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Joahannesburg Summit 2002
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US Environmentalists Urge President Bush to Attend Johannesburg Summit

26 February – Asserting that the World Summit on Sustainable Development this August could be a "watershed event" where world leaders commit to concrete actions for a brighter future, a group of 41 American environmentalists urged President Bush to announce that he will go to Johannesburg to join with other countries in partnerships that can address the environmental challenges threatening long-term well-being and security.

Noting that President Bush has shown "great determination" in building a broad international coalition to fight terrorism, the environmentalists urged the President to provide an example for other countries by announcing a number of specific actions in Johannesburg that can help the world achieve sustainable development, an agenda that addresses economic growth, social development and environmental protection.

The "Call for Action" issued by the environmentalists stated that "today, following the September 11 terrorist attacks and their aftermath, we are even more aware of our global interdependence and vulnerability. While we respond to the immediate threats to our national security, we must also work to assure environmental security for all of Earth's people."

John Adams, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the US environmental groups that signed the Call for Action, said, "Americans comprise only 4 per cent of the world's population, but we are the world's biggest consumers and polluters." He added, "It's our responsibility to lead the international community in addressing the threats to the Earth's critical natural systems and the health and well-being of its people."

President Bush's father, President George H. Bush, was one of more than 100 heads of State who attended the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. At that Summit, world leaders adopted Agenda 21, the global blueprint for sustainable development, and signed treaties on climate change and biodiversity.

The environmentalists, in their statement, say that the challenges that were identified in Rio are even more urgent today, with more than 1 billion people living without safe drinking water, 2 billion people lacking access to modern energy services, and more than 11,000 plant and animal species facing extinction.

The joint statement urges President Bush to take several actions before the Johannesburg summit, including ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, reducing US emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and increasing American assistance to developing countries for environmental protection.

Unlike other major global conferences that conclude by adopting only a document or plan of action, countries have already agreed that Johannesburg should result in the announcement of specific initiatives that will address a range of sustainable development concerns. These initiatives would be pursued by partnerships among interested governments, international agencies, citizen groups and industry. Such partnerships would help ensure that there are concrete efforts and real progress on the ground.

"This summit will be different from past UN mega-conferences," said Jacob Scherr, director of NRDC's International Program. "It will provide an unprecedented opportunity for real action."

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24 August 2006