Minister for the Environment and Heritage, 
Hon. Dr. David Kemp MP.

plenary statement to the World Summit on Sustainable Development

Johannesburg, South Africa
4 September 2002

Mr President I thank you for inviting me to close the debate.

Australia came to this Summit to work for practical ways to reduce poverty, advance human dignity and health and mend the environment.

Rio identified the problems and set out a grand vision for global treaty instruments as well as national and local objectives. Johannesburg has helped craft practical goals and actions to accelerate our movement toward sustainability.

This gathering of the world community has been a deeply impressive event. The Plan of Implementation and the Political Declaration are benchmarks of mankind's humanity in their recognition of the issues that confront the world's peoples and the world itself.

Some have painted the decade between the Summits as one of failure and lost opportunity. It is true that we have not solved the problem of global sustainability. But we should not ignore the progress that has been made.

Hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty by economic progress. Millions more have access to clean water and health services. In many parts of the world stewardship of natural resources has improved. And we have started work on more effective measures to address global warming and biodiversity loss.

That said, we all agree that it is simply unacceptable that 1.2billion people live on less that one dollar a day, that HIV\AIDS is decimating so much of the world, that too few have access to good education, health services, clean water and clean air. And if we fail to deal effectively with the depletion of natural resources and biodiversity, to manage our fresh water and oceans more sustainably, and to find a globally effective framework for tackling climate change, we know that this will reinforce the cycle of poverty, social stress and environmental damage.

This Summit has placed the interdependence of action on social frameworks, the environment and economic development at the core of our decisions.

Balancing social cohesion and governance, environmental protection and economic development is a dynamic art. It is simply impossible to sustain improvement in any one of these areas by acting on it alone.

There is an important role for global action and aspirations and Official Development Assistance, but national governments have to be at the center of delivering change, because only they can bring their people with them.

Only they can create the conditions in which investment and job creation will occur.

Only they can guarantee the rule of law that underpins human rights and an economy that sustains investment and jobs.

Only national governments can maintain the governance frameworks in which environmental protection can receive its proper priority as integral to sustainable economic development and poverty eradication.

That is why Australia has listened so closely to the words of the G77 leaders throughout this summit. I have been impressed by their logic and passion.

Australia has strongly supported their emphasis on the importance of trade and market access as a path to economic sustainability.

And we have strongly endorsed their call to be allowed to set their own goals for balancing environment, health, and economic objectives in energy production.

But of course we also recognize an important role for the international community, for practical multilateral goals and for coordinated action among states.

And nowhere is that more important than in relation to the oceans - the high seas are a global commons and we must act together if they are to be protected.

We were delighted at the priority given by this Summit to ensuring the sustainable development of the oceans, as well as the special needs of Small Island Developing States. This group includes Australia's Pacific neighbours and partners, and we have been pleased to work with them to secure these commitments.

This Summit has agreed a huge agenda for action. We have set or reaffirmed 37 time-bound targets as part of the Plan of Implementation. Central to these are the core commitments to halve the number of people in poverty, halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water and halve the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation by 2015. We have also set a goal of achieving a significant reduction in biodiversity loss by 2010 and to restore fish stocks urgently and not later than by 2015 where possible.

And the Partnerships that have been announced over the past two weeks will add great momentum to achieving them. Australia has been proud to announce 15 partnership initiatives in areas ranging from high seas biodiversity to HIV/AIDS and climate change.

Mr President, we have done good work here at Johannesburg. We must maintain this momentum in the Doha negotiations on trade liberalization and agricultural subsidies and through implementing the Monterrey consensus. In the long run this is more important to the dignity, development, independence and environmental sustainability of developing countries than official development assistance.

The search for a genuinely effective global framework to tackle climate change must continue, and we must each take action to reduce our greenhouse signature. For its part Australia will be working hard to meet the target it committed to at Kyoto.

Mr President, it is a privilege to bring this debate to a close. We must leave this wonderful country with the passion to act on the agenda we have set here as a global community, and total determination as national governments to meet our obligations to our people to govern wisely in the interests of not just of this generation but of those to come - for the world's sake.