Agriculture / Environment / Event report / Food Security / Policy

The road back to Rio: Scientists find final ‘The Future We Want’ document to be ‘science light’

Side event Rio +20, Rio de Janeiro

Scientists complain that the new Rio+20 accord barely mentions the scientific inputs needed for sustainable development (photo on Flickr by CGIAR Climate/CCAFS).

‘The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) ended last Friday (22 June) with an international agreement on the need for all countries to commit themselves to achieving sustainable development.

‘The agreement immediately came under fire from several quarters for its lack of detail about how this will be done, and the absence of new financial commitments from the developed world.

‘Critics in the scientific and technical communities also said it lacked adequate recognition of the importance of science in achieving sustainable development, and details of mechanisms for facilitating the technology transfer needed to make this possible.

‘But the agreement could lead to a stronger interface between science and policy. And voluntary pledges announced outside the formal proceedings of the conference could, if fulfilled, significantly boost sustainable technology in the developing world.

‘Some 188 heads of state and government, as well as ministers, had assembled for three days (20-22 June) at Rio+20 in Brazil to endorse the 53-page outcome document, The Future We Want. . . .

‘On several issues, the document left the science and engineering communities dismayed.

‘For example, scientists had hoped that the text would express urgency over the accumulated evidence that many of the planet’s systems are now under dangerous stress, threatening, for example, fish numbers and terrestrial food chains.

‘But it proved impossible to reconcile such a statement, and its implied support for limiting economic growth, with the paramount goal—namely, how to raise more than one billion people out of extreme poverty, a task for which many claim economic growth remains essential.

‘As a result, the outcome is likely to be “sustainable development as usual”, rather than action on the scale that the scientific evidence now demands, said Gisbert Glaser, senior advisor at the International Council for Science (ICSU). . . .

‘However, the agreement does provide a number of openings to enable the better integration of science into policymaking.

‘In particular, nations have “invited” the UN General Assembly to “upgrade” and “strengthen” the Nairobi-based UN Environment Programme (UNEP), a process that is likely to provide the programme with more secure funding and universal membership,

‘Currently, UNEP relies on mostly voluntary contributions and a governing council made up of 58 UN members states.

‘The changes to UNEP will include a stronger science/policy interface in order to improve evidence-based decision-making. UNEP will also disseminate evidence-based environmental information, provide capacity building to countries, and support and facilitate access to sustainable technology. . . .

‘And nations have agreed to initiate a process leading to the creation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in which the scientific community will be “fully involved”.

‘The document’s frequent references to the need for capacity building in science in developing countries will put pressure on governments, science funders and UN organisations to do more in this regard, said Glaser. . . .’

Read the whole article at SciDevNet: Scientists criticise lack of urgency in Rio+20 accord, 25 Jun 2012.

Read more about Rio+20 on the ILRI News Blog:
The road back to Rio: Turning straw into gold — Crop ‘wastes’ at the heart of greener livestock development, 18 Jun 2012.
The road back to Rio: ‘LivestockPLUS Learning Event’ shows how better feed reduces poverty AND livestock ‘hoofprints’, 18 Jun 2012.

And on the ILRI Clippings Blog:
Minding your three E’s: From ‘economically viable’ to ‘ecologically sound’ to ‘ethically acceptable’, 27 Jun 2012.
The road back to Rio: ‘USD1 billlion CGIAR work agenda presented for a food-secure future’, 27 Jun 2012.
On the road back to Rio: Is the new mantra – ‘inclusive green growth’ – really possible?, 25 Jun 2012.
Sober look at people-environment links for Rio+20: Better technologies and use of natural resources essential but not sufficient, 20 Jun 2012.
The road back to Rio: Will an opportunity for a safer, fairer, more united world be squandered? 14 Jun 2012.
At Rio+20 agriculture and environment must become ‘best friends’ – Frank Rijsberman, 13 Jun 2012.
Improving forage crops in livestock systems shows potential for reducing climate change, 30 May 2012.
Crop, tree, water, livestock and fish scientists call for action at Rio+20 sustainable development summit, 23 May 2012.
Move our global food systems into a ‘safe space’–Memo to G8 from CGIAR’s Bruce Campbell, 20 May 2012.
Getting the clever benefits of kinder livestock farming on the ‘Rio+20′ agenda, 10 May 2012.
‘Developing countries are where it’s at in reducing livestock’s ecological hoofprint’ – (promiscuous agricultural) geographer, 27 Apr 2012.

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