Chair's Summary of
the Eighth Environment Congress
for Asia and the Pacific 
(ECO ASIA '99)

Sapporo, Japan

5 September 1999

1. The Eighth Environment Congress for Asia and the Pacific (ECO ASIA '99) was held in Sapporo, Japan on 4 and 5 September 1999, hosted by the Environment Agency of Japan, the Hokkaido Prefectural Government and the Municipality of Sapporo. The Congress was attended by 111 participants, including eight Ministers from 17 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, 12 participants from 11 international organizations, and a wide range of other participants.

2. The Congress was chaired by H.E. Mr. Kenji Manabe, Minister of State and the Director-General of the Environment Agency of Japan. The seven other ministers in attendance served as Vice-Chairs of the Congress.

3. The Congress' morning session on the first day was open to the public and covered the potential for achievement of sustainable development in the 21st century in Asia and the Pacific region based upon reports on the progress of the ECO ASIA Long-Term Perspective Project. This was followed by sessions addressing the following three topics: (1) Revitalization of leaders' momentum towards the success of COP5 and COP6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and strengthening of their determination to address climate change in their home countries as well as in regional fora; (2) Regional cooperation towards sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific region and mutual understanding of the major issues and initiatives being undertaken by various countries and organizations, including initiatives involving multilateral cooperation; and (3) Contributions of the Asia-Pacific region to the comprehensive review of Agenda 21 in the year 2002 ("Rio + 10"), including possible input from ECO ASIA.

Session Open to the Public
4. The morning session, coordinated by Prof. Jiro Kondo, Chairman of the Central Environment Council, set the tone for the meeting, with a keynote speech by Mr. Kazuo Matsushita of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), presentations by environment ministers from four countries, and a discussion. 

5. Mr. Matsushita described current trends in the Asia-Pacific region based on projections of environmental indicators made by the AIM model, and issues concerning the establishment of sound policies for sustainable development in the 21st century. He highlighted major recent environmental episodes such as the flooding of the Yangtze River in China, the haze in Southeast Asia, and urban air pollution; new developments in environmental governance in a number of countries in the Asia-Pacific region; and implications of the financial crisis in East Asia. He suggested means of promoting effective policy reform, such as incentive systems, legal frameworks, information disclosure and cooperation with the private sector. With regard to policy directions, Mr. Matsushita noted a trend towards local efforts in dealing with environmental issues and expressed the view that international environmental cooperation can lead to increased peace and stability in the region. In closing he noted the opportunity for ECO ASIA to propose concrete strategies for consideration at the "Rio + 10" Conference.

6. Next, reports were presented on efforts to address environmental issues by environment ministers from four countries: H.E. Mr. Kenji Manabe of the Environment Agency of Japan; H.E. Dr. Mok Mareth of the Ministry of Environment of Cambodia; H.E. Ms. Kim Myung Ja of the Ministry of Environment of Korea; and the Hon. Bhakta Bahadur Balayar of the Ministry of Population and Environment of Nepal. 

7. Mr. Manabe highlighted some of the most recent efforts in Japan to deal with environmental issues, including the entry into force of two laws this year relating to climate change: the Law for Promotion of Measures to Cope with Global Warming and the revised Law Concerning the Rational Use of Energy. He also noted the attention Japan is paying to chemical substances by the recent enactment of the Law on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers, numerous efforts to deal with dioxins, and considerable work on endocrine disrupting chemicals. Dr. Mareth noted that although Cambodia is a poor developing country and has been isolated from the rest of the world for the last two decades, its efforts to address environmental issues are accelerating, with the creation of the Ministry of Environment in 1993, the previous signing of five international conventions relating to the environment, including the UNFCCC, and plans to accede to three more conventions. Top current environmental issues in Cambodia are deforestation in upper watersheds and environmental protection of the Tonle Sap Lake system, he said. Ms. Kim noted that Korea is now facing environmental issues resulting from economic development, and pointed out reforms in five policy areas in Korea to realize an environmentally friendly society in the 21st century: water resources, atmosphere, the recycling of resources, preservation of natural resources, and international cooperation. Mr. Balayar stated that the major environmental problems in Nepal are land degradation, deforestation, and environmental pollution, and called for attention to three issues: poverty should be the focus of environment management and sustainable development; developing countries need additional technical and financial resources to address ecological problems; and regional cooperation is needed for public awareness raising since ignorance is a significant cause of environmental problems. 

