Rio+20 to mull giving UN climate body more teeth: Brazil

(AFP) Google News 19 May 12;

BRASILIA — Next month's Rio summit on sustainable development will discuss how to strengthen the UN Environment Program (UNEP), Brazil's environment minister said Friday.

France, backed by at least 100 countries, is proposing to turn the second-string UNEP into a global super-agency on a par with other UN specialized agencies such as the World Health Organization or the Food and Agricultural Organization.

But Washington is strong opposed to the idea.

"There is no consensus in international organizations on the proposal to create an environment agency" during the Rio+20 summit June 20-22, Izabella Teixeira told reporters. "The strengthening of UNEP is under negotiation."

"This is a priority for Brazil," she added. "We are working hard looking for the best way to achieve this."

Environmentalists have long complained that the Nairobi-based UNEP, set up in 1972 as a United Nations office with a membership of only 58 nations, lacks clout to deal with the globe's worsening ills.

In January, a high-level panel set up by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, of which Teixeira is a member, made 56 recommendations to put sustainable development in practice, including creation of a high-level sustainable development council within the United Nations as well as the strengthening of UNEP.

Presenting the Portuguese version of the panel report, Teixeira highlighted some of the recommendations related to production and consumption which could be immediately put into practice, including use of bicycles instead of cars and use of cars running on ethanol fuel.

Other recommendations, such as doubling the share of renewable energy in the energy mix of all countries, "are more complicated," she conceded.

Currently, renewable sources provide 49 percent of the energy in Brazil, but in other countries this percentage is only three percent, she noted.

Janos Pasztor, the executive director of the UN panel which made the recommendations, meanwhile stressed the need to measure progress related to sustainable development.

"Measuring GDP is not enough. We need to develop an index or various indexes to measure progress" in the social, economic and environmental areas, and adopt sustainable development targets, something which is already on the Rio+20 summit agenda, to monitor progress," he said.

The June 20-22 gathering, the fourth major summit on sustainable development since 1972, is expected to draw 115 global leaders and 50,000 participants from around the world.