SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT CONCEPT NOW WIDELY ACCEPTED, BUT POOR COUNTRIES HAMPERED BY LACK OF RESOURCES, ASSEMBLY IS TOLD19970624 Special Session on 'Agenda 21' Proposals Hears Statements From Leaders of 20 Nations; Agency Representatives Also Speak
Although the concept of sustainable development has now been accepted worldwide, efforts of developing countries to implement Agenda 21 have continued to be hampered by lack of resources, the special session of the General Assembly heard this morning as it continued its general debate. Several speakers pointed out that the conquest of poverty and preservation of the environment must be the concern of all nations, as well as every level of society, if success were to be achieved.
Speakers called for a re-awakening of the spirit of the Rio Conference of 1992, arguing that although some progress had been made, environmental conditions had continued to deteriorate globally. There was general consent that environmental degradation by any member of the international community was a threat to all. Environmental security, it was contended, was as important as economic security. Addressing the special session this morning were the President of Ukraine; the President of Botswana; the President of Maldives; the Crown Prince of Monaco; the Prime Minister of Canada; the President of Suriname; the Acting Prime Minister of Lithuania; the Prime Minister of Slovenia; the Prime Minister of Iceland; the President of Costa Rica; the President of Guatemala; and the President of Bolivia.
Also speaking were the Minister for the Environment of Mozambique; the Minister for the Environment of New Zealand; the Minister for the Environment and Housing of Jamaica; the Foreign Minister of Myanmar; the Foreign Minister of Belarus; and the Deputy Minister for Environment, Planning and Public Works of Greece. The President of the National Assembly of Cuba, the Federal Chancellor of the Swiss Federation, and the President of the European Commission also made statements.
The Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a representative of Survival International, speaking on behalf of the Indigenous People's Major Group, also spoke.
The special session will meet at 3 p.m. today to continue its general debate on the implementation of Agenda 21.
Special Session Work Programme
The nineteenth special session of the General Assembly met this morning to continue its general debate. The session was convened to review and appraise implementation of Agenda 21, the programme of action adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), which was held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992.
LEONID KUCHMA, President of Ukraine: The establishment of Ukraine as an independent nation has been complicated by the lingering ecological crisis of Chernobyl. For that reason the "ecological component" is an essential factor of national security dominating the domestic and foreign policies of Ukraine. Ukraine inherited from the former Soviet Union an energy-wasteful economy in which natural resources were presumed to have no cost and to be inexhaustible. Some 80 to 90 per cent of Ukraine's agricultural lands have been ploughed under and some 25 billion tons of accumulated waste covers 130 thousand hectares of land.
Ukraine aims to integrate its environmental protection policy into its social and economic development strategy. Inspired by the Rio Conference, Ukraine has drafted new guidelines for the rational use of natural resources and environmental protection. In that regard, Ukraine is employing market mechanisms in environmental management, introducing a payment system for the use of natural resources, for pollution of the environment and for funding environmental protection.
To minimize the effects of the Chernobyl disaster, Ukraine spends $1 billion per year on remediation efforts. The first of the Chernobyl reactors was decommissioned in 1996; the whole complex will be shut down by the year 2000. Ukraine expects the G-7 countries to live up to their commitments in accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding previously agreed.
Sir KETUMILE MASIRE, President of Botswana: The alleviation of poverty is Botswana's top priority. Toward that end, nearly 100 per cent of Botswanan school children have access to primary and secondary education. In the last 25 years, life expectancy in Botswana has risen from 56 to 66 years. Most of the population is within 15 kilometres of a health facility. Botswana is now seeking to balance economic growth, environmental protection and population growth. High population growth places considerable pressure on households, communities, government and the environment as a whole.
Botswana has set aside 17 per cent of its territory as national parks and game and forest reserves. An additional 22 per cent has been set aside as
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wildlife management areas. Botswana's community-based natural resources management policy ensures that communities benefit directly from the wise use of natural resources. That approach renders communities accountable for the protection of their environment, thereby creating a platform for sustainable development.
