Rare@Rio+20: An update from the epicenter of conservation conversations

Hello from Brazil! Activity definitely picked up in Rio yesterday. I awoke to the sound of helicopters scanning the beach and presidential motorcades whizzing by. With the arrival of high-level delegates there was a much bigger military presence. An interesting theme developed throughout the day: side events highlighted how local actions and partnerships of less powerful nations are actually realizing green/blue economies, regardless of what comes of the negotiations.

Rare Staff at RioPlus20

Café break. Team Rare in Rio, including Eric Coppenger (front, right) watch high-level meetings on the pavilion screen and strategize for the next day’s events.

The European Union, the United States, Japan and a host of nations appear to be coalescing around the idea that increasing CO2 in the atmosphere jeopardizes the ocean food web through increasing acidification and could lead to a complete collapse of marine ecosystems. Their answer: More research! One researcher from University of California, San Diego laid out a plan for what we need to do. First, reduce emissions. Secondly, reduce other stressors like overfishing and habitat destruction (queue Rare!). He emphasized that the second point cannot be neglected when developing solutions.

I ran from that discussion to attend the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA) event. Ministers from Grenada and the Marshall Islands joined Ambassador Jumeau from Seychelles to explain how island and coastal governments work together through GLISPA to protect ocean heritage. The sentiment in many of these ocean-centric talks focuses on the fact that small islands are actually very large ocean states. Their impact on ocean health cannot be ignored. Ambassador Jumeau publicly thanked Rare and other partners for helping GLISPA and island nations work toward their conservation goals.

Team Rare spread out to meet a host of fascinating and accomplished delegates. The energy was frenetic and productive, so many terrific conversations and so little time. I was pulled out of a captivating conversation with the executive director of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation to meet the minister/special assistant to the president of Marshall Islands. He greeted me warmly and another terrific talk ensued around Rare’s work in Micronesia.

The Rare team ended the day as VIPs at the Equator Prize Award ceremony. It was an inspiring affair emphasizing how local people make sustainable development happen on their own. Actor Edward Norton emphasized that regardless of what comes out of the negotiations, these innovations are critical if we are to shift our relationship with the planet.

Rio+20, officially the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, is a conference of world leaders and national environmental heads gathering in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to discuss green economies in the context of poverty eradication and an institutional framework for sustainable development.  Learn more at the official website: http://www.uncsd2012.org/