UN World Summit Pact Gets Mixed Reviews

Eric J. Lyman
United Press International
September 3, 2002

With more than 100 heads of state on hand as the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development draws to a close, a fourth straight marathon negotiating session finished the text on renewable energy, the last remaining point of contention in the summit's key implementation text.

But delegates gave the 71-page action plan—which sets out proposals on an array of environmental, anti-poverty, and sustainable development issues—mixed reviews, and environmentalists blasted the agreement for being too weak.

The final sticking point was language regarding targets for renewable energy. The two main proposals were for a goal of 15 percent of the world's power to come from renewable energy by 2010, or 10 percent by 2012. Most environmental groups supported the 10 percent target because it included a stricter definition of what constituted renewable energy, eliminating large hydroelectric and biomass projects, which carry their own environmental risks.

But with the two sides deadlocked, and 109 world leaders urging the negotiations to end, delegates chose text that did not list any target for renewable energy use, instead calling for countries to "with a sense of urgency, substantially increase the global share of renewable energy sources, with the objective of increasing its contribution to total energy supply."

Summit organizers applauded delegates for finally finishing what had been an unusually difficult negotiation process, but environmental advocates took a different view.

"The final document is extremely weak and the renewable energy text is appalling," World Wildlife Fund activist Javier Sessa said. "Calling for increased renewable energy use without targets is like trying to fight crime without having any laws that say what is legal and what is illegal. It is a crime that all this money and effort went into producing something that will do so little good."

Delegates themselves were more philosophical.

"The important thing is that we have an agreement, something everyone agreed on," one Italian negotiator said. "You can argue individual points, but this is much better than having no text at all."

Aside from the text on renewable energy, the implementation document calls for countries by 2015 to halve the proportion of people in the world living on less than U.S. $1 a day and the number of people who suffer from chronic hunger, and to double the number of people with access to safe drinking water.

Also, the text establishes a world solidarity fund to eradicate poverty and calls on countries to develop integrated water management plans by 2005, restore world fishing stocks by 2015, and minimize risks associated with the use and production of toxic chemicals by 2020.

The text also calls on countries—most notably the United States—that have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol on global warming to do so, as well as to reduce biodiversity loss by 2010, reduce infant mortality rates by two-thirds and maternal mortality rates by three-quarters by 2015 compared to 2000 levels, make basic education available universally by 2015—and it urges developed countries to donate 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product to development aid.

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