While the allegation that "environment" had captured more attention than "development" was justified, instead of reverting to the old North-South trench politics, a balance should be sought in reviewing implementation of Agenda 21 so that polarization between the priorities of North and South could be bridged, the Commission on Sustainable Development was told this afternoon by General Assembly President Razali Ismail (Malaysia).
At the current session, the Commission is functioning as a preparatory and negotiating body for the Assembly's special session which will review the implementation of Agenda 21, the programme of action adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) (Rio de Janeiro, 1992).
Addressing the Commission's high-level segment, the Assembly President said the South must be proactive and begin to define parameters and not look to the North for hand-outs or maintain reactionary positions. "Unsustainable practices and policies, because the North did too, will not advance the debate in the Commission", he said. He hoped that, keeping in mind the declining levels of official development assistance (ODA), the special session would be able to leverage foreign direct investment through ODA and consider such commitments as the "20/20" pledge made at the Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development to finance social infrastructure. Further, it should examine the role of international financial institutions and the links between military spending and the spending to eradicate poverty.
Moreover, the special session should reaffirm the commitment of the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to ODA, he said. If ODA remained politically sensitive for domestic reasons, governments must nevertheless give developing countries a political signal and acknowledge and begin to shift some of the burden of environmental and social responsibility to the private sector, he added.
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The representative of Trinidad and Tobago speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said the Alliance had been an active participant in the climate change negotiations. It maintained that there was a case for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, which were currently very high. In that context, it was important that industrialized countries agreed to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions levels significantly by the year 2005.
In setting out the recommendations to the special session, there must be a proper balance between development and environment and between the obligations and activities at the national and international levels, the representative of Malaysia said. He stressed that the developmental elements of Agenda 21 should be emphasized to enable developing countries to develop economically and socially and to build capacity to deal with environmental issues.
The Minister for Environmental Affairs and Tourism of South Africa said development projects which disempowered citizens and the unbridled and unregulated pursuit of private profit led down the path of environmental degradation. Poverty was the biggest obstacle to sustainable development, Z. Pallo Jordan said, adding that the rural poor, preoccupied with survival, did not have an opportunity to think through the consequences of over- utilization. Eradicating poverty was the best way to reverse the downward spiral, he stressed.
The Minister for the Environment of New Zealand, Simon Upton, said the international community had to identify a high-level forum within the United Nations system to deal effectively with the nexus of environment and development. The environmental issues that demanded a coordinated global responses were issues that had serious social and economic development implications. In that connection, he expressed concern about the roles of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and of the Commission.
The Minister for the Environment and Physical Planning of Slovenia, Pavel Gantar, stressed that a more differentiated and regionalized approach to sustainable development should be endorsed because the priorities in countries with economies in transition, for example, were not the same as those in developing countries.
Also this afternoon, the Commission completed the election of its officers for the current session by electing Bagher Asadi (Iran) and Czestaw Wieckowski (Poland) as Vice-Chairmen. The Commission's Chairman, Mostafa Tolba (Egypt), and the other two Vice-Chairmen, Monika Linn-Locher (Switzerland) and John Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda), were elected at the start of the session.
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The representative of Trinidad and Tobago speaking on behalf of the Statements were also made by the following: Minister for the Environment of Iceland, Gudmundur Bjarnason; Minister for Agriculture and Forestry of Finland, Kalevi Hemila; Deputy Minister for Environment of Bulgaria, Emil Marinov; Minister for Environment and Energy of Denmark, Svend Auken; Minister for Environment of Canada, Sergio Marchi; Minister for Environmental Protection of Lithuania, Imantas Lazdinis; and the Minister for Housing, Human Settlements and Environment of Uruguay, Juan Gabito Zoboli.
Also speaking in the debate were the representatives of Egypt, Panama, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Benin, Russian Federation, Belgium, Thailand, Guyana, Hungary, Nicaragua, Italy, Iran, Turkey, Chile and India. A statement was also made by a representative of the World Bank. The representatives of the following non-governmental organizations also spoke: Zanzibar Association for Progress and Metropolitan Solar Energy Society.
The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 10 April, to continue the high-level segment of its fifth session.
Commission Work Programme
The Commission on Sustainable Development met this afternoon to continue its high-level segment, which is focusing on the reports of the Commission's Ad Hoc Open-ended Intersessional Working Group and Open-ended Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Panel on Forests. (For details, see Press Releases ENV/DEV/406 of 4 April and ENV/DEV/409 of 8 April.)
GUDMUNDUR BJARNASON, Minister for the Environment of Iceland, said while the acceleration of globalization had positive consequences in many countries, in many others it had led to a worsening of the situation. The degradation of the environment continued and, while trade liberalization had led to economic growth, long-term growth required that attention be paid to the environment. Sustainable development required the participation of all sectors of the population. To that end, Iceland had adopted a national strategy for sustainable development.
