So David Cameron is not going to the Rio Summit next year. The Rio Summit will celebrate or mourn (depending on your point of view) the summit held at Rio twenty years ago next June. He has been criticised for this decision because he committed his government to be the greenest ever, and people are trotting out the need to show “leadership” by attending. I do not see things like that.
There have been many large international conferences on sustainable development and climate change. Dutifully governments send their leaders supported by teams of advisors and the press radio and television send many reporters to report on the great and the good talking a good game about sustainable development and climate change, rather than actually playing the game itself. It is actions and measures that create sustainable development and climate change measures, not massive talking shops which fly thousands of people to some desirable spot on earth where they can not only talk but also relax in luxurious surroundings after a hard day of talking and listening.
I do not think that the cause of climate change or sustainable development is advanced by these summits or that it shows leadership to attend them.
What does show leadership is practical measures that governments take at home; some of these measures can be directed against nations that do not take such measures, by fixing carbon taxes on imported goods that are not sustainably or properly made or made using too much greenhouse gas emitting energy. That would show true leadership.
I doubt if any new ideas ever emerge at these large scale summits. What usually happens is that everyone agrees to do more but when they get home the agreements are gently sifted to the bottom of the pile of what needs to be done. If you look at the disparity between targets and results I believe that you will draw this conclusion.
If the organisers of such a summit were serious about their causes they might consider using technology to meet, rather than flying people halfway around the world. It is cheaper, less energy intensive and will create fewer greenhouse gas emissions. I do understand that when you meet people to negotiate their body language tells you a great deal and it is not always possible to pick up the signals on a screen. But at summits involving hundreds of delegates, body language is fairly irrelevant.