Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21
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Summary of Outcome: Different Perspectives
An NGO Perspective
A United Nations Perspective
A Media Perspective
An NGO Perspective (by Tom Bigg, UNED-UK)(by Tom Bigg, UNED-UK)
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The headline stories at 'Earth Summit II' were almost all negative. The global
environment shows continuing deterioration, according to the UN Environment Programme's
Global Environmental Outlook; no progress was made in agreeing a halt to the decline in
aid to developing countries; and the world's biggest polluter, the United States, resisted
external pressure to make some move to set domestic targets for reducing CO2
As a result of these downbeat messages, many questioned the value of the event, and by
implication the usefulness of mechanisms, institutions and processes set up to carry
forward the agreements reached in Rio. However, there are grounds for cautious optimism in
a number of areas. Real progress has been made over the past five years on issues such as
forests, fresh water and transport. In addition, the positive role played by the UK
delegation at the Special Session and the high profile taken by the five senior ministers
who attended were warmly received by many as a taster for greater things to come.
A very strong UK presence, both in the official delegation and from those outside
central government, demonstrated the significance of follow up to Rio in a wide range of
domestic contexts. Positions taken by the Government in areas such as local agenda 21,
transport and the social and economic aspects of sustainable development reflected debate
and action on these issues in the UK.
Outline of process
A two week meeting in February led to production of a chairs' draft (put forward
jointly by Derek Osborn of the UK and Ambassador Amorim of Brazil). This text formed the
basis of negotiations on the main document reviewing progress since Rio, which was drafted
during a three week session in April. In addition, preparation of a shorter Political
Statement (or Declaration) was begun.
A number of problematic areas remained after the April meeting, so an additional week
of negotiations was held before the Special Session in June. During the Special Session
statements were made in Plenary Debate by 53 Heads of State and Government or Vice
Presidents and 75 by Ministers. In addition, 17 heads of international organizations and
12 representatives of major groups addressed the General Assembly. Working groups met
under the auspices of the Committee of the Whole (chaired by Mostafa Tolba of Egypt)
throughout the week, and finalized the 'Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda
Agreement was not reached on the Political Statement. Its purpose was not clear to many
delegations, and insurmountable reservations over its content were raised on the final day
of the session. A six paragraph 'statement of commitment' has been included in the main
document to address some aspects of the Statement.
Some of those most closely involved with the process contrasted the time and the
quality of participants devoted to preparation for the Rio Summit with those made
available in the run up to Earth Summit II. Certainly in a number of areas time ran out
before delegates had adequately considered significant proposals for action.
Key issues on the agenda
The European Union presented three initiatives at the CSD session in
April. These proposals, on fresh water, energy and eco-efficiency, constituted one of the
few positive calls for action by any governments.
Major Groups were widely praised for their constructive and thorough
input throughout the process. Twelve statements by representatives of NGOs and other major
groups were made in the General Assembly.
Ambassador Razali of Malaysia, President of the General Assembly,
"I think that the job is cut out for the NGOs to re-examine this document, see what
is wanting, then go back to the grass-roots and push and agitate for more sincere, honest
implementation of all the aspects of Rio. It is time to go around and say "we won't
elect you if you don't do this or don't do that". That is when the NGOs apply
leverage; and this is the right time for it."
A United Nations Perspective
Governments agreed that full implementation of the Social Summit programme of action is
essential and listed priority actions. A proposal in the draft political statement that
Governments would reduce by half, by the year 2015, the proportion of people living in
absolute poverty was not kept when the statement was dropped.
Consumption and Production Patterns
An initiative by the European Union on eco-efficiency -- to consider setting a target
of achieving a tenfold improvement in productivity in the long term, with a possible
four-fold increase in the next two or three decades -- was agreed after it was specified
that the targets were intended for industrialized countries. Governments agreed to promote
measures to internalize environmental costs and benefits in the price of goods and
services, and to consider shifting the burden of taxation on to unsustainable patterns,
including by reducing and eliminating subsidies to environmentally harmful activities.
Governments agreed that the current decline in population growth rates must be further
promoted through national and international policies, consistent with the report of the
Cairo International Conference on Population and Development.
It was decided to set up an Intergovernmental Forum on Forests under the UN Commission
on Sustainable Development (CSD). The Forum, which will report back to the CSD in 1999, is
to monitor and promote implementation of the action proposals agreed by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, as well as build consensus for international
mechanisms, for example a legally binding instrument.
The World Bank announced that it would work with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
to achieve by the year 2000 a network of protected areas amounting to at least 10 per cent
of each of the world's forest types.
Giving the issue "highest priority", Governments called for a dialogue
beginning at the 1998 session of the CSD to consider a strategic approach to preserve and
protect freshwater supplies and to build consensus on means of implementation.
Governments agreed on the urgent need to eliminate overfishing, to consider the impact
of subsidies to fishing fleets, and to strengthen implementation of existing agreements on
marine pollution and sustainable use of oceans.
After long and divisive negotiations, Governments compromised and agreed to consider
"legally binding, meaningful, realistic and equitable targets" for developed
countries that will result in "significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
within specified time frames, such as 2005, 2010 and 2020."
The European Union had sought more specific language -- to reduce emissions by 15 per
cent below 1990 levels by 2010 -- and many European leaders, including United Kingdom
Prime Minister Tony Blair, challenged the United States to do likewise. Acknowledging that
the US produces 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and needs to "do
better", US President Bill Clinton pledged to hold a national conference on climate
change to build public support for strong action in Kyoto.
