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Looking back at Rio+20: The perspective from India

09 July 2012
Looking back at Rio+20: The perspective from India

Aditi Dass, Director of Technologies India, and Ashirbad Raha, Communications Officer, both from the New Delhi office of The Climate Group, look back at the successful developments that India made at the Rio+20 Earth Summit.

The world met in Rio last month to look back on 20 years of sustainable development effort and adopt a new forward looking political declaration entitled, The Future We Want. Although not every discussion delivered the conclusions many wanted - and with the overall outcome falling well short of the ideal - there were some positive developments for many countries, including India. 

Amid all the noise at Rio, India quietly but strongly made its point.

As one of the developing economies that have taken strong stands in recent climate talks, the India delegation in Rio had a number of key issues to defend and messages to deliver.

During his address to the Summit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh emphasized economic development, social inclusion and environmental sustainability as the critical components of sustainable development.

Later, Indian minister for environment and forests Jayanthi Natarajan summed up India’s satisfaction with the Rio outcome by announcing, “Equity and its manifestation, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR), are at the heart of international cooperation for sustainable development and we are glad that we have collectively agreed on this key issue, which is of great significance to developing countries, not least in the climate change context."

Discussions at Rio also demonstrated growing support for the notion of equitable growth, where growth is affordable and sustainable for all.

The Indian delegation played a key role in building consensus about what this meant in practice - namely no forcible specific goals and targets for countries, giving both developed and the developing economies the freedom to carry out intergovernmental consultations so as to reach agreed sustainable and equitable solutions. 

While acknowledging the achievements made, India was also critical on what it termed as the 'weak political will' of developed countries to assist developing nations with improved means of implementation of green economy objectives.

While there is no doubt some truth in this, the accusation also sits oddly with India’s own domestic success in attracting substantial clean energy  investments and its decision to double its renewable energy capacity over the next five years

In reality, the failure to deliver the kind of progressive outcome businesses and civil society wanted was the result of collective political failure, compounded by difficult international economic and political conditions - rather than as the result of a particular group of countries.

The challenge for the international community now is to scale up the actions that business and governments at all levels are taking domestically and regardless of international inaction (including in India), and unleash the clean revolution the world urgently needs.  

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