Botswana is party to the Rio conventions on bio-diversity and on climate change, as well as to the post-Rio convention on desertification and drought, and to the convention on wetlands of international importance.
MAUMOON ABDUL GAYOOM, President of Maldives: Global climate change is a very real threat to small island States. The process of global warming may be too gradual to make headlines, but the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that sea levels may rise between 30 and 100 centimetres by 2100. Some 80 per cent of low-lying islands, such as Maldives and many others in the Pacific Ocean, would be totally submerged by such a phenomenon. Sea-level rise would affect not only small island States, but also extensive areas of Bangladesh, China, Egypt and many other countries. Cereal production would fall sharply and commodity prices would soar. In such a situation, the impact of a rapidly-increasing world population would be enormous. It would have profound consequences on both rich and poor States, as it would affect the entirety of the global ecosystem.
The Barbados conference on small island developing States was an important follow-up to Agenda 21. But nothing has been achieved since that Conference in the way of additional resource mobilization, technology transfer and capacity-building for sustainable development. At the Earth Summit, donor States agreed to increase official development assistance to 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP), but actual assistance has slumped by a quarter. Global cooperation for sustainable development is essential to save the earth for coming generations.
Prince ALBERT OF MONACO, Crown Prince of Monaco: Today, the question must be asked: Can the international community respond to its current needs without jeopardizing future generations? The Mediterranean is a particularly threatened environment. The region has witnessed a crystallization of public awareness. Such awareness was further enhanced by the creation of the Mediterranean Commission for Sustainable Development, a regional body for study and proposals on sustainable development.
In some respects, the Mediterranean area has implemented exemplary cooperation for environment protection and development. It is essential that this cooperation be extended to include the preservation of species. Though these efforts may be costly, they must not be abandoned. Sensitive environments in international zones must be protected. The international
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community must effectively protect marine mammals. A dozen Mediterranean and Black Sea countries have signed an accord for such protection. Still, greater efforts are needed.
JEAN CHRETIEN, Prime Minister of Canada: Since Rio, there has been progress in many areas: protecting the ozone layer, conserving straddling fish stocks and curbing pollution. There is growing consensus that environmental degradation caused by some is a threat to all. However, some of the Rio goals are still unmet. Forests are declining at an alarming rate. Canada places high priority on sustainable forest management. A strong, legally-binding agreement built on the forests principles established at Rio is the best way to reverse the tide of deforestation. Like most industrialized countries, Canada will not meet the year 2000 targets for stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions. Canada's economic structure poses particular challenge in this regard.
Experience shows that the best way to deal with a large problem is through a practical, realistic plan with interim, medium-term targets. Climate change should be approached in the same manner. Canada supports legally-binding medium-term targets for post-2000 greenhouse gas reductions. It also seeks urgent regional and global action to address persistent organic pollutants. Toxic chemicals do not respect borders. They can only be fought through international cooperation. Canada will strengthen its legislation on toxic chemicals and pollution prevention. It is working to implement the biodiversity convention. Soon, legislation will be passed to safeguard threatened and endangered species and their habitats within federal jurisdiction. Canada remains committed to improving the state of the oceans. Every agency and department within the Canadian Government has sustainable development on its agenda.
Environmental security is as important as economic security. Protecting the global food supply requires international cooperation. Food supplies, particularly in Africa, are threatened by the loss of fertile land. For the least fortunate of the world, sustainable development without economic progress is a hollow slogan. For this reason, poverty alleviation is at the forefront of Canada's international assistance. Another issue meriting top international priority is the scourge of anti-personnel mines. All countries must show their commitment on the issue in December, when a treaty for banning the stockpiling, transfer, production and use of such mines will be open for signature.