The food requirements of the world's growing population would not be met without the efficient utilization of all its resources, including marine resources, he said. Therefore, the scientific basis for work in marine environments had to be improved. He emphasized that oceans should be addressed in the political declaration of the special session. Further, a realistic timetable for phasing out subsidies to the fishing sector should be established.
The energy sector played a key role in sustainable development and, in that context, the use of renewable sources of energy must be increased, he said. He also called for the active participation of ministers in the Commission. Moreover, the special session should set the agenda for the Commission for the next five years, and the Commission must address the development of sustainable production and consumption patterns.
SALAH HAFEZ, Vice-Minister of Environment of Egypt, said the assessment of Agenda 21 should be comprehensive and non-selective. The interests and needs of all countries should be respected, especially those developing countries striving to achieve sustainable development. He noted with concern and disappointment that the commitments and promises made in Rio with regard to providing new and additional financial resources to official development assistance (ODA) had not been kept. Further, environmentally sound technology had not been transferred, although developing countries had made efforts to create the legal mechanisms and framework for such transfers.
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The trade-environment relationship represented a great concern to the developing countries, he said. It was crucial to ensure that environmental criteria did not jeopardize or affect the exports of the developing countries. In the field of desertification, the appropriate financial resources must be provided to enable implementation of the International Convention to Combat Desertification and its annexes. He stressed that the Assembly special session's political declaration should be drafted in simple and clear language, so that it could reach the public. It should emphasize that sustainable development was a universal objective. Further, it should include certain principles embodied in the Rio Declaration, especially the principle of "common but differentiated responsibility".
KALEVI HEMILA, Minister for Agriculture and Forestry of Finland, said sustainable development needed not only democracy to succeed at the local level, but also national coordination and support by the political leaders of the country. In Finland, the successful work done by the National Commission on Sustainable Development had involved the active participation of the Prime Minister and other ministers, as well as a broad representation of society, including non-governmental organizations. The institutional setting for dealing with sustainable development and global environmental issues needed to be stronger and more focused, he added.
He went on to say that the financing of Agenda 21 in developing countries required domestic and external, as well as public and private resources. His Government was committed to the ODA target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP). The Government had reversed a recent trend of declining ODA and had decided to reach an intermediate target of 0.4 per cent in a couple of years. Such aid should be channelled to the poorest countries and used as a catalyst for sustainable development. It should also be used to improve the enabling environment for private sector operations in countries and sectors that would not otherwise attract private resources.
He acknowledged the significant work done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests. He expressed strong support for the criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management and said it was one of the key issues in which real progress could be made. Forest certification was a potentially useful tool. It was a challenging new idea and, basically, a voluntary, market- driven instrument. In addition, Finland supported all efforts aimed at establishing a legally binding instrument on all types of forests. A forest convention would be the first international legally binding instrument on sustainable management of a renewable natural resource.
DIMAS ARCIA, Deputy Director of the National Institute of Renewable National Resources of Panama, said fresh impulses were needed to complete the reforms started by the adoption of Agenda 21. Fresh incentives were also needed to complement the resources already devoted to achieving sustainable development. Much still needed to be done. Panama had adopted the
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appropriate legislation and felt that it was moving in the right direction, with emphasis given to education on environment and development issues. Some aspects of the legislation that had been adopted were intended to provide protection to some regions of the country and were linked to similar subregional efforts.
To ensure commitment to implementing Agenda 21, the levels of ODA must be increased and the replenishment of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) should be done generously, he said. There had been a number of hemisphere- wide efforts in the context of Agenda 21, such as recent forums in Miami and Bolivia, as well as among the member States of the Organization of American States (OAS).
PAVEL GANTAR, Minister of the Environment and Physical Planning of Slovenia, said the globalization process had brought the world closer together, but time had revealed all the socio-economic differences among States. A more differentiated and regionalized approach should be endorsed, because the priorities in countries with economies in transition, for example, were not the same as in developing countries. Therefore, a diversified approach was needed.
His country was committed to the Rio process, he said. The main points that he considered important in implementing the Rio commitments included stimulating the local communities to prepare their own, local agendas 21 and linking economic restructuring towards a market economy with the concept of sustainability. Regarding the latter, he said it was important to make efforts towards rational energy use and decide on an international agreement to internalize the environmental costs of production by persuading the population of that need. Also, some other issues required urgent attention, such as those affecting small island States. He stressed the need for a regional approach in implementing Rio outcomes.
ANDREW STEER, Director of the Environment Department of the World Bank, said the environmental situation in the world today was worse in many ways than it had been five years ago. Poverty, declining freshwater resources and depleting energy reserves continued to be problems. However, recently 50 countries had shown progress in implementing Agenda 21. The Bank wished to highlight four imperatives in the implementation of Agenda 21. First, its implementation would require that the flow of funds to developing countries be increased. In that regard, the bad news was that ODA levels had fallen to their worst levels in more than 40 years. He suggested that the special session of the Assembly make a case for ODA.
Further, the Bank would strongly support the replenishment of the GEF, he said. He noted that the flow of private finance to developing countries had risen fivefold in the past five years. That was the good news. However, the bad news was that 75 per cent of it had gone to just 12 countries. He
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stressed that the Bank stood ready to help other countries and would provide technical and financial support to any country implementing Agenda 21.
