Over 700 voluntary commitments at #rioplus20 – but few on S,T&I

June 23, 2012

Daniela Hirschfeld
Latin America regional coordinator, SciDev.Net


Every day of the conference, the number grew. When it reached the first hundred, it seemed quite good. Two hundred was unexpected; four hundred a surprise. On Friday afternoon, at a press conference, it was announced that the number was 692 and last night the automatic meter posted on the Rio+20 official site read 705.

“What differentiates a commitment from a good intention?”, asked Jose Maria Figueres, president of Carbon War Room. Flickr/ UN_PHOTO_CONFERENCE

This is the number of voluntary commitments — formal promises to deliver concrete results for sustainable development — that the UN encouraged everyone, from governments to civil society, to make.

Registration of a commitment required deliverables and a target date. The 692 are supposed to be worth US$ 513 billion.

Brice Lalonde, executive coordinator of #rioplus20, said these commitments were a “major” success of the conference, and Nikhil Chandavarkar, UN chief communicator at Rio+20, said that they demonstrated that all the world community is engaged.

The commitments are divided inot 23 areas ranging from biodiversity to communications on sustainable development to technology and innovation.

For example, the government of Mauritius has committed to turning at least a quarter of its territory into a protected area by 2030, and the Pacific islands have agreed to empower 100 women entrepreneurs in green economy businesses by 2015.

The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) said it would create a Resilient Cities and Nations Collaborative Platform by 2016.

Science did not stand out in the list. Only two commitments have been assigned to the Technology and Innovation category, although other commitments include some science.

“I think the problem of science is that there are still two worlds [politics and science] that don’t speak enough to each other”, Lalonde told SciDev.Net.

In fact, the Science and Technology Major Group is practically hoarse after its efforts to talk to politics leading up to Rio+20. Perhaps scientists ought to register the major new research enterprise, Future Earth, which has its sights firmly fixed on the problems of sustainable development, in the compendium of commitments.

Chandavarkar urged the signatories to now fulfill their commitments.

“What differentiates a commitment from a good intention?”, asked Jose Maria Figueres, president of the nongovernmental organisation Carbon War Room.”Accountability. And I look forward to all these promises being kept”, he added.


This blog post is part of our coverage of Rio+20: United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. To read news and analysis on Science at Rio+20 please visit our website.


Under the rain at the Athlete Park

June 21, 2012

Luisa Massarani
Latin America regional coordinator, SciDev.Net


It probably wasn’t the best day for visiting Athlete Park, in front of Riocentro, where the UN Summit is being held: I arrived there soaking wet.

The site is home to pavilions and tents where government and intergovernmental organisations publicise their programmes and products related to sustainable development.

Brazil, of course, has a strong presence , with it’s own national pavilion plus other spaces occupied by public (or private) companies. Furthermore, the Amazon states joined efforts to show more about the local culture and biodiversity.

Other countries are also present including Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom.

Many of the stands followed the traditional approach of distributing leaflets, pens and edible treats such as delicious banana chips.

Others employed alternative strategies to attracting visitors. The Rio de Janeiro stand, for example, calls attention by using wooden boxes, plants and images and an exhibition with beautiful images. It includes a google map to allow visitors to virtually visit the city, including an exciting view of Corcovado (the famous statue of Christ).

The project for natural colored cotton, presented as an agricultural innovation, shows giants balls of – now rain-soaked – cotton.

Furnas, an energy company linked to the Ministry of Energy, exhibited a 5D movie on sustainable development – which proved to be a bit of a weird experience!

A series of debates and side events are also being held on a wide range of topics from the impact of climate change on hill mountains to country collaboration agreements, and renewable energy.

This blog post is part of our coverage of Rio+20: United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. To read news and analysis on Science at Rio+20 please visit our website.


Literally, a green bus

June 21, 2012

Luisa Massarani
Latin America regional coordinator, SciDev.Net


The researcher Paulo Emilio Valadão de Mirada  from COPPE (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro) was at the Athlete Park proudly presenting his “baby”: a green bus.

The bus is a hybrid which means it uses electric energy from pre-connection to an electrical source (as other electric cars) and produces energy on board, from a battery fed by hydrogen. It also utilises kinetic energy every time the driver accelerates or decelerates the vehicle.

The bus has been used for transporting students around his university campus.

According to Paulo Emilio, this is the most efficient hydrogen bus in the world. “A European company tested a hydrogen bus in ten cities, which consumed 25 kilos of hydrogen for each 100 kilometers; this month, the same company launched an improved version, with 14 kilos of hydrogen consumed for each 100 kilometers” where as “our bus consumes just 5 kilos of hydrogen”, he says.

I asked Paulo Emilio what is necessary to put the bus on the streets. “A company interested in it”, he said, indicating that there are already some potential clients. His expectation is that the bus be available for the World Cup in Brazil, in 2014.

Coppe is inviting the public to know more about the high level research done at the institution he works for, with several projects related to Rio+20 issues: biofuel of second generation, production of electric energy with wave energy and protection of oceans.


This blog post is part of our coverage of Rio+20: United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. To read news and analysis on Science at Rio+20 please visit our website.


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