JULES ALBERT WIJDENBOSCH, President of Suriname: The spirit of global solidarity demonstrated at Rio must be preserved and enhanced. Suriname is blessed with vast areas of underpopulated land, covered with virgin rain forest, which offer an untapped wealth of biodiversity. We are resolved to address the needs of our population by exploiting that forest in a responsible
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manner. There is international scrutiny on Suriname's rain forest. Suriname's use of natural resources is judicious and sustainable. Several national programmes are being formulated. A national environmental agency was recently installed. Unfortunately, efforts for the environment are not properly balanced with results in bettering the well-being of the country's people.
Suriname has been unable to improve its export capacity, both quantitatively and qualitatively, and to secure adequate foreign currency earnings. Small-scale economies like that of Suriname have a hard time overcoming and maintaining international market positions. For the past two years, Suriname has faced a serious decrease in its rice exports to the European market. Industrialized countries are using the World Trade Organization to dismantle Suriname's preferential position in the European banana market.
The Barbados Action Programme for small island developing states should be followed up by a series of regional and sub-regional meetings dealing with the triangle of economic development, environmental preservation and the eradication of poverty. A balance needs to be established between the liberalization of the world economy and the capacity of the emerging world to develop.
VYTAUTAS PAKALNISKIS, Acting Prime Minister of Lithuania: We can achieve sustainable development only by consolidated actions in various sectors: energy, transport, industry, agriculture, trade and other activities supported by relevant legislation and financial resources as well as adequate public participation. In Lithuania the basic principles of environmental protection, grounded by sustainable development are set forth in legislation stressing that the policy and practice of sustainable development must guide public and private interests towards improvement of environmental quality, and encourage the possessors of natural resources to minimize negative environmental impact and to make production environmentally friendly.
Support from countries of the Baltic region, especially Denmark, Sweden and Finland, is important in the implementation of the Lithuanian environmental strategy. Cooperation between them is very positive and fruitful, based on principles for protection of the marine environment of the area. The Baltic Agenda for the twenty-first century is being prepared and we expect to have it ready for 1998 conference of European environmental protection ministers.
JANEZ DRNOVSEK, Prime Minister of Slovenia: One year after UNCED, Slovenia adopted its basic Environmental Protection Act reflecting the fundamental principles of Rio documents. The country has been participating in other international efforts. It attaches great importance to the
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international efforts for the protection of the Alpine environment. The question of the environment cannot be dealt with separately from the economic and social components of development.
Action by Governments is not enough. All sectors of society should be involved in the development and implementation of national and local sustainable development programmes. Such a partnership within each country should take into full account the respect of human rights and basic freedoms. To help the developing countries to meet their commitments under Agenda 21, further financial assistance is needed, as is the transfer of environmentally sound technology and "know-how" from the developed world. There must be a special concern for the needs and sensibilities of the least developed States.
Emission and concentration of the greenhouse gases continue to rise even though many countries, including Slovenia, are parties to the Framework on Climate Change (FCCC). The use of renewable sources of energy should be increased, and energy-related research and development efforts should be given the necessary support.
DAVID ODDSON, Prime Minister of Iceland: Climate change and increased marine pollution threaten to have adverse affects and irreversible implications worldwide. Dangerous levels of pollution are accumulating in the Arctic, its origins in diverse and remote parts of the world. The harvesting of living natural resources and their utilization should proceed in a sustainable manner.
To preserve environmental consensus, the international community must resist being influenced by simplistic and misleading propaganda which serves to undermine it. It is important to work with non-governmental organizations, but it is also important to resist the pressure of unaccountable conservation groups that wish to sever the vital link between the environment and the economy, and to view the environment as a nature preserve rather than as a resource for human sustenance.
