Pledges of $513bn help UN save face in Rio

The United Nations has secured pledges of $513 billion from governments, private sector and civil society organisations to bolster sustainable development, averting a complete failure of the Rio+20 summit.

Activists participate in a global march alongside the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Felipe Dana / AP Photo
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The United Nations has secured pledges of US$513 billion (Dh1.88 trillion) from governments, private sector and civil society organisations to bolster sustainable development, averting a complete failure of the Rio+20 summit.

Governments also called on corporations to include sustainability reporting as part of their accounting process at the event, which ended on Friday.

The commitments at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in the Brazilian city, known as Rio+20 because it took place 20 years after the Earth Summit in 1992, may help the UN save face following criticism from environmental groups over what they described as a lack of ambition and detail in the final document.

"From the very beginning we have said that Rio+20 is about implementation and concrete action," said Sha Zukang, the summit's secretary general. "It had a huge participation, but participation without success means nothing. But we succeeded in concluding negotiations and agreeing to establish not only sustainable development goals but also a high-level forum to monitor the implementation of all commitments."

Among the pledges was a $175bn commitment for sustainable transport by eight multilateral development organisations, including the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank. The UN did not disclose how much of the funding represented new spending.

The Rio+20 conference has been derided as a washout because it failed to produce strong commitments to human rights, freedom of expression and social justice.

Many world leaders did not attend in favour of another event being held by the Group of 20 leading and emerging economies in Los Cabos, Mexico, which focused on resolving the euro-zone debt crisis.

However, the outcome document of the conference, entitled The Future We Want, produced a commitment from governments to incorporate accounting for their environmental impact into their financial reporting.

"We acknowledge the importance of corporate sustainability reporting and encourage companies, where appropriate, especially publicly listed and large companies, to consider integrating sustainability information into their reporting cycle," the document said.

Brazil, Denmark, South Africa and France said they would form a group to promote sustainability reporting among their listed companies.