G8 on the road to Johannesburg

Marking 10 years since the landmark Rio Earth Summit, environment ministers from the G8 leading industrial nations have agreed that they must reaffirm their commitment to sustainable development and make a clear contribution to the success of the Johannesburg Summit in September by announcing concrete initiatives.

G8 ministers met in Banff, Canada 12-14 April in preparation for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to be held later this year in Johannesburg, South Africa. Discussions focused on three key issues that will be high on the agenda in Johannesburg; environment and development, environment and health, and environmental governance.

Calls were made to develop proposals for the sustainable use of water resources, efficient use of energy supplies and the protection of the world’s forests. Ministers also acknowledged the importance of advancing the understanding of linkages between environment, and health and poverty, raising concerns in particular about children’s environmental health. They hope to see the WSSD produce an international initiative that will synthesise information on environment and health. This would draw attention to the best practises for addressing environmental impacts on health and help identify how governments could do more to integrate environment and health into their policy making and actions.

Ministers anticipated agreement on improved international environmental governance in line with recent proposals worked out under the leadership of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Plans were also supported for the reinforcement of funding for the UNEP, which will allow enhancement of its global role in co-ordinating efforts for the environment and sustainable development.

Climate change was kept off the official agenda in an attempt to avoid skirmishes over the United State’s abandonment of the Kyoto Protocol. Except for the United States, all the other G8 nations have cautiously agreed to approve the treaty. However, the EU and Canada entered an intense debate over proposed amendments to the protocol, with Europe refusing to allow Canada to allow Canada to gain credits towards meeting targets set for reducing emissions by providing the United States with clean energy.

Talks also focused on how the private sector should be encouraged to invest more in sustainable development. In his closing remarks, the Honourable David Anderson, Canadian Minister of the Environment said, “The investment, technology and corporate responsibility choices of businesses create opportunities to bring together the environment and development”.

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