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Earth Summit 2012: How it Can Help with a Global Climate Deal

Earth Summit 2012: How it Can Help with a Global Climate Deal

5 August 2010

Civil society groups are spreading the word on the upcoming 2012 Earth Summit, a United Nations meeting on international environmental governance. Ecologic Institute’s Emily McGlynn stressed the importance of youth participation at a recent UNFCCC side event on preparation for the Earth Summit.

Four representatives of civil society, including Ecologic Institute Transatlantic Fellow Emily McGlynn, spoke to observers at the most recent UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting on the importance of preparing for the 2012 Earth Summit. Also known as the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Earth Summit 2012, will be an international meeting of governments and civil society groups to renew political progress towards global sustainability.

Engaging youth

Emily McGlynn, representing the US-based, youth-run organization SustainUS, emphasized the need to engage young people leading up to Earth Summit 2012. She highlighted young people’s role in generating awareness of environmental issues, especially climate change, within communities, the media and governments. The youth presence at UN environmental conferences has grown from several young observers at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero to over 100 young observers at the 2002 Earth Summit in Johannesburg. It is estimated over 1000 youth attended the 2009 UNFCCC conference in Copenhagen.

McGlynn pointed out that that the growing global youth movement can put significant pressure on their governments to ensure Earth Summit 2012 produces meaningful results.

Youth observers to UN meetings have been highly active in the past several years lobbying their governments, generating media attention through eye-catching, humorous actions and delivering addresses to government delegations (called ‘interventions’). For example, youth observers wore T-shirts saying “I Love the Kyoto Protocol” during the most recent UNFCCC meeting in Bonn, Germany. During an intervention, youth delegate Anna Buccio asked the chair of the Kyoto Protocol working group: “Mr Chair, John, I have a question for you. Will you marry me? Because… I love the Kyoto Protocol. And I want to enter into marriage with it to ensure our love is legally recognised.”

Possible outcomes of Earth Summit 2012

The side event highlighted some of the possible or hoped-for outcomes of the Earth Summit 2012, including the signing of a global climate change agreement, an international mercury agreement and an agreement on biodiversity access and benefit sharing. The UN General Assembly has stated that its objective for Earth Summit 2012 is to generate only a “focused political document” (see the decision document A/RES/64/236). However, certain civil society groups are pushing for more ambitious goals for the summit.


The UN General Assembly announced in December 2009 that Earth Summit 2012 would occur on the 20th anniversary of the original UN Conference on Sustainable Development. The 1992 summit resulted in three important environmental conventions: the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification. Civil society representatives in Bonn communicated their hope that Earth Summit 2012 will generate similar political momentum towards sustainable development as seen after the original Earth Summit.

The two major themes of Earth Summit 2012 are green economies in the context of poverty eradication and institutional framework for sustainable development.

The UNFCCC side event on Earth Summit 2012 was presented by Heather Allen of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Hannah Stoddart of Stakeholder Forum, Stephen Porter of the Center for International Environmental Law and Emily McGlynn of SustainUS on 5 August 2010 in Bonn, Germany.

Further Link:

Ecologic Institute Presentation: Considering population and emissions together under a novel liability framework - Emily McGlynn

5 August 2010
Bonn, Germany
Earth Summit 2012, Rio+20, international environmental governance, youth