Rio+20 opening day: Protestor disrupts speech by UK PM Nick Clegg on “natural capital”

By Lindsey Gillies, for Climate Connections

June 20, 2012 – Rio de Janeiro. On the opening day of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was interrupted by a UK campaigner at a High Level event on “natural capital.”

Clegg opened the event with a statement encouraging national governments to move beyond their “narrow understanding of wealth” and to embrace so-called “natural capital” as an alternatives means of calculating wealth. Hosted by the UK and the World Bank, the purpose of the event was to launch a “Natural Capital Declaration”- a collective call to governments to incentivize companies to integrate the value of “ecosystem services” into their business model.

Clegg’s keynote address was almost immediately interrupted by a UK campaigner sporting a Nick Clegg mask and holding a sign reading “The Great Nature Sale.” The demonstrator was later identified as Sarah Reader of World Development Movement. Reader dramatically denounced the World Bank and the green economic model. She also stated that the proposed natural capital partnership would do nothing to mitigate the impacts of climate change.


Clegg initially appeared confused by the interruption, but quickly continued with his prepared speech as the protester was removed from the hall. Observers and participants in the event appeared rattled after the spontaneous action.

Sarah Reader said afterwards: ““I interrupted the meeting because the UK’s approach to the green economy is a smoke screen for pushing the profit of multinational corporations, bankers and the financial industry. Privatizing nature, which is essentially what was being launched at this meeting today is about, will do nothing to protect the environment and will take control of the land, air and water away from the world’s poorest people who depend on it for their livelihoods.”

Social movements, civil society networks, indigenous peoples and small farmers here in Rio have strongly denounced the UN’s definition of the green economy and its markets for environmental services, stating that they are the basis for a host of false solutions to climate change and a means of perpetuating a profoundly unequal and unsustainable growth-based economy.

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Filed under Climate Change, Commodification of Life, Green Economy, Rio+20

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