Will President Obama Attend Rio+20? Green Groups Urge Him to Commit

United States Government, via David Axelrod/Public Domain

With Rio+20 now a month away, a coalition of 22 green groups, representing some 5 million people, is urging President Obama to confirm his attendance at the environmental conference (like 130 other heads of state have done).

The letter opens:

Your presence at this Summit would signal its critical importance to all Americans, demonstrate our country's deep concerns over urgent global issues that will inevitably affect our security and well-being, and highlight our nation's determination to be a contender in the race to a low-carbon green economy. As United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stated recently, your participation will be "crucial." This is true both for the success of the summit and progress towards a sustainable future for everyone on this fragile planet, and for your Administration's goals on jobs and clean energy here at home.

The letter goes on to urge Obama to announce "as soon as possible [the US's] own commitments for Rio+20," then goes on to outline how the signatories think those commitments should be formed.

It's pretty standard boilerplate environmental demands, and is largely in line with what we know is already being discussed in the pre-Rio negotiations, as well as the aspirational statements emerging from the recent meeting at Camp David—meaning, there's lots of general talk and some of it on point topically, but nothing approaching groundbreaking in terms of proposed implementation. Some of that is, no doubt, because that's what these sort of documents are, but it's also not wanting to be hemmed in politically in any way, a calculated lack of taking a stand.

Ultimately I don't think President Obama will actually snub Rio, and I doubt any of the 22 groups producing this letter do either (the letter serves a dual political purpose). While it's perfectly tedious to have a repeat of COP15 in 2009, where there was doubt up until the very last minute that the President would attend (and then arrive on the scene through the back door, and leave the same way), it very well may be the same sort of thing here—hopefully with the change that something environmentally meaningful actually emerges and not just more deferred action.

We'll see.

Tags: Barack Obama | Rio+20

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