A major milestone for the Future We Want was achieved at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development with the announcement on Friday, 22 June, that 700 concrete commitments have been registered from governments, business and industry, financial institutions and more.
More money has been mobilized in Rio than any previous UN conference, for the benefit of the planet and its people. The value of commitments at Rio+20 is a staggering US $513 billion.
As Conference Secretary-General Sha Zukang said, it’s an amazing achievement.
And commitments go beyond financial pledges – a wide range of actions have been announced, from planting 100 million trees, to empowering 5,000 women entrepreneurs in green economy businesses in Africa, to recycling 800,000 tons of PVC per year.
The full package of agreements, actions, commitments, challenges, initiatives, and announcements made addresses global issues ranging from energy efficiency and food security to sustainable consumption and production and transportation.
Here are some highlights.
Sustainable Energy For All
More than a billion people will benefit from the $50 billion of funding committed under the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative alone. People in developing countries will gain improved access to energy through grid extension and off-grid solutions, as well as scaled-up renewable energy sources, increased investment, and improved energy policies.
- d.Light Design, a social entrepreneur, is committed to providing solar lamps to 30 million people in more than 40 countries by 2015.
- Ghana, one of the first countries to partner with the initiative, is developing a national energy action plan to support capacity-development and innovative financing mechanisms.
- Sinopec, the world’s fifth largest company, pledged a $1 billion commitment towards improving the company’s energy and environmental footprint by 2015, which includes reducing water consumption and waste emissions and increasing energy efficiency.
- The U.S. announced it will provide $2 billion in grants, loans and loan guarantees for policy and regulatory development, public-private energy technology partnerships, and loans and guarantees to leverage private investment in clean energy technology.
Eight multilateral development banks pledged to provide $175 billion over the next decade to support the development of sustainable transport in developing countries. This will benefit many millions of people and help address the major adverse aspects of transport including congestion, traffic accidents, and emissions and other negative environmental impacts.
Zero Hunger Challenge
Launched in Rio last night, the Secretary-General’s “Zero Hunger Challenge” invites all nations to be boldly ambitious as they work for a future where everyone enjoys their right to food and all food systems are resilient. It aims to provide 100 percent access to adequate food all year round, while increasing small farm productivity and zero loss or waste of food was inspired by the bold work done by many countries and organizations to end hunger, including Brazil, whose ‘Fome Zero’ programme. At the launch event, the United Kingdom announced that it would be contributing 150 million pounds to help meet the Challenge.
Corporate Sustainability Forum
Approximately 200 commitments to action were announced by companies during the Corporate Sustainability Forum, covering areas ranging from low- or no-carbon footprints to re-forestation, business plans for subsistence farmers and renewal of clean, fresh water sources.
- Kingfisher, Europe’s largest home improvement retailer, committed to using 100 percent responsibly sourced timber and paper in all if its operations by 2020.
- The company, Arborem, has entered into an agreement with Instituto Genômico de Recursos Florestais, Brazil’s leading land reform group, to help small holder farmers raise their productivity and their incomes to lift them above the poverty line.
- Microsoft says it will achieve carbon neutrality through offsetting actions.
- Unilever is launching a drive to halve the greenhouse gas impact of their products.
- Nike’s target is zero discharge of hazardous chemicals along its entire supply chain, both by 2020.
- 23 companies pledged to transparency and disclosure on their impact on climate change.
- 260 major business schools and universities around the world endorsed a Declaration for Higher Education Institutions, committing to incorporating sustainability issues into teaching, research, and their own management and organizational activities.
Host country leadership
The Government of Brazil has demonstrated outstanding host country leadership in Rio through commitments on several global issues, including its pledge to achieve universal energy access in Brazil by 2014. As a global leader in sustainable energy, Brazil will invest in renewable energy, mainly in hydropower and biofuels but also including biomass and wind power, and will produce a total energy savings of 9 percent in 2030 from the electrical and transportation sectors.