The World Bank expressed its support for "joint implementation" under the
Framework Convention on Climate Change -- a contentious concept which would allow
developed countries to earn credits for assisting developing countries in reducing their
emissions -- and its willingness to launch a Carbon Investment Fund to implement such a
scheme if it were agreed in Kyoto.
On the contentious issue of energy subsidies and pricing, it was agreed to encourage
Governments and the private sector to consider ways to promote internalization of
environmental costs in energy prices, and to recognize the need to encourage the reduction
and gradual elimination of subsidies that inhibit sustainable development. The need was
recognized for "evolving commitments" for the transfer of clean technologies to
developing countries. It was also agreed that talks on how to advance sustainable
production and use of energy should take place at the CSD in the year 2001, with
preparations to take place within an open-ended intergovernmental group of experts.
It was agreed that Governments should ratify and implement the Convention to Combat
Desertification, but while developing countries urged that donor countries provide
"new and additional financial resources" to the Global Mechanism to fund the
Convention's implementation, developed countries preferred to support a Mechanism that
would be able to promote the "mobilization and channeling of substantial
resources". Despite protracted talks, a compromise could not be reached and both
points of view were reflected in the text. The financing issue is likely to be revisited
at the first Conference of Parties to the Convention in September 1997. On other land
issues, Governments agreed to combat soil degradation, promote sustainable agriculture,
and put into action the recommendations of the World Food Summit.
Toxics, Hazardous and Radioactive Wastes
Governments agreed that safe substitutes for toxic chemicals should be developed and
those technologies transferred to poorer countries. The Basel Convention should be further
strengthened to define hazardous wastes covered, and a protocol should be negotiated on
liability for damage from hazardous wastes shipped across national borders. Governments
agreed on the need to support the clean-up of contaminated sites from nuclear activities.
In general, radioactive wastes should be disposed of in the country in which they are
generated, and each country has a responsibility to ensure proper management, taking into
account transboundary effects. Governments should make efforts to prohibit the export of
radioactive wastes to countries that do not have appropriate disposal facilities, and they
should not allow storage or disposal of radioactive wastes near the marine environment.
Governments agreed on the urgent need to take decisive action to conserve genes,
species and ecosystems, to implement the Convention on Biological Diversity, paying
further attention to the provision of new and additional resources, and to complete
rapidly the biosafety protocol under the Convention.
Although no new specific financial commitments were made, Governments agreed to a
general statement that developed countries should fulfil their commitment made in Rio to
reach the UN target of 0.7 per cent of GNP for ODA, and that "intensified
efforts" should be made to reverse the downward trend in ODA since 1992. A
ministerial-level contact group that had sought to set target dates for ODA increases as
part of a finance package ended without agreement. Donor countries were urged to provide
new and additional resources through a satisfactory replenishment of the Global
An international tax on aviation fuel -- proposed by the European Union both to
incorporate the hidden environmental costs of air travel and to raise funds for
sustainable development -- encountered opposition. Governments agreed that studies should
continue on the use of such economic instruments in the aviation sector, and the EU is
considering applying the tax within its own region.
A proposal for an intergovernmental panel or process on finance for sustainable
development was dropped on the understanding that it would be referred to the UN Economic
and Social Council.
Governments called for the urgent fulfilment of all Rio commitments concerning concrete
measures for the transfer of environmentally sound technologies (ESTs) to developing
countries, to be reviewed regularly by the CSD. Recognizing that the most advanced ESTs
are held by the private sector, they called for the creation of an environment conducive
to technology-related private investment and public-private partnerships.
Governments called for an enhanced role and adequate funding for a revitalized UN
Environment Programme (UNEP). The work programme was decided for 1998-2002 for the
Commission on Sustainable Development, which will continue to be the central forum for
reviewing implementation of Agenda 21. The next review by the General Assembly was set for
2002. A joint initiative by the Heads of State of Brazil, Germany, Singapore and South
Africa, proposing the creation of a global environmental umbrella organization under the
UN with UNEP as a major pillar, was not reflected in any official decisions.
For the first time ever, statements were heard in the General Assembly Plenary by
twelve representatives of the "major groups" defined in Agenda 21. Some 1,000
representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) attended the session, and dozens
of side events advanced new ideas. A Business Roundtable brought together CEOs from a
dozen corporations with top-level Government and UN officials to consider how the private
sector could be a more active partner in sustainable development.
Governments agreed to accelerate the phasing out of leaded gasoline as soon as
possible. They also asked the CSD to undertake a work programme to promote sustainable
taken from http://www.un.org/ecosocdev/geninfo/sustdev/5years_2.htm
General Information at: http://www.un.org/ecosocdev/geninfo/sustdev/indexsd.htm
A Media Perspective: Earth Negotiations Bulletin
The issues that proved most difficult to resolve in 1992 are still problematic today.
Questions related to the provision of financial resources and the transfer of
environmentally sound technologies to developing countries have haunted conferences from
Barbados to Cairo, from desertification negotiations in Paris to climate change
negotiations in Berlin and biodiversity negotiations in Buenos Aires. Forests have been
the subject of four meetings of the CSD's Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, yet heading
into UNGASS there was no agreement on how to proceed. Setting targets and timetables for
greenhouse gas emissions reductions proved impossible during the negotiations that
resulted in the Framework Convention on Climate Change and are the subject of current
negotiations expected to culminate in Kyoto in December. Regulating biotechnology safety
almost derailed the biodiversity negotiations in 1992 and is now the subject of
negotiations under the Biodiversity Convention.
Earth Negotiations Bulletin UNGASS Summary, 1997, Vol 5 No.88
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