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Earth Summit 2 in danger from dithering - EU

Date: 19-Apr-02
Country: EU
Author: Robin Pomeroy

Around 60,000 delegates, including many heads of state, are expected to attend the August 26-September 4 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg.

It falls 10 years after the Rio Earth summit that spawned a range of major environmental treaties.

"The preparation process is not going as well as we would have liked. We still have a lot of work," EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom told a news conference.

She said the world had neglected to live up to promises made at Rio on issues such as climate change and nature protection. She warned that Johannesburg would also fail unless governments agreed to adopt a detailed action plan.

"I am not sure if we will succeed in Johannesburg.

"We have to set realistic but ambitious targets. It's up to the EU to show leadership...Our challenge is to produce an action plan with concrete deliverables," Wallstrom said.

The summit should set a 2015 deadline to halve the number of people without access to clean water and electricity and do this in an environmentally sound way by using river basin management schemes and renewable power, she said.

A declaration with these goals, which would have to be largely drafted before heads of state arrived at the summit, should be accompanied by measures on how to reach the targets.

"This is what was missing at Rio, implementation," she said.

The private sector should be involved in partnerships to help implement the goals, Wallstrom said, defying critics among green campaigners who have accused richer nations of planning to 'privatise' aid and environmental schemes at the summit.

Wallstrom denied that the United States, which pulled out of the Kyoto climate change pact which came out of the Rio summit, was acting as the main brake on progress, as some activists have suggested.

"It is difficult to identify one culprit...It is not as simple as blaming the United States. For a long time they didn't like to go into concrete things and promise financial resources, but slowly we are coming closer," she said.

But in a warming shot at Washington, she added: "It would be very unfortunate if the U.S. decided once more to stay out of the process."

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