World leaders accused of failure as Rio poised to set no new targets or timetables

Obama and Cameron stay away as nations struggle to reach sustainable development deal.


More than 100 world leaders, but not America's Barack Obama or Britain's David Cameron, gathered in Rio de Janeiro yesterday for a three-day UN summit on sustainable development – the formula for bringing millions of people out of poverty without trashing the environment.

The gathering at "Rio Plus 20" marks the 20th anniversary of the so-called "Earth Summit" in Rio in June 1992, regarded as one of the most influential environmental gatherings ever, not least for the two UN treaties it saw signed on climate change and biodiversity.

Expectations this time are much lower and have been steadily dropping all week, especially since the draft final text, entitled "The Future We Want", was released two nights ago. Many environmental and developmental groups say it contains no new commitments for anyone to do anything, no targets and no timetables, and it is unlikely to be strengthened when heads of state and government agree to it tomorrow.

"This summit was over before it even started," Oxfam's Antonio Hill said last night. "World leaders failed to seize the day. This summit will be recognised as a failure – a fail on equity, a fail on ecology and a fail on economy. We always knew government ambitions were low, but the final deal lacks a single new meaningful commitment."

The sense that the conference might not make decisions of substance clearly influenced Mr Obama and Mr Cameron's decisions to stay away. The President has sent Hillary Clinton, his Secretary of State, in his place, and Mr Cameron has sent the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is another prominent rich-country absentee.

But all the leaders of the "Brics" group of leading developing countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – are present, as the issue of development is something they cannot afford to ignore. The summit's significance may depend on pronouncements today and tomorrow from the likes of Russia's Vladimir Putin, China's Wen Jiabao or India's Manmohan Singh.

Yesterday the summit was opened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who admitted the draft outcome was disappointing. "Some member states hoped for a bolder, ambitious document," he said. "But you should understand that negotiations have been very difficult and very slow because of all these conflicting interests."

* Leading British companies will be made to report their greenhouse gas emissions from the beginning of the next financial year, Nick Clegg announced in Rio yesterday. The new rules will apply to London Stock Exchange-listed businesses from April 2013 to allow investors to see which companies are managing their pollution effectively, and the scheme could be rolled out to all large companies from 2016.

A global challenge: Rio's key players


206m Population (World rank: 5)

1.1% Population growth rate (Rank: 102)

2.7% Economic growth rate (Rank: 133)

Key environmental issues: Ongoing efforts to reduce deforestation in the Amazon, the world's largest rainforest, but eradicating logging altogether would be financially disastrous.


1.34bn Population: (Rank: 1)

0.5% Population growth (Rank: 152)

9.2% Economic growth rate(Rank: 7)

Key environmental issues: The biggest emitter of CO2, with 24 per cent of the world total. A recent report claimed only 1 per cent of city dwellers breathe air deemed safe by the EU. Unparalleled pollution problem.


1.21bn Population: (Rank: 2)

1.3% Population growth(Rank: 88)

7.8% Economic growth rate: (Rank: 15)

Key environmental issues: Third behind China and the US in CO2 emissions. Lacks forceful legislation on the environment. Its "lawless" mining industry has been criticised. Air and water quality remain a huge problem.


138m Population (Rank: 9)

-0.48% Population growth (Rank: 219)

4.3% Economic growth rate(Rank: 91)

Key environmental issues: Currently eyeing delicately balanced Arctic ecosystems as potential sources of exports of oil and gas. Government accused of wielding country's vast natural reserves as a political tool. Water pollution and air quality have still not recovered from lack of industrial regulations in Soviet era.

South Africa

48.8m Population(Rank: 26)

-0.41% Population growth (Rank: 217)

3.4% Growth rate(Rank: 119)

Key environmental issues: Leading Africa's development charge. GDP is driven by a strong mining industry which has wreaked havoc on its environment. Johannesburg, is surrounded by industrial waste dumps and toxic lakes.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam