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Cambridge University Science Magazine
Many environmentalists were of the opinion it was over before it started. The conspicuous absence of leaders from three of the world’s major economic powers; the US, Britain and Germany,  not only restricted what Rio+20 could achieve but highlighted the increasing sentiment that these key players already viewed the summit as a probable failure.

The remaining world leaders agreed to strengthen the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and implement a new framework for sustainable development. Members of the UN General Assembly will now belong to UNEP’s Governing Council, which will receive a larger proportion of the UN budget, and lead coordination of environmental strategies throughout the UN system.

Many environmental and political groups were, however, disappointed by the absence of the targeted plan of action which was billed as the main focus of the event. The resulting ‘The Future We Want’ document mostly consists of reaffirming previous agreements and was criticised for its weak language and poor focus as most contentious elements then went on to be removed in subsequent redrafts throughout the conference.

Whilst Rio+20 may not have lived up to expectations, over 500+ side-events to the summit have been more fruitful. UK’s deputy-prime minister Nick Clegg took a step forward by announcing that from the next financial year, all companies listed on the London Stock Exchange will be required to report their greenhouse gas emissions. Efforts to integrate the value of natural capital into the financial sector resulted in the Natural Capital Declaration to which 39 financial institutions have committed to so far. Rio+20 may not have had the Earth shattering impact of its predecessor 20 years ago, but financially, there have certainly been some significant drops in the ocean, with over $500 billion pledged in support of new sustainable development initiatives.

Written by Zoe Li