Previous policy reports for Rio+20: disconnected from the realities of power

Duncan Green:

“I have skimmed a few of the curtain raisers for next week’s Earth Summit in Rio, and sure enough, they fall into the familiar pattern of ‘If I ruled (or at least ‘managed’) the world’ documents: a summary of the research evidence, a call to arms (in this case save planet and species, preferably both), and a shopping list of policy recommendations.

In such reports, all solutions seem to be win-win. Beyond vague appeals for political will, there is almost no discussion of politics (there’s an election going on in the US – do you think that might be germane?), power (who gets to decide what, and what are their motivations) or the chain of events (shocks, elections, scandals, cumulative pressure from citizens, peer pressure from governments) that might possibly lead to something being agreed. Reports typically employ the passive tense – ‘innovation/cash/leadership is needed’, neatly avoiding having to identify just who has to do it, and why they might decide to do so“.


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