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Date: Tue, 19 May 98 13:43:14 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Enviro: Post-Rio Failures Make World Less Safe
Article: 35303
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.6143.19980520181616@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** ips.english: 495.0 **/
** Topic: ENVIRONMENT: Post-Rio Failures Make World Less Safe **
** Written 4:07 PM May 13, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

Post-Rio Failures Make World Less Safe

By Thalif Deen, IPS, 10 May 1998

UNITED NATIONS, May 10 (IPS)—The world would be an ecologically safer place today if recommendations made at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro had been implemented by now, according to the head of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF).

Mohammed El-Ashry, chairman of the multilateral environmental body, blamed the international community for reneging on commitments made at the Rio summit six years ago. As a result, the environmental outlook was bad, said El-Ashry, because there was no political will to pursue sustainable development at the level that was required to reverse past trends.

One in eight plant species was on the edge of extinction, he said, while the world experienced the warmest weather ever. A new ozone hole was developing in the Arctic, massive ice was melting and the Amazon was on fire, El-Ashry added.

At the Rio summit, described as one of the largest single U.N. gatherings, more than 180 world leaders adopted a global environmental action plan called Agenda 21. The cost of implementing the plan was estimated at about 125 billion dollars.

But a number of key policy issues in Agenda 21 had not been implemented both by developed and developing countries, as well as international institutions, El-Ashry pointed out.

GEF, which is jointly administered by the World Bank, the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) and the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), is currently the primary financial mechanism for the global environment. Since 1991, it has funded environmental projects in about 119 countries with money mostly provided by donors and the private sector.

El-Ashry said GEF’s resources have been used to leverage an additional five billion dollars from other sources—governments, international organisations and private sector. It needed to increase the level of private sector participation because only very little foreign direct investment was coming into the social and environmental sectors.

Asked if he was satisfied with the results of the projects funded so far, El-Ashry said GEF had completed an independent evaluation over the past six years. But many of those projects had not been completed, so it is not possible yet to assess their full impact, he added.

El-Ashry said the bureaucracy had to be simplified, not just on the part of GEF but also the governments themselves. He admitted that coordination at the country level was not satisfactory; for examplwe one ministry did not know know what the other was doing.

Global environmental issues—whether biodiversity, climate change or energy—were closely related to planning and development. El-Ashry said that, since the Rio summit, developing nations had several unfulfilled initiatives including reducing subsidies on fuel, water and fertiliser; alleviating povery and improving livelihoods; empowering communities and grass roots groups; and encouraging private enterpreneurs.

As for industrial nations, he said, they had not reduced emissions substantially. So far, about 34 countries have signed the Kyoto Protocol to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The protocol contains legally binding targets for developed countries to reduce their greeenhouse gas emissions. Although Germany, France, Italy and Britain have signed the protocol, the U.S. has not.

El-Ashry said industrial nations also were committed to large- scale research and development of renewable energy or energy sources with zero emissions of carbon. Additionally, they were expected to facilitate the transfer of environmentally sound technologies to Third World nations.

Meanwhile, Cielito Habito, chairman of the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development, told reporters last week it would be unfair to conclude that not much had happened since the 1992 Earth Summit. At the local and national levels, a lot had been achieved, he said.

Communities within countries had been doing quite a lot without necessarily taking guidance from Agenda 21, he noted. They were perhaps inspired by it. But Habito admitted there had been no satisfactory progress with regard to global agreements or conventions.

It was the global aspect that had proved to be more challenging because it required governments making certain commitments and those were often harder to achieve, he said.