Johannesburg: agreements and disagreements

At its half-way point, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) has resulted in some agreements, but there is still a clash of cultures over whether or not to introduce new targets.


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At the start of the week, agreement was reached on maintaining and restoring fish stocks to levels that produce a maximum sustainable yield by 2015. Delegates also agreed to urge the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to consider stronger mechanisms for implementation. The agreement includes consideration of the ‘special requirements’ of developing states. However, conservation groups have criticised the agreement for being too weak.

Good news also includes the fact that the UN has now received 218 submissions for partnership initiatives in areas such as water and sanitation and energy. The partnerships are designed to connect final negotiated Summit document with actual implementation.

Initiatives include a major partnership by the European Union between governments, business and civil society.

One such initiative is the Velo Mondial scheme based in Amsterdam, which will run from the end of September this year to the end of 2012. The scheme aims to develop a working model in South Africa, Europe and the US for establishing a bicycle refurbishing industry, which will contribute to poverty eradication and sustainable development. It is intended that 100,000 bicycles will be collected in Europe and the US every year a five-year period, and then refurbished and sold in Africa.

“We need action at all levels – local, national, regional and international – to promote sustainable development,” said Danish Environment Minister and current EU President Hans Christian Schmidt. “It is clear that partnerships can provide such action.”

The EU is also launching a smaller-scale partnership initiative to promote sustainable urban development outside Europe. “Building on Europe’s experience with Local Agenda 21 projects, this initiative aims to assist towns and cities outside the EU to take practical steps towards sustainable urban development, for example by preparing and implementing LA 21 plans,” said European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Poul Nielson.

However, there are still a number of outstanding disagreements. The European Union is disappointed that the US is continuing to refuse to agree on new targets for cleaner energy and sanitation in developing nations (see related story).

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