World Summit Post-Mortem
D.C. - After
10 days of contentious negotiations, the World Summit on Sustainable Development
(WSSD) concludes this Wednesday, September 4, in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The Worldwatch Institute
has been monitoring and analyzing World Summit preparations over the past
several months. Seven members of the Institute's staff and board were
non-governmental delegates to the Summit. Christopher Flavin, the Institute's
President, and several of his colleagues have returned to Washington and
are prepared to provide analysis and commentary on the Summit's outcome.
The Institute's assessment includes:
The agreement reached in Johannesburg is weak on targets and timetables.
It will also be more difficult to enforce as it lacks sanctions for
non-compliance. (To the contrary, such sanctions were included in a
world trade agreement struck last year.) The question now is whether
government leaders will enact and enforce laws needed to make the vision
of a sustainable world a reality.
- World Summit deliberations
revealed widening splits between nations. Europe, for example, is now
far more willing than the United States to adopt tough new environmental
standards. The divide is even greater between industrial and developing
countries on the question of economic assistance for reducing poverty.
The next few years will reveal whether progress over the past two decades
toward multilateral cooperation on pressing environmental and social
issues will continue.
- A vigorous debate
over renewable energy lasted right up to the end of the Summit, with
Europe and several Latin American countries arguing for a firm commitment
to move away from fossil fuels. Although the United States, China, and
OPEC were ultimately successful in weakening this provision, the fact
that the debate progressed as far as it did reflects strengthened confidence
in the ability of new energy technologies to move quickly into the marketplace,
a perspective that was shared by many industry representatives in Johannesburg.
more on the World Summit on Sustainable Development here!