Rio +20: What does it augur for the 2016 Olympics?
The UN's global conference underscored just how much ground Rio de Janeiro itself has to cover when it comes to environmental sustainability. It also showed what a long way the city has to go to prepare for the 2014 World Cup games and the 2016 Olympics.
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One was the networking that took place, among business, academia, the third sector, and even the boring government representatives. The Peoples’ Summit, side meetings, conferences, seminars, and chance encounters brought together all kinds of ideas and information. Many US universities held gatherings to connect local alumni and researchers who’d come for the conference.Skip to next paragraph
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Another was consciousness-raising. For days, adults and schoolchildren lined up to see the gorgeously creative Humanidade 2012 exhibit, held in a temporary structure built next to the Copacabana Fort. An estimated 200,000 people got the chance to have artists and intellectuals provoke thought about lifestyle and the environment. The Rio and São Paulo industrial federations footed the bill.
And the local watchdog organization Rio Como Vamos did a survey that found that a staggering 74 percent of the local population knew about the conference and what it was up to. The 1,800 people surveyed were from different parts of the city, with a variety of income levels and ages; this should help when it comes to the spread of recycling and local cleanup efforts.
Last but certainly not least are real measures and goals that were announced before and during the conference. These include:
- The creation of the Bolsa Verde Rio, a market to trade carbon credits and other environmental compensation mechanisms, to aid companies in meeting Brazilian legal requirements for environmental sustainability
- As a result of a demonstration near the Riocentro, a planned meeting between representatives of Vila Autódromo residents unhappy about their removal due to Olympic preparations, with UN and Brazilian government officials
- The 2012 Rio Declaration, an agreement among Brazilian and other governors to reduce energy consumption in public buildings by 20 percent and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by transportation by 20 percent by 2020, in addition to other measures
- A decision by the C40 Cities mayors’ summit to reduce carbon emissions in 58 cities and to share information on sustainability. These cities, home to 320 people and the source of 21 percent of world GDP, are responsible for 12 percent of the world’s emissions. Rio is set to reduce emissions by 12 percent by 2016. Even so, these are expected to increase – just less than they would, otherwise.
- A proposal by the Rio de Janeiro industrial federation to privatize sewage collection, treatment, and disposal
- The creation of a UN sustainability research center, the Centro Rio +
- A Banco do Brasil loan to clean up the lagoons in Barra da Tijuca
- A proposal from city hall to be voted on by the city council, to allow tax incentives for green construction methods and and building design
Twenty years after the 1992 Earth Summit, so much has changed. An enduring memory of this blogger of that UN conference is people excitedly lining up to try out a new payment form for public phones, a thin card replacing the traditional token. It was a time when the Soviet Union had just crumbled and the Berlin Wall was newly demolished. Brazilian indigenous groups made cameo appearances to remind us of their environmental roles, just as they did last week.
Assuming the earth will continue to exist, who knows what Rio will look like in twenty more years? Much will depend on young people such as those pictured at the original post, clowning around at the Humanidade 2012 exhibit.
--- Julia Michaels, a long-time resident of Brazil, writes the blog Rio Real, which she describes as a constructive and critical view of Rio de Janeiro’s ongoing transformation.
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