Bridget Brady, Mount Holyoke College
In Working Group 1, delegates generally expressed their support for the Co-Chairs' text, though continued to add amendments throughout. While states reinserted old text and re-expressed arguments with little compromise in the plenary, the real negotiations seemed to take place in the spin-off groups, tasked with resolving any outstanding issues. In the morning session, unresolved sections included climate change, mining, food, chemicals, water, disasters, desertification, oceans, forests, biodiversity, mining, gender, education, jobs, and sustainable production and consumption. With such an extensive list and time running short, the plan to hold no more than three breakout groups per day was abandoned. Major Group's access to these meetings was generally encouraged, but ultimately left to the discretion of their chair.
The morning began with a discussion of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Many states expressed their approval of the Co-Chairs' text and highlighted the significance of this section as a major outcome of Rio+20. However, many amendments were made throughout. In the afternoon session, discussions turned to section VI on Means of Implementation.
In the section on Finance, Canada, the US, and New Zealand preferred the deletion of "increases in the provisions of financing," for, as Canada, explained, "We do not believe Rio+20 is a pledging moment." The G77 expressed their extreme disappointment with the current state of the text on finance, which they see as a crucial issue. They concluded by noting that if the text were to remain as is, "that would be a saddeparture." The evening plenary was cancelled to accommodate the break-out groups on gender, education, jobs, and sustainable production and consumption. The true success of the day will be seen in results of these groups, where, with any luck, the real negotiations and compromises are being made.
Freya Seath, Bioregional
After 45 minutes of finalising today’s various focus group meeting room logistics, the session on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Measuring Progress Beyond GDP finally began in Working Group I.
Canada opened by stating they were happy with the Co-Chairs’ text on SDGs, offering just a couple of amendments – I rather optimistically wondered whether this would set a positive trend for the morning. Sadly, it did not.
The EU also stated they were ‘positively inclined’ towards the Co-Chairs’ text. They went on to emphasise the need for high levels of ambition, the importance of building on the experience of the MDGs, and ‘engaging in a process’ at Rio+20. The EU also proposed that SDG 9 should be moved to section Va - Thematic Areas and Cross-Sectoral Issues – to emphasise the limitations of GDP as an important issue in itself. Several countries echoed this sentiment.
The EU and Switzerland both recognised that implementation of SDGs is not just the role of governments but that of other stakeholders – it was good to have this emphasised in plenary!
Despite claiming SDGs should be ‘aspirational’ and could ‘inspire the world’, the US worryingly called for the removal of references to sustainable consumption and production, and equity in SDG 5. Fundamentally important cross-cutting issues that the SDGs absolutely must recognise.
Subsequently, the G77 quickly began stripping away text, including the involvement of ‘all relevant stakeholders’ in implementation under SDG 4. They also stated that defining thematic areas for the SDGs should only occur as part of a post-Rio process. The final blow came, however, when the Group called for the deletion of SDG 9, on indicators beyond GDP. This is a cause for concern for ensuring that alternative ways of measuring progress – which capture wellbeing and recognise the value of nature – are included in the Outcome Document.
It seems all countries recognise the SDGs are likely to be the most important outcome from Rio+20, but it is still unclear what form any agreement on this issue will take. Will any themes be identified, what will the process look like, and how will they complement the post-MDGs work? As the session broke for lunch I felt a deep concern that there is still a very high mountain to climb before any consensus can be reached on SDGs.