The U.S. state department has announced that President Obama will not be attending the Rio+20 Earth Summit, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, this month in Brazil.
Also opting out of the three-day summit are UK Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Obama's absence in Rio will disappoint environmental groups including Earthjustice, Greenpeace and NRDC who, in an open letter dated May 18, 2012, had encouraged Obama to commit to attending the summit. "Your presence at this Summit would signal its critical importance to all Americans, demonstrate our country’s deep concern over urgent global issues that will inevitably affect our security and well- being, and highlight our nation’s determination to be a contender in the race to a low-carbon green economy," the letter stated.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon had also previously stated that Obama's presence at the summit would be "crucial."
Even if Obama did attend the summit, commitment to action would surprise some environmentalists. While he did attend the Copenhagen climate summit, Kyle Ash of Greenpeace, told IPS, "In Copenhagen, Obama didn't put enough political weight on climate change – he just gave the issue to Congress and sat back to wait. At that time, the politicians didn't feel there was enough domestic political pressure."
Johan Schaar, co-director of the World Resources Institute’s vulnerability and adaptation initiative, echoed the lack of viability of commitment at the summit at panel hosted last week. “Governments do not have any appetite to make binding commitments in this forum
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Democracy Now!: Obama to Skip Rio+20 Environmental Summit
The State Department has confirmed President Obama will skip the Rio+20 sustainable development summit in Brazil next week. It’s the third consecutive global environmental conference that Obama will miss after he avoided the last two UN climate talks in South Africa and Mexico. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson will lead the U.S. delegation.
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Suzanne Goldenberg writing for the Guardian:
Barack Obama skips Rio+20 Earth summit
UN officials recognised that Obama's presence at an international event such as Rio would also be political poison in a difficult election year. But they had still harbored a glimmer of hope Obama would drop by, injecting more significance into a summit detractors have dismissed as a junket or talking shop for UN bureaucrats.
Expectations for Rio have fallen even further with the slow pace of negotiations. After eight rounds bureaucrats are still haggling over minor points of the draft agreement, called The Future We Want, and have yet to really engage with the issues, according to those close to the talks.
Other leaders, such as David Cameron and Angela Merkel, are also staying away. But Sha Zukang, the UN undersecretary for development, who is overseeing preparations, said there would still be a strong presence of world leaders, including Russia's Vladimir Putin, France's François Hollande and India's Manmohan Singh.