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At Rio+20 environmental summit, is ‘catastrophe’ inevitable?

The UN Rio+20 Conference was held two weeks ago to commemorate the first Rio summit which took place 20 years ago. During the original summit, held in 1992, all of the world’s nations promised to address major environmental problems and continue to hold more summits. However, according to the article, very little real progress has been made since the initial Rio summit, with the exception of the start of a global dialogue about the dangers of carbon emissions and potential consequences of not taking sustainability seriously. The UN Secretary General has deemed the current conference “too important to fail” because if countries do not take significant steps now, we all may be facing dire environmental consequences. However, the outlook for the conference is already somewhat bleak, as the leaders of many developed countries are not devoting enough attention to Rio+20 in light of other domestic concerns, and in some cases not even attending the conference. Meanwhile, poorer countries continue to struggle with the issue of how to develop their economies while simultaneously limiting their emissions and switching to more expensive renewable energy sources. This has resulted in a lack of commitments to make significant environmental policy changes this time around. However, it is noted that at times failure itself can be a wakeup call. A future catastrophe is not inevitable if there is sustained public pressure and a few key leaders who take the initiative to address the issue.

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