The third UN Summit on Sustainable Development takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2012, twenty years after the original meeting. Ahead of the meeting, corporate groups, powerful government and country blocks such as the EU have been promoting the concept of the green economy as a solution to the severe environmental and social problems we face. Although this might sound like a good thing, the proposals on the table are being used to legitimise a resource grab by the rich, threatening access to land, water and natural resources for the world's poor.

CEO is following the Rio talks and has been monitoring the build-up to the talks, focusing particularly on the corporate lobby groups that have become important players at these international summits.

We've also looked at the reality of the "green economy" that is being promoted and discovered beneath the promising label, the reality is a frightening agenda to privatise nature, seeking out greater profits and using markets and offsets in the name of environmental protection.

As has been seen with previous attempts to introduce markets for environmental benefit, such proposals are likely to benefit the few at the expense of the many - while failing to address the current model of consumption and production, which lies at the heart of the problem.

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Now that the dust has settled after the UN's Rio+20 summit, interpretations of what happened seem to be wildly diverging. NGOs across the board and most media observers consider the summit and its final text a disaster because of the failure to agree on binding policies and targets. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in contrast, claimed that the outcome “provides a firm foundation for social, economic and environmental well-being”, highlighting the many public-private partnerships that were presented at the summit's side-events and the pledges by governments and companies to invest an estimated $500 billion in these projects. Donald Steinberg of USAID remarked that these public-private partnership workshops "were not really side events - they were the main events".

The BMW cars are a classic example of greenwash. Electric cars are of course greener than conventional cars, but the BMW exhibition gives a misleading positive image of the company, whose main business continues to be selling petrol-guzzling luxury cars.

Big business is out in full force at the Rio+20 summit. At Business Day during Rio+20, Louise Kantrow of the International Chamber of Commerce received thunderous applause when she highlighted that they were part of “the largest business delegation ever to attend a UN conference”. “Business needs to take the lead and we are taking the lead,” she added.
The contrast could not have been greater. I had spent the whole day attending the Rio+20 Business Day, held in a luxury hotel on the beach side, listening to one business speaker after the other argue that voluntary initiatives by industry, if scaled up, are the solution to the world’s social and environmental crisis. When I took the bus back to the other side of Rio de Janeiro, I didn’t get off in time and found myself in an unknown street, where my attention was caught by drumming and a loud amplified voice. In the square nextdoor there was a demonstration, a thousand or more people demonstrating against corporate exploitation of people and the environment.