The European Union pushed hard last week to promote the notion of a "green economy" at the UN's Rio+20 summit, where the final 49-page document was endorsed by all and pleased no one. U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said "dilution and compromise is the name of the game," after the EU failed to get the goals and timelines it was seeking included in the declaration. At the summit’s conclusion, I caught up with EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik, who spearheaded the 27-nation bloc's efforts.
Q: Rio has produced a declaration that the EU has said it isn’t happy with. In fact, no one is happy with it. What's the way forward from here?
A: The document we will be adopting does not match the ambition and the challenges the world is facing. But it’s a certainly an important step in the right direction.
Q: In the last paragraph there's a reference to the voluntary pledges. How important are all the pledges by companies?
A: They're not unimportant. We should not lose sight of the size and the dimension of the transformation we are facing. We are talking about the basic transformation of the economic and social systems which need to become more sustainable. Production patterns, consumption patterns, everything is at stake. For that we need all the commitments we can get and to have all investments clearly aligned in the same direction, both private and public.
Q: What do companies do that governments don't?
A: I would not simplify that. You have companies which understand well the mega-trends and accommodate their workforce to that. You can also get companies which try to maximise their current profits and are in a way not in line with this sustainable future which we talk about.
Q: Why did negotiators reject the clear goals, targets and timelines?
A: We have quite a lot of goals and targets in the document. The thing which is missing is the part that would give a clear sense of how this should be done -- some concrete steps or timelines. That can still be done and we think after Rio we should work on that.
Q: Why haven’t we got that here?
A: Obviously there was not enough political will that we would reach that far.
Morales covers climate change and renewable energy for Bloomberg News.
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