Panel discussion in Aspen to focus on sustainable development

ASPEN — A panel discussion Friday at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies intends to delve into some of the same issues tackled earlier this year in Brazil during the controversial U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as the Rio Plus 20 Summit.

The event starts at 5:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. ACES is located at 100 Puppy Smith Road in Aspen.

Karinjo DeVore, president of the Aspen International Mountain Foundation, said the discussion will feature four panel participants and a moderator. They will focus on how the conference's outcomes relate to North American mountain environments.

“We're going to talk a little bit about Rio Plus 20 from a global perspective, but the direction of the evening will be a discussion of how what happened in Rio affects Colorado mountains,” DeVore said. “It's an extraordinary opportunity for people to hear a caliber of panelists like those who would come to the Aspen Ideas Festival. And it's free.

“They also can hear about how all of these mountain issues affect us. We are all mountain people. We're going to be directly looking at how what happened in Rio on a global level affects Aspen and Colorado on a more regional level.”

In June, the Rio Plus 20 Summit brought together nearly 50,000 attendees and 75 heads of state with the goal of securing renewed political commitment for sustainable development. Other objectives were to assess the progress so far in the sustainable-development arena and to identify remaining gaps in the outcomes of previous summits in that arena.

The international event centered around two themes: green economies in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development. The title for the conference was a reference to another major environmental summit in Rio De Janeiro 20 years ago, the 1992 Earth Summit.

The 10-day Rio Plus 20 Summit reportedly ended in controversy. Representatives of more than 190 nations adopted a plan to set global sustainable-development goals and other measures to strengthen the world's environmental management, tighten protections for the oceans, improve food security and promote a green economy. 

But the document that evolved from the event — “The Future We Want” — was roundly criticized by environmentalists and anti-poverty campaigners. They claimed that it lacked the detail and ambition required to address challenges posed by a crumbling environment, social and economic inequality and a global population expected to rise from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050.

Panel participants include: moderator Dennis Ojima, professor of ecosystem science and sustainability at Colorado State University; Ian D. Simon, of the U.S. State Department's Office of Science and Technology Cooperation; Gillian Bowser, a CSU research scientist; Alice Madden, an environmental- and community-development expert at the University of Colorado at Denver's School of Public Policy; and Rebecca Wallace, a management consultant and board member of the Aspen International Mountain Foundation.

Speaking of the 10-year-old local foundation, DeVore said the United Nations has invited it and the Telluride Institute to join forces in creating the Mountain Partnership North American Center.

The U.N.'s Mountain Partnership program is a voluntary alliance of 50 mountainous countries, 127 cities and other public and private organizations. It seeks to raise awareness of the importance of mountains to global development and sustainability.

At a private retreat this weekend at an Aspen hotel, various participants will discuss ways of shaping the North American Center, which would be a focal point for networking, communicating and sharing information for the benefit of mountain-community stakeholders in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

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