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Rio+20 Round-up: Bay2Rio+20 Delegation's First Thoughts

By Jenny Sant'Anna

This post is part of the on-going events news, related to the Bay2Rio+20 delegation team’s on-the-ground coverage from Rio+20. It addresses side-events happening at Rio+20 concerning GDP, oceans and cities.  To follow along, click here.

Bay2Rio+20, a group of Bay Area entrepreneurs, environmental activists and innovators is in Rio de Janeiro to participate in “Rio+20,” the 20th anniversary United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as the Earth Summit. Bay2Rio+20 is dedicated to building lasting bridges by connecting Rio+20 attendees with innovators and experts here in the Bay Area. The Bay2Rio+20 crew launched the Innovation Bus in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday as a means to engage with conference attendees in the areas of policy, design, entrepreneurship and urban planning looking to create a recipe for innovation in sustainable urban development. On Saturday, June 23rd, Bay2Rio+20 is hosting simultaneous events in San Francisco and Rio de Janeiro to discuss and connect ideas, share information and work to move the agenda of Rio+20 from the conference space into the real world.

When not hosting fellow attendees from around the world on the Innovation Bus, we’ve attended side-events, which is, many at the conference are saying, where ideas for real change will arise. Members of the delegation attended side-events that addressed zero waste strategies, higher education, oceans, plastics at Plasticity Forum and moving beyond GDP. While we were in a packed meeting entitled, Beyond GDP: Measuring the Future We Want with Khalid Malik, director of the UN Development Program Human Development Report Office, who was trying to make the case for using a people-centered approach to measure progress, the Human Development Index; UK Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg was about to announce that the UK will be the first country in the world to require its largest businesses to report their carbon footprints using GDP+. Clegg said,

We all know that GDP is a vital measure of growth. But it can only provide a narrow snapshot of a country’s welfare and it does not account for the quality of growth – for our wellbeing, and that of the natural environment on which future prosperity depends.

We also attended the World Green Summit, the forum for business, finance and governments at Rio+20. The World Green Summit had a completely different vibe than the events at the main conference hall. A panel that included representatives from BMW Group, Philips Benelux, Schneider Electric Brazil and the Mayors of Freiburg, Germany and Changwon, Korea discussed ideas such as including car sharing as one means of addressing public transportation issues and how taking a long-term view will help cities better appreciate the benefits of energy efficient technology (LED lighting).

Meanwhile, progress on ocean language in the Rio+20 document took a hit when countries could not agree to “address the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction,” instead agreeing to “initiate, as soon as possible, the negotiation of an implementing agreement.” This lack of progress was announced late in the day. Earlier, Jean-Michel Cousteau said at a side-event, “There is too much blah, blah, blah, go to the next meeting; we need ACTION!” As many are noticing, government agreement on language that moves Rio+20 forward into the future we want is scarce here in Rio. How ironic that business may have to be the driver of sustainable development and progress.

Follow along on Twitter @Bay2Rio20.

Jenny Sant’Anna, a recent graduate from the Presidio Graduate School of Sustainable Management, is interested in all issues concerning ocean health and plastic waste. You can follow her Twitter account, Merbleue2050, or read ocean news, information and discussions at http://www.reddit.com/r/oceans.


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