Do We Need More Global Sustainability Conferences?

In P. Dauvergne (ed), Handbook of Global Environmental Politics, 2nd edition. Cheltenham (UK)/Northampton (USA), Edward Elgar, 2012, pp. 87-97.

It is argued that there is no longer any need for these conferences as their main function is agenda setting, useful in the last millenium but not anymore. We know what the problems are so instead we need spscific implementation of the already many agreed upon ambitious UN goals. The Stocholm Conference was a water-shed event as it placed environment on the international agenda. The Rio Summit surpassed Stocholm by far in terms of process and ambition, but failed to deliver on key promises. The 2002 WSSD was by most standards a rather weak and irrelevant event. Based on the preparations to Rio+20, expectations should be low. The process is characterized by deep cleavages between North and South and ideological grand-standing as well as repetition of well knows positions. The concept of green economy is disputed and the call for institutional reform is stalled. Rather than investing scarce human and finacial resources in such conferences we should instead establish a small low-cost expert committee of top diplomats and reserachers to find out what is politically feasible in terms of moving the world in a more sustainable direction.