You are here: Sustainable Development in Government > News archive > Preparing for Rio+20

Preparing for Rio+20


Rio+20 is the United Nations conference on sustainable development, taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 20-22 June 2012, twenty years after the Rio Earth Summit and 40 years since the 1972 Stockholm Conference.

Conference themes

The conference will focus on two main themes:

  • The green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and
  • The institutional framework for sustainable development.

The UK Government sees Rio+20 as an important opportunity for international co-operation on sustainable development, to make the case for a global green economy, and to make clear that the major global challenges – food security, environmental degradation, climate change and poverty eradication – are inextricably linked.

The green economy will be the principal theme. Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, explains how economic recovery and sustainability are interconnected:

“We need to make sure that our economic recovery is a sustainable recovery and a recovery which fully harnesses the opportunities presented by the green economy. Without that approach we will store up problems for further down the track. Sustainable management of our natural resources is central to maintaining long term future prosperity.”

Andrew Lawrence, Defra’s Director of Strategy and Green Economy, describes how the priority for the conference is to agree actions on the green economy:

“The institutional framework for sustainable development will follow from what Rio achieves in terms of the green economy. Rio needs to be about agreeing tangible actions, not just a communiqué. We need to make a case that growth worldwide can, and should, be green growth. We must show that the perceived choice between economic growth and protection of the environment is false – we can do both. Rio can put us on that path.”

Christopher Whaley, Head of Defra’s EU and International division, identifies specific issues for the conference to address:

“Sustainable agriculture and food security, access to clean energy, and reducing deforestation are all areas where Rio can make real progress.”

Working towards Rio+20

Defra is leading preparations for Rio+20 across the UK Government. Defra is also leading on stakeholder engagement to ensure an inclusive event, seeking to harness the considerable interest and ideas from business and civil society. Businesses, NGOs and individuals are invited to find out more and share their ideas by contacting Defra as detailed at the foot of the Green business – EU, international, Rio+20 webpage.

On October 5th and 6th Caroline Spelman hosted two major events on Rio+20, meeting leaders from civil society and business. The Defra Secretary of State updated attendees on progress towards Rio+20 in the international community, having just returned from the Delhi dialogue on Green Economy and Inclusive Growth. In the meetings with both business and civil society leaders, there were wide-ranging discussions on priorities for Rio+20. Further such events are planned in the run-up to Rio+20.

Internationally, the countries involved in Rio+20 submitted their ideas to the UN in early November, contributing to a first draft negotiation document.

Working towards sustainable development goals

The Deputy Prime Minister and Environment Secretary recently announced that the Government will support an initiative to develop Sustainable Development Goals, proposed by President Santos of Colombia, to focus international attention on the need to manage the world’s natural resources sustainably.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg asserted the importance of challenging goals:

“The future of the human race depends on the careful management of natural resources. As global population increases, and economies and societies advance, so we must better manage our planet’s resources to ensure a sustainable future for generations to come. Failure to meet that challenge will result in immense suffering.

“I welcome President Santos’s initiative, challenging world leaders to establish Sustainable Development Goals and look forward to working closely with the Colombian government and our international and EU partners to develop this idea in the run-up to the Rio+20 summit in June next year.”

Twenty years ago

The 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro was the first international attempt to develop strategies for a more sustainable pattern of development.

Representatives of 178 national governments, including more than 100 heads of state, and many organisations representing civil society attended the conference. The world had never previously witnessed a larger gathering of national leaders.

At the summit, governments around the world committed to sustainable development. The UK government was the first to produce its national strategy in 1994.

Further information and getting involved

We haven't yet received any comments on this page.

Do you have a comment on this page?

All comments are moderated: we will not publish irrelevant or inappropriate comments. Please note that we require your email to validate your message and will not publish it or use it for any other purpose.