1. What is Rio+20?
  2. Objectives of RIO+20?
  3. What is sustainable development?
  4. Rio 20: 2 Themes
  5. Rio 20: Seven priority areas
  6. Rio 20: India’s stand
    1. No commitment
    2. WTO subsidy
    3. Give us the damn secret technology!
    4. Green stimulus packages
    5. Don’t lecture us in Subsidy
    6. Don’t lecture us on Eco-tax reform
    7. You’ll not decide our Sectoral priorities
  7. Rio 20: Outcome of the summit

What is Rio+20?

  1. The Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. Therefore it is also known as RIO Summit. (Recall the Kyoto Protocol article CLICK ME)
  2. Rio+20 – the short name for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.
  3. It took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012
  4. Since there is twenty years of gap (2012-1992) between these two summits, the latest RIO Summit is nicknamed “RIO +20”

What was the objective of RIO+20?

By this conference UN wanted to bring together governments, international institutions and major (NGO) groups to agree on a range of smart measures for

  1. poverty reduction
  2. clean energy
  3. Sustainable development. And this Sustainble Development has three pillers
    1. economic development,
    2. social development
    3. environmental protection.

What is sustainable development?

  1. You might have seen one ad in which a kid and his dad are sitting in the car. They’re waiting for the green light but dad has kept the car engine on. The kid says “when I grow up, I’ll open a bicycle repair shop, because the way you’re using petrol, there won’t be any left for future generation.”
  2. Sustainable Development is reverse of that.
  3. Sustainable development means, meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Rio +20 summit on Sustainable development

rio+20 summit

Rio 20: 2 Themes

Official discussions will focus on two main themes

  1. How to build a green economy to achieve sustainable development
  2. How to lift people out of poverty, including support for developing countries for taking ‘green’ path for development.
Rio 20: Seven priority areas
Area Why important?
  1. Economic recession has taken a toll on jobs
  2. There will be over 500 million job seekers over the next 10 years.
  3. There is need to create more “Green jobs”= jobs in agriculture, industry, services and administration that can save the environment.
  1. Energy is essential for jobs security, climate change, food production or increasing incomes. (poverty reduction)
  1. Cities are hubs for ideas, commerce, culture, science, productivity, social development and much more.
  2. Cities have enabled people to advance socially and economically.
  3. But Common city challenges include congestion, lack of basic services, poor hygiene and sanitation, unsafe drinking water.
  1. Climate change is putting even more pressure on food security.
  2. On earth there will be additional 2 billion people by 2050.
  3. Right now, our soils, freshwater, oceans, forests and biodiversity are being rapidly degraded to increase the food production.
  4. So Rio 20 is the place to rethink how we grow, share and consume our food.
  1. There is sufficient fresh water on the planet.
  2. But due to bad economics or poor infrastructure, every year millions of people, most of them children, die from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene
  3. Water scarcity, poor water quality and inadequate sanitation negatively impact food security, livelihood choices and educational opportunities for poor families across the world
  4. Drought afflicts some of the world’s poorest countries, worsening hunger and malnutrition.
  5. By 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water.
  1. Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea.
  2. Oceans and seas have been vital conduits for trade and transportation. Careful management of this essential global resource is a key feature of a sustainable future
  1. Disasters are caused by earthquakes, floods, droughts, hurricanes, tsunamis etc.
  2. They have devastating impacts on people, environments and economies.
  3. Smart choices help us recover from disasters, while poor choices make us more vulnerable.
  4. These choices relate to how we grow our food, where and how we build our homes, how our financial system works, what we teach in schools and more. Therefore RIO 20 aims to change the way these choices are made.

Rio 20: India’s stand

No commitment (unlike Salman Khan)

    • India does not want legally binding commitments or targets for sustainable development. [We want something like Copenhagen Accord. Recall Kyoto Protocol Article]

Mohan vs Salman: RIO 20 Committments

WTO subsidy

WTO comes into the RIO 20 picture because international trade is important for sustainable Development and poverty removal.
Anyways, idea/problem/crux is this

  1. WTO wants that there should be free flow of goods and services between nations, without heavy taxes/import duty etc. things.
  2. But USA gives heavy subsidies to its farmers, so they can grow and sell cotton and corn very cheaply. So if there is a totally free system, US can flood its agro products in India, and our farmers cannot compete. India doesn’t like this and wants protection.

So Technically speaking ,

  • India wants For a fair and equitable global trade regime to achieve development.
  • India wants export subsidies for agricultural products (by US/EU etc big players) to be curbed.
  • Similarly, India wants removal of non-tariff barriers affecting labour intensive exports from developing countries.
  • And enforcement of the special and differential treatment provisions of the WTO.

Apart from that, India also wants need for greater representation of developing countries, in the Bretton Woods Institutions (IMF, World Bank).

Give us the damn secret technology!

  • Most environment-friendly/green technologies are with the developed countries.
  • RIO 20 should facilitate the transfer of these technologies from developed countries (US) to developing countries (India) on concessional terms (i.e. @reasonable price).
  • India also wants Early operationalization of the Nagoya Protocol (for Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS))
  • creation of a ‘Sustainable Development Fund’ for providing finances to the developing countries.
  • In short, India wants adequate flow of resources and technologies to developing countries.

Green stimulus packages

  • Just like the Governments round the world, India is also promoting public and private investment in sectors like renewable energy, forest conservation and water management.
  • Indian Government has been investing and improving the urban mass transportation, railways, public water supply and sanitation, and common facilities for pollution control and waste management, forest quality, watershed development, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity

Don’t lecture us in Subsidy

  • in practice governments of developing countries give subsidies in merit goods for e.g. food, public health, drinking water and primary education and agriculture etc.
  • For example cheap diesel and electricity to farmers, concessional bus and railway passes for students, kerosene and ration to poor people and so on.
  • India says that these subsidies should be left to the sovereign rights of the States as per national policies and circumstance. (and RIO 20 or any other international conference shouldn’t put any limit, target or legal commitment on it.)

Don’t lecture us on Eco-tax reform

  • It is based on the polluter pays principle i.e., the polluter pays the cost of environmental damage he imposes on the society.
  • The eco tax reform initiated in India includes tax exemptions and lower taxes for certain environment -friendly goods.
  • But India feel there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution on eco-tax reforms and so RIO 20 shouldn’t lecture on this (or impose commitments)
  • And Sustainable development is a much larger canvas than merely addressing the environmental issues.

You’ll not decide our Sectoral priorities

  • Example of sectoral priorities= poverty eradication, afforestation, watershed development in dry lands, rural connectivity, mass transport, protecting biodiversity, clean water, rural connectivity, creation of post-harvest management facilities, rural renewable energy systems and so on.
  • India feels that Sectoral priorities are a matter of national choice, based on the stage of development, national circumstances, domestic resource availability, and external support both technical and financial.
  • So RIO 20 shouldn’t lecture that “you should first give priority to mass transport and then to land degradation. And you should allot xyz% of your GDP in this sector etc.”

To sum, what India wants is Principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities. (Explained in Kyoto article.)

Ok, so far we saw RIO 20 is all about sustainable Development and poverty removal. We also saw India wants (to be more precise, we saw what India doesn’t want through RIO like summits!).

Anyways the leaders of various Nations etc met in Rio De Janeiro in June 2012.

From my earlier articles, you’re already aware how these summits are conducted.
Mandwa +20 Summit

Rio 20: Outcome of the summit

  1. The primary result of the conference was the nonbinding document titled “The Future We Want
  2. Under this 49 paged document, the nations agreed on 283 topics.
  3. It is all lawyer-ish, diplomatic, verbose thing. Similar to President’s speech before 26th January and PM’s speech from Red Ford on 15th August…”We acknowledge this, we reaffirm our commitment to that…and blah blah blah.” Just like the pack of Cheetos/potato chips- the plastic bag looks very big and voluminous but nutritional value is close to zero.

Anyways, here are the important (and easy to remember) points. You don’t have to mug all of them, but they should serve well as fodder material whenever you’re faced with essay/ interview questions on sustainable development.

The Nations participating in RIO 20 summit, agreed on following things.

  1. We urge Parties to the UNFCCC and Parties to the Kyoto Protocol to fully implement their commitments
  2. We reaffirm the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. (similar in Kyoto)
  1. We’ll explore alternatives to GDP as a measure of wealth that take environmental and social factors into account.
  2. We’ll phase out fossil fuel subsidies.
  3. We agree that Eradicating poverty is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and it is essential for sustainable development.
  1. We reaffirm our commitment to fully implement following conventions/protocols (and or take follow up action on them)
  1. Agenda 21 = it is a non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations with regards to sustainable development. It is a product of the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992.
  2. Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
  3. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
  4. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
  5. Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)
  6. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
  7. Convention on Biological Diversity
  8. Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources
  9. CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)
  10. Basel Convention, the Rotterdam Convention and the Stockholm Convention. (Related to Chemical and Waste disposal)
  11. Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
  12. United Nations Convention against Corruption.


