February 28, 2002 – The Earth Summit is less than six months away. It will be the first major summit addressing sustainable development since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The 1992 Earth Summit firmly put sustainable development on the map. However, despite gains in some areas, it failed to deliver the real changes necessary to protect the environment for future generations. Political will has waned, corporate influence has grown and the poorest have suffered.
Will the 2002 Earth Summit succeed where the 1992 Earth Summit failed? The omens are not good:
- On 26th February the EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said that we must “inject a sense of urgency into our preparations”. She also stated that “we cannot keep coming back from world gatherings with impressive commitments and fine words that we then leave in the corner of our offices to gather dust. Our implementation deficit will quickly turn into a credibility gap…”
- The results from the second preparatory session held in New York at the end of January were poor to say the least. It was characterised by nations pushing vested interests and refusing to countenance any new binding agreements (see details below)
- The Global Ministerial Environmental Forum (GMEF) in February agreed draft guidelines on compliance and enforcement of multi-lateral agreements (www.unep.org). However these lack any real teeth and without strong political leadership to push for strong compliance mechanisms in existing and new agreements the guidelines will achieve little. This political leadership is lacking.
Results from the second preparatory session.
The second preparatory session for the Earth Summit was held at the UN in New York between the 28th January and 8th February. The key outcomes of this meeting were:
- Much to the chagrin of the corporate lobby, NGOs, unions and developing countries ensured the issue of corporate accountability was on the agenda. The Chairman’s Summary paper from the session failed to state that this should lead to binding mechanisms to control corporate abuses, however it also did not say that these should be voluntary. This is one of the most contentious issues on the agenda. Friends of the Earth International is prioritising work on binding corporate accountability (see www.foe.co.uk). The USA is adamantly opposed to any new multi-lateral agreements and rejected any mention of binding rules for corporations.
- Trade is a major issue for the Summit. Governments are reluctant to recognise, let alone discuss, the environmental and social damage caused by current and proposed trade rules. The Chairman’s paper is littered with references to trade, including for example, making substantial reductions in “trade distorting domestic support”. Agriculture is the key issue. Friends of the Earth International and others calling the removal of agriculture from the WTO and a new international agreement on food and farming to protect the environment and farmers livelihoods. The EU is pressing for discussions on greening trade rules.
- Oil producing nations – especially Saudi Arabia – are loath to see energy as a major issue of the Summit. The Chairman’s paper suggests a paltry target of producing only 5 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2010. It suggests increasing the uptake of natural gas and the adoption of more efficient fossil fuel technologies.
- There is a recognition that consumption and production patterns in developed countries need to change. For example the Chairman’s statement states that four-fold increase in energy and resource efficiency should be achieved. However there is a paucity of effective mechanisms to achieve this, instead it is mostly voluntary initiatives suggested, despite the obvious failures of this approach.
- Other issues addressed in the Chairman’s paper include: poverty reduction, HIV/AIDS, fisheries, forests, and Africa. Issues likely to emerge at the next preparatory meeting include environmental governance and global controls on chemicals and chemical manufacture.
The next Summit Preparatory Commission meeting will be on 25 March to 5 April in New York. This will see intensive negotiation of what will be the likely final outcome of the Summit. The final outcome will largely be concluded at a further meeting in Jakarta (27 May to 7 June) which Ministers will attend (including John Prescott, Margaret Beckett, Michael Meacher and possibly Clare Short and/or Patricia Hewitt). The Summit itself in Johannesburg (26 August-4 Sept) may feature relatively little negotiation.
Priorities for Friends of the Earth International and the Earth Summit:
- An agreement to negotiate a legally binding framework on corporate accountability – This should lead to regulations to secure an international framework ensuring high standards of behaviour wherever corporations operate and to make corporations respect and answer to all those they affect – especially local communities, but also employees and customers.
- Establishment of the principle that multi-lateral environment and social agreements take precedence over trade rules – Reform is needed that supports local and regional economies, community businesses, and promotes equity, fairness an justice. Importantly, this should lead to a treaty on food and agriculture outside of the WTO.
- Acknowledgement of the ecological debt owed to the South from the North – At the 1992 Earth Summit developed countries acknowledged the pressures they place on the global environment. Action is needed to redress this and to “pay back” this debt to developing countries through programmes and plans of action.
- Environmental governance – the establishment of a joint compliance and dispute settlement system on the implementation of international law related to sustainable development – A new approach is needed to global environmental action that secures resources for and ensure compliance and implementation with international environmental law and provides for effective dispute settlement in a way which ensure the highest standards of participation.
Other issues of importance include: the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, affirmation of the crucial role of the precautionary principle, compliance with and effective implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity, ratification and entry into force of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, global rules on chemical usage and manufacture based upon the precautionary principle and support for community action to protect forests and other biodiversity.
— ANOTHER SADLY UNPUBLISHED LETTER TO HER MAJESTY’S DAILY TELEGRAPH
The Editor Daily Telegraph
Wednesday 13th February 2002
The Government has proposed new vocational qualifications for unacademic schoolchildren, including the important subject of “leisure”.
I believe I have demonstrated a particular talent for leisure, at school and indeed subsequently. Yet my considerable achievements in this area have never been properly marked by the academic system. It would surely be most unfair if younger practitioners of this difficult art were to receive the formal recognition which I have been denied.
Would it be possible, in especially deserving cases such as mine, for the Government to award the qualification retrospectively?
Ian Willmore, Media-coordinator
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