The countdown to the Rio+20 conference continues and I hope that you (like me!) have been enjoying reading Mark’s short essays reflecting on the state of the planet and the challenges facing nature.  Today, I am delighted to welcome a contribution from the Deputy Prime Minister, Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP.  He will be leading the UK Government’s delegation to Rio next week and his ambitions are outlined below.  At the end of his blog I have outlined how you can ask the DPM a question and I have also shared with you the ambitions that the RSPB has for the conference.


From the Deputy Prime Minister, Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP

Next week I’m leading the UK delegation to the Rio+20 Summit, two decades after the original Earth Summit. Back then world leaders agreed – for the first time ever – that development must not come at any cost. They recognised the dangers of making a dash for growth by hoovering up or destroying precious resources: you’ll only find yourself poorer in the end. 

But the legacy of that momentous meeting is seriously under threat. Despite the progress that has been made, the vision set out in 1992 remains a long way off. And, now, as turmoil continues in the Eurozone, there is a real risk that in many major economies we’ll see sustainability sacrificed in the name of growth.

That would be a huge mistake. Our economic and environmental agendas go hand in hand (a point the RSPB has been making for years). We will only deliver lasting prosperity by conserving resources and learning to live within our means. And it’s more important than ever that we respect the natural environment on which future wealth depends.

So Rio must – once again – deliver a show of solidarity from the international community: there can be no more living only for today if we are to deliver a better tomorrow. I want to pay tribute to the work Birdlife International has been doing to encourage governments around the world to be bold when we meet next week. I’ll be pushing – with the help of Caroline Spelman – for three big things:

First, national governments must move beyond a narrow understanding of wealth. Right now we judge how well a country is doing by looking almost exclusively at the money it makes. But to fully judge success we need a kind of ‘GDP+’, which takes into account the state of assets like forests or coastal areas – vital natural capital. We’re reforming the UK’s national accounts so that, by 2020, they also reflect our natural wealth. In Brazil I’ll be pressing our international partners to follow suit.

Second, Rio must set out a plan for the future. That’s why I want us to kickstart a package of Sustainable Development Goals to help meet the fundamental challenges we now face. Like feeding growing populations; ensuring everyone has clean water; giving people access to green energy too. Agreeing these goals will be no mean feat – it will take an enormous diplomatic effort. But now is the moment to get them off the ground.

Finally, Rio must get business on board. Many firms still have no idea how they impact on our environment. That isn’t just bad for the planet. It makes companies inefficient and depletes the resources they themselves depend on. Plus their customers and investors have a right to this information too. So it’s time for governments to give ‘sustainability reporting’ a much-needed global push, getting more companies to green their books.

1992 was a triumph and next week governments from across the globe must revive the spirit and ambition of our predecessors. It’s time to set the agenda for the next twenty years. 


What would you like to ask the Deputy Prime Minister about Rio+20?

You can ask your question by commenting on this blog (if you are not already registered on RSPB Communities you will need to do so - see here for find out how) – alternatively we will be taking questions via Twitter and Facebook.  We’ll pick the best 20 questions for the Deputy Prime Minister to answer on his return from Rio+20.

Finally, today two of my colleagues (Tim Stowe and Sacha Cleminson) will be flying out to the conference to join our BirfdLife International Partners in Rio. You will be able to recieve updates on their experiences by reading their blogs which will apear hereIn preparation for this conference, we have worked with Green Alliance to produce a series of essays entitled ‘Rio+20 Where It Should Lead’ from business, political and NGO leaders to stimulate fresh debate about how we rise to the sustainable development challenge set twenty years ago. You can read a copy of this report hereAs BirdLife International, we shall at Rio be making the case for the following:

1. A green economy in the context of sustainable development: We want governments to demonstrate global leadership to re-direct the global economy towards a sustainable pathway.  The resilience of the global economy is intimately linked to the state of the environment . Will want governments to mainstream consideration of nature across policy formulation and decision-making processes, and reflect it clearly in indicators of socio-economic development and growth. We want governments to recognise that healthy ecosystems underpin our lives and that the poorest and most vulnerable are frequently the most dependent on them. Governments must provide the investment needed to maintain and restore healthy ecosystems.  We also want governments to phase out and redirect harmful and perverse incentives that act to undermine sustainable development.

