Rio+20 Summit Underway In Brazil
June 21, 2012

Rio+20 Summit Underway In Brazil

Lee Rannals for

The U.N. sustainable development summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil kicked off with U.N. head Ban Ki-moon warning that progress on resolving Earth issues is moving too slow.

Ki-moon was speaking to world leaders at the Rio+20 summit and other ministers, calling them to action on fighting climate change, saying that "words must translate into action."

He opened the session with a reference to the Earth Summit held at the same location 20 years ago, which sparked U.N. conventions on climate change, biodiversity and desertification.

"Since then, progress has been too slow - we have not gone far enough down the road," he told the world leaders at the summit. "We are now in sight of a historic agreement - the world is waiting to see if words will translate into action, as we know they must."

He suggested there were still decisions for the estimated 130 heads of state and government, and ministers from other countries, to make at the summit.

During the opening session at Rio+20, a speech was also made by 17-year-old New Zealander Brittany Trilford, who won a competition organized by climate change group tcktcktck.

"You have 72 hours to decide the fate of your children - my children - my childrens' children - and I start the clock now," she told the world leaders. "Are you here to save face - or are you here to save us?"

Eight international development banks led by the Asian Development Bank have made significant contributions to fighting climate change, promising to add $175 billion into sustainable transport schemes over the next decade.

The banks said that air pollution, congestion, traffic accidents and climate impacts can take 5 to 10 percent off a country's GDP every year.

"This is a game changer for sustainable transport," Holger Dalkmann, of the World Resources Institute's center for sustainable transport, told the summit. "It will ensure that hundreds of millions of people will have cleaner air, less congested roads, and safer transportation.¨

UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced to the world leaders at the summit that companies listed on the main market of the London Stock Exchange will have to report their greenhouse gas emissions annually.

"Counting your business costs while hiding your greenhouse gas emissions is a false economy," Clegg told the group. "British companies need to reduce their harmful emissions for the benefit of the planet, but many back our plans because being energy efficient makes good business sense too."

Sir Paul McCartney, who was the lead singer of the Beatles, was among the signatures that backed Greenpeace's campaign to have the Arctic region declared a sanctuary by the U.N.

The first 100 signatures on the new petition include explorers, business leaders, actors and musicians.

"It seems madness that we are willing to go to the ends of the earth to find the last drops of oil when our best scientific minds are telling us we need to get off fossil fuels to give our children a future," Sir Paul told the summit. "At some time, in some place, we need to take a stand. I believe that time is now and that place is the Arctic."

Thom Yorke, lead singer of Radiohead and a signatory, also chimed in on the proposal.

"An oil spill in the Arctic would devastate this region of breathtaking beauty, while burning that oil will only add to the biggest problem we all face, climate change," Yorke said in a statement.

Greenpeace is calling for an agreement to ban environmentally damaging activities in the Arctic region. The organization hopes to gather up a million people to sign the petition in order to start the process of claiming the Arctic region as a sanctuary.