Although a walkout by disgruntled activists may have grabbed headlines, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro last month did produce hundreds of individual commitments from participants with potential for having major impacts. That's the topic of the cover story of this week's Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
C&EN Senior Correspondent Cheryl Hogue explains that the Rio+20 conference brought together representatives from companies, governments, colleges and universities, the World Bank, nonprofit organizations and others on the 20th anniversary of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment & Development. Out of that landmark conference – also held in Rio – came treaties on climate change, biodiversity protection and stopping the spread of deserts, as well as a plan for more sustainable development. The follow-up conference, held last month, was intended to build on those agreements and lay the foundation for a greener world economy.
Hogue reports that reviews of Rio+20 were mixed, but some are hopeful about the promises that governments and corporations made. Environmental activists and others marched out of the meeting in protest, and Greenpeace International called the meeting a failure. But some observers expect the commitments to specific, measurable sustainability actions that corporations, colleges and universities and others made will have major impacts on the environment and world markets.