8. A number of important points arose in the ensuing discussion. The view was expressed that the "Rio + 10" meeting should be held in the Asia-Pacific region given the importance of the region for sustainable development in the 21st century. ECO ASIA was urged to strengthen cooperation with parliamentarians or parliamentarian groups, with specific reference to the Global Legislators for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE) and the Asia-Pacific Parliamentarian Conference on Environment and Development (APCED). The point was made that more efforts are needed to promote biomass energy, and that as a general rule, "win-win" approaches should be sought to cope with environmental problems. It was pointed out that information sharing of both successes and failures is important, and that the Internet is an important tool for this. Another point made was that especially in the Asia-Pacific region, more support could be found at the local levels if efforts were made to show the human health effects of environmental problems, including the impacts of global warming and the use of chemicals and fossil fuels. The issue of environmental taxes was raised, and the view was expressed that although in general it is difficult to introduce new taxes during economic downturns, they are an important tool for environmental protection.

Climate Change
9. The session on Climate Change was chaired by Mr. Manabe. Mr. Kok Kee Chow, Chairman of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), UNFCCC, delivered a lead-off speech overviewing the present status of negotiation under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, as well as the road ahead to COP5 and COP6. Following his speech, a presentation was delivered by H.E. Mr. Panangian Siregar, the Minister for the Environment of Indonesia, on Indonesia's efforts in addressing climate change. This was in turn followed by presentations by Mr. Hironori Hamanaka, Director-General, Global Environment Department, Environment Agency of Japan, Mr. In Su Lee, Director-General for International Cooperation, Ministry of Environment of Korea, and Dr. Suren Batagoda, on behalf of the Hon. Mr. Mahinda Wijesekera, Minister of Forestry and Environment of Sri Lanka.

10. Mr. Chow emphasized the need for more technical work to be undertaken in several areas for the success of COP5 and COP6 and the need for political guidance to the negotiation process as a whole. He stated his expectations that, considering the limited time until COP6, COP5 would provide clear guidance on work programs leading to COP6 and that all Parties would participate actively in the negotiation process with firm political determination. Mr. Siregar gave an overview of various initiatives being undertaken in Indonesia along with the problems these initiatives face. He emphasized the need to consider social and economic factors in addressing climate change both domestically and internationally. Mr. Hamanaka, after presenting various domestic measures taken in Japan, highlighted certain proposals for Asia-Pacific regional cooperation, namely, more concerted actions including (1) ministerial-level policy dialogue, (2) multi-channel technology transfer, (3) information exchange, and (4) capacity building. Dr. Batagoda discussed Sri Lanka's progress in fulfilling its obligations under the Convention, presented a sketch of some possible cooperative actions through activities implemented jointly (AIJ) and clean development mechanism (CDM) schemes and described financial and awareness barriers to participation in these activities.

11. The Ministers and other representatives expressed common sentiments that the main priorities for the international community in achieving the goals of the Convention should be first, the early entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol and second, assuring the success of COP5 and COP6 through strong political leadership. The importance of a high-level round-table at the forthcoming COP5 was highlighted. It was emphasized that for the realization of the provisions of the Protocol, the rules and modalities of the Kyoto Mechanisms, namely the CDM, emissions trading and joint implementation, demand more extensive and broader-based discussions. For this purpose, the need for wider and more effective participation of developing countries in international negotiations was pointed out. High expectations towards the CDM as a vehicle for technology transfer and financial investment were a recurring theme in the discussion that followed the presentations in this session.

