World Summit on Sustainable Development: Johannesburg, page 2
What Happened at Johannesburg?
After two weeks of hard bargaining, the member countries agreed on a Plan of Implementation to deal with world poverty and the destruction of the environment. The plan was adopted on September 4, 2002, the last day of the summit, at 1:15 AM. Some of the issues faced were:
Climate change and the Kyoto Protocol: In face of global warming that threatens the environment, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted by the international community in 1997 to lower the amount of carbon produced in the atmosphere by burning coal and oil. Some of the countries who are heavy polluters, such as the USA and Australia, refuse to abide by the terms of the Kyoto Protocol.
Targets for Renewable Energy: Two billion people cannot escape poverty without access to energy. The Plan of Implementation recognizes the need to shift from fossil fuels (oil, coal) to non-polluting sources such as wind, sun and water. But, under pressure from some northern countries, it fails to set reductions for polluting energy sources in providing energy for the poor.
Water and Sanitation: Governments agreed to provide safe drinking water and access to basic sanitation by 2015 for half the people of the world without them. This was a victory for the poor. Meanwhile, eleven million children do not reach the age of five because they must drink filthy contaminated water.
Corporate Accountability: Governments agreed to work towards global regulation of corporations and trans-national companies. Corporations unaccountable to any government are the greatest cause of division and growing poverty in the developing, or third world.
Biodiversity: The Plan of Implementation fell short in addressing the crisis of global extinction and massive degradation of both our land and water resources. Species of plants, insects and animal life continue to disappear at alarming rates.
Elimination of Energy Subsidies harmful to the Environment: Governments agreed to eliminate environmentally harmful subsidies, but their commitment was weak, without timetables or targets. Hundreds of billions of dollars, for example, are given in tax relief or direct subsidies to the fossil fuel industry that produces coal, oil and nuclear power.
Trade and Finance: Many governments included in their official delegations numerous representatives of big business and trans-national corporations, and so a trade agenda often displaced the summit's agenda to eradicate poverty and preserve the environment. A motion to give the World Trade Organization power to override every environmental decision was defeated in the final moments of the meeting by efforts of several small "powerless" countries -- Ethiopia, St. Lucia, Tuvalu.
Sustainable development can only happen when the "three pillars" -- the social, the environmental and the economic pillars -- are respected and held in creative tension. In Johannesburg there was a strong move by some governments and their corporate advisors to subordinate the social and environmental to the economic.
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