The political declaration issued by leaders in Rio has no hope of giving the peoples of the world ‘the future we want.’ Without much stronger action, we are clearly headed for a future we can’t live with – and quicker than most leaders realize.
The message from scientists and other experts is crystal clear: humanity is placing stresses on the Earth’s carrying capacity that threaten the health and wellbeing of both current and future generations. The response to this threat from world leaders in Rio is totally inadequate, as many of them would readily admit. Today’s declaration is the result of several factors: the focus of most leaders on current short-term economic challenges, the untoward influence of corporate polluters over public policy, and sharp divisions among countries on key issues such as equity and finance.
But Rio also saw numerous initiatives launched and commitments made by countries, companies and other actors. More than 400 companies which comprise the Consumer Goods Forum pledged to achieve zero net deforestation in their supply chains by 2020. While collectively these initiatives are significant and offer some hope, they simply aren’t adequate to the scale of the challenges we face.
Fortunately, we have the solutions we need, and they are far more affordable than the impacts we will suffer if we don’t implement them. For example, the cost of electricity from clean renewable sources has dropped significantly in recent years, and there are tremendous opportunities to use energy more efficiently in every sector of our economies. What’s in short supply is political will by leaders to rise above pressure from polluters and their own short-term thinking, and do the right thing for the future of all of us.
Alden Meyer is director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He has more than 30 years of experience on energy and climate policy, and is an internationally recognised expert on US and international climate policy.