Persistent organic pollutants are a grave threat to human health and the environment. A legally-binding global agreement on that topic should be completed without delay. Many global fish stocks have been inadequately managed -- in some cases as a direct result of economic subsidies to the fisheries sector. But substantial progress has also been made in adapting allowable catches to scientifically-approved and sustainable levels. The Agreement on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks is of great importance, building on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
JOSE MARIA FIGUERES, President of Costa Rica: Costa Rica has adopted a new approach to sustainable development founded upon macroeconomic balances, to increase savings and investment; an enhanced social network to guarantee
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quality of life for all Costa Ricans; and an "alliance with nature" in which resources could be used without threatening their future availability.
It has committed to the exclusive use of clean and renewable sources of energy by the year 2010. In addition, conservation and "demand-side programmes" have reduced electricity consumption by 5 per cent. Leaded gasoline has been eliminated and Costa Rica is committed to eliminating sulphur from diesel fuel. An ambitious national transport programme has been started with electric vehicles.
National parks and bio-reserves cover 30 per cent of Costa Rica's land area. The country receives 700,000 tourists per year, principally attracted by "eco-tourism" at national parks and reserves. Costa Rica is actively using the potential of its trees to eliminate carbon emissions in the atmosphere by converting them into biomass through photosynthesis.
RICARDO ALARCON DE QUESADA, President of the National Assembly of People's Power of Cuba: Since the 1992 Rio Conference, the world's poor have multiplied and become poorer. There are 358 people in the world whose assets exceed the combined annual income of States inhabited by 2.5 billion people, some 45 per cent of the world's population. Official development assistance has dropped to 1983 levels while the debt service of third world countries was more than three times such "assistance". "Things have not changed much. It is the old colonialism that remains, unable to be concealed by the deceiving rhetoric of `globalization'," he said. "International cooperation is an empty phrase. All over, imperialism breaks sovereignties apart and crushes rights."
How can other States expect fair treatment if the most powerful one insults the United Nations and its members with conditions attached to paying its dues? Countries that built up their wealth by exploiting the third world should return some of their plunder. They should also pay their ecological debt, since their irrational consumption patterns were responsible for the environment's deterioration. They should not only change those patterns but also transfer to the underdeveloped nations environmentally rational technologies in the preferential terms defined at Rio. Instead, the developed countries are trying to change their Rio commitments and to set arbitrary restrictions that would make sustainable development more difficult for the underdeveloped world. "Capitalist greed is the principal cause of the unjust world and of the severe damage to nature which is threatening the survival of humankind today." To preserve nature, it is essential to completely transform relations among nations and among men.
ALVARO ARZU IRIGOYEN, President of Guatemala: On heading south from Mexico, the Spanish conquistadors knew they were on the way to "Cuauhtemalan" which means "land of the forest". In order to survive Guatemala's inhabitants gradually had to transform their natural sanctuary. As the territory became
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linked with the world market, the population grew and technologies became more sophisticated and transformation intensified, until it finally began to produce detrimental effects over large areas. Until about 25 years ago, one third of Guatemala's territory was covered in tropical rain forest. The inhabitants of that area then numbered about 25,000; today the number is 150,000. Guatemala contains land that is a biological and anthropological treasurehouse. Environmental degradation is a universal tragedy.
Environmental protection and long-term economic growth are not incompatible; they are complementary and perhaps even inter-dependent. For the sake of the future, the international community must cooperate to eradicate poverty. Since 1996, Guatemala has its own Agenda 21. Its Government has enriched environmental legislation; created financial mechanisms for environmental resources; and strengthened and established environmental institutions. The interrelationship between subsistence and natural conservation must be stressed. Respect for the natural environment cannot be imposed without offering people options for improving their conditions.
The United Nations has made important efforts for the benefit of the environment and for the benefit of life. The wisdom of the human species can enable it to survive the disaster brought about by its patterns of consumption and development. Concerted action is needed. This generation inherited the earth from its forefathers, and will bequeath it to its children.
