Baltic environment progress "disappointing"

Two-yearly review of regional sustainability network finds countries far from achieving goals

The 11 states bordering the Baltic Sea have taken some positive strides towards achieving sustainable development but are still "a long way away" from meeting their overall goal. This is the conclusion of the Baltic 21 secretariat's first biennial performance report, which was formally presented alongside this week's UNEP meeting in Sweden (see separate article).

Most members of the network have succeeded in cutting acidification since the organisation was founded in 1996, the report says. However, combined emissions of greenhouse gases are relatively unchanged from 1990 levels - the baseline for measuring progress towards Kyoto protocol reduction targets. Moreover, on renewable energy, members have only made progress towards defining how they will develop it rather than actually doing so, the report adds.

The Baltic 21 initiative is watched with keen interest as the world's first coordinated attempt to promote sustainable development at a regional level. However, disappointment was expressed that differences between the richest and poorest members of the group had widened in the past five years, despite a commitment to reducing economic and social divisions.

An update was also given on developing an effective work programme for the organisation, before the next major review due in 2003. This will include capacity building, structural changes, demonstration programmes and exchange of know-how. A spokesperson said work was now falling into place in defining underlying structures for the final three areas - transport investment, effective energy use in towns, and sustainable agriculture.

Follow Up:
Baltic 21, tel: +46 8 405 2400, and performance report 2000.

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