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Rio+20 Conference

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From June 13-22, 2012, nearly fifty thousand people from all levels of government and almost every sector gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to prepare for and participate in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Exit EPA disclaimer (often referred to as Rio+20) and related events. Through this Conference – the largest in United Nations history – the global community elevated the conversation on sustainable development and reached a landmark agreement on its two main themes: the green economy and the institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD).

EPA played an active role in the United States government preparations for and presence at Rio+20, in partnership with a range of U.S. agencies, led by the State Department, and the stakeholder community. Besides playing an important role in negotiations and advancing multi-stakeholder participation, the Agency hosted a range of side events and promoted several key programs. These included the Youth Sustainability Challenge, the U.S.-Brazil Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Exit EPA disclaimer and events on sustainable public procurement and other key initiatives at the Corporate Sustainability Forum Exit EPA disclaimer as positive, practical examples of how to achieve environmental and socially inclusive economic growth.


Rio+20 took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 20-22, 2012, and marked the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development. Exit EPA disclaimer

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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson speaks at the Youth Sustainability Challenge side event at the U.S. Center during Rio+20.

The objective of the conference, as stated by the U.N. Conference Secretariat, was "to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges.” The two main themes for Rio+20 were set by the U.N. General Assembly in 2009 Exit EPA disclaimer as:

  • a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and
  • the institutional framework for sustainable development.

Member countries, including the United States, began preparations for Rio+20 in 2010 with several Preparatory Committee meetings held at the U.N. from May 2010 through May 2012. The last Preparatory Committee meeting was held in Rio de Janeiro, June 13-15.

From June 16-20, a series of civil society dialogue days Exit EPA disclaimer took place between the final negotiations and the official start of Rio+20, allowing the Major Groups associated with the U.N. activities on sustainable development – Business and Industry, Children and Youth, Farmers, Indigenous Peoples, Local Authorities, NGOs, Scientific and Technical Community, Women, Workers and Trade Unions – to share their perspectives and make recommendations toward the final document.

The official conference outcome, entitled The Future We Want Exit EPA disclaimer, includes a broad recognition of the importance of green economy as a tool for sustainable development, new arrangements for the institutional framework for sustainable development, and highlights several key issues including oceans, cities, and energy. The 53-page outcome document also includes the following more specific components, among others:

  • Strengthens the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) by establishing universal membership, making it fully participatory to all interested UN member countries;
  • Establishes a high-level forum that builds upon and replaces the Commission on Sustainable Development;
  • Calls for an inclusive, intergovernmental process to set Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to establish measurable goals for a sustainable, coordinated, coherent post-2015 development agenda;
  • Adopts the 10-Year Framework for Sustainable Consumption and Production, Exit EPA disclaimer a new multi-stakeholder voluntary partnership program;
  • Launches a set of actions to consider how to integrate environmental and social elements into national measures, going beyond current measures of Gross Domestic Product (GDP);
  • Extends action on the phase-out of harmful fossil fuel subsidies beyond the G-20, calling for other countries to rationalize inefficient subsidies;
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    Final day of Rio: Administrator Jackson (2nd from R), Ambassador to Brazil Tom Shannon, OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield, Secretary Hilary Clinton, and U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern.

  • Commits to facilitate support for access to sustainable, modern energy services Exit EPA disclaimer for the 1.4 billion people worldwide who are currently without such basic utilities;
  • Undertakes cooperative international research on ocean acidification;
  • Underscores the importance of public participation, access to information and judicial and administrative proceedings;
  • Acknowledges the fundamental role played by the private sector and civil society in achieving sustainable development.

The General Assembly of the United Nations will consider outcomes from The Future We Want at its 67th Regular Session Exit EPA disclaimer. In addition to this document, over seven hundred voluntary commitments have been registered Exit EPA disclaimer on the United Nations’ Rio+20 website, primarily from civil society, academia, and the private sector. These commitments focus on outlining concrete, measurable, specific actions and goals to promote sustainable development. The registry remains open to new commitments from states, civil society and business, and international organizations through the end of 2012.

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For additional information on EPA's work with the Rio+20 Conference, contact:

Hodayah Finman
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
E-mail: finman.hodayah@epa.gov
(202) 564-6600

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