Ireland backs global action plan

Addressing the Plenary Session of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 3 September, the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, TD, set out key priorities, and welcomed the focus on the eradication of poverty. This latest Ireland Environmental Supplement, published by Local Authority Waste & Environment, also reports on recent developments on the environmental and waste management scene, including major initiatives to encourage recycling and promote composting

What we seek to achieve in Johannesburg is profoundly important to the world community,” the Taoiseach said. “ What we conclude here does matter and can make a vital difference. There is an enormous responsibility on all of us to play our part to the fullest both at national and international level.”

“The threat to the environment continues to grow and economic growth has not been decoupled from environmental degradation. Unsustainable patterns of production and consumption persist in the developed world.

“An environment that is compromised affects us all – but the poor are most vulnerable and least equipped to adapt to environmental change,” Mr Ahern said.

Key priorities

The Taoiseach declared that the Summit should focus on a number of over-riding priorities. These included the following areas:

  • The Millennium Development Goals must be at the core of our efforts here. Poverty reduction through sustainable development is what Johannesburg is about. I welcome the Summit’s focus on poverty eradication.
  • We must move forward on the basis of partnership. Partnership across society in support of sustainable development has been fundamental to Ireland’s economic and social progress in the 1990s. Looking outwards, our programme of development assistance is based on genuine partnerships with the developing countries.
  • The benefits of globalisation can best be shared through common commitment to sustainable production and consumption. I therefore strongly support the intended ten year framework of programmes to accelerate progress in this area.
  • Significantly increased Overseas Development Assistance is essential to meet our goals. The decline in global ODA in the 1990s is shameful, indefensible and inconsistent with the commitments given at Rio. I re-iterate Ireland’s absolute commitment to achieving, by 2007, the UN target of spending 0.7% of GNP on Overseas Development Assistance. Our aid budget has increased this year by €100 million, more than the value of our entire aid programme a few years ago. Further significant increases will be provided for over the next few years to enable the UN target to be met, as promised, by 2007.
  • We must work hard for a timely and successful outcome to the Doha Development Round of trade negotiations and the creation of a fair world trade order.
  • We must do more, much more, to alleviate the debt burden on poor, heavily indebted countries. Ireland supports, in principle, the cancellation of their debts.
  • We must spend all development resources as effectively as possible. All official development assistance should be completely untied from national commercial interests. None of Ireland’s ODA is tied and this will remain the case as our programme of development assistance expands.
  • I also strongly support increased spending on support for health systems, on research into the diseases of the poor, particularly HIV/AIDS, and on agricultural research aimed at food security, livestock, agro-forestry and water management.
  • We must bring new technologies into development. Ireland will make its expertise in e-government and e-learning available to our developing country partners. We will also work with the private sector and international agencies to develop standards of best practice in the use of IT in development.”

Environmental commitment

Mr Ahern told the Conference that, on a national level, Ireland had experienced rapid economic growth from the mid-1990s. “We attach high priority to environmental management and protection. Despite rapid economic development, our economy is now more environmentally efficient than it was ten years ago.

“We are gearing up to meet our Kyoto commitment and prepare for the tougher action that is necessary to tackle climate change. We remain adamantly opposed to nuclear energy and any expansion of the nuclear industry, which in our view have no role in the pursuit of sustainable development.”

In conclusion, the Taoiseach said: “Ten years ago, Rio provided us with a vision of sustainable development: our task is to realise that vision. What we need now, and need urgently, is action.

“Johannesburg must initiate the decade of action on sustainable development. We must pick up the pace and act with political vision.”

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