Climate Change Conferences in Lead-up to Rio+20

Last week a group of countries including those from the EU, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), small island nations threatened by sea-level rise, and progressive countries in Latin America, known as the Durban coalition, met in Brussels to discuss climate change. The Durban coalition focused their informal discussions on their desire to re-commit to the universal legal agreement on climate change they adopted after last December’s UN climate summit in Durban, South Africa.

Photo via Flickr: Brussels Sunset by comzeradd

The Durban coalition, also described as the “coalition of ambition,” due to their progressive environmental policies, hoped to build political momentum in the lead up to Rio+20, by initiating an international dialogue around climate issues and negotiation. Participants aim to discuss the needs of their respective countries in order to determine the most effective and equitable strategy to address climate change. Despite the Durban coalition’s desire to ameliorate climate change, each country struggled to resolve how it would fund their respective climate change commitment.

As their meeting happened in advance of UN talks scheduled in Bonn later this month, it provides valuable insight into challenges that may arise as other, less climate-friendly political leaders negotiate climate change agreements in today’s economic environment.

Therefore, in order to prepare for climate negotiations at Rio +20, it is helpful to consider how environmental legislation may bolster a nation’s economy rather than hinder it. For example, consider how climate change policy will improve health by improving air quality, thereby decreasing health costs; or, how preparing for extreme weather events will decrease the costly damages of natural disasters when they strike.

Carbon Monoxide Pollution over the United States and Canada, by NASA Goddard.

The UN’s Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) has recently released videos in advance of Rio +20 that encourage countries to consider the steps they need to take to ensure Rio+20 produces a meaningful agreement – one that will mitigate the effects of climate change by binding nations to one another and the planet’s future.

In one video, Sustainable Futures, the speakers emphasize the importance of sustainable lifestyles in a world where resources are under ever-increasing demand. UNRISD calls on us to consider our lifestyle choices and patterns of consumption. Are there ways that we as citizens may be able to change our behavior or call upon governments to change the system and protect our collective interests?

UNRISD also posted a video on the Green Economy, a topic covered in Worldwatch’s State of the World 2012 report. The video notes the importance of systemic change in governmental policies and society’s behavior if we are to effectively combat climate change.

Solar engineering trainer, Barefoot College, India; Photo via Flickr, UN Women's Gallery

The questions raised in these two videos are just a few of the topics that are being discussed in conferences across the EU and around the world in preparation for Rio+20.

Rio +20 will be the culmination of these important debates and negotiations. How we answer these questions, and those of fair and equitable use of resources and sustainable development will determine the stability of society and Earth’s systems in the future.


(Written by Antonia Sohns)

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