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Groups urge President Obama to attend Rio+20 Sustainability Summit

Deforestation in the Amazon for cattle pasture. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Deforestation in the Amazon for cattle pasture. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Twenty-two conservation, indigenous, health and science groups have called on U.S. President Barack Obama to attend the up-coming Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development.

“Your presence at this Summit would signal its critical importance to all Americans, demonstrate our country’s deep concern over urgent global issues that will inevitably affect our security and well-being, and highlight our nation’s determination to be a contender in the race to a low-carbon green economy,” the groups write in a letter to the president.

The UN summit, which marks twenty years since the landmark UN Rio summit in 1992, is being seen an opportunity for world leaders to take action on strengthening environmental protections while reducing global poverty. However, the summit has already come under fire from critics for a lack of ambition in the face of growing crises like biodiversity loss, hunger, water scarcity, and climate change. Already two of Obama’s colleagues, German chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, have stated they will not be attending.

But NGOs hope the U.S. leader will make a different decision, urging the Obama Administration in the letter to take active leadership in protecting and restoring the world’s oceans, in the global transition to a green economy, and in moving forward new international norms on safeguard the environment and promoting human rights.

The groups add that the Obama Administration won’t be attending the summit empty-handed.

“Your Administration can point to important areas where it is making real progress towards sustainability—including making major new investments in renewable energy, promulgating EPA rules on carbon pollution from power plants, and proposing to reduce fossil fuel subsidies, among others,” the letter reads.

The signatories of the letter include American Rivers, Center for International Environmental Law, Citizens for Global Solutions, Clean Water Action, Defenders of Wildlife, Earth Day Network, Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, Environment America, Greenpeace, League of Conservation Voters, Native American Rights Fund, National Tribal Environmental Council, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Population Action International, Population Connection, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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