A Bigger Perspective
The Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development took place last week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The primary objective of the event is to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development. The themes of this year’s event were the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was among those representing the U.S. at the conference. In her remarks during the event’s Sustainable Development Plenary session, Clinton noted that the delegates gathered in Rio to identify practical ways those around the world can come together to identify practical ways to promote sustainable development. “And while our views may differ sometimes, I believe we agree on some fundamental principles,” Clinton continued. “We cannot be boxed in by the orthodoxies of the past. We should and must make decisions based on research and scientific evidence about what works. And above all, we need fresh, agile, action-oriented partnerships that can produce results year after year after year. So while the outcome document adopted here contains many important principles and proposals, the most compelling products of this conference are the examples of new thinking that can lead to models for future action. It should be said of Rio that people left here thinking, as the late Steve Jobs put it, not just big, but different.”
The U.N. lists energy as one of the seven critical issues addressed at this year’s event, and several partnerships were announced as part of the event to further the development of renewable energy across the globe. For example, Clinton helped launch a partnership between the U.S. and African nations that will use $20 million in federal funding to help access hundreds of millions of dollars in private financing for clean energy projects. Energy Secretary Steven Chu also announced United States-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue Action Plan II, which is a plan outlining ways in which the U.S. and Canada will work together to further the development of advanced biofuels, clean energy and energy efficiency technologies.
While the scope of the UNCSD is far wider than energy, the event touched on numerous aspects of clean energy development—particularly social aspects. As members of the biorefining industry, our focus is often on the immediate and concrete—cutting edge technology, research and development breakthroughs, business deals, policy, regulation and finance. Here at Biomass Magazine, we address those aspects of our industry every day. But, I think once in a while it is appropriate to take a step back from the immediate and concrete and focus on bigger picture and perhaps consider how our industry can not only help provide the world with cleaner, greener energy, but also consider how our industry can help make the world a better place environmentally, economically and socially. I think the UNCSD is a great opportunity to do just that.
The UNCSD website contains a great overview of information addressed during the event, along with countless links to access in-depth details and descriptions of projects, initiatives and plans. While a minority of information contained within the site pertains specifically to biomass, biofuels or other aspects of the biorefining industry, I am nonetheless going to encourage you to check it out. If nothing else, perhaps some of the stories, commentary and figures will help to renew our minds to one of the primary missions of the biomass industry—helping to ensure a healthy, sustainable world for generations to come.