‘Not completely happy, not a complete failure’
Environment Minister Mario de Marco told Parliament on Tuesday he was not completely happy with the outcome of the Rio+20 summit but did not think it had been a complete failure.
His own statement at the closure had been that while the summit had been generally positive, it had not been as ambitious as he would have wished.
He quoted the EU’s Environment Commissioner Janez Potonik as saying that the EU had gone with ambition and vision, ready to engage in a political process at ministerial level for concrete results, but the final document had not matched the challenges being faced by the world.
Its many positive aspects lacked a clear commitment to results.
Nonetheless, it was a step in the right direction.
Any concreteness and ambition the summit had shown was due to the EU’s determination in negotiations, said Dr de Marco.
Introducing the discussion, held at the opposition’s request, he said Malta had proposed the appointment of a high-level representative responsible for future generations.
The Maltese proposal aimed to re-introduce the concept that Malta had originally proposed in the 1992 Rio Summit.
Malta made the proposal because many aims of the original summit had not been achieved and the institutional and administrative frameworks had not been set up.
During the summit, Dr de Marco referred to the Sustainable Development Bill under discussion in Parliament which established such a guardian. The Bill also established sustainable development as a legal priority.
He also spoke on the importance of an inclusive green economy and the seas in achieving sustainable development. He referred to marine protected areas and to bio-diversity in coastal areas. The conference also discussed water as a scarce resource.
Dr de Marco said that 65 per cent of Malta’s potable water requirements came from desalination plants. Was this sustainable when the production of such water consumed five per cent of energy production?
He said that the sustainable development goals listed in the summit’s final outcome should also embrace the eight UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), together with action plans and targets.
Minister de Marco said that, in a side event, the permanent secretary in his ministry, Peter Portelli, spoke on challenges and opportunities for green growth in the Mediterranean region.
He announced that Malta would, next year, be hosting the 15th plenary meeting on sustainable development in the Mediterranean region.
The summit’s successes included the confirmation that the world would continue on the pathway towards sustainable development and the adoption of the inclusive green economy. There was the need to urgently address the patterns of production and consumption that were not sustainable. Agreement had been reached to strengthen action on environmental programmes by the United Nations.
The minister said the crucial point was that the Rio Summit was a commitment to a process that was at a crossroads.
It was important to keep the process going by agreeing on sustainable development goals and by establishing a high level political forum to see that what was agreed, would be implemented.
Opposition spokesman on the environment Leo Brincat said that the result of the summit was more of a disappointment than fulfilment to governments, NGOs and people in general. Even the EU was not satisfied.
He said that his feeling was that the Maltese government’s formal reaction was that the summit’s conclusions were positive but could have been more ambitious.
The minister had said that he had expected a bigger commitment and warned that without strong inter-government political goodwill, there was a risk that what had been achieved would come to nothing.
Mr Brincat agreed with Dr de Marco that the summit should have given more heed to the concerns raised by civil society and main groups.
While the opposition could not pursue such issues as the government, because it did not have similar means, it did its best to follow the process. It was because of this, that the opposition genuinely believed that the Rio+20 results should have had a more direct impact on the quality of life.
He said the summit could not come up with new policies unless there was a stronger UN to help achieve the Millennium Goals which were originally set in 1992.
The summit succumbed to the pressures, created cynicism, and for many reasons it was a failure.
“Many expected this summit would be a milestone on the sustainable development issue”, he said – but indifference had prevailed during the summit.
Mr Brincat said there were seven billion people in the world who could not afford to wait another 20 years to have another decent summit.
“If the Millennium Sustainable Development Goals are not reached by 2015 as proposed, we are in big trouble.”