Good news is a bit thin on the ground here at the Rio+20 talks, what with negotiators dragging their heels and very non-committal language in the text. But one positive story seems to stand out from the crowd…
A key talking point here is how to move towards a green economy – finding ways to generate income and employment while reducing human impact on the planet and keeping within its environmental limits.
And a great example of this is found in two states, on opposite sides of the world, who are taking steps to preserve their rainforests.
Acre, deep in the Brazilian Amazon, and Sabah, home of the iconic orang-utan in the Malaysian part of Borneo are, in their own ways, striving to develop forest-based economies where trees not only remain standing, against the tide of deforestation, but do so in a way that can also support rainforest economies.
We are working in partnership with the Acre state government on a system where people are encouraged to make a living from standing forest. (One way that people in the UK are helping them realise their ambition is through the Sky Rainforest Rescue project.) Meanwhile, over in Sabah they are stemming the tide of destructive palm oil production by putting a stop to the practice of land-grabbing.
I went to a packed side-event on this subject on Tuesday night in Rio, entitled ‘Forest Green Economy and South-South Cooperation’. Charismatic forestry head Datuk Sam Mannan from Malaysia spoke about the need for practical action to tackle deforestation – and for a new way of thinking to build an economy that’s sustainable in both economic and environmental terms.
Then Acre’s governor Tiao Viana spoke about the need for more money from the private sector to help make the green economy a reality, and how that was something they’re trying very hard to make a reality in the Amazon state.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited Acre and seen for myself how rubber-tappers can now earn three times more for native latex through a new process that’s been developed and is being implemented by the state government and WWF. The results I saw were that families could increase their incomes, and so improve their living standards, while the habitats of native species like the jaguar were protected.
It would be good if world leaders meeting at Rio took notice of the benefits that these sustainable models can have. Decisive action needs to be taken to stop the devastation of the natural world. Whatever the outcome here in Rio, at least something is being done places such as these.
To read more about what our natural world means to people around the planet, including WWF ambassador David Attenborough, take a look at WWF’s Earth Book.