  1. Information and communication technology (ICT) is important for the flow of information between governments and the public. So we’ll work toward improved access to ICT, especially broad-band network and services, and bridge the digital divide.
  2. We’ll strengthen UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and give it more voluntary fund (money).
  3. We encourage each country to consider the implementation of green economy policies
  4. We decide to establish a universal intergovernmental high level political forum: This forum will provide political leadership, guidance, and recommendations for sustainable development.


  1. We’ll improve Public Mass transport system (bus, railway) with clean fuels and vehicles for efficient movement of people and goods, particularly from in rural areas. Because environmentally sound, safe and affordable transportation is important for sustainable Development.
  2. In cities, we’ll try for affordable housing, clean drinking water and sanitation; healthy air quality; generation of decent jobs; and improved urban planning and slum upgrading.


  1. We’ll try to provide universal health coverage.
  2. We’ll strengthen our fight against communicable diseases like AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, influenza, polio and other
  3. We’ll strengthen our national policies for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancers, heart attack, high BP and diabetes.
  4. We recognize that reducing water and chemical pollution leads to positive effects on health.
  5. We commit to reduce maternal and child mortality, and to improve the health of women, men, youth and children
  6. We’ll encourage family planning because it is essential for women’s health and advancing gender equality.


  1. We recognize the importance of job creation
  2. We call on countries to enhance infrastructure investment
  3. we support national efforts to provide new job opportunities to the poor in both rural and urban areas
  4. workers should have access to education, skills, healthcare, social security, fundamental rights ,occupational safety and health.
  5. We’ll promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedom of all migrants regardless of the migration status


  1. We therefore commit to protect, and restore, the health, productivity of oceans and marine ecosystems.
  2. We are committed to United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), provides the legal framework for the conservation and the sustainable use of the oceans.
  3. We recognize the importance of the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction.
  4. We’ll take initiatives to fix ocean acidification and the impacts of climate change on marine and coastal ecosystems.
  5. We’ll take action against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities.
  6. Health of oceans and marine biodiversity are negatively affected by marine pollution, including marine debris like plastic, organic pollutants, heavy metals, and nitrogen-based compounds, from a number of marine and land-based sources, including shipping and land runoff.
  7. We commit to take action to reduce the incidence and impacts of such pollution on marine ecosystems.
  8. We note that sea level rise and coastal erosion are serious threats for many coastal regions and islands particularly in developing countries and, in this regard, we call on the international cooperation.
  9. We’ll help small island developing States (SIDS) in fixing coastal erosion under Barbados Programme of Action and Mauritius Strategy for Implementation.
  10. We’ll help Least developed countries (L.D.C) in mass transport and energy infrastructure.
  11. We’ll establish early warning systems as part of effective disaster risk to reduce economic and social damages
  12. we’ll launch the Green Climate Fund. It’ll help technology development and transfer and capacity-building in developing countries


  1. We’ll encourage investment in sustainable tourism, eco -tourism and cultural tourism,
  2. We’ll fight illicit trafficking in wildlife (under CITES)
  3. We’ll fight Desertification, land degradation and drought.
  4. Mountain ecosystems play a crucial role in providing water resources to a large portion of the world’s population. But Mountain Ecosystem is in threat due to climate change, deforestation and forest degradation, land use change, land degradation, and natural disasters; and mountain glaciers around the world are retreating and getting thinner. So we’ll try to fix it.

Chemical waste

  1. We’ll make national polices on sound management of chemicals and waste- such as electronic waste and plastics
  2. We are committed to chemicals and waste conventions, namely the Basel Convention, the Rotterdam Convention and the Stockholm Convention,
  3. We reduce, reuse and recycle waste (3Rs) the electronic waste and plastics
  4. We’ll phase-out of ozone depleting substances (ODS) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)


  1. minerals and metals make a major contribution to the world economy and modern societies.
  2. governments need strong capacities to develop, manage, and regulate their mining industries in the interest of sustainable development.
  3. We’ll prevent the illicit financial flows from mining activities.


  1. We’ll enhance agricultural research, training and education to improve agricultural productivity
  2. We’ll take microcredit initiatives for the poor.
  3. We underline the need to address floods, droughts, and water scarcity.


