Professor Nicholas Robinson reports that his lectures Thursday at the Jurists conference (at the Botanical Garden) and Friday at the Planeta Verde/Judicial conference (at the Rio Supreme Court) went well. He acknowledged Pace alum Prof. Romulo Sampaio and 4 of our LL.M. students who attended. Alumna Lia Demange was there both days, coming from Sao Paulo, and sat next to Environmental Law Institute President John Cruden at lunch. Romulo was on the dais for the opening of the Botanical Garden meeting and Nick had lunch with him and learned about many new programs at FGV, with Harvard and other institutions. “Pace is in good company,” Nick remarked. He had dinner with the President of IUCN, Bakary Kante of UNEP, John Scanlon (now head of CITES), a judge from Cairo who had just arrtived, and several other judges. Nick’s impressions of the proceedings follow.
The scene at Rio+20
The citizens – especially lots of NGOs and young people – are all in Flamengo Park, far from the Rio Centro (3 hours away) and in little tents largely invisible – so civil society is here and enthusiastic but at arm’s length. The business community has built a grand exhibition hall on the shore above an historic fort, to showcase its green approaches, also far from Rio Centro but so visible that everyone knows they are there. Across the street from Rio Centro, in an athletic field that did not exist when the 1992 summit was held, is a set of pavilions for governments, major NGOs and businesses, but only registered delegates can get access. Official lectures and side-events are held there. Access to the Conference on Sustainable Development (CSD) Sessions by NGOs will be by lottery since the space does not allow all to attend in person, so the organized civil society groups have rationed access. Few official delegations have added civil society to their governmental delegations, in contrast to the symbolic inclusion of civil society representatives (including youth) on many delegations in 1992.
Environmental Lawyers Conferences
The consensus of the two conferences of environmental lawyers is that the environmental problems of irreversible global change have become grave and require new legal principles and practices. The sense is that protection of the environment is a foundation — some said it is higher than even the social order in a governmental constitution — and is not a negotiable good. The definition of sustainable development as 3 pillars (social, economic and environmental) was seriously questioned. The legal experts largely felt that governments are pre-occupied with fighting the current fires before them (including the recession), and cannot make the leap needed at this time to shape a new set of principles. There is major support for Rio Principle 10 , and a sense that civil society needs a place in all decision-making.
Developments at Rio Centro
In Rio Centro the 200+ page draft with brackets has been set aside by the new Brazilian Chair of the CSD Conference session for a new 50-page draft of the focus for the plenary, and working sessions of the government delegations were called for Saturday and Sunday to work on the draft. The text that Ann Powers has been working on with her colleagues, regarding the oceans, is making very good progress.
Conference for Judges and Attorneys General
Sunday to Wednesday the judges and attorneys general will meet in conference in Portobello 2 hours south of Rio. In my preliminary discussions with judges who have arrived in Rio, I find good support from many judges for the call for a judicial institute for environmental law in the courts. The Pace Environmental Law Review symposium issue on this topic is much sought after and stirs a lot of interest. I’ll report from these meetings. The recommendations from the PELR work will be communicated to the CSD Conference and maybe some of it can be included in the decision taken by the CSD.
Of course, the CSD text once adopted next week will be sent to the UN General Assembly, so the debates will begin again in the fall in New York, and Pace’s environmental diplomacy program will be continuing.