Global ministerial "sets 21st century agenda"

Environment ministers call for action against twin evils of poverty, excessive consumption

Over 100 environment ministers today declared that pervasive poverty in large parts of the world set against "excessive and wasteful consumption" in others was "perpetuating the vicious circle of environmental degradation and increasing poverty". Resolving the contradiction was the key obstacle to achieving global environmental sustainability, the ministers agreed, following three days of talks in Malmö, Sweden, hosted by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The Malmö declaration styles itself as "setting the environmental agenda for the 21st century". The statement will be an important input to the "Rio+10" summit in 2002, at which governments will review progress towards sustainable development ten years on from the 1992 Earth summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Setting out their vision of what should be done to achieve sustainability, environment ministers agreed that poverty should be halved by 2015. Environment should be better integrated into economic policies, while international legal instruments on environmental issues should be better coordinated. Environmental security should be enhanced through improved early warning systems.

Ministers called for faster progress towards achieving these aims, noting "an alarming discrepancy between commitments and action". In particular, they said, governments should "urgently pursue" ratification of key international conventions and protocols on climate, chemicals, biosafety and desertification. Preparations for the Rio+10 summit should also be stepped up, they urged.

The declaration points to globalisation and the rise of "new economy" sectors, such as information technology and biotechnology, as key new factors that environmental policy makers need to take account of. They stress that both trends offer opportunities as much as they pose new risks.

Follow Up:
UNEP, tel: +41 22 917 8272; Home page of the Malmö conference; detailed coverage of proceedings from Earth Negotiations Bulletin, and UNEP background document on Major environmental challenges of the new century.

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