Some of the main proposals in a draft text for negotiation at a UN sustainable development conference next month are being watered down at informal talks in New York, observers say, heightening fears the summit will fail to deliver.
The Rio+20 summit in Brazil from 20-22 June is expected to draw more than 50,000 participants from governments, companies and environmental and lobby groups.
One area of discussion is how to measure economic growth to take into account the value of natural assets, such as water and forests, as well as innovative financing, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and a plan to help prevent ocean acidification.
Investment and pension funds would like the measure agreed so they know as much as possible about the “green” credentials of a company before investing in it, which could help open up their trillion-dollar assets for more clean energy investment.
The UN Earth Summit in Rio 20 years ago ultimately led to the Kyoto Protocol on capping emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases and a treaty on biodiversity.
Since then, successive attempts to secure a new binding pact to cut emissions have failed, public interest in climate change has waned and many world leaders are focussed on financial woes.
The Danish EU presidency recognised last month that ambitions amongst EU countries might be waning to define concrete action on water, marine environment, land-use and biodiversity, sustainable energy, resource efficiency and waste management.