It's just about six months until the Rio+20 environment summit (officially the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development) takes place in Brazil and details are emerging (well, being leaked) about what nations will be asked to sign on to.
According to the details leaked to The Guardian, countries will be asked to sign on to 10 new global sustainable development goals (SDGs)—which would not replace the Millennium Development Goals established in 2000, it's worth noting. The exact details of the SDGs have not be decided but "are expected to cover 'priority' areas such as oceans, food, energy, water, consumption, and sustainable cities."
Additionally countries will be asked,
to negotiate a new agreement to protect oceans, approve an annual state of the planet report, set up a major world agency for the environment, and appoint a global "ombudsperson", or high commissioner, for future generations.
Here's the rub: There will be no legally-binding aspect to any of this. That would obviously (if sadly) be a non-starter for many nations, and one nation in particular, cough, United States, cough. There will also be no international targets or timetables, with any targets and timetables being completely voluntary and at the discretion of individual nations.
I intellectually know that these talks would quickly descend into the same sticky morass as the UN climate talks have if the words "legally" and/or "binding" had been involved. But I have a hard time believing that voluntary goals are going to get us to where we need to be environmentally. In some places, yes, but in most, no.
Read more: The Guardian