Rio+20: An Opportunity to Converge on Adaptation

Blog post from GAIN Director of Science & Technology Dr. Bruno Sánchez-Andrade Nuño, and Davis Cherry, Development & Communications Associate

Rio de Janeiro, United Nation’s Rio+20

Dr. Bruno Sánchez-Andrade Nuño at Rio 20

Dr. Bruno Sánchez-Andrade Nuño at Rio+20

The Future We Want, a 49-page list of global goals on which leaders will deliberate this week during the Rio + 20 Earth Summit, mentions “adaptation” three times. This actually exceeds the number of times climate “mitigation” is highlighted in the document. But paper is paper; action is what we need. 

The Global Adaptation Institute (GAIN) welcomes the resolution’s calls for “more coordinated and comprehensive strategies that integrate disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation considerations into public and private investment” and acknowledgement that “adaptation to climate change represents an immediate and urgent global priority.” GAIN also recognizes the importance of continuing to seek out methods of climate change abatement.

However, organizers of the Rio + 20 agenda may have missed an important opportunity to unite disparate (and desperately needed) development and environmental goals under one banner. Further, real participation from the private sector at Rio + 20 and similar convenings is crucial, as businesses will be the driving force behind the investments needed to build resilience. 

Poverty eradication, food security and nutrition, water and sanitation, energy, sustainable transport, sustainable cities, health and population and disaster risk reduction. This partial list of “cross-sectoral issues” emphasized in The Future We Want underscores the vast array of continuing and emerging global changes. Ultimately, these issues are directly or indirectly about adaptation and the pressing need to take action. 

As stated by Rio + 20, adaptation is urgent. This urgency offers us an opportunity to grow our economies, build our businesses and construct our infrastructure in ways that truly are “cross-sectoral,” not siloed off by issue or discipline. This was the message emanating from GAIN’s 2012 Annual Meeting and Scientific Convening, held in May in Washington, D.C. Private and public sector experts from around the world agreed that current and future leaders need to understand adaptation holistically in order to tackle any challenge — energy is increasingly impacted by water scarcity; sustainable transport is essential for food security; and disaster management and coastal protection are intertwined with human health and prosperty.

Some progress on many of the problems taken up during the original Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 has taken place — among them are reductions in toxic chemicals, growth in more efficient and clean energy, and innovations in providing access to clean water. However, challenges remain on all of these fronts as well as unresolved and growing problems, such as declines in much of the world’s ecosystem services, increasing natural disasters, food insecurity and a lack of basic energy for many parts of the world.  

Adaptation is the new (and very likely, only) paradigm around which we will be able to tackle global challenges simultaneously, and in time to meet the basic needs for a growing and urbanizing population that will reach 9 billion by 2050. The next Earth Summit is 10 years away. The time to adapt is now.

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

United Nation’s Conference on Sustainable Development