President Lula of Brazil proposes ‘Rio + 20’ to follow on Earth Summit
Standing before the United Nations General Assembly one day after an historic meeting on climate change, the President of Brazil today proposed convening in 2012 a summit on the environment in Rio, exactly two decades after the landmark international conference met there to produce the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“I propose that we hold a new conference, in 2012, to be hosted by Brazil: the Rio + 20 Conference,” President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva told the Assembly’s annual high-level debate. The year 2012 is also when the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC, which contains legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is set to expire.
He emphasized the need to reorder international priorities in favour of social justice. “If we want to salvage our common heritage, a new and more balanced distribution of wealth is needed, both internationally and within each country. Social equity is our best weapon against the planet’s degradation,” he said.
“It is unacceptable that the cost of the irresponsibility of a privileged few be shouldered by the dispossessed of the earth,” declared President Lula, calling for industrialized countries to “set the example,” while emphasizing that “developing countries must also help in combating climate change.”
Brazil, for its part, would work to protect the Amazon, he said, noting that the rate of deforestation there has been cut in half in the past three years.
President Lula also advocated the use of bio-fuels as a “clean energy alternative” and pledged that Brazil’s bio-fuels “will reach the world market with a seal of assurance for their social, labour and environmental quality.”
On his signature issue of combating hunger, President Lula called for stepped-up global efforts to reduce inequality. “The final defeat of poverty, however, demands more than international solidarity,” he said, calling for new international trade relations based on balanced and fair rules.
“Farm subsidies that make the rich richer and the poor poorer are no longer acceptable,” he said. “We cannot accept agricultural protectionism that perpetuates dependency and underdevelopment.”
Voicing his confidence in the tool of multilateral diplomacy, President Lula noted Brazil’s support for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
“In Haiti, we are showing that peace and stability are built with democracy and social development,” he said.
Martin Torrijos, the President of Panama, voiced support for a renewal of MINUSTAH, but pointed out that further efforts are needed. “It is essential that the mandate not end before institutions in the country have been strengthened.”
He told the Assembly that the structure of the UN must be strengthened, noting that the number and quality of peacekeeping operations had increased in recent years. To ensure that countries do not slide back into war, these missions must cover a broader range of activities.
“Reaching a lasting peace means more than simply laying down weapons,” he said, stressing that legal and political institutions must be rebuilt, and human rights must be respected.
He also voiced support for the conclusion of a comprehensive convention to combat terrorism, highlighting Panama’s lead role in diplomatic efforts on the issue.