GONZALO SANCHEZ DE LOZADA, President of Bolivia: A Bolivian peasant once said, "God always forgives us; people sometimes; nature never". Differences between members of the international community do not justify the lack of progress since Rio. Developing countries are striving to eradicate poverty; developed countries wish to prevent a repetition of mistakes made. The hemispheric summit for sustainable development in Bolivia produced the Declaration of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, which said: sustainable development is an integrated whole, with different dimensions.
Economic development must be combined with social development and environmental protection. If sustainable development is, in fact, to be sustainable, it must be linked with education. It is a shared responsibility. The cold war has been supplanted by a war against poverty and for sustainable development. The international community must demonstrate pro-active solidarity. Resources from official development assistance must be increased and utilized appropriately for the well-being of all people.
Bolivia has taken concrete steps to make its society more participatory and inclusive, but isolated efforts are not enough to address global issues. The United Nations must set an example of international solidarity. The Organization's restructuring must not be a merely bureaucratic effort. Every
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meeting of the organization should address issues in a holistic manner, and include consideration of sustainable development.
BERNARO PEDRO FERRAZ, Minister for Environmental Affairs of Mozambique: Mozambique has established a national environmental commission, responsible for elaborating policies and strategies for environmental protection. An environmental master plan defines the major sustainable development concerns, contains national environmental policy and proposes environmental legislation. It also sets out priorities of action for managing natural resources and development of the coastal zone.
Mozambique is assuring the possession of land by citizens, particularly the rural population. The national law on local government, recently approved by parliament, constituted a remarkable step forward as it stressed the need for sustainable management of human resources at the local level. Poverty is Mozambique's greatest environmental problem. That poverty is closely linked to external debt, which constitutes an obstacle to sustainable economic growth. At the international level, Mozambique was working with the Portuguese Speaking Countries Community and with nations of the Southern African Development Community to harmonize and coordinate environmental management actions.
SIMON UPTON, Minister for the Environment of New Zealand: The completion of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations and the establishment of the World Trade Organization have made inevitable the globalization of the world's economy. Whatever power sovereign governments believe they possess, global citizens are re-making the world in their own image. But globalization does not mean more global decision-making. Global integration is being driven by consumers, not by bureaucratic elites. The future of sustainable development lies in local and national hands; the eco-revolution will be a "bottom-up" process.
It is important to distinguish between global problems and problems that demand global solutions. Forests, for example, should be managed at the national level. New Zealand does not see the need for a legally-binding global convention on forests. Greenhouse gases, ozone-depleting substances, marine pollution and the unsustainable exploitation of migratory fish stocks, on the other hand, pose obvious challenges to global sustainability. Globally binding legal instruments recommend themselves to those challenges. The Framework Convention on Climate Change is a test case; national targets were a recipe for "carbon leakage". Nothing would be gained from shifting carbon- intensive production offshore, only to import the end-products of those emissions.
EASTON DOUGLAS, Minister for the Environment and Housing of Jamaica: The sustainable development of small island developing states is of global
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importance. It is about the existence and survival of a particular group of States, and requires the forging of effective partnerships between peoples and governments, and between developed and developing countries. Many economies depend on tourism, the sustainable management and development of which are critical to the health of our environment, as well as to our capacity for development.
Jamaica has acceded to most of the major environmental treaties and developed new legislation for forest and water resource management. A social investment fund has been established to reduce and, in due course, eradicate poverty. Jamaica has developed a national system of parks and protected areas, which will bring under protection between 25 and 30 per cent of the country's land area. A programme has been established to provide land and affordable shelter and to upgrade and regularize informal and squatter settlements. The sustainable development of the oceans and seas that surround us continues to be of concern for Jamaica. Given the global nature of the world economy, both the costs and benefits of taking action will be shared by developing and developed countries. We must remember that investment in the environment can bring real economic returns.
