TWO decades later and the UN conference on sustainable development found its way back to Rio de Janeiro, the 'Marvelous City' of Brazil.
Last week the Rio20+ earth summit brought together world leaders to renew political commitment to sustainable development. Is it me, or does sustainable development seem to be more of a 'cool' dinner table concept than a real one? In the past 20 years since the last meeting in Rio, the average annual global temperatures have gone up 0.32 degrees, the world's forest areas have decreased significantly, and the levels of carbon dioxide rose nearly 10 per cent. But not all hope is lost: this year, like any other, the world goes back to the drawing table to rearrange the cards.
But without further ado, a toast to ourselves! The Rwandan government committed two million hectares to the Bonn Challenge (2011): a global partnership to achieve forest and landscape restoration on 150 million hectares, worldwide, over the next 10 years. This challenge would result in emissions reduction gap cut by a little over 10 per cent.
Irrelevant to the matter: I am a little dumbfounded - if not amazed - that Rwanda committed two million compared to Brazil's one million hectares; maybe I should ignore the fact that 323 Rwandas could fit in one Brazil. The fact remains that, in addition to USA's 15 million hectare-pledge, over 10 per cent of the Bonn Challenge target has been reached. Once more, a pat on the back: we are proving that we walk the talk!
In preparation for the Rio summit, Rwanda and nine other African countries drafted the Gaborone declaration (May 2012). This declaration was presented at Rio20+ as a commitment to tackle issues pertaining to climate and environmental degradation.
Outlined in the declaration is an agreement to foster socio-economic development of communities and restore the environment within the ten countries, which included Kenya and Tanzania.
When all is said and done, scientific research is the key to meeting these goals. As you may have gleaned from the news, Rio20+ was deemed a failure. Of particular interest to me was the fact that Oxfam pointed out that no new money was put in place for developing countries, and no decision on the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies. This is in addition to the fears on the part of developing countries (like ourselves) that green economy policies could lead to trade barriers that work against us - especially given our dilemma in reconciling environmental goals with economic growth and poverty reduction.
This brings me back to scientific research - self-reliance is the highway to sustainable development on our part; engineering solutions to our problems, and setting goals that fit our context is the only way. At the end of the day, that is all we have on our table in order to freely exercise sustainable policies and eat our cake at the same time. Have a great week!