United States Views on Rio+20

On November 1st, over 500 submissions for the Rio+20 outcome document were received by the UN. These will be reviewed by the Rio+20 Bureau and the Co-chairs and integrated into a Zero Draft document for the conference.

The document provided by the United States begins by expressing the desire to “to explore ways to better integrate the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development”. With an emphasis on resource productivity and efficiency, the U.S. advocates the promotion of sustainable development. They also recognize that emerging economies are changing global institutions, and recognize the need for sustainable development to take hold in countries in all stages of development.

The document states that the Obama administration has “set a strong foundation and trajectory for enhancing sustainability and building a green economy at home and abroad,” and that the current Global Development Policy recognizes the promises of growth that accompany sustainable development.

AT RIO+20 – A Marketplace of IdeasFrom the U.S. perspective, the global community should re-energize action through a concise, political statement. Conference participants should come with their own “compendium of commitments” that describes how they will undertake action.

There are 3 KEY MESSAGES that guide the U.S. approach for Rio+20:


1) Clean Energy, New Infrastructure, and Access for All Energy : as a critical component of development, and essential that energy is commercially viable and environmentally sustainable.

2) Urbanization and Sustainable Cities: seen as the front line of a green economy, where many issues interact and opportunities abound.

3) Water Systems: water security is seen as essential, with a need to incentivize sound water resources management and increase the productivity of water resources.

4) Sustainable Manufacturing and Environmental Goods and Services: as necessary for a Green Economy, built on industrial efficiency, open trade and investment policies, and green consumer-driven demand.

5) Human Capacity and Green Jobs: workers must have the skills and protections necessary to participate in and benefit from the green economy. Collaboration is critical to meet demand.


1) Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture: sustainable intensification will be required to meet the challenges of growing more food with limited resources. In order to increase yields, the document highlights the need of innovative agricultural technologies and improved understanding of agricultural systems.

2) Oceans, Coasts, and Fisheries: the U.S. supports reducing excess fishing; restoring fish stock harvest; combating unregulated fishing, among others. To tackle ocean acidification, they support implementation of an international observing network.

3) Ecosystem Services and Natural Resource Management: the U.S. recognizes that ecosystem services provide the “natural infrastructure” essential to sustainable economic growth and poverty alleviation, as well as provide multiple economic goods worth many billions, and the subsistence of billions.Two central challenges pointed out are:

a) To develop and implement ecosystem-based management and planning approaches,

b) For markets and governments to recognize the values of biodiversity and ecosystems.

The US. also supports the search for a multidimensional measure of wealth that goesbeyond GDP and takes into account market externalities, such as depletion of resources or negative public health, by assessing natural capital.


1) Making New Connections: Linking Governments, Communities, and Businesses for Action

The U.S. underscores that today we have new means to stimulate action, with the rapid use of social media and connection technologies. They emphasize that the power of connectivity can transcend traditional institutions and help achieve more rapid action, and should be harnessed by countries.

2)Transforming Traditional Institutions: technology is considered as making it easier for governments to share information with the public and for the public to hold decision makers accountable, which should be enhanced at Rio+20. They also support the opportunity to modernize existing institutions, such as the CSD and ECOSOC.

3)Strengthening International Environmental Governance (IEG): the U.S. backs the idea of strengthening the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). At Rio+20, they wish to pursue reforms to increase UNEP’s stature and capacity.

4) Informing Decisions, Catalyzing Action, and Measuring Progress: an emphasis is put on the importance of sound science and data. The U.S. describes how they cooperate internationally to share environmental information. The consideration of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is addressed, as a possible means to assess progress and catalyze action.

Across these three main areas, the document also raises various points that can facilitate progress in one or more of the issues:

- More transparent and accessible governments, that enable innovative environments

- More engaged citizens and networks

- Use of incentive systems, i.e. in education, workforce, research

- Promoting innovative, open and competitive markets

- Enabling policies and regulatory frameworks

- Economic and fiscal instruments

- A commercial landscape that shows return on capital and attracts investment

- Improving access to information about best practices

- Increasing the use of connection technologies

- Expanding international knowledge hubs

- Respect for international obligations

- Increased international collaboration

- Focus on job creation in a green economy

Furthermore, the role of women and youth is seen as fundamental. The document expresses that young people have a great stake in what happens at Rio+20, and should play a powerful role, and highlight the importance of inclusion of women for economic growth. They advocate removing barriers that “have prevented youth and women from being full participants in the economy and unlocking their potential as drivers of economic growth.”

The documents ends on a high note, remarking that “Rio+20 marks a new foundation for engaging the global community and building the greener and more inclusive economies, smarter cities, and advanced institutions and networks that will define the future. The United States stands ready to collaborate, innovate, and realize the promise of sustainable development for the next 20 years and beyond.”

If you are interested in reading the whole document from the United States, or of any other Major Group or Nation State, including the Human Impacts Institute’s submission, you can view them here.

By Mariana Orozco, 2012 Human Impacts Institute Environmental Leadership Intern

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