OHN GYAW, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Myanmar: It is now universally recognized that integrating environment and development is a necessary condition for sustainable development. The recent report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) indicates that significant progress has been made in confronting environmental challenges at all levels, but also concludes that the pace at which the world is moving toward a sustainable future is simply too slow, and that the world environment has continued to degrade. The last five years have made it clear that sustainable development programmes have inflicted considerable burdens on the developing countries. It is sad that many developing countries are faced with a declining volume of official development assistance, and crucial that the developed countries reaffirm their commitments.
Myanmar is noted for its rich natural resources and environment which are comparatively less degraded. The Government has integrated environmental considerations whenever big industrial plants are established. There have been significant efforts towards sustainable forestry. In the field of international cooperation to achieve sustainable development, the country has ratified and acceded to almost all the environment-related international conventions.
IVAN ANTONOVICH, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Belarus: Despite experiencing difficulties on the road to democratic and market-oriented reform, Belarus remains committed to sustainable development. The Government is in favour of forming an open system of international trade, centred on the World Trade Organization. Leading industrialized States should make efforts
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to ensure mutually beneficial exchange of goods and technologies and facilitate cooperation on a global scale.
The interconnectedness of environment, development, peace and security is striking. Nuclear issues have a distinct environmental meaning. Belarus suffered the most from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. It clearly understands the importance of international support and solidarity. Belarus spends about 20 per cent of its national budget on mitigating the disaster's consequences; this, in turn, delays for years the realization of important long-term socio- economic goals. The United Nations should pay more attention to problems of regional development. The Organization should also enhance ties between regional and international financial and trade institutions, and enhance cooperative initiatives for comprehensive sustainable development.
THEODOROS KOLIOPANOS, Deputy Minister for the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works of Greece: Greece has almost 3,000 islands. Fragile coastal zones often face economic and social pressures which call for integrated actions inspired by Agenda 21. Islands, too, face immense problems. Limited local resources, delicate interaction between humans and natural ecosystems, and global threats such as climate change call for sustainable development strategies. To this end, Greece has undertaken specific actions within the framework of Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation.
Innovative forms of tourism, such as eco-tourism, must be developed to safeguard the environment while respecting historical and cultural heritage. The growing scarcity of freshwater necessitates regional and international collaboration to ensure rational water use. Finding solutions for these problems is a prerequisite for social stability and peace. Desertification is advancing, so rapid ratification and implementation of the Convention on Desertification are needed. While Greece is rich in forest resources, it is vulnerable to deforestation, due primarily to climate conditions. There should be an intergovernmental committee to negotiate a global forest convention. New patterns of production and consumption must be implemented, and eco-efficiency increased. The international community must commit itself to action, including elaborating strategies for freshwater and oceans, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, negotiating global convention on forests, and developing an integrated approach and life-cycle analysis in all sectoral policies.
RUTH DREIFUSS, Federal Chancellor of the Swiss Confederation: The Rio Conference achieved the interdependence among social development, economic development and environmental protection. Through that integrated approach the dialogue between developing and industrialized countries has been profoundly transformed. Today we act as partners. The nature of the dialogue has also been changed within our own administrations. Collaboration between ministries has been reinforced, allowing the promotion of more coherent
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policies in regard to sustainable development. In this spirit, the Swiss Government has just adopted a national strategy which deals with all policy sectors. I consider that our most regrettable shortcoming concerns the struggle against poverty. The eradication of poverty necessitates strengthened international solidarity, which must be underscored by increasing financial resources for poor countries and by facilitating their access to the most efficient technologies.
In a certain number of fields we need to make important steps in the coming months. Among them: on climate change, we hope to reach legally binding targets and quantifiable commitments to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by December 1997; to complete the work concerning the trade of hazardous chemicals, there is a need to implement a compelling procedure on prior informed consent (PIC) and rapidly begin work on persistent organic pollutants (POPs). One of the themes we have to address urgently is the sustainable management of water. All these words will be in vain if we do not deal with the problem of financial means. Official development assistance is essential in the fight against poverty and the implementation of sustainable development. We must reverse the decline of official development assistance in recent years. Switzerland supports the replenishment of the GEF and I urge all governments to make generous contributions and to designate it as the permanent funding mechanism for the Conventions on Climate Change and Biodiversity.
