Rio+20: Moving the Sustainable Development Agenda Forward

Article | 29 June 2012

Daniele Ponzi, Lead Environment Specialist at ADB's Environment and Safeguards Division, shared with some key insights on the results of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

How would you rate the overall outcome of Rio+20?

It was a success in terms of inclusive approaches, and of the number and diversity of people who attended. More than 80 heads of states, representatives from 191 UN member states, and around 45,000 delegates participated. It was also successful because of the new initiatives, partnerships, business-led programs and new investments proposed. Many of these carried significant voluntary commitments with accompanying financial resources. The outcome in one area was particularly clear: consensus was widespread that the "green economy" must be inclusive. Unless we end poverty, we cannot move toward a green economy.

There is general disappointment on the final outcome document. Were any concrete agreements actually reached on sustainable development?

Multilateral processes are complex, difficult, and very slow. They are important but only part of the solution. There weren't any high expectations for the outcome document. The main criticism is that it lacks real vision and sufficient commitments for new programs and dedicated financial resources, as well as deadlines, deliverables, and roadmaps.

ADB will continue promoting green growth by increasing support for clean energy access, sustainable transport, water and other sustainable infrastructure, including its work on green cities.

But the outcome document does have action items in areas such as sustainable consumption and production, corporate social and environmental responsibility, and financing for sustainable development. The UN General Assembly has been left to decide, and agree on, many of these in its next session. It remains to be seen how many will actually happen.

Was the $175-billion loan commitment for transport from the 8 multilateral development banks led by ADB the main highlight of Rio+20?

The $175-billion loan and grant commitment for sustainable transport is definitely a major highlight of the conference. But it is one among a number of important commitments and initiatives to finance clean energy, food security, access to safe drinking water and better management of the oceans.

How does ADB intend to move the sustainable development and green economy agenda forward?

At Rio + 20, ADB drew attention to key issues facing the Asia-Pacific region. We shared key challenges and opportunities for the region, and our growing experience in supporting the region's shift towards greener and more inclusive forms of growth.

We will continue promoting green growth by increasing support for clean energy access, sustainable transport, water and other sustainable infrastructure; including our work on green cities. Efforts will also continue and expand in preserving Asia's large critical ecosystems especially through regional approaches and innovative partnerships. ADB will keep developing capacities for environmental management, and providing platforms for knowledge and lessons sharing.

ADB will also continue working on developing the Sustainable Development Goals, where we need to ensure that these are properly translated at the regional and country level. They also need a good degree of ownership and must be aligned with national strategies for economic development and social inclusion.