It’s amazing the perspective you get from up high.
Photo of Miranda in the Observer Tree by Alan Lesheim
Today the Madlands tour team joined up with some AYCC Hobart volunteers and trekked into the Florentine forest in southern Tasmania to visit my friend Miranda Gibson.
But this wasn’t your normal kind of house visit. Miranda has spent the last seven months living in a tree, 60 metres above ground. It’s an incredibly brave and committed thing to do, and it’s part of a campaign against logging Tasmania’s high conservation value native forests.
Isaac, Fred and I had spent the past two weeks kicking goals and holding events on the Queensland leg of the tour (Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Toowoomba, Ipswich, Brisbane). So after a lot of driving on Queensland roads, I was looking forward to getting into some lush forest. I was also excited about reuniting with Kat and Jacqui, who along with Isaac and I had comprised the NSW arm of the tour.
“We are not here this week just to talk to each other,” was Prime Minister Gillard’s closing statement to her plenary speech. “We’re here to decide, to agree – and then to act.”
But the watered-down and non-binding nature of the final agreement signed by Heads of State meant that real actions coming out of Rio were few and far between.
Instead, Governments and civil society alike used the summit as a platform to announce and build support for new and ongoing sustainability initiatives – often outside of the U.N. framework.
Korea was there to garner funding for its Global Green Growth Institute, a think tank designed to support developing countries with access to expert decision-making on sustainable development. The organisation was established two years ago in Korea to support domestic development of renewable energy and other green technologies and industries.
It proved successful enough for Korean President Lee Myung-bak to elevate its status into an international organisation with the capacity to to provide green-focused technical and economic expertise to countries in the Asian region and around the world. The Australian Government thinks the project is promising enough to support it to the tune of $15 million.
Twenty years ago, Australian journalist Lenore Taylor was in Rio for the first Earth Summit. I was nine years old. I knew – and cared – about environmental problems. But I assumed that by the time I was an adult, the grown-ups would have solved them.
It wasn’t just youthful optimism; I had evidence for my hope. Every politician, no matter what party, talked about leaving a better future for young people. They said they cared about our futures; that they’d do whatever it took to protect us.
After the first Earth Summit, Lenore Taylor’s headline was ‘Actions Must Now Match Words, Says UN Official’. Twenty years later, that headline could easily be recycled. We have not taken the actions that world leaders had waxed so eloquently on back then.
Photo credit: Power Shift Canada
The Prime Minister’s office announced several new funding commitments today, in the lead up to her speech in the main plenary of the Rio+20 summit.
Speaking at the Women Leader’s Forum this morning, the Prime Minister announced Australia would provide $500,000 over two years to support the role of women in building and restoring peace in the Asia-Pacific region. Later she announced $97 million for the Civil Society Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Fund, and a further $50 million to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (look how close I was standing at the press conference!)
In a surprise announcement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has just appointed Prime Minister Gillard as Co-Chair of a body set up to accelerate progress on the Millenium Development Goals in the two years remaining before the 2015 deadline.
But with the Prime Minister having just cut the aid budget through delaying Australia’s commitment to 0.5% of foreign aid by one year, is this a genuine commitment or just a play to get Australia a vote on the Security Council?
‘Actions speak louder than words’ is becoming the theme of frustrated civil society representatives here. Lofty words aren’t short on the ground, but commitments to new actions are scarce.
“At its simplest, sustainable development means having a decent standard of living, but also making sure that we are not compromising the standard of living or the natural environment of our children and the generations to come,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard told the small crowd of Australian media assembled at the Riocentro convention centre a few hours ago.
It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s not reflected in the substance of the document the Prime Minister has come to Rio to sign. And it sounds like even Gillard knows it.
“I am not pretending that the outcomes here are going to make a huge difference from tomorrow on,” she said.
Cross-posted from Crikey.com.au
The text of the Rio+20 declaration is finalised. After a marathon negotiating session that extended into the early hours of this morning, countries finally reached agreement on a 53-page document entitled ‘The Future We Want’.
With all the work done, all that’s left for world leaders to do during the three “official” days of the conference is to sign on the dotted line and hold a series of bilateral meetings.
But environment and development groups have responded to the final negotiated text with concern.
One-On-One Interview with Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and current head of UNDP
At the Rio+Social summit on social media today, I had the pleasure of an interview with Helen Clarke, head of the United Nations Development Program and former Prime Minister of New Zealand. She had some very interesting things to say about fossil fuel subsidies, the Australian carbon price debate and the power of vested interests in politics. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation.