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Despite the shifting global economic order, with the rise of nations like Brazil and China and a host of other “middle-income” countries, critics said negotiators still argued along the lines of old “north-south” arguments that pit richer developed nations against developing nations.

The Group of 77 nations that represents the poorest on the globe maintained their demand that richer nations in Europe and the U.S. recognize their “historic debt” eating up a much greater amount of the globe’s resources since the industrial revolution began 250 years ago. They say rich nations should finance environmental improvements in the poorer nations, and also freely transfer technology that would help the developing nations use more renewable energy and build cleaner industrial sectors.

“Everything has been kicked down the lane a few years, we’ll have to wait to formalize sustainable development goals and make the transition to a green economy,” said Muhammed Chowdhury, a lead negotiator of Group of 77. “It’s not a good scenario.”

However, a U.S. delegate member said that countries can no longer debate issues with an eye on the past, that once poor nations are becoming rich, and that anybody looking for the Rio+20 summit to somehow reach a magical agreement and solve complicated environmental and development challenges would be sorely disappointed.

“I think the expectation that there is one document or one approach that can solve one of the major questions of our time — how do you maintain economic growth and protect the environment? — there’s not one paper that can do that,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones.

“This is a process. We have to embrace it as a process, look at the positive things we have done, and keep working, as there is much more to do.”


Associated Press writer Jenny Barchfield contributed to this report.