A race to the bottom

As the third and last scheduled day of PrepCom negotiations are taking part at Rio+20, it is becoming ever more evident that the ambition for a good outcome document is almost non-existent and that a happy ending for this conference looks grim at this point.

One might believe that as the world is in its greatest peril and as the UN hosts a conference that gives us the opportunity of a generation to address these problems, the countries would jump at the opportunity. One might believe that as the climate change is progressing and ever more people are vulnerable and living in desperate situations throughout the World, our leaders would feel the responsibility to solve these problems instead of shying away from them. Sadly, this seems not to be the case. Instead, under the Rio+20 negotiations, it is ever more evident that the slightest formulations on commitments of any kind is consequently being deleted by the participants. Any aspiration for making a real and positive change in the world is being cut down. In fact, during the talks one hears several times the words “this text proposal is too strong, we need something weaker if we are to agree” being uttered. And we who sit there and actually gives a damn, become ever more frustrated, wondering why these countries have even bothered to turn up to this conference. Is it all a game to them? It would seem so.

Participants during the splinter group on food security. Photo: IISD.

At a Side Event about Ombudsperson for future generations today, the Chair said: “Nobody wants their children to drink filthy water. Nobody wants their children to breathe filthy air. Yet this is what we are doing to the environment”. This becomes apparent just by looking out the window of the buses we use to drive to the convention centre every morning. The bus drive can be almost two hours because the roads are jammed with traffic. The queues consists of thousands of private cars, with one person in each car. The air is full of cabon dioxide. The big houses along the way are spending huge amounts of energy on airconditioning, not because it’s so very hot, but because the air is so polluted. And the paved areas between and next to the road could have been used for growing food for hungry people, but are instead paved with sement.

As a member of the young generation going to inherit the world that is ever more going to pieces, I keep wondering how we have managed to end up in this situation. That even though everybody should have the interest of making this world more sustainable, not even our elected leaders can find agreement on the most ambitiousless of negotiation texts. No matter how great a peril we’re in, it doesn’t seem like the parties have the capability of looking at the broader picture and take action in the direction that is really needed. Instead everyone gets tangled up in their own country’s concerns and are all about their own selfish needs.

This is not about people. It’s not about quality of life and the fulfilment of basic needs. The World’s leaders could easily have gotten rid of world hunger, had they wanted to. The problem is that it doesn’t seem like they do.

If this is how the grown-up generation responds to crises, what kind of example does it set for the ones who are going to take over?

There is a lack of vision in Rio, and it becomes ever more apparent that this conference won’t give us a good outcome. It is a race to the bottom where the World’s nations are competing to be the ones who can keep on doing the most harm to our planet, leaving an ever more polluted world to their children and grandchildren.

Still, the young people are not giving up. We are aiming for small victories, like getting non-formal education into the text. We are working hard for Ombudsperson for future generations, and we are working for better social and environmental justice. While these things won’t save the world on its own, they are building blocks on which we can try to build a new foundation on the ruins of what our forerunners are eagerly trying to destroy.

For those who haven’t read the Spire blog’s update on yesterday, read it here.

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