Press release

Progress at Rio+20 towards greener future

World leaders attending the summit on sustainable development approved the agreements drawn up earlier in the week following negotiations by 193 countries.

The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman have welcomed the progress made towards a more sustainable future at Rio+20.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who led the UK delegation, set out the UK’s ambition to build on the Rio+20 agreement. Addressing the final plenary, he said:

“This week we have agreed to set Sustainable Development Goals.  I want to see progress in agreeing these within the post-2015 development framework, so that - as at the original Rio conference - the environment and development are again part of a coherent whole. I would like to think that the ideas we have promoted here - governments, civil society, consumers and business working together and concepts like the green economy and natural capital - will be central to the way we all behave.

“We need to turn words into action. We need to work together to change behaviours, to change all our mindsets and put our world on a more sustainable footing. That’s why the UK Environment Secretary and I have been using the unique platform that Rio provides to talk to fellow leaders from around the world about how we turn these ideas into reality.”

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, who led talks in reaching the agreement, said:

“We came to Rio with a clear set of ambitious aims on totally new concepts such as Sustainable Development Goals and GDP+, and we should be positive that we have made good progress on all them.

“Rio+20 has shown that there is political ambition for change. Now we have to make sure that will is not squandered. We have already started to make headway in the talks held since the text was agreed, such as good progress towards deciding on the themes the Sustainable Development Goals should cover.”

Key points from the agreement for the UK are:

  • Agreement to establish Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The United Nations General Assembly will appoint a group of representatives from 30 countries by September to develop the goals, with our aim for these goals to focus on food, water and energy.
  • Recognition of the importance of the green economy as a way to help nations to grow sustainably, and to help eradicate poverty.
  • A call from all nations at Rio+20 for businesses to adopt ways of reporting on their sustainability performance, as championed by the UK delegation and businesses such as Aviva.
  • Recognition by all nations at Rio+20 of the importance of including the value of natural capital and social wellbeing into decision making will be given real force by having a UN commission undertake the work on GDP plus.
  • Oceans to be given greater prominence with a commitment to extend marine conservation to on the high seas.
  • A call for enhanced efforts to sustainably manage forests including reforestation, restoration and afforestation. The agreement highlights the importance of initiatives such as REDD+ in reducing emissions from deforestation.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Caroline Spelman have been working to implement the agreed text over the final three days of the summit.

A Natural Capital Summit was hosted by Nick Clegg with the leaders of nations including Norway, Denmark, Costa Rica and Gabon to announce that  50 countries and 50 global firms  have made commitments to include the value of natural resources in their accounts as part of the World Bank’s 50/50 campaign.

Caroline Spelman held talks with world leaders including Presidents and Prime Ministers to discuss how to take forward work on Sustainable Development Goals, which led to a developing consensus on the themes that SDGs should cover - including food, water and energy that the UK has pushed for.

Rio+20 has also been used as an opportunity for many bilateral meetings with other nations to discuss environmental projects, trade, and ways to boost growth and create jobs in the UK.

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