The second imperative dealt with the potential to work together to transform the market place, he said. The Bank believed that a focus was needed on market transformation through a stakeholder partnership. A third imperative was to mainstream environmental issues. He stressed that methodologies existed and those needed to be made common practice. The energy sector was one of the areas of reform. That should be a key theme of the special session. Finally, better measures of progress were required. He emphasized that the Commission had the full support of the Bank.
VLADISLAV BIZEK, Deputy Minister of the Environment of the Czech Republic, said his country believed that while the draft report of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Intersessional Working Group of the Commission covered all the relevant issues, there were some priority areas that had received inappropriate and too modest mention in the report. While talking about sustainable development or about sustainability, too many words were used and no figures. He supported the development of sustainable development indicators. With the "core set of sustainable development indicators" established, a more precise description of the concept of sustainability and the future goals could be obtained. His Government would organize a workshop on those indicators later in the year, in an effort to transform words into action.
He believed that the problem of chemicals and chemical safety had been underestimated, as compared with the issue of climate change and biodiversity protection, he said. Bearing in mind the increasing number of existing chemicals, the emerging problem of endocrine disruptors and also the huge deposits of chemicals in some developing countries, the importance of chemical safety issues would soon increase. The issues of sustainable development indicators and chemical safety should be mentioned in the proposed outcome of the special session.
SIMON UPTON, Minister for the Environment, Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand, said his country had increased its ODA by 30 per cent since Rio and would increase it further next year. Assistance had been offered to New Zealand's neighbours in the South Pacific to tackle regional and global environment problems that had an impact on their development. The ODA must be used in new and innovative ways as a catalyst for sustainable development, to unlock the enormous potential of private sector financial flows. Discussions in forums like the Commission should acknowledge that rapid economic and technological development was no longer confined to the so-called "developed world".
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To grapple with the problem of how to deal effectively with the nexus of environment and development, clarity was needed in the United Nations system to deal with environmental efforts. A high-level forum was of vital importance, but the international community had yet to reach consensus on the identity of that forum. The developments in relation to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) were intriguing. If the new UNEP high-level Committee of Ministers evolved into a committee to consider global environment issues in isolation from economic issues, that would be cause for concern. The environmental issues that demanded a coordinated global response were issues that had serious social and economic development implications. They would not be advanced if their economic and social dimensions were ignored.
He would be concerned if global environmental issues were relegated to discussion within UNEP, as a specialized operational programme. He would also be concerned if the Commission became a forum where environmental issues could not be raised without getting lost in intractable debate about development assistance levels. Such developments seemed to highlight the continuing fundamental disconnection in international debate between environmental and development issues.
On the issue of forests, he said the need for global dialogue and technical exchange was unquestioned. He supported the current short list of issues -- freshwater, forests, energy and transport -- as pressing issues requiring global attention. Serious thought must be given to the results that were needed in those areas and how to achieve them effectively. "If not, Rio plus 10 would be upon us and we will be not further ahead -- and another five years of precious time will be lost", he said.
JOSEF ZLOCHA, Minister of the Environment of Slovakia, said his country had taken actions towards implementing Agenda 21, such as adopting appropriate legislation, developing a national environment strategy, creating a state environmental fund, and taking measures to reduce pollution and encourage recycling. The population's knowledge of sustainable development issues had increased. Such measures had allowed Slovakia to fulfil its obligations to international agreements, such as the climate change Convention.
He said everyone was responsible for the deterioration of the environment and all should contribute to reversing environmental degradation. He supported the proposals for action by the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, as well as the strengthening of the Commission on Sustainable Development. Every country had taken action to improve the environment, but more needed to be done. The state of the environment was declining. It was time to stop arguing about who was to blame for the existing situation and solve the problems that affected the whole of humanity. It was the duty of the international community to preserve life in all its manifestations.
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ANNETTE DES ILES (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said one of the notable achievements of the follow-up to UNCED had been the recognition that had been given to the needs of small island developing States. The Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island States, held in Barbados, had been the first Conference after Rio and it had given recognition to the situation of small island States. The Alliance hoped that the review process would strengthen the Barbados Programme of Action. Further, the treatment of the review of the Barbados Conference should be consistent with the review of other conferences. A concrete outcome was expected from the special session.
The Alliance had been an active participant in the climate change negotiations, she said. It maintained that there was a case for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, which were currently very high. She stressed that the industrialized countries should agree to reduce their carbon dioxide emission levels by 20 per cent by the year 2005. The Alliance was pleased that more attention had recently been focused on energy issues. The Secretary-General's report had mentioned that there should be a more consolidated approach to energy. The requirements for moving to a sustainable energy path should be identified. Moreover, oceans and sustainable tourism were other areas of interest to small island developing States that deserved special attention.
