Rio+20 – U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development

The U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), also referred to as the Earth Summit 2012 or Rio+20, took place from 20-22 June, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While it fell short of producing a binding agreement, the conference offered reasons for hope — with both the private and public sectors recognizing natural capital as the essential core element of sustainable development and, ultimately, of human well-being.
Learn more in our press release: Cooperation in Rio Sets the Table for Transformative Action

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EditImage Alt Text:Peter Seligmann, CEO and President of Conservation International, helps present thematic Equator Initiative prizes in the category of ‘Protecting our Natural Resources’.
EditCaption Title:Peter Seligmann, CEO and President of Conservation International, helps present thematic Equator Initiative prizes in the category of ‘Protecting our Natural Resources’.
EditCaption Description:With Julia Marton-Lefevre, Director General of IUCN, and Glenn Prickett, Chief External Affairs Officer at The Nature Conservancy at the Equator Prize Gala of Rio+20, June 20, 2012.
EditPhoto Credit:© Conservation International/photo by Kim McCabe


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Edit Caption Title:CI staff pose with Kayapo leaders at Rio+20.
Edit Caption Description:CI led a seminar during Rio+20 about the Kayapo Fund, a fund aiming to support conservation and development enterprises in Kayapo indigenous communities. The event was presented by representatives of CI-Brazil, Amazon Fund/Banco Nacionalde Desenvolvimento Economico e Social (BNDES), Brazilian Biodiversity Fund (Funbio), and Kayapo leaders.
Edit Photo Credit:© Conservation International/photo by Kim McCabe
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​​Much has changed since the first "Rio" Earth Summit in 1992. Human alteration of marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems has continued to accelerate at a more intense pace than in any other period in history. While our use of ecosystems has led to gains in physical and human capital, it has depleted natural capital (the stock of ecosystems that yield flows of ecosystem goods and services).

The 2012 summit had two main themes which generated passionate debate:

  • Green economies. This relatively new element within the formal international agenda has already provoked broad discussions around its definition. A small group of developing countries remain skeptical of the term "green economy," convinced that the developed world is pushing this concept in order to safeguard their own global economic growth. CI believes that the development of healthy, sustainable, "green", economies is absolutely essential to the future well-being of communities, ecosystems and entire nations.
  • An institutional framework for sustainable development. This has been under political discussion for more than 10 years, with no clear solution on the horizon. Whether the focus is sustainable development goals or new measures of growth, many governments seem unwilling to make substantial changes to their policies and the U.N. system.

While complete success at the informal negotiations has proven elusive, it is worth noting: Negotiating the road to Rio has already had positive repercussions around the world. It has brought sustainable development into sharper focus, and galvanized citizens' groups with a renewed desire to sway government negotiations.

Our role

More than 30 members of CI’s global team, including many of our Brazilian colleagues from CI-Brazil attended to share our technical expertise and advocate for the value of ecosystems to be incorporated into national and corporate accounting systems. With an estimated 50,000 participants, observers, leaders, activists and journalists gathered at Rio+20, this summit offered a key opportunity for governments, businesses and organizations like CI to connect with each other, exchange ideas and prioritize funding for new and existing projects.

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    EditImage Alt Text:Night falls over Rio de Janeiro. © Nikada

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    EditImage Alt Text:Scientists set a camera trap. © Benjamin Drummond

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    EditTitle:The Ocean
    EditImage Alt Text:Coral reef in Viti Levu, Fiji, Oceania. © William Crosse