Walking into the aircraft hangar-sized food hall on Wednesday morning the giant screen was relaying, live from the main Rio chamber, the speech from a Prime Minister. He was talking about the development and environmental problems of his country. When we left the conference centre last night, a strikingly similar speech was being broadcast from another Prime Minister. Coming back yesterday morning there was another similar speech on the screen, and I expect to see same again when we leave today.
It’s becoming difficult to reconcile the stories being broadcast on that screen with what governments in Rio are agreeing on paper.
Nobody is arguing about the problems. There are many solutions, ambitious and otherwise, being floated. People with inspiration, passion and motivation are everywhere. But somehow those in charge don’t seem to be making it happen.
Working in the weird world of policy you get to see the arguments from all sides. From the business perspective, from the diplomats’ perspective, from the media perspective, and from that of politicians.
But it is difficult to understand how a collection of Heads of State, who are describing the challenges so clearly, consistently and often with great eloquence, appear unable to agree more than some limited actions.
Being realistic, few United Nations meetings are likely to make you punch the air and say ‘crikey, this is fantastic’. You need the patience of a saint and the foresight of an oracle.
Two days are left, and some of the most powerful people in the world are here. I am so rooting for them to avoid the temptation simply to rubber stamp the agreement that Tim blogged about yesterday. They can declare renewed commitment to tackle climate change, halt deforestation, safeguard oceans and, most importantly, commit to a timetable for doing it. These efforts will need to unite environment and development work, particularly in a series of expected Sustainable Development Goals.
Back home, I hope Ministers are already feverishly thinking about how to implement these goals. And Parliament should hold their feet to the fire.
The UK Government will soon publish its intentions for a strategy on Overseas Territories. Those beautiful islands, packed with wildlife and at risk from climate change have some big development and poverty challenges. This strategy will be an acid test for the Government’s commitment back home.
Nick Clegg’s speech to the conference is coming up on the screen, I hope he'll have courage and will.