This year’s reprise of the international Earth Summit here produced hundreds of side agreements that U.N. officials, diplomats and activists cited as evidence that the conference wasn’t the washout many claim.
Aside from adopting the 44-page “Rio Declaration” that many called a failed document, the meetings saw 45,381 passes issued to attendees from 187 U.N. member nations. That includes passes to more than 10,000 delegates, about 100 heads of state, 4,000 media members and 9,816 nongovernmental organizations.
Footing the bill for the conference itself was the government of Brazil, which paid for thousands of shuttle buses, staff and the facility itself, a sprawling complex on the outskirts of the city that featured a pricey food court, meeting halls for delegates, live music and a local waterway cutting through the building.
The attendees spent much of their time attending side meetings and plenary sessions meant to drum up conversation on sustainable development, a global green economy and how the planet’s governments might get on the same page to enact policies that would encourage attention to both concepts.
The side agreements were being hailed by environmentalists and other observers who had few good words for the declaration itself, which stopped short of defining either the green economy or sustainable development goals meant to encourage its growth. Sha Zukang, the Chinese diplomat who was the U.N. secretary-general of the summit, estimated that 692 side commitments emerged from Rio with a value of $513 billion.
“This is a major achievement,” he said at his final press briefing of the summit. Sha then cautioned that voluntary commitments are unenforceable, so he called on the parties to these pacts to follow up with accountability reports to the United Nations on “deliverables” after they are implemented.