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For decades, the international community has negotiated scores of treaties and plans of action to address global environmental challenges. National, state and local governments, corporations, and other entities have made repeated commitments to take actions towards sustainability. Yet to date, there is no universal mechanism for recording these pledges and tracking their progress.

Creating a Global Registry

In December 2011, NRDC and Boston University's Pardee Center first presented EarthPromises -- a proposal for an internet-based global registry of sustainability commitments -- at the Rio+20 preparatory meeting at the United Nations in New York. Since then, we have shared the mockup of a registry website with dozens of government and international officials and with other civil society organizations and experts. The proposal has been extraordinarily well-received; and we are eager to continue to work with all stakeholders on the development of a web-based a "cloud of commitments."

Utilizing Today's Technology

The proposed registry would employ state-of-the-art information technologies to enable citizens around the world to view the pledges, the progress being made in their implementation, and areas where greater action is needed. A web-based solution unleashing the power of connectivity is the ideal platform for making the current international system more relevant, efficient, and effective and nurturing a new culture of action and accountability. The registry would also help governments to fulfill their commitment made at the first Earth Summit in 1992 under Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration to increase public access to information.

information technology

An interconnected global network

Prompting user engagement and seamlessly integrating social media are critical to the mission of the registry. Visitors can be invited to comment on commitments and interact with the commitment-makers. The database and pledge tracking also can be migrated to location-based services on mobile platforms which can tailor searches to more relevant sustainability projects.

Ultimately, the registry can reduce costs, improve flexibility and accelerate adaptation to changing circumstances and adoption of standards/frameworks. It can integrate new reporting data, metrics, frameworks and standards over time as they are collected, developed or published. The platform is also efficient and cost-effective for users to share hypotheses, analysis, and best practices through accessing a rich aggregate database of commitments and performance results.

The Task at Rio+20

Rio+20 could be the first summit where a web-based platform will be the major output. By making promises in Rio to specific actions, presidents, prime ministers, CEOs and other leaders can demonstrate a new determination to speed the transition to a sustainable economy and to be held accountable. The creation of the registry alone would be an important and encouraging signal that our leaders are willing to embrace new technologies and approaches to tackle the huge and growing challenges we face.

Support for Increased Accountability

The "zero draft" of the "outcome document" to be adopted at Rio+20 calls for the creation by the UN Secretary General of a registry/compendium that will serve as an accountability framework. Negotiations on this document are underway, and a number of nations have already voiced their support:

"Develop an accountability framework including timelines and benchmarks for progress and for tracking the provision, delivery and results of stakeholder commitments." – European Union

"A voluntary mechanism should be used for accountability in the implementation of the commitments already made in Rio and Johannesburg and those to be made at Rio+20." – Mexico

"We support a mechanism for accountability. The commitments would be registered and announced as one part of the official outcome of the meeting so that media and stakeholders could identify and report on the concrete actions undertaken and the concrete outcomes delivered." – United States

More Information

The Greatest Challenge of 2012: Can the World’s Leaders Go from Zero to Planetary Heroes in less than 160 Days? – Jacob Scherr, Director of Global Strategy and Advocacy, NRDC

Converging on the Earth Summit: All Eyes on Action and Accountability – Michael Davidson, US-China Climate Policy Coordinator, NRDC

The Road to Rio+20: Learning from Johannesburg in the Wake of Durban – Hayley Jade Fink, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

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