In June 2012 the global political focus will be on the next big environmental summit, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, informally known as Rio+20 because it comes 20 years after the high profile Earth Summit of 1992.

The Earth Summit gave us Agenda 21, the UN climate convention, the biodiversity convention, the precautionary principle, the forest principles and meaningful civil society engagement – all under the banner of 'sustainable development'. At Rio+20, global leaders are tasked with identifying what went wrong in the past 20 years, re-organizing the governance that has failed to deliver any progress on diverse environmental crises and crafting a roadmap towards a global "green economy."

Rio+20 brings us to a crossroads that offers both risks and opportunities. Rio+20’s centerpiece “green economy” is poorly defined and could become a cover for the further commodification and monopolization of nature, the violation of human rights and the deployment of high-risk technologies. Alternatively, the Rio summit could re-set the agenda for diverse, people-centered, local green economies, with policies that protect the environment, strengthen the commons, promote equality establishing a new participatory and transparent multilateral system for technology assessment..


ETC Group documents


What Next? Roundtable Discussion: Geo-engineering, nanotechnology, synthetic biology: The case for international technology assessment at Rio +20

This October 2011 roundtable discussion with Pat Mooney was organized jointly by the What Next Forum and The Resilience and Development Programme (SwedBio) at Stockholm Resilience Centre.

All together 19 persons, with backgrounds in civil society, the Swedish Ministry for Environment, the Swedish EPA, the research community and sustainable development consultancy participated in a rich discussion, initiated and inspired by an overview by Mooney.

The discussions provided a strong case for establishing an international mechanism for technology assessment, something Sweden could take a lead in promoting as an outcome of the Rio +20 summit in June 2012. 

For audio and documents [ click here]


Rio +20 or Silent Spring -50? Towards Genuine Green Economies

Speech by Pat Mooney, ETC Group, delivered to UN General Assembly New York, 2 June 2011

Next year’s UN conference in Rio de Janeiro should mark the beginning of a new era of environmental and economic cooperation. Rio +20 is not only the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit, it is also Stockholm+40 – marking the UN’s first major environmental conference, and, somewhat ominously, it is also the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking Silent Spring. As we prepare for 2012, we have 50 years of environmental history to bear in mind.

We all welcome the recognition of the need to change directions toward sustainability. But, we must also recognize that, for most of modern history, we assumed we were living sustainably. Our doubt about that – as economists, ecologists, policy-makers or industrialists – has arisen only in the last few decades. It’s come as quite a surprise that our energy system is unsustainable; that our food chain is breakable; that our environment is eroding and that our water is running out.

So, as we embrace the “old” concept that a “new,” sustainable, and green economy is possible, we should also acknowledge our past failures, our current self-doubt and our realization that our future is not easy to predict.

There cannot be one new green economy. Rather we need new green economies – in the plural – that are local, diverse and participatory. Green economies must be built from the ground up, firmly rooted in our different cultures and contexts. [...]

[ continue reading speech ]  [download as PDF here]


Earthbeat Interview on Rio+20 with Jim Thomas: Uranium Mining at the Grand Canyon; Gearing up for RIO+20; Mother Earth Rights & The Threat of Toxic Terror at Home

A ‘honking big global Earth summit’ is coming our way next year, that’s according to Jim Thomas of the ETC Group. Jim says bankers and corporations are already jockeying for position at the upcoming UN Rio+20 Summit. His recent commentary can be found at But also preparing are activists like India’s Vandana Shiva. We’ll hear part of Vandana’s comments on Rio+20 at a UN conference earlier this month. The video from the UN Conference is available...
Jim Thomas Article on Grist: RIO+20: Toward a new green economy—or a green-washed old economy?
I've got good news and bad news about the future of the planet.
Good news first. Next year, a honking big global Earth Summit is coming our way -- one with a proud heritage. Formally titled the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, the meeting is known as RIO+20 because it will come 20 years after the first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. That original Earth Summit (itself 20 years after the equally important Stockholm Convention on the Environment and Human Development) gave us an embarrassment of policy riches: the Climate Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Sustainable Development Commission, the Precautionary Principle, a long and ambitious list of promises called Agenda 21, The Forest Principles, and much more. Over a hundred heads of state turned up to Rio Di Janeiro last time amidst intense global attention. This time, the reunion party is going back to Rio again on June 4-6 2012. Chances are it will all be a big deal again... [ keep reading ]
Global Environmental Governance and Rio +20: Thinking Big – Doing Little?

There is little faith in the reform of the UN system; nonetheless, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012 – also known as Rio +20 – is not only to set the stage for a green economy, but also to provide an impetus for the institutional reform of the UN environmental sector. The ministerial-level advisory group brought together by the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) is preparing the reforms.

The state of the discussion is analyzed here by Barbara Unmüßig

The consensus in the family of nations is great: the international environmental architecture is in urgent need of reform, for it is incapable of handling global environmental crises. As UNEP Deputy Executive Director Angela Cropper (see note) writes, the current “International Environmental Governance” (IEG) system reveals “little rationality, methodology or connection between various parts. Rather, we find immensely complex disorder of more than 500 environmental agreements, disengaged institutions and bodies, and unsupported commitments.” 

[ click to keep reading ] [ click to download as PDF document ]


Video Interview with Pat Mooney (WSF 2011, Dakar)

Pat Mooney: The major battlegrounds shaping up for Rio+20  

Video Interview with Pablo Solon, Bolivian Ambassador to the UN (WSF 2011, Dakar) 


Pablo Solon: Los retos de la sociedad civil de cara a Rio+20

In spanish only.


Video Interview with Pat Mooney by Kontext TV, an independent news magazine from Germany

Russian Roulette with the Planet: Nano Technology, Geo Engineering, and other Risk Technologies

At the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal, Kontext TV talked to Pat Mooney about the danger of geoengineering (the technical manipulation of earth systems), nano technology and synthetic biology, about the Earth summit in Rio in 2012 and his experiences with the protests against "Stuttgart 21".