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Rio+20: Big powers need to step up

Swiss Environment Minister Doris Leuthard asked major powers to do more Keystone

When it comes to saving the environment, major world powers will need to do most of the heavy lifting, Swiss Environment Minister Doris Leuthard has told the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development – also known as Rio+20.

Small countries such as Switzerland cannot make a significant difference, Leuthard said in her plenary speech on Thursday in Rio de Janeiro. If major countries do not participate or make only vague commitments, then other actors will be unwilling to act, pointed out Leuthard.

She said that action was essential in view of the growing world population and the needs of society. Leuthard acknowledged that many of the necessary measures were unpopular because they created conflicts of interest; therefore, concerted action was needed.

The environment minister highlighted the international community’s progress towards a sustainable society, but pointed out that there was still a lot to be done. She also mentioned that the Swiss constitution contains a commitment to sustainable development.

Leuthard welcomed the fact that nations are committing to reforms as part of Rio+20, and at the same time bringing the “green economy concept” to the global political agenda. The proposed sustainability objectives are also a concern in Switzerland.

The results of the UN conference are not satisfactory, said Leuthard.

“These small, important steps are not enough to secure the future that we want and that we need.”

In closing she said that everybody – from world leaders to world citizens – should be more ambitious than the document that Rio+20 yields. The conference ends on Friday.

Originally, Swiss President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf was meant to travel to Rio along with Leuthard. However, earlier this week she announced that she would not because of economic developments in Europe.

Widmer-Schlumpf was one of several European leaders who cancelled their conference plans in order to deal with financial policy business closer to home.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR