Sumario: October 16, 2003: Statement to the General Assembly of the United Nations by Mr. Antonio Bernardini, First Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations on behalf of the European Union. SECOND COMMITTEE -- ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, THE IMPLEMENTATION OF AGENDA 21, THE PROGRAMME FOR FURTHER IMPLEMENTATION OF AGENDA 21, THE OUTCOMES OF THE WORLD SUMMIT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE OUTCOME OF THE UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON HUMAN SETTLEMENTS (HABITAT II) AND THE TWENTY-FIFTH SPECIAL SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ITEMS 94, 94(A) THROUGH 94(G), 95, AND 101 (New York)
I have the honour to take the floor on behalf of the European Union. The Acceding Countries, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia align themselves to this statement.
The EU attaches great importance to the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and agrees with the Secretary-General that the Summit represents the beginning of a common journey, which course has been set and needs now to be implemented through concrete action. The EU is fully committed to implement the Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development and its Plan of Implementation, which have already been reflected in the Union's overall strategy for sustainable development. The three overarching objectives of sustainable development: - poverty eradication, changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns and managing and protecting the natural resource base of economic and social development - shall guide our work in the Assembly, and be central elements in our deliberations on these agenda items. Reaching these objectives will also contribute to reaching the Millennium Development Goals.
Since we met at Johannesburg, the state of the world has improved at a slower pace than hoped, and has even shown a regressive streak in a number of regions, as the Secretary-General has pointed out in his Report on progress on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Most of the people in the world continue to be affected by the short and long-term effects of air, soil and water pollution, climate changes, desertification, soil erosion, land degradation, and of a chronic lack of access to the resources that would allow them to improve their quality of life and exit the poverty spiral. In our own sub-region we have recently witnessed the frightful consequences of climate change, natural hazards and of unsustainable patterns of energy production and consumption.
The signals abound as to the gravity of the planet's environmental situation. We must therefore intensify our efforts to fulfill the commitments we have made at Johannesburg. The EU holds the conviction that, as the environment is one of the three mutually reinforcing pillars of sustainable development, the tackling of environmental issues offers important opportunities for making the development process sustainable. In this endeavour, we are faced with two major challenges.
Climate change is undoubtedly one major challenge, and the Kyoto Protocol, which has the full commitment of the EU, represents the international instrument for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, without undermining economic development. The EU wishes to underline the importance of the entering into force of the Kyoto Protocol and urges once more those parties to the Convention on Climate Change who have not yet ratified it to do so as soon as possible, so that much awaited effective action can be taken to proceed with implementation of the Protocol. In this regard, we very much look forward to a productive and focused 9th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will be held in Milan, Italy, in December 2003. Furthermore, we wish to reiterate the importance of giving high priority to international scientific and technological cooperation as key to the development of innovative and sustainable technologies to ensure, inter alia, national capacities for adaptation to the adverse effects of climate changes, in recognition of the fact that adaptation is critical to the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change, namely, the least developed countries and the small island developing states.
The EU is very aware of the special environmental and developmental difficulties being faced by Small Island Development States, and shares the concerns reiterated at the 11th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development. Welcoming the efforts made at all levels to implement the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA) for the Sustainable Development of Small Islands Developing States, the EU looks forward to a productive and focused review of the implementation of the Programme of Action at the international meeting in Mauritius in 2004. In this regard we are encouraged by the energetic approach the Small Island Developing States have taken at the regional preparatory meetings held to date and welcome the establishment by the Secretary-General of an Inter-Agency Task Force charged with its preparation.
We also like to emphasize the fact that scientific and technological cooperation is vital to achieve progress in disaster prevention and mitigation. We have witnessed times and again the fact that prevention policies coupled with technological innovation are of utmost importance in reducing the impact of natural disasters on loss of human life and economic damage. Furthermore, advances in information technology are paramount for strengthening national capacities for disaster early warning, which is so crucial for the protection of human lives and livelihoods of vulnerable regions.
The second challenge is the eradication of poverty, whose nexus with the integrity of ecosystems was made evident at Johannesburg. As access to modern reliable and affordable energy services is paramount to poverty eradication, poverty eradication strategies should therefore pursue simultaneously the goal of reducing carbon emissions and of providing sustainable energy services and resources that are economically viable, socially acceptable and environmentally sound. As one of the largest economic areas in the world, the EU is therefore committed to developing its own potential, as well as to working in partnership with developing countries, for eco-efficient economies and for the development and adoption of sustainable patterns of energy production and consumption. Since the majority of people in the developing world have no access to modern forms of energy services the increased use of locally available renewable energy sources is one of the key to poverty eradication, as we all agreed in Johannesburg. Therefore, the EU actively supports the International Conference for Renewable Energies, scheduled to be held in Bonn in June 2004, that aims at establishing a strong and firm policy framework for the enhanced use of renewable energies on a global scale, as well as long-term commitments in this regard.
Another important global threat is the unprecedented rate of the loss of biodiversity, as conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity is a precondition for sustainable development and poverty reduction. To overcome this threat by 2010 is the overarching target for the next years, to which the EU is fully committed. In this regard, the EU takes great pleasure in marking the entering into force of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety on 11 September 2003, and strongly urges all countries that have not yet ratified the Convention and/or the Protocol to do so as soon as possible. This will enable them to participate as full partners in the decision-making at the forthcoming Meetings of the Parties scheduled in Kuala Lumpur in February 2004.
The face of poverty is that of a slum dweller, of a rural woman, of a hungry, sick child. Dry-lands are home to more than one billion people, whose living conditions are directly affected by desertification and whose poverty is both a cause and a consequence of land degradation. As action against desertification constitutes a vital requisite for poverty reduction and increased food security, the EU is committed to continue to support policies and programmes that will further the implementation of the Convention to Combat Desertification. The EU is convinced that key to the successful implementation of the Convention is the mainstreaming of the goals and instruments of the Convention to combat drought and desertification into national and regional development policies and poverty eradication strategies.
In this context, the EU is encouraged by the positive results obtained in September 2003 in the occasion of the 6th Conference of the Parties to the Convention to Combat Desertification held in La Havana; the EU is however convinced that much more progress could have been achieved should the Conference have been conducted in a more time and cost effective manner, in greater spirit of partnership and cooperation and supported by a more transparent acting by the Secretariat of the Convention.
Mountain regions constitute the habitat of more than a quarter of the world's population, and hold a great economic potential in terms of water resources and tourism. Most mountain regions however, are marginalized and mountain population excluded from the traditional development patterns. Mountain eco-systems are particularly fragile and vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. The EU recognizes the need for and advocates different and specific development strategies for mountain regions, which take into account the protection of the existing values and environment. The EU welcomes the partnership spirit with which the International Partnership for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions has been established and welcomes the outcome of the First Global Meeting of Members of the Mountain Partnership that was held in Merano at the beginning of October 2003.
In the spirit of global partnership, the EU confirms its availability for identifying strategies and mechanisms that are based upon and encourage the integration of environmental dimensions in development policies and programmes, the development of national capacities for environmental governance, and the development and diffusion of good practices, environmentally sustainable processes and climate friendly, efficient and clean low carbon energy technologies, as well as renewable energy sources. In this endeavour, efforts by member states can be optimized by the support of the UN system, the international financial institutions, including the Bretton Woods Institutions and other institutional actors, acting in a coordinated manner in the spirit of Monterrey and other international Conferences.
The Commission on Sustainable Development plays a central role in the implementation of the decisions taken at Johannesburg. The EU welcomes the concept of a two-year work cycle adopted by the CSD 11 and its multi-year programme of work for the period after 2003, as well as the three themes on which the Commission will focus during the next 2004-2005 cycle - water, sanitation and human settlements - which are important EU sustainable development priorities, as indicated by the EU partnership initiatives on water and energy that were launched in support of the WSSD Plan of Implementation.
The EU recognizes the efforts of UNDESA, UNDP, UNEP, UNIDO, UNESCO, FAO, the World Bank, GEF, and other organizations of the UN system for the concrete actions taken and for progress achieved in important programmes, initiatives, and partnerships, such as the World Solar Programme 1996-2005, the Global Village Energy Partnership, the Global Network on Energy for Sustainable Development, the International Partnership for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions, as well as others undertaken to further the implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.
The EU recalls its commitment to strengthen international environmental governance, and its current process launched during the Cartagena Global Ministerial Environment Forum in 2002 and endorsed by the WSSD Plan of Implementation. In the view of the EU, such an improvement could lead to the upgrading of UNEP into a specialized UN agency with a broadly-based mandate on environmental matters.
The EU also welcomes the increasingly active involvement by the international community in support of achieving the goals set in the Habitat agenda, as regards improvements in city-slums and the availability of water and sanitation in all human settlements. The recent increases in financial support for UN-Habitat, from EU members and other countries, as well as the developing collaboration between UN-Habitat and international financial institutions, notably the World Bank Group and the Asian Development Bank are also welcomed. The EU encourages UN-Habitat to continue developing innovative partnerships with the private sector, NGOs and the public sector, notably at local levels, who can widen the range of efficient services necessary for improving the quality of life of slum dwellers and other poor children, women and men.
Finally, the EU welcomes the new action oriented approach on partnership initiatives launched in Johannesburg, a most important vehicle for advancing sustainable development, involving governments, civil society and business sector. The EU is therefore encouraged by the considerable number of partnerships that have registered with DESA, and invites all countries and potential stakeholders to maintain the Johannesburg momentum.
We shall distribute a longer version of this statement elaborating in greater detail on the EU position on Items 94, 94(a) through (g), 95 and 101.
Thank you, Mr. President.