FASSASSI A. YACOUBOU (Benin), speaking on behalf of the Francophone countries, called for strengthening solidarity between developed and developing countries. Top priority should be given to eradicating poverty and attention should focus on the issues of freshwater, energy and sustainable development of forests. In the context of poverty eradication, universal access to food, drinking water and shelter was important. Also, women should play a decisive role in finding solutions. Moreover, environmental sectors should be involved in job creation. Further, there should be periodic reviews of poverty eradication. On the question of financing, he said while the flow of private funds had increased to some countries, the importance of ODA should not be underestimated. He reiterated the importance of 0.7 per cent of GNP for ODA.
It was crucial that developing countries have access to technology transfer, he said. In that regard, local innovations and substitutes should be encouraged. Further, he underlined the importance of capacity-building and strengthening of capacity-building. The public had to be sensitized to sustainable development. Moreover, he stressed the importance of cooperation on the issues of freshwater, energy, desertification and the sustainable management of forests. He also announced that the seventh summit of the French speaking countries would be held in Hanoi, Viet Nam, in November 1997.
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VICTOR DANILOV-DANILIAN, Chairman of the State Committee for Environmental Protection of the Russian Federation, said that since the end of the cold war, the world had faced problems of even greater complexity in the form of environmental degradation. The Rio Conference had determined agreed policy for all countries to achieve sustainable development. In June, Member States would review the progress of the last five years. The measures taken so far had been insufficient.
Environmental degradation was worse in the case of land resources, as well as in such areas as forests and the oceans, he continued. Almost every action taken by world civilization had led to the deterioration of world ecosystems. Gradual restoration of natural ecosystems must become the cornerstone of the concept of sustainable development. Man must understand his role in the biosphere's ecosystem. The coordinated action by all countries had not been at a level to address the magnitude of the problem. The special session should aim to reverse the negative trends. Everyone had to take responsibility for such reversal.
JAN PEETERS, Secretary of State for the Environment, Social Integration and Security of Belgium said accelerated globalization had strengthened economic growth in some countries, but had also aggravated socio-economic growth in many others. An improved integrated, coordinated approach should be developed to ensure the effectiveness of existing international instruments. National institutions were less capable of dealing with global problems. It was important to have new forms of cooperation for economic and environmental issues.
He stressed the need for the international community to focus on the eradication of poverty, as well as changing consumption and production patterns. Environmental protection was not contradictory to providing solutions to socio-economic problems, such as unemployment. Regarding the debate on trade and the environment, there was need to ensure that related concerns did not slow down environmental policy at the international and regional levels. His Government had insisted on the importance of quantifiable objectives and on coordinated policies. That combined approach was important at the regional and international levels.
The Commission on Sustainable Development should have a new work programme that determined priorities, such as sustainable development indicators, he said. The implementation of Agenda 21 was the responsibility of both developed and developing countries. Results should be sought first at the national level. The target of 0.7 per cent for ODA should be reached as soon as possible. Belgium contributed ODA to the least developed countries, particularly in Africa.
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EMIL MARINOV, Deputy Minister of Environment of Bulgaria, said while his country was committed to implementing Agenda 21, it lacked the requisite information, policy measures, local expertise and public awareness. Seven years after the reform, Bulgaria serviced an enormous foreign debt. Little large-scale investment for pollution control equipment had been made. As a result, pollution and the intensity of the use of resources remained very high. The reduction in the discharge of pollutants into the air and water was principally due to the decline in industrial and agricultural production, rather than to more efficient production or cleaner industrial processes.
He said the special session should not make any attempts to renegotiate Agenda 21 or redefine the principles of sustainable development. He supported the concrete initiatives introduced by the representative of the Netherlands, on behalf of the European Union. He considered the transfer of environmentally sound technologies, new and innovative sources of funding, transport and tourism and forests among the urgent issues to be taken up in the next five-year period.
RAZALI ISMAIL, President of the General Assembly, said sustainable development was a concept that was urgent and it was essential to the survival of the planet. To say that was to repeat what was said every year at the Commission. However, the many facts and figures that were aired must be translated into potent catalysts, to enable and implement policies and operational programmes on the ground on a sustained basis. He appealed for a renewed effort from all sides to go beyond the commitments of Rio.
The compact of Rio had eroded, he said. The traditional North-South debate remained unchanged, despite the recognition of global partnership and the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities". The allegation that "environment" had captured more attention than "development" was justified. Instead of reverting to the old North-South trench politics, a balance should be sought in the review and special session so that polarization between the agenda of the North and South could be bridged.
He said the major beneficiaries of the outcome of the special session should be the poor -- not necessarily poor governments only, but also marginalized peoples in the North and South who remained the front-line victims of unsustainable policies and practices. In order for that to happen, developed countries must adjust consideration of priority issues in the Commission, which were primarily such sectoral issues as freshwater, forests, energy, tourism and oceans, and develop an analysis of equal depth and content on cross-sectoral issues, including the means of implementation. Otherwise, sectoral issues, which emphasized management of environmental resources alone, would remain blueprints without concrete commitments to financial resources and corresponding institutions to ensure the implementation of sustainability objectives.
