or SDGs. But there is no timetable for the new targets, that are likely to focus on increasing the amount of energy from renewables, cleaning up water supplies and cutting chemicals in farming.
“The political significance of Rio is that the G77 nations are antagonistic to our European ideas on the green economy,” said Mr Clegg. “They were worried about some of the process issues around the SDGs.
“People are disappointed by the text … as I am. We could probably have a perfectly formed text with a lot of precision if we kicked out large parts of the developing world but that is unacceptable. It has to work for the developing and developed world.”
Mr Clegg blamed China and other developing countries, that have huge reserves of coal and want to continue using fossil fuels to grow, for failing to back plans for the green economy.
He said Europe can no longer take the lead in such international negotiations because power is shifting “from West to East”.
“We no longer live in a neocolonial world where a small number of Governments can get together and write a text and say to the rest of the world you have to accept this,” he added. “The developing world is much more assertive.”
Days after announcing all companies have to measure carbon, Mr Clegg said the UK will also be one of the first countries in the world to measure its ‘natural capital’.
He said the UK will not only measure the health of the economy but the state of the natural world such as air quality, water supplies and forests.
The new measurement, called GDP+, will be in place by 2020 and Mr Clegg hoped the rest of the world would also adopt the system put forward as part of the Rio+20 deal.
Mr Clegg said the UK is investing in helping the poor adapt to changes in the environment “in a more forthright manner than anyone else”, announcing pounds 150 million to help smallholders farmers in Africa.
In a sideswipe at his Coalition colleague George Osborne, who has expressed concerns that climate change policies could be a ‘burden’ on business, Mr Clegg insisted helping the environment and growing the economy are not in conflict but our best chance of recovery.
“We would be bonkers as a world leader in the green economy to start undermining our own. We have to grow and create jobs.”
Jim Leape, Director of WWF International, said he was not just disappointed but “outraged” at how weak the text is.
“If you saw this document without knowing what it was supposed to be, you might think Rio+20 was convened as a seminar,”” he said.
Charities and NGOs are fighting to try and get some of wording strengthened before the conference breaks up at the end of the week.