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. 


  • Martin, I have just posted the following on the Birdguides site in response to a comment about modern farming harming the enviroment. I felt the need to provide balance to Rob.

    "Not all farmers (will evade the issue). The North Cotswold Ornithological Society (NCOS - had the privillege of an escorted tour around Mark Tufnell's Calmsden Manor Farm estate last weekend. Mark signed up to a competitive government scheme to promote conservation in farming and has acheived some amazing success with Grey Partridge, Barn Owl and Skylark amongst many others - ref This represents a very progressive view valuing all aspects of farming not just the economic imperative. The sad thing is that the scheme was not only competitive (rather than open to all) but is about to be cutback by the government. False economics or what especially at a time when Caroline Spelman (Defra) is saying all the right things ahead of the Rio Earth Summit (June 20-22)!"

    With regard to the cutback, is this a case of politicians saying one thing and doing another with regard to the cutback?

  • Mr Clegg,

           Firstly I would like you to note that their are more Heads of Government attending the Olympics than Rio+20. This is a sad commentary on the "sustainability agenda" and Mr Cameron's absence defines his "green conservatism" as hogwash. Post Rio 1992 CO2 emissions have risen 40% when our ambition, legally defined by the Rio signatories was to have them falling. There is nothing defined or legally binding in ambition at Rio plus 20 and my own conclusion is that society prefers to prepare for war than peace ie it would have been preferable to spend the Iraq/Afghan monies on energy security via sun, wind, wave and tide.

          The Coaltion today announced a limited Plan B; its home ownership initiative fails to address the monopoly of land banks and thereby does nothing to "rebalance" the economy through reducing housing costs and rents (which it is driving up) but specifically can I get a commitment from you to start developing the energy potential of the Severn Estuary whether it be a Hain's Barrage, RSPB's "reefs" or FoE's "lagoons and can this be decided via the Bristol Mayoral campaign and a start made ? Also will you support plans to put a solar power station on Bristol roofs coming from Hamilton house, Stokes Croft, Bristol ?

  • I have a question regarding terrestrial ecosystem services provided by biomes such as the tropical rainforest, and mangrove. Protection of these services would appear implicit in the protection of biodiversity, the question is really about who foots the bill.

    "Governments must provide the investment needed to maintain and restore healthy ecosystems."; Does this imply we expect countries like Brazil to pay for the Amazon, (at a cost to their agricultural development i guess), or are we doing anything to help poorer countries maintain the investment to help maintain the upkeep of our planet's biodiversity hotspots and key ecosystem services? I think if the world paid what some of these services are worth - developing countries would be planting forests; estimates of ecosystem services are surely worthless if they generate no real value... compared to say selling a mangrove for woodchip and farming shrimp on it.