There’s pessimism aplenty leading up to Rio+20 with headlines such as these: “Rio +20 Earth Summit Could Collapse” and U.N. starts pre-conference talks in a hole. But I’m going Pollyannaish positive on climate adaptation. So much differs from that first Rio Earth Summit. Some would contend this year’s conference profoundly lacks momentum about environmental protection. I believe the most acute change reflects engagement of the private sector in both dialogue and solutions.
In 1992, Rio launched truly new and innovative global policy processes. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFPCC) ranked among the best. Rio then also began an unprecedented experiment in global environmental cooperation.
What’s unfortunate about Rio 2012 is that droughts and food security; flash floods and household destruction; and strong hurricanes and economic loss are on the agenda. Why? Because it indicates that big climate-driven natural hazards already are having a striking impact on all of us, including the corporate world. Corporate, government and community climate action to prevent climate risks are still primary priorities for us all. And today’s climate-related risks means that while international commitments in the area of disaster risk-reduction and resilience building may emerge from Rio+20, the understanding will certainly grow by corporations of the need to reduce their risk and increase their resilience.
Many maintain that the United Nations has little to show for all of its efforts over the last 20 years. But I’m glad it opened the door to other solution providers. With IPCC and UNFPCC intelligence and corporate moxie, perhaps we will mitigate the risk and build the resilience that our future depends upon.
As Mark Way, director of sustainability and political risk management at Swiss Re America Holding Corporation, sees it: “Rio+20 will act as a further reminder, if one is really necessary, of the urgent need for a comprehensive global response to climate change, one which reduces emissions and increases resilience to severe weather.” I’m bullish that his prediction will spark the momentum we need in the corporate sector. How about you?