2. Securing our oceans: We strongly support efforts to protect and restore marine ecosystems and in particular we a) support the call for negotiation of an implementing agreement to the United Nations Law of the Sea that would address the sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, including effective safeguard for ecologically and biologically significant areas and b) calls on states to reduce fish harvest to levels that allow stocks to rebuild, in order to restore, by 2015, and maintain depleted fish stocks above levels which can produce the maximum sustainable yield. For stocks which, despite targeted measures, fail to achieve this target, science-based management plans should be implemented in order to restore and maintain populations to these levels within the shortest timeframe biologically possible

3. Biodiversity and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): we support the development of a set of universally agreed Sustainable Development Goals that will accelerate and help measure progress towards sustainable development. However, it is essential that Governments ensure that a) the underpinning role of nature and biodiversity is clearly reflected in the SDGs b) the SDGs and their indicators link explicitly to the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 (agreed in Nagoya in 2010) and its associated indicators c) a process is established to follow from Rio+20 that will agree the themes of the SDGs.and d) Any indicative list of themes to be decided upon at Rio+20 should not restrict the choice of SDGs by this future process.

4. Framework for action: To ensure coherent progress towards sustainable development, priority cross-cutting issues (e.g. forests and biodiversity, oceans, food security and agriculture, energy and water) identified in the Rio+20 outcomes require urgent action. They must link and refer to the delivery of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Good luck to all those (politicians, business leaders and NGOs) that are going to Rio.  Please do come back with concrete commitments.  Mark’s final essays will appear over the next few days after which I shall reflect on the successes (we hope) of the Rio conference. 


  • Is anything meaningfull going to come out of RIO + 2O I dont think so,not while the world is run by big buisness. DEREK

  • Most people are aware of the urban heat island effect whereby the air temperature above our towns and cities is 4 or 5°C above that of the surrounding countryside. This is due in part to hard surfacing materials used for buildings and roads and the anthropogenic heat sources from vehicles and air condition units. However the main cause is a lack of evaporative and transpiration surfaces resulting from reduced areas of vegetation. Evaporation from open water and transpiration from plants is a cooling process which helps maintain a balanced air temperature. Without this evapotranspiration ambient temperatures inevitably rise. However what is less well known is that the air temperature in the countryside has also increased through the drainage of wet lands and the destruction of our woods, forest and jungles to be replaced by agriculture where transpiration rates are less than before. With much of the world’s surface so altered by man it is no wonder that we are seeing changes in ambient air temperatures.

    Water vapour is a far more potent greenhouse gas and exists in the atmosphere at concentrations between 25 and 100 times than that CO2. Changes in the concentration of atmospheric water vapour consequently have a far greater effect on climate than changes in other greenhouse gases and yet while there is research going on about the effect that changes in those other greenhouse gases may have on levels of atmospheric water vapour there is very little research about how changes in concentration of that water vapour has on our climate.

    An extreme example of how man’s activities have changed the environment can be seen in the “Golden Crescent”: the land between Lebanon through present day Syria and Iraq to Iran. In biblical times this was a land “flowing with milk and honey” and yet today, through wholesale destruction of the forests that once grew there, has been reduced to little more than desert.

    There are three messages therefore that have to be taken to Rio if we wish to see a sustainable planet:-

    1) that the world must stop destroying its forested areas and draining its wet lands. Not so much because that that destruction can lead to the release of CO2 into the atmosphere but to balance the water cycle and so that the planet can continue to breath.

    2) that crop researchers should stop trying to adapt the land to the crop but to adapt the crop to the land and

    3) that we need to green up towns and cities by building open green space and installing green roofs on all buildings as research has shown that this can help reduce the urban heat island effect and make those urban spaces a more comfortable place in which to work and play.

  • I would like to support the comments from Mirio, and ask Mr Clegg what he would or could to to ensure that organisations such as Network Rail take their responsibilities for regard to the conservation of biodiversity under the Nerc Act, and other Wildlife Acts, seriously.   Network Rail has just chopped down all the trees on a patch of railside land in Highbury during the nesting season and without consulting LB Islington, which it agreed to do after a similar act of devastation last summer.    These sort of organisations seem to be completely unaccountable - when they were publicly owned, they were accountable.

  • I would like to ask the deputy prime minister why so many of the recommendations from the excellent review "Making Space for Nature: A review of England's Wildlife Sites and Ecological. Network. Chaired by Professor Sir John Lawton CBE FRS" seem to have been ignored.

    I would like to see railway lines used as linear nature reserves instead of the constant spraying of herbicides on trackside vegetation which occurs now.

  • An excellent blog from the Deputy PM. I think he and Caroline Spelman represent a strong UK team at Rio+20, appreciative of the critical issues at stake. Well done to the RSPB for inviting Nick Clegg to provide this blog and for him to accept.