EU environment ministers prepare for Earth Summit
Author: Robin Pomeroy
With six weeks to go before the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, diplomats have yet to agree on core issues such as what targets to set and who should pay for helping the world's poor while stopping environmental damage.
"It is vital we achieve results in Johannesburg in August, therefore I am gathering my European colleagues," Danish Environment Minister Hans Christian Schmidt said in a statement. The ministers planned to meet throughout the weekend to achieve a joint negotiating position.
Denmark holds the rotating presidency of the 15-country EU and will lead the bloc's delegation at the summit.
Johannesburg marks 10 years since the Rio Earth Summit when world leaders for the first time formally agreed to act to stop global warming and protect nature. But Schmidt said governments had failed to live up to the expectations of Rio.
"Since then the world has not seen the progress so desperately required...Countries in the north and the south must demonstrate political commitment - there must be action behind the words."
The EU believes it holds the moral high ground on global environmental matters after it worked to save the Kyoto Protocol on global warming from collapse when the United States pulled out of it last year.
But with Kyoto yet to come into force pending ratification by Russia, climate change will take a back seat at the summit. The meeting will instead focus on how to meet the United Nations Millennium Declaration aims for reducing poverty.
"Poverty must be combated and this must take place with due consideration for the environment. There must be a balance," Schmidt said. "I hope we will agree to insist upon this balance."
According to the EU's executive Commission, the bloc has five priorities for Johannesburg: drafting a 10-year plan for sustainable production and consumption, reversing the decline in biological diversity, action to deal with hazardous chemicals, delivering clean water and sanitation to the world's poor and increasing the use of renewable energy.
EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said the EU would be pushing for Johannesburg to produce an action plan with measurable targets and deadlines - a plan that could be resisted by the United States, according to EU diplomats.
"We must continue to push for clear targets and timeframes to which politicians can be held accountable," Wallstrom said in a statement.