  1. Women have a vital role to play in achieving sustainable development. we resolve to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment and to ensure their full and effective participation in sustainable development policies, programmes and decision-making at all levels
  2. Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
  3. we commit to creating an enabling environment for improving the situation of women and girls everywhere, particularly in rural areas and ethnic minorities.
  4. We invite donors, international organizations like the UN to support gender equality and women’s empowerment projects in developing countries
  5. We’ll promote Sustainable Development awareness among youth, for non-formal education.


  1. Millenium Development goals will expire in 2015. So We’ll form a group to create new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  2. This open working group shall be constituted with full involvement of relevant stakeholders and (bogus) civil society and scientific community.
  3. These Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be action-oriented, concise and easy to communicate, limited in number,
  4. These Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be universally applicable to all countries while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities. (Just like INDIA wanted)
  5. We should also bear in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all formula that will guarantee development effectiveness. The specific situation of each country needs to be fully considered. (Just like INDIA wanted)
  6. We reiterate our support for South-South cooperation. [means exchange of resources, technology, and knowledge between developing countries.]
  7. We also recognize that South-South cooperation complements rather than substitutes for North-South cooperation.


  1. We’ll fight corruption and illicit financial flows at both the national and international levels because it vital for poverty eradication, the fight against hunger and sustainable development.
  2. We’ll fully implement the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

International Trade

  1. We urge the Members of the WTO to conclude the Doha Development Agenda.
  2. We also urge them to addressing important issues affecting international trade, such as, trade distorting subsidies and trade in environmental goods and services. (JUST LIKE India WANTED)


Compiled from various newspaper columns.

Main Points

  • RIO+20 outcome has been severely criticised for being devoid of any goals or action. It has been dubbed “Rio minus 20” or “The future we don’t want”.
  • RIO +20 did not deliver legally binding commitments, just forming more groups and stating, repeating and and rephrasing the obvious.
  • Ban Ki Moo said in the summit:

old model for economic development and social advancement is broken. Let us not forget the scarcest resource of all: time. We are running out of time. We no longer have the luxury to defer difficult decisions.

(i.e. WTO, Kyoto, …everywhere nations donot agree on some tangible goals. Hence more and more committees are formed and discussions are held rather that actually doing something solid.”)

From US / Western point of view

India and China are trillion dollar nations (GDP wise) and yet they always play the “developing nation poor people victim card” and oppose legally binding commitments. They can and should take more initiatives given their power economies.

Mohan did not roar in RIO 20

  • India has the edge to contribute globally, especially in the areas of decentralised energy access, mobile telephony, distant healthcare delivery, e-governance and digital information services.
  • (AND YET) I’ve not heard India’s voice here at all. It seems we are happy with the situation and want the status quo to be maintained.
  • We are losing our leadership edge.
  • India has to stop hiding behind the poor. India will continue to be one of the most promising economies for the next 30 years. India should wake up to seize the opportunity and try to be a “real” world leader.

International Summits will never work

  • All the much-hyped global summits on environmental policy have fallen short of expectations.
  • As a result, many ecologists, activists, and business leaders believe that progress on environmental issues must be made locally with the private sector, without counting on the help of international accords.

Mock Questions

MQCs: Which of the following statements are correct?

  1. Sustainable development means, meeting the needs of the future generation without compromising the ability of current generation to meet its own needs.
  2. The Rio 20 is held to initiate reform in Bretton Woods Institutions and UN security council.
  3. Rio de Janeiro is the capital of Brazil.
  4. Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in South America.
  5. TB is an example non-communicable disease.

Descriptive Questions
Write a 50 words note on following (5 marks each)

  1. Sustainable Development
  2. CITES
  3. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  4. Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)
  5. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
  6. Nagoya Protocol

Write in 150 Words (15 marks)

  1. What is Sustainable Development. Briefly highlight some initiatives taken by Government of India, to achieve it.
  2. Major Outcomes of RIO +20
  3. Evaluate India’s position at RIO +20

Write an Essay (1500+ words)

  1. The Future we want.
  2. The Future we don’t want.
  3. The Way forward: Sustainable Development or Economic reforms?
  4. Sustainable development is a much larger canvas than environmental protection.


  1. What do you understand by South-South cooperation? Can you cite a few examples?
  2. What is sustainable Development? Are you aware of any such projects in your State?
  3. What is the role of District Collector in achieving sustainable Development?
  4. If you were to form the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals), what will be in your list?

For more details and latest followup action on RIO+20 summit, you may refer to their official website.