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He said developing countries must make a serious attempt to reconcile the political need to assert primacy of "sustained economic growth" with the ecological, social and economic reality that development required assessment of quality of growth. Balance between material and sustainable development was not a luxury, but a reality. The South must be pro-active and begin to define parameters and not look to the North for handouts or maintain reactionary positions. "Unsustainable practices and policies because the North did too, will not advance the debate in the Commission", he said.
He said the fifth session of the Commission should take into account the results of subsequent conferences after Rio. Further, he hoped that the session would make some headway in addressing the issue of unsustainable patterns of production and consumption in both the North and South. The special session should also deal with the concepts of enablement and empowerment. Any policies that sought to eradicate poverty and enable sustainable development must respect the rights and meet the basic needs of indigenous peoples.
It was well known that ODA was declining and that foreign direct investment did not reach the countries or areas it should, he said. Given that universal knowledge, he hoped that the special session would be able to leverage foreign direct investment through ODA and consider such commitments as the "20/20" pledge made at Copenhagen to finance social infrastructure. Further, it should examine the role of international financial institutions. It should also examine the links between military spending and the spending to eradicate poverty.
Further, it must reaffirm the commitments of Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries to ODA, he said. Commitments given must be honoured. If ODA remained politically sensitive for domestic reasons, governments must nevertheless give developing countries a political signal and acknowledge and begin to shift some of the burden of environmental and social responsibility to the private sector. The special session should analyse the impact of globalization and see how practices of corporate actors affected environmental and social sustainability. Governments must assert responsibility over the impact of the private sector as it affected the environment or human health. Further, the developments in the World Trade Organization (WTO) should be seriously addressed. The subject should not be left with UNEP and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) alone. A good start would be to reconcile the conflicting provisions of environmental conventions and the trade realities of WTO There was still room and need for global frameworks. The Commission participants should include finance, trade and development ministers in addition to environment ministers. Further, the Commission should consider strengthening its subsidiary bodies to develop a relationship with the Development Committee of the World Bank, the WTO and the corporate sector.
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SVEND AUKEN, Minister for the Environment and Energy of Denmark, said his country had benefited from international cooperation following UNCED. Even with the strong support of the Danish people, it was difficult to change some modes of production and consumption in Denmark, such as road traffic. Despite that, the country had made progress in that regard. His Government would increase its ODA to assist in improving the environment and sustainable development. He described that development assistance as cooperation with countries in eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. Such cooperation was intended to help in capacity-building and to avoid a repeat of mistakes already made in developed countries, he said. Development of the environment should be linked to eradication of poverty. International cooperation should benefit the recipient countries, as well as developed countries. The people of Denmark supported the provision of such assistance.
Denmark had made progress in reducing carbon dioxide emissions and in many other areas as a result of the Rio process, such as in biodiversity, climate change and forests, he said. However, the failures, such as degradation of the marine environment, the continuing decline in freshwater resources and forests and increased desertification, must be recognized. Neither had the vicious circle of poverty been broken. Discussions should now be geared towards reaching the goals that were set and the instruments that should be used to fulfil those goals. An energy panel should be established with involvement of the relevant bodies of the United Nations system, governments and international financial institutions. At the special session, attention should be given to such issues as the impact of globalization. Although, he supported free trade and globalization, he was aware of the adverse impacts of leaving everything to the unregulated action of the market.
SERGIO MARCHI, Minister for the Environment of Canada, said it should be made clear that sustainable development could not be treated as a distinct concern, separate from other issues. Governments should make a stronger and more specific commitment to integrate sustainable development considerations into all domestic and international activities. Canada had set priorities in a number of key areas, such as clean water and clean air; sustainable development of forests and marine resources; concerted action on climate change; providing a better regime for species protection; and moving towards the goal of sustainable transportation.
The Commission should address priority sectors, such as transportation and forestry, as well as the launching of negotiations on a forest convention, he said. It should also address emerging and neglected issues such as freshwater and oceans. A new pragmatism was required, including spending less time on declarations and more on implementing plans that would achieve objectives; strengthening the role of groups, industries, communities and individuals in the movement to more sustainable development; improving the governance of international organizations and integrating sustainable development into agendas at the United Nations and other organizations.
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Canada believed that the Commission, with a renewed mandate, was the best organization to develop the instruments and work plans to handle issues that cut across various sectors and different agendas, he said. The document the Commission would prepare for the special session should propose a positive framework for the new pragmatism.
IMANTAS LAZDINIS, Minister for Environmental Protection of Lithuania, said that further studies and discussions should be undertaken to identify more innovative and long-term beneficial solutions to environmental problems. There was need for collaboration among international, regional and local actors. It was essential for his country to evaluate the overall effectiveness of its regulatory system. Special attention must be paid to national priorities in different sectors. He called for a bilateral approach to deal with the various regulations in European countries covering pollution control, depletion of natural resources, biodiversity and land degradation.
