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UPDATE: What the Bonn Rio+20 conference tells us about the green economy

Shiney Varghese

Shiney Varghese

Shiney Varghese of the U.S.-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy writes, “On my way back from the Bonn 2011 Nexus Conference (that took place November 16-18), one thing was clear to me. Corporate environmentalism is entrenching itself firmly in the corridors of global governance, and challenging its advance will require new strategies.”

“What (the green economy) actually means was brought out well in the Bonn proceedings:

1- The majority of experts at the conference were from international institutions (including globally operating NGOs), and for-profit companies, with a limited number of experts and representatives from a broader group of smaller NGOs and the global South.

2- Most sessions seemed to be focused on the technocratic approach of increasing resource use efficiency. …At Bonn, while increasing crop per drop was defined as part of green growth in agriculture, the ‘how’s’ were left undefined, thus leaving the field open for introduction of GMO crops, nanotechnology and synthetic biology.

3- There was hardly any discussion about the polluting and resource intensive role of global capital in the traditional economy, about holding it accountable for cleaning up its act or about its contribution to the disenfranchisement of the poor.

4- The private sector was seen as the source for funding, in the absence of public finance, but the question of how the private sector was to be regulated was not addressed in official proceedings.

5- While the conference stressed over and again the need for increasing the production of food and energy, and for ensuring water and energy security for the poor, there was little acknowledgment (that the problem is not so much) with food production, but rather with food distribution.”

Varghese also observes, “The ‘in-your-face’ approach of yesterday is being replaced with a softer, albeit more dangerous ‘corporate responsibility’ garb. This softer path also seeks to ensure that civil society stakeholders are seen as party to the decisions.” And, as noted above, this “will require new strategies” to challenge.

“(The Bonn conference was) an important event because this is the first of several nexus conferences being planned to gain political support for advancing the green economy at Rio+20. The next follow-up conference is being organized by World Economic Forum and will be held in January 2012.” For other key meeting dates in 2012 (including ‘informal informals’, ‘prepcoms’ and ‘intersessionals’) in the lead-up to Rio+20, please see http://www.stakeholderforum.org/fileadmin/files/roadmaptoearthsummit2012update0411.pdf and http://www.opec.org/opec_web/static_files_project/media/downloads/press_room/Environment.pdf.

The full text of Varghese’s blog can be read at http://www.iatp.org/blog/201112/the-water-energy-and-food-nexus.

For Council of Canadians blogs on Rio+20, please go to http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22Rio%2B20%22.