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Joahannesburg Summit 2002
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Greening the Summit: Plans Emerge to Put Sustainable Development into Practice

26 February– From improving water efficiency to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, plans are afoot to minimize the environmental footprint of the World Summit on Sustainable Development that will take place in Johannesburg this August.

The Summit and the events that accompany it are expected to draw as many as 65,000 people, according to the South African Government, and the greening effort is underway to make sure that the gatherings do not create the environmental and social problems that the Summit is supposed to address.

Setting an example through the use of best practices, the Summit will use buses, preferably running on cleaner fuels, to replace as many cars as possible. Procurement contracts for the mounds of paper that will be used will specify recycled, and the packaging of food and souvenirs sold around the conference facilities will be environmentally friendly.

The summit greening initiative is supported by funds provided by the South African government, the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Development Programme to the Gauteng Province Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment. The project is being carried out by Gauteng Province officials with support from the non-governmental organization IUCN-South Africa.

In addition to promoting sustainably responsible activities, the greening project will work to raise awareness of the Summit's objectives. Along with the media and schools, the 5000 volunteers who are being enlisted to help out with the Summit will also be sensitized to the issues and best practice efforts in order to spread the word.

Working with hotels and local businesses, the initiative is largely voluntary, according to Marcel Alders of UNDP, who is coordinating the effort. "We can't dictate to anyone." However, attempts are being made to ensure that contracts for goods that will be used at the Summit help further "green objectives."

A number of new, energy efficient buses being purchased for the Summit will continue to meet Johannesburg's needs after the event. Negotiations are also now underway with the manufacturers of emission-free fuel cell buses to donate one or two buses to serve as a high-profile vehicle for raising awareness over future transportation possibilities.

Still, the Summit will contribute to the production of greenhouse gases, so plans are underway to increase tree plantings in the area to offset the increase in emissions.

Hotels near the conference site, the Sandton Convention Centre, will be asked on a voluntary basis to help reduce energy and water use. Alders said that a number of hotels, especially those belonging to international chains, already have environmental programmes aimed at cutting water use.

Alders also said a number of non-governmental organizations have been active in promoting waste-management issues, and community groups have staged neighbourhood clean-up events.

Within the conference centre, food vendors will be asked to use paper packaging instead of plastic, and there will be a programme to help sort waste for recycling.

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24 August 2006