President Obama Won't Be Attending Rio+20 Sustainability Summit

A quick follow up to Paula's take on what to expect at Rio+20: The lingering question of whether President Obama will attend the UN conference on sustainable development has been answered. He won't be going.

It turns out I was wrong in guessing that Obama would not attend at all.

Rather, Reuters reports, Secretary of State Clinton and EPA head Lisa Jackson will be heading to Rio.

Obama's absence at the conference will make it three UN environment and climate conferences in a row that he has failed to attend, the last being the COP15 climate talks in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.

His lack of attendance comes despite personal requests from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and urging from 22 leading environmental NGOs that he come to Rio.

Considering how far apart nations are on coming into agreement on the negotiating text, I'm not sure it makes a practical difference that Obama is sending Clinton and Jackson instead—at least in terms of the conference itself, it does allow him to avoid saying anything on the environment or climate which would just be jumped on by right wing zealots on the presidential campaign trail.

It sure would've been nice a nice symbol though, if Obama could've seen his way to joining the 130 other heads of state attending the event. You know, a symbol that the US actual takes global environmental and climate action seriously and isn't just one of the prime obstacles to anything approaching ambitious international action.

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