Rio +20 – Looking at the Past and the Road Ahead

Did anything important happen at the Earth Summit—also known as Rio+20—a couple of weeks ago? Was it worth the expenditure of money, time and energy? Did calling tens of thousands of people together advance anything? And what about the opportunity costs? Would the effort spent prepping for Rio+20 have been better spent on working directly on the issues, investing in specific actions and programs, and building the partnerships necessary to actually design, test and implement solutions?

It’s easy to be critical of an undertaking so large and cumbersome, particularly when its real purpose—advancing agreements on global policy—simply wasn’t on the agenda. For some, the simple act of taking stock has value even though the exercise leads many to disappointment. But taking stock issue-by-issue, sector-by-sector is a more positive exercise. Energy solutions are not advancing fast enough but they are advancing. Development is taking place in significant and positive ways in less developed regions. And there is evidence of progress in one of the most challenging sectors—mining. Some thought it unlikely when CEOs in the mining sector stepped up to the plate at Rio+10 and made commitments to improving industry performance on sustainable development. A new report from IIEDlooks at the sector’s progress over the past decade—and IIED finds that progress was made. For those interested in finding collaborative solutions in this sector the report is a good read. Of course, as we know, much has changed and new strategies and solutions are needed.

At the recent GEMM 2020 conference on taking stock of the progress the mining sector has made since Rio +10 organized by the Responsible Mining Sector Initiativemy remarks focused on the need for 1) a focus on collaborative learning and a design to advance social license and FPIC for larger scale development projects, 2) a consolidation of sustainability initiatives, 3) a focus on transparency and risk reduction in supply chains, 4) capacity-building programs focused in new mining regions, and 5) an emphasis on the contribution responsibly sourced minerals and materials can make to technology and new products, including green tech and products.
- Steve D’Esposito

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