The Rio+20 Conference, which hoped to find ways to promote North-South cooperation and help developing nations grow, pretty much got nowhere.
The problems facing the world are complex. There is no guarantee that holding a big international conference will result in a dramatic consensus being reached.
The Earth Summit of 20 years ago envisioned a type of cooperation characterized by advanced countries aiding developing ones.
But as we can see from the examples of United States, China, Japan and South Korea, we have since moved on to an era where globalization causes North-South nations alike to economically compete among themselves.
That said, however, international conferences do serve their purpose because they help define the needs of the times. The Earth Summit had the foresight to promote the concept of "sustainable development," which essentially says that development does not have to ruin the environment. The concept led to the Kyoto Protocol, of which Japan was an active participant.
At the Johannesburg Summit 10 years ago, the European Union insisted on laying out numerical targets for renewable energy use in the summit declaration. Although the United States and Japan blocked this, the EU later made the increased use of renewable energy one of its central policies and became the world leader in the field, drawing on renewable energy as its source of growth. Japan, on the other hand, did practically nothing in the meantime. This period became "the lost decade in promoting renewable energy."
"Green economy," which was the keyword of the Rio+20 Conference, offers a blueprint for society in the future. The aim is to advance North-South cooperation through the "greening" of each nation's growth strategy, technological development and tax system.
What should Japan do? The nation is currently preoccupied with domestic problems caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima reactor meltdowns. But precisely because of the nuclear disaster, Japan is in far greater need than any other country to switch its energy policy. Japan should look positively at the direction sought by the Rio+20 Conference and apply it to its domestic and international policies. There is a lot Japan can learn from the Rio+20.
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