He drew attention to the very good cooperation among the Baltic Sea basin countries and the efforts they were making to create a Baltic Agenda 21. He said Finland and Lithuania were responsible for the sustainable forestry part of the programme. He also mentioned their cooperation with European institutions. Lithuania hoped to revise its legislation, with the assistance of those institutions, to meet European Union requirements, thereby improving the implementation of its action programme, which was founded on the principles of sustainable development.
KASEM SNIDWONGS, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment of Thailand, said the concept of common but differentiated responsibilities should be applied in dealing with environmental challenges. Developed countries should take a leading role in the implementation of Agenda 21, create a favourable economic environment conducive to the development of the developing countries and, in particular, should not adopt unilateral measures which could harm the latter.
He said Thailand believed that the Commission should maintain its role as a high platform for policy debate on the follow-up to UNCED and should continue to provide a central forum for reviewing further progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 and of other commitments made at the Rio Conference. The Commission should focus on a limited number of issues of major significance in achieving the goals of sustainable development. Its future work should be concentrated on the means to implement UNCED commitments at the regional level. The UNEP had a crucial role to play in the formulation of regional and national strategies for sustainable development and should be supported.
The percentage of the Thai population under the poverty line was expected to drop to less than 10 per cent with the completion of the eighth National Economic and Social Development Plan, he said. A successful
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nationwide family planning programme had been implemented and Thailand's population growth rate was now under control. Thailand was prepared to cooperate with other nations at both global and regional levels.
Z. PALLO JORDAN, Minister for Environmental Affairs and Tourism of South Africa, told the Commission that in Africa poverty was the biggest obstacle to sustainable development. The rural poor, preoccupied with survival, did not have an opportunity to think through the consequences of over-utilization. Eradicating poverty was the best way to reverse that downward spiral. Development projects which disempowered citizens and the unbridled and unregulated pursuit of private profit both led down the path of environmental degradation.
South Africa was pursuing policies which lead to a "win-win" outcome, simultaneously promoting economic and environmental gains, he said. Policies which were informed by the recognition that growth and development must be more equitable, less polluting and more efficient as regards energy and natural resources would be able to ensure that all future development was sustainable. The conservation of biodiversity through sustainable tourism was especially important, as South Africa had the third richest biodiversity in the world. Tourism policies were focusing in the creation of income for local communities. Eco-tourism development had been integrated into overall economic strategies at the highest levels.
In arid African countries, such as South Africa, water was a poorly distributed resource, he said. African rivers were often shared by a number of countries. To promote sustainable development and a spirit of cooperation, the Protocol on Shared Watercourse Systems in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) would provide a framework for the development of shared watercourses. The recently formed SADC Water Sector would be the focus of new cooperation on regional water issues, he added.
JUAN GABITO ZOBOLI, of the Ministry of Housing, Human Settlements and Environment of Uruguay, said he welcomed the ministerial segment of the Commission. Uruguay reaffirmed its commitment to the Rio Declaration. It believed that all the issues in Agenda 21 should be looked at in a multisectoral manner and the issue of freshwater must be a top priority. Also, attention must focus on the issue of oceans. Accidental spills and their consequences on the health of coastal ecosystems must be examined. Moreover, sustainable production and consumption patterns must be promoted. Further, scientific and technical capacity in environmental management had to be strengthened and the process of decision-taking decentralized.
He stressed that all sustainable development-related resolutions and declarations should be tailored to the real world. Also, the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" must be highlighted. He emphasized that the funds of the GEF should be increased, as well as those of
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UNEP. While a great deal of individual progress had been made, compliance from developed countries in providing new financial resources for sustainable development had not been forthcoming.
NAVIN CHANDERPAL, Adviser for Science, Technology and Environmental Affairs of the President of Guyana, said globalization of economic activities was causing greater marginalization of the less developed countries and undermining the goals of Agenda 21. Those goals were also undermined by the failure to transfer environmentally sound technology on concessional terms to developing countries, by the inattention of private capital to social and environmental responsibilities, and by unsustainable patterns of consumption and production.
He said the National Development Strategy of Guyana identified the economic, social and environmental policies to take the country into the next century. The 1996 passage of an environmental protection act and the establishment of an environmental protection agency were evidence of Guyana's commitment to sustainable development. His country had made available 360,000 hectares of pristine rain forest for an international centre to serve as a laboratory to establish scientifically the meaning of sustainable management of tropical rain forests. The Iwokrama Rainforest Programme had been granted legal status and autonomy by an act of Parliament.
He expressed support for the observation put forward by the "Group of 77" developing countries and China that the aid decline was inevitably seen as a lack of commitment and sincerity of the governments of developed countries to implement the Rio agreements. Developed countries should take decisive action to honour their commitments to reach the United Nations ODA target of 0.7 per cent of their GNP. Developing countries did not wish to depend on aid to pursue their path to sustainable development, but the world's socio- economic realities left those countries without resources to carry out necessary tasks. In such a situation, the goal of sustainable development would remain a pipe dream. The only way to reverse the trend was to change the hostile social, economic and political environment. The current session of the Commission should seek to establish realistic targets and timeframes for meaningful action and it must appeal to the special session of the Assembly to address the rampant inequities of the present international climate.
