“I’m absolutely sure,” she told attendees of KPMG’s Global Sustainable Business Growth Summit in New York. “It’s doable. I think there are viable, specific things that can be done so it’s not just a talk show.”
The landmark conference will take place in June in Rio de Janeiro like the original Earth Summit in 1992, which spawned among other things the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“We cannot afford Rio+20 not to deliver anything,” Hedegaard said.
Reaching agreement on access to sustainable energy for all, for example, is “not a small thing, it’s an important thing and then we can decipher this, define the target and then we can define the more specific sustainable development goals afterwards”, she said.
“There are things that are ready where we do not need more knowledge,” she said. “It’s just a question of the political will.”
Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said sustainability is a top priority for the UN, but businesses must play a role in extending sustainability beyond the corporate sector.
“The future of markets is under debate, but one thing is clear: we need markets that can deliver a sustainable and equitable future for all,” he said.
Ban outlined five areas where businesses and investors could show leadership at the conference, including publicly reporting on sustainability performance and working with policymakers to create a framework for disclosing such information and explaining why companies do not.
“The business case for sustainability is very strong and getting stronger and stronger,” he said.
Ban also urged companies to engage in responsible lobbying and advocacy.
“Do not in one breath affirm a belief in free and fair trade and then with the next support [harmful subsidies] and protectionist legislation,” he said. “Do not proclaim a broad commitment to sustainability while simultaneously blocking meaningful steps on climate change.”
Philippe Joubert, deputy CEO of utility Alstom, said his first expectation of the conference was that the delegates find a “new sense of urgency”. The shift of the focus from mitigation to adaptation in the Durban climate negotiations “scares me to death”, he said.
“This is for me extremely worrying,” Joubert said. “We should be continuing to fight and we should be continuing to see the urgency. This is not at all for me the right focus.”
The highest expectation for the conference would be agreement on sustainable goals and guidance on how to measure, rate and evaluate those targets, said Rintaro Tamaki, Deputy Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
“I don’t know what the catalyst should be, but I know we actually need a catalyst if we’re going to force ourselves to get something done,” said Andrew Ferrier, former CEO of New Zealand dairy cooperative Fonterra Group. “Without seeing that catalyst, I’m not very optimistic.”