Submitted by guest blogger on Sun,06/17/2012

By Dr. Mark Smith, Director, IUCN Global Water Programme

My first day in Rio was yesterday. I was off the plane at 6 am, to the hotel and then straight to Rio Centro for a lunchtime side event with the Ramsar Secretariat on the upcoming TEEB study on water and wetlands. We are aiming for this study to gather the economic numbers behind nature as water infrastructure. The ‘not the usual suspects’ are very interested in this – the engineers and the bankers – and saying “natural infrastructure, we can work with that!”. The same people that yawn and go off to the next meeting when the topic of ecosystem services comes up. The secret is that it’s the same thing wearing engineer’s boots instead of ecologist’s sandals. The 60 or 70 people who came along to the Ramsar event were happy with that….
… And, heaven forbid, they were interested too in new ideas that might help to solve some of the problems people are coming to Rio to work on. After the side event I stopped in on the negotiations. First, I went to the session on green economy. There I witnessed a debate amongst diplomats on whether to use the verb ‘commit’ or ‘encourage’. We had the EU pushing to commit and the G77 preferring merely to encourage. Normal fare for these events it’s true, even if always disappointing. Feeling inspired I headed for a taste of the negotiations on water. Oh, here was the real action! Brackets, we know, are put around the words that are disputed in a negotiating text. Here we had brackets around [, clean], as in ‘safe [, clean] water’. Somebody, from somewhere on planet Earth, is apparently arguing over the idea that

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