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New NRDC Report Finds Progress on Promises Made at Rio+20, But Calls for More Accountability

There has been significant progress on many of the key globally negotiated and voluntary commitments made at Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in June 2012, according to a new study by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Stakeholder Forum.

“Fulfilling the Rio+20 Promises: Reviewing Progress Since the UN Conference on Sustainable Development” is a first-of-its-kind assessment by civil society organizations on progress toward some of the key commitments made at Rio+20.

NRDC focused on the more than 700 “voluntary commitments” also made at Rio+20. These are promises by countries, corporations, communities and civil society organizations to take action. NRDC found that the UN has made a start in creating a structure to register, support and make accountable these commitments — which have now grown to more than 1,400 in number and valued at more than $600 billion. NRDC called upon the UN, the various commitment platforms and commitment-makers to provide the resources to support and provide greater transparency and accountability.

In the report, NRDC tracked progress on 11 of the key commitments. For example:

  • Australia tripled its marine reserves to create the largest network of marine protected areas in the world.
  • Eight multilateral banks are moving forward with their promise to invest an additional $175 billion in sustainable transportation for developing countries.
  • Microsoft has achieved its promise to become carbon neutral by mid-2013.

“The IPCC’s new report makes clear that we need to act now to protect future generations from the ravages of climate change, said NRDC president Frances Beinecke. "We have seen progress since Rio+20 on some of the specific promises made there to take action. To build on that momentum, the United Nations needs to create ways to better support, encourage and track these vital commitments.”

NRDC’s partner on the report — Stakeholder Forum, a London-based international civil society organization — found that a number of the important promises in the “The Future We Want” outcome document agreed to by national governments at Rio+20 were being implemented. The UN has established the new High-Level Political Forum, which will bring together ministers to discuss progress on sustainable development and has initiated a process to establish a set of sustainable development goals.

Nikhil Seth, director of UN Division for Sustainable Development and head of Rio+20 Secretariat wrote in a foreword to the report: “When reflecting on Rio+20, it is important to recall the game-changing nature of the voluntary commitments and partnerships that were announced at the conference. They have galvanized a wide range of actions for sustainable development.”

Jacob Scherr, director of global strategy and advocacy at NRDC, said: “Rio+20 saw the emergence of a new world of commitments. These actions by the full range of actors are the means for implementing Rio+20’s vision of a sustainable future. The immediate task ahead is how best to integrate these commitments into the two major UN processes culminating in 2015: the next climate change agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals."


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