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Outcomes of the Joburg Summit
by Anna T
The World Summit on Sustainable Development

Johannesburg, South Africa •• Sept. 4, 2002 •• SolarQuest® iNet News Service •• As the World Summit on Sustainable Development draws to a close all look to what achievements this event has made and what the final document will be to come out of the week and a half of talks held. The main issues under debate have been greenhouse gas emissions and the Kyoto Protocol, free and fair trade with the elimination of Northern agricultural subsidies, sustainable energy, corporate accountability, debt cancellation, increased foreign aid, good governance and political will to implement sustainable development. With the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and sustainable energy as the two main sticking points the reactions to the outcomes of the Summit have been mixed.

From a political stand point tremendous pressure has been put on the USA and Australia, two of the major remaining countries refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, as G8 countries break rank urging all concerned to ratify the agreement on climate change. In a surprise move Canada, one of America's closest allies joined Japan, another ally, in announcing its intention to ratify the protocol before the end of the year and stood by Britain and the EU in urging others to do the same. China has recently also announced it would start the process of ratification as has Russia which is a big step forward in getting the number of countries contributing more than 55% of global emissions necessary to legally implement the restrictions on emissions set out in the Kyoto Protocol.

On the issue of sustainable energy, after long negotiations and plenary sessions a compromise has been reached but many believe it is not enough. Developed and developing countries have agreed to accelerate substitution of renewable energy for fossil fuels by making a strong commitment to phasing out subsidies on fossil fuel, which will create a market for renewables, but have failed to stipulate timetables for achieving levels of substitution.

Other agreements to come out of the Summit have included: a renewed commitment to the Rio Principles; a new agreement to scrutinize patterns of production and consumption; a linking of the Summit text on sustainable development to the Doha and Monterey trade and finance agreements, which could strengthen the developing worlds hand in the World Trade Organization negotiations; making pacts on bio-diversity that could lead to new international law; new deals on protection of the oceans and fish stocks; and setting targets on access to water, health and sanitation. [Source: SA hails new deal, but NGOs dismissive, Cape Times, 4 Sept. 2002, pg 1]

Despite these achievements many think that the Summit has not made enough ground. Greenpeace, Oxfam and Friends of the Earth have been particularly vocal about the lack of progress made saying that despite many agreements made there has been no clear commitment to action. Their main areas of concern surround the lack of commitment and timetables to end agricultural export subsidies, cancel debt and implement a framework for corporate accountability. They feel there needs to be more ambitious international targets for the use of renewable energy relating to the curbing of climate change and a greater stand against the privatization of basic services such as water and sanitation. In general they feel the commitments that have been made are weak and not proactive enough.

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