JACQUES SANTER, President of the European Commission: Notwithstanding the progress that has been made since Rio, environmental conditions at the global level are still deteriorating rapidly and the amount of work still to be done to eradicate poverty and change production and consumption patterns is immense. Nonetheless, the European Union has been moving in the right direction. Internally, it has better integrated environmental considerations into its policies in areas such as regional development, agriculture and energy. Internationally, its bilateral agreements with partner countries and regional groupings contain provisions on sustainable development, which are reviewed in regular discussions with our partners. Also, in the area of international cooperation, since 1992 the European Commission itself has considerably increased funds for development projects whose primary object is environmental protection.
This is just a start. We must continue advancing actively down this path. I see three priorities for us all. To start with, we must switch over to patterns of consumption and production which are more economical with natural resources and pay greater heed to the absorptive capacity of our planet. The EU has put forward three initiatives to this end: on water, energy and the concept of eco-efficiency. The second priority is to mobilize market forces for sustainable development. This requires appropriate structural policies at the national level, for example, making sure that the
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environmental costs are reflected in market prices. The third priority is that international cooperation needs to be considerably deepened both at the level of international institutions and multilateral agreements, and by strengthening development aid in accordance with the Rio commitments. The Commission intend to increase the percentage of development aid allocated to projects focusing on environmental protection and social development. To combat climate change we call on all industrialized countries to join us in our commitment to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Commission intends to translate the Intergovernmental Panel on Forest's recommendations into measures to protect and develop its own forests, and use all its aid programmes to assist implementation elsewhere. It will also work to conclude the present negotiations on a multilateral investment agreement to help ensure that direct foreign investment flows take environmental considerations into account. There is need for a North-South partnership, both to eradicate poverty and to achieve sustainable production and consumption patterns.
JOJI CARINO, of the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests: The International Alliance was formed in the lead-up to the Rio Conference in response to the global destruction of forests. In those regions, "development" chiefly constitutes mining, oil pipelines, logging, dams and "biopiracy". With many of the world's natural resources located on the lands of indigenous territories, indigenous persons were responsible for a disproportionate contribution to environmental protection and economic growth, while suffering disproportionate material and social poverty. The world will not be ready for sustainable development until it is prepared to deal with this paradox.
With centuries of sustainable residence on their lands, indigenous persons can make great contributions to the management of those areas. Indigenous persons are not peoples of the past, but of the present. They are also, in many ways, a guide to the future, as they represent 95 per cent of the world's vital cultural diversity. The world seems to have woken up to the critical loss of biodiversity, but not to the disappearance of its cultural heritage. The special session of the General Assembly should reaffirm the goal of adopting a United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.
HANS BLIX, Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA): Nuclear power can generate electricity without causing acid rain or contributing to global warming, and without risk that the fuel will run out. Nuclear energy has an important place in a sustainable energy mix. Nuclear waste has "special characteristics" and must be prudently handled, but compared with other hazardous wastes, it is small in volume and can be safely managed. A 1000 MW(e) plant produces 35 tons of spent fuel per year, while a
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coal power plant of similar capacity emits 6.5 million tons of carbon dioxide per year.
Contrary to the view that there is no solution to the problem of nuclear waste, those wastes may be buried in the earth from which the uranium once came. The IAEA has adopted international standards on nuclear waste disposal, and a draft binding convention, as called for by the Commission on Sustainable Development, will be concluded in a few months. That draft convention also provides for the transboundary movement of nuclear waste. By that draft, any country using nuclear material is responsible for its safe disposal; no country may be obliged to receive nuclear wastes; and sovereign States are free to enter into arrangements concerning transport and disposal of waste.
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