ISTVAN NATHON (Hungary) said his country believed that the main objectives of Agenda 21 had more relevance now than five years ago. Hungary supported the view that the outcome of the special session should deal with the most important problems and tasks, including the sectoral issues and the strengthening of institutions.
The harmful side-effects of energy production and use should be minimized in every possible way, particularly through the promotion of energy
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efficiency, he said. The Commission could well coordinate and synthesize the existing initiatives and programmes within the United Nations, especially for the energy sector. Hungary supported the Austrian proposal to include the transport sector in the priority list for the next multi-year programme. It also supported the proposed global water initiative for the comprehensive management of global freshwater sources, and would like to see the subject placed on the Commission's agenda next year. Special attention should be devoted to the problem of radioactive waste and, in particular, to their transboundary movement and environmentally safe and sound disposal.
Noting that the Commission had proven to be an efficient forum for promoting the implementation of Agenda 21, he said that its role and working style should be maintained and further developed. A clearer and better division of labour was necessary within the United Nations family with account being taken of the Commission's special position and experience.
V. DANABALAN (Malaysia) said he supported the adoption by the special session of a small, self-standing declaration stressing urgency of action and renewed political support to unlock the impediments to Agenda 21. That declaration should be supported by an action-oriented substantive document on the programme of implementation. Malaysia believed that, notwithstanding the format, both documents should be of equal importance.
He emphasized the importance of setting priorities, precise targets and implementation responsibilities in preparing for the special session. Further, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities should be reaffirmed and operationalized. The debate on the interpretation of sustainable development had to be resolved keeping in mind the components of economic development, social development, environmental protection and equity. In setting out the recommendations to the special session, there must be a proper balance between development and environment and between the obligations and activities at the national and international levels. The developmental elements of Agenda 21 to enable developing countries to develop economically and socially and to build capacity to deal with environmental issues should be emphasized.
The commitment to produce new and additional financial resources had not been forthcoming, he said. The ODA levels had declined except for contributions by a few countries. He stressed that developed countries should meet the target of ODA levels at 0.7 per cent of GNP by the year 2000. The other unfulfilled commitment had been in the area of transfer of environmentally sound technology. In that regard, he proposed that the Commission and the special session call for a review of the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS agreement) in the World Trade Organization to facilitate the transfer of environmentally sound technology.
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MARINA STADTHAGEN, Director of Environment and Natural Resources of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, said there had been recent initiatives in her country to implement the Rio agreements. Nicaragua had also contributed to action at the subregional levels through its participation in the Central American Alliance for Sustainable Development, which had developed short-, medium- and long-term programmes to achieve sustainable development. That subregional initiative promoted economic growth along with social security and sustainable consumption patterns. It took account of the ethnic diversity and encouraged the full participation of civil society. Issues such as sustainable forest management and transboundary waste were dealt with.
While implementing economic adjustment measures, Nicaragua had tried to realize the Rio commitments, she continued. There was need for a flexible approach to the external debt problems of the highly indebted poor countries, including Nicaragua. Only then could that group of countries make progress towards sustainable development. Nicaragua had recently promulgated a law to preserve the country's natural resources. A commission for the preservation of the environment had been created. It was a forum for the analysis of environmental policy and a focal point for national action to implement the Rio agreements. It was also responsible for drawing up a national action plan for sustainable development.
GUISEPPE JACOANGELI (Italy) said that protection of the atmosphere was one of the most important challenges facing mankind. The Commission should urge all countries to ratify and fully implement the Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Third Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention would set out important commitments regarding limitations on greenhouse gas emissions. For its part, the European Union had agreed to reduce the 1990 level of greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent by 2010. The Union had also pledged to negotiate a further reduction of 5 per cent, to be obtained through common measures and policies. Only the European Union had so far agreed to adopt a binding commitment to reduce emissions in the framework of the climate change negotiations.
At Kyoto, governments should agree that developed countries should adopt a legally binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 15 per cent by the year 2010. Developing countries should be actively involved in decision-making and should make their fair share of commitments, including to the development and use of low-impact technologies. Energy efficient technologies should be used and disseminated worldwide, with attention focused on the industrial, energy and transport sectors.
Deforestation contributed to global warming, soil erosion, loss of farmland, desertification and the extinction of plant and animal species, he said. His country would host the first Conference of the Parties to the Convention to Combat Desertification from 29 September to 10 October. An
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intergovernmental negotiating committee should be convened to develop a global forest convention. The preservation of protected areas played a crucial role in the protection of natural resources and ecosystems. While more than 130 countries had established protected areas covering some 5 per cent of the earth's surface, those efforts should be increased. Protection of the oceans and the problem of wasteful and excessive fishing practices, and of unsustainable aquaculture, should remain a high priority in the work programme of the Commission, he said.
