Last night, I had a dream. Don’t worry, this isn’t me trying to do, like, a Martin Luther King thing. This was a literal dream. I was in a house and water started coming through the roof. I had some cups and glasses to catch the drips, but I couldn’t keep up with the overflow. When I went to throw some of the water out of the window, I saw that the entire house was moving, fast, down the side of a hill, like an avalanche. But I just kept bailing out the water.
You must excuse my mind and its dealing in very literal metaphors. What can I say? It’s my subconscious. But that is what it feels like to be here. That we’re running around, catching the drips, tweeting, signing petitions, deleting, then adding things to the text. But the bigger picture – the fact that our house is crashing down a mountain, that our global values system has gone terribly awry – is getting lost as we deal in details.
State of the negotiations
- The text is now closed. It was presented by Brazil this morning (after a 13 hour delayed plenary) and accepted by all countries. Every country commented it was ‘the best we could do’ but no one was happy with the text (apart from Canada).
- The text has “only” been approved “ad ref” in plenary this morning. This means that it has been provisionally agreed to without any remaining brackets. Although difficult, it is still possible to reopen an agreed ad ref paragraph or text. Also, the text will only become the official outcome of this summit after it has been agreed to by heads of state and/or governments during the high-level days. If one or more countries insist on blocking the text, it will not be approved.
- High Level negotiations begin tomorrow with the official opening of the UNCSD at 2pm UK time. There will be 200 x 3 minute speeches and then they get to work.
Key issues with the text
- Last Friday’s text was what was agreed at the end of the official UN prep comm and the one released today was the Brazilian edits.
- What we get so far:
- Commitment to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
- ‘Enhanced’ power of UNEP (but no upgrade to a United Nations Environment Organisation)
- Formation of a High Level forum on Sustainable Development.
- A nod to ‘future generations’ and commitment to a report being produced on a High Commissioner for Future Generations.
- Reaffirming of UNFCCC frameworks and highlighting the gap between commitments and what is needed. A fairly good, non-controversial section on climate change, but nothing new.
- Commitment to non-formal education on sustainable development.
- What we don’t get so far:
- SDGs will be inter-governmental and with little participation from civil society.
- No firm commitment on green jobs or significant progress on a real, green economy.
- No High Commissioner for Future Generations.
- the High Level forum is very weak and not the robust body needed to hold countries to account on their actions after commitments and monitor implementation.
- Gender and reproductive rights were not protected. These were opposed by G77 and the Holy See.
The text is very weak and that’s how it has got through. Lots of language such as ‘we commit to exploring’ or ‘we will consider proposals’ are in there meaning there is actually very little action in it. For this reason it remains weak, unambitious and not nearly as bold as the 1992 Earth Summit principles or Agenda 21.
- The UK have got what they came for. They wanted SDGs, GDP+ (big push on this)
- Need more mention on green job & greening existing jobs.
- There were some previous issues with the UK blocking some of the water text, but this has now been resolved.
- The UK aren’t really doing a huge amount now. They had very little involvement with the negotiations before hand and only sent one Defra official for a few days out of the 4 weeks of negotiations leading up to this week.
Having said that, I’m off to another briefing with the UK delegation in a couple of hours, so I’ll keep you updated on that one.
About the authorHanna Thomas
Green Jobs Director at The Otesha Project UK, leading the work of the East London Green Jobs Alliance. MSc Climate Change & Policy. Tracking the negotiations through a grassroots lens! Rio+20 Fellow.