Rio+20: World leaders assemble – Twenty years after the historic Earth Summit, world leaders once again gathered in Rio de Janeiro for the Rio+20 -- the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. But there were some notable absentees including U.S. President Barack Obama and Germany's Angela Merkel.
A text governments can all agree on – Under the stewardship of U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon (pictured) and Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, governments have been negotiating over measures and actions laid out in "The Future We Want" -- a 53-page document which commits governments to creating a more sustainable path of development.
Voice of youth heard – Twenty years ago, 12-year-old Severn Suzuki addressed delegates at the first Rio Earth Summit. This year, it was the turn of 17-year-old New Zealander Brittany Trilford (pictured) to speak for a new generation of youth. She pulled no punches. "We are all aware that time is ticking, and we are quickly running out," she said. "You have 72 hours to decide the fate of your children, my children, my children's children. And I start the clock now."
Clinton praises Rio+20 progress – Speaking on the final day of the summit, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the agreed text as "a very good document." She added: "This is the vision on which we can build our dreams, our visions and it is important that the member states are united and work together."
Environmental groups beg to differ – WWF Director General, Jim Leape was less enthusiastic about the progress made at Rio+20. "This was a conference about life: about future generations; about the forests, oceans, rivers and lakes that we all depend on for our food, water and energy. It was a conference to address the pressing challenge of building a future that can sustain us. Unfortunately, the world leaders who gathered here lost sight of that urgent purpose," he said in a statement.
Brazil's Rousseff criticized – WWF's Leape added: "Too few countries prepared to press for action, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (pictured) chose to drive a process with no serious content -- to the planet's detriment."
Signs of progress – It wasn't all doom and gloom as the U.N. were able to announce tangible progress in many areas. A group of development banks (including the World Bank and European Investment Bank) will be investing $175 billion in public transport measures designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ban Ki-moon also revealed the creation of a "Sustainability Energy for All" initiative which has attracted private investment in excess of $50 billion.
Maldives promotes reserve – There was also positive news announced by Maldives' President Mohamed Waheed (pictured), who says that the country will be creating the largest marine reserve in the world. The waters surrounding all 1,192 of its islands would assume the status by 2017.
UK announces green measures – UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (pictured) announced during the summit that the UK government will require all 1,800 firms listed on London's Stock Exchange to list their greenhouse gas emissions starting in April 2013.
Environmental protesters apply pressure – Throughout the summit, thousands of activists has been taking to the streets of Rio to put pressure on governments to act on sustainability issues.
Artists make environmental statement – The summit also attracted a series of artistic responses which formed a backdrop to the debates going on in the conference center and on the streets. This sculpture made from plastic bottles on Rio's Botafogo beach attracted the attention of many delegates and activists.
Fight goes on for environmental justice – The summit closed with "more of a whimper than a roar," according to Manish Bapna, acting president of the U.S. environmental thinktank, the World Resources Institute. "But it would be a mistake to conflate the outcome here with what's happening on the ground around the world," Bapna said. "Just look at Germany's shift to clean energy, Niger's efforts to re-green its landscape, or Rio's recently launched bus rapid transit system. We understand the challenges. We know the solutions. What we need is to build the political will for bolder leadership."