KAMAL KHARRAZI (Iran) said any attempt to renegotiate the outcome of UNCED or other intergovernmental agreements in the field of sustainable development might be unproductive. The relevant provisions of Assembly resolutions were clear and should be complied with. The special session of the Assembly should preserve the integrity of Agenda 21, and its outcome should be consistent with and reflect its structure. The session should identify the barriers that impeded the expeditious implementation of Agenda 21, and propose practical measures to remove them.
He said urgent and forceful action was needed in the following areas: transfer of environmentally sound technologies, including new and emerging technologies; provision of technical assistance; exchange of information; provision of adequate financial resources; and assistance to developing countries, particularly the least developed. He also called for a change in consumption and production patterns, particularly in developed societies, and the fulfilment of commitments under existing agreements. The successful promotion and realization of sustainable development, as conceived and defined at UNCED, was contingent upon the realization of those measures.
ZEYNEP DEMIRHAN-DARVISH (Turkey) said that high population growth rates, increasing urbanization, and intensification in agriculture had placed escalating strains on Turkey's natural and cultural resources, resulting in air pollution, water degradation, hazardous waste, soil erosion, sedimentation and desertification. In consequence, Turkey's seventh five-year development plan had been based on strategies aimed at preventing pollution, and on sustainable development priorities, which integrated environmental, economic and social issues. Turkey was trying to achieve an appropriate coordination between trade and environment at the national level, using both instructive and incentive measures.
Turkey had undertaken a number of legal, institutional and physical measures aimed at protecting and improving environmental quality, he said. An "Environmental Strategy and Action Plan" was being undertaken in conjunction with the World Bank, by Turkey's State Planning Organization and the Ministry of the Environment. That plan would establish a hierarchy of sectoral, regional and thematic environmental priorities, with a view to planning and implementing preventive and remedial actions. Turkey was also working with local and international consultants to develop a "National Environmental
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Action Plan" to set out specific environmental, legal, policy, institutional, financial and technical assistance issues.
JUAN LARRAIN (Chile) said the special session to review the outcome of Rio had a great responsibility. The draft text produced by the Intersessional Working Group would assist Member States in identifying specific goals. They should identify areas for achieving the lofty aims of the Rio summit. The international community must continue the fight against poverty and focus on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
Other key issues were the oceans and transport of hazardous and toxic wastes, he said. In the proposed final draft document, reference to action on the issue of transportation of toxic wastes should be strengthened. The norms of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) should be respected, as well as the Vienna agreement on the management of radioactive wastes and nuclear waste. It was important to take concrete actions to ensure the implementation of Agenda 21. SUHAIL SHERIFF, of the Zanzibar Association for Progress, said he had concerns about the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). It was important for governments, as well as for the major groups, to be involved in the decision-making processes, including the discussions on nuclear non-proliferation. There should be continuity of communication and interaction, on the part of delegations, following participation in forums such as the Commission. He called for increased recognition, participation and funding of non-governmental organizations.
NIRMAL ANDREW (India) said nations were at different stages of development, and the responsibility for unsustainable patterns of production and consumption must be borne more heavily by some than others. He stressed that developed countries had greater responsibility for the degradation of the environment. While the primary responsibility for implementing Agenda 21 had been left with individual countries, the importance of partnerships between developed and developing countries in its implementation should not be underestimated. However, such partnerships had not come into being.
Adequate funding was required for biodiversity, climate change and desertification, he said. In the post-UNCED period, the developing and industrialized countries had to recognize the importance of transfer of technology. He noted progress in the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests and said that access to technology should be provided on concessional terms. He also stressed the importance of the issue of freshwater. Access to safe drinking water was a necessity, and currently more than one half of humanity lacked access to safe water. The special session could provide a timetable for safe drinking water for all. Also, it should lay emphasis on restructuring production and consumption patterns away from wasteful use. Further, developing countries should be encouraged to shift to a high value, less water-intensive method of agricultural production.
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He emphasized that it was India's belief that the special session would meet to undertake a review of Agenda 21, nothing more and nothing less. There should be no renegotiation through selective reprioritization. Outlining priorities was the domain of sovereign governments.
DELING WANG, of the Metropolitan Solar Energy Society, speaking on behalf of the NGO Energy Caucus, said governments should reduce their greenhouse emissions by 20 per cent below 1990 levels by the year 2005. Governments should pursue sustainable energy policies that reflected true costs of fossil fuels. She called on governments to eliminate the public subsidies on fossil fuels as soon as possible, preferably by the year 2000, and certainly by 2005. They should increase programmes for energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy.
It was estimated that up to 2 billion people still lacked electricity, she said. Renewable sources such as solar energy would be most cost-effective in those remote areas. There was a misunderstanding that renewable sources such as solar energy were high-tech and expensive. While that was true for some advanced solar technologies, most were low-tech with the potential for creating multitudes of jobs. Currently the world spent $600 billion a year to subsidize fossil fuels. The non-governmental organizations would be overjoyed to see only 10 per cent of that amount spent on renewables like wind, solar and fuel cells.
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