U.N. conference offers lots of talk, little action


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Rio+20 has come to a close, and while conference organizers may have hailed the event as great progress in building a sustainable world free of poverty, critics say it was a lot of grandstanding with little action.

Among the positive news from the event was an increased number of commitments to the United Nation’s global sustainable energy initiative (launched September 2011). According to the U.N., Ghana, Bangladesh, Kenya and Vietnam were among nations to develop a national energy action plan, and Microsoft, Italian energy company Eni and the Renault-Nissan Alliance have all made pledges to take more steps toward reducing emissions.

In addition, the eight largest multilateral development banks pledged to invest $175 billion in sustainable transportation systems over the coming decade.

Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon further challenged nations by launching the “Zero Hunger Challenge” to encourage countries to find ways to sustainably feed the world’s growing population.

Do you feel the warm fuzzies?

If you’re somewhat doubtful of how much real change can come out of these policies, you are not alone. National Public Radio, for example, said the event may have been “one of the biggest duds” and derided the conference for producing no major agreements.

Well, to be factual, the conference did produce an agreement: a 50-plus page document that was a bunch of long-winded rhetoric without a defined list of ways to actually help the environment. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, activists in particular were hoping the document would include, among other things, a call to end fossil fuel subsidies, how nations could protect high seas and ways to protect women’s reproductive rights.

All in all, the event did get influential talking about such key issues as poverty and the environment, and just drawing attention to these areas is a good start. Let’s see what happens from here.