12. Various initiatives being undertaken by countries in the region were introduced along with the problems these countries faced during implementation. The importance of afforestation and reforestation programs, which contribute to greenhouse gas reduction through the creation and enlargement of sinks, was stressed along with programs related to energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy sources. The needs for (1) the strengthening of regional cooperation, (2) technology transfer from developed countries to developing countries and (3) capacity building in developing countries were also highlighted as essential elements in facilitating actions in the region. The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP/ROAP) were noted as expected to play significant roles in these endeavors. 

13. It was pointed out that efforts towards addressing climate change need to be compatible with the attainment of sustainable development in developing countries and that special attention should be paid to adaptation activities as they are indispensable for countries in the region vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change.

Regional Cooperation towards Sustainable Development
14. The Session on Regional Cooperation towards Sustainable Development was chaired by the Hon. Datuk Law Hieng-Ding, Minister of Science, Technology and the Environment of Malaysia, and consisted of five presentations followed by a discussion. Presentations were made by Mr. Howard Bamsey, Deputy Secretary, Department of Environment and Heritage of Australia; Mr. Song Ruixiang, Vice Minister, State Environmental Protection Administration of China; Dr. Wari Iamo on behalf of the Hon. Mr. William Ebenosi, State Minister for Rural Development, Environment and Conservation of Papua New Guinea; Mr. Masao Nii of the Interim Secretariat of the Acid Deposition Monitoring Network in East Asia (EANET); and Dr. Mahendra Kumar, International Negotiations Officer of the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP). 

15. Mr. Bamsey gave a specific example of technology transfer in the business sector involving mining in China, described the Australian government's Ecoplan which involves regional cooperation, and outlined government-level regional activities relating to chemicals, turtle conservation, forest management and climate change, especially with Australia's closest neighbors. Mr. Song described extensive efforts regarding the environment and sustainable development, expressed the willingness of the government of China to cooperate internationally, and pointed out China's implementation of international environmental conventions. Dr. Wari Iamo spoke regarding Papua New Guinea's experiences in receiving international assistance. Based on those experiences he pointed out the need to radically re-think cooperation to reflect the real needs and constraints of developing countries, and to reflect the contributions that developing countries can offer to other countries. Mr. Nii briefed participants on the present status of the preparatory-phase activities of the EANET, and expressed his expectation to see its formal establishment in 2000 as originally envisaged. Dr. Kumar gave an overview of SPREP's comprehensive coverage of the five environmental issues which concern South Pacific countries, namely biodiversity, climate change, integrated coastal zone management, waste management, and education and training. 

16. The ensuing discussion on regional cooperation raised a number of points. SPREP noted that there was interest among its member countries in developing potential forms of renewable energy, including "sustainable" biomass, in order to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels. It was suggested that ECO ASIA should collaborate with APEC in such fields as technology transfer in relation to APEC's initiatives on trade and investment liberalization. It was pointed out that Asian and Pacific countries' experiences in regional cooperation would be useful both inside and outside the region, considering the region's diversity in many aspects. An explanation was given of the extensive efforts of ESCAP to promote sub-regional cooperation on environmental issues in the Northeast Asian region. The view was expressed that a need exists for more assistance regarding capacity building for acid deposition monitoring beyond the East Asian region. Also, it was recognized that EANET was an excellent example of regional cooperation towards sustainable development, involving intergovernmental and scientific fora. In the context of regional cooperation, it was noted that indigenous technologies were important for sustainable development. Further, it was suggested that there was much more room for regional cooperation on atmospheric issues which affect more than one country in the region, such as the haze issue in Southeast Asia, and the releases of ozone depleting substances and greenhouse gases. 

Contribution to the Comprehensive Review of Agenda 21 in the Year 2002 ("Rio + 10")
17. Mr. Kenji Manabe chaired this session on Contribution to the Comprehensive Review of Agenda 21 in the Year 2002. Dr. Kenneth G. Ruffing, Deputy Director of the UN Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN/DESA) introduced the history of the review process for the implementation of Agenda 21 by focusing especially on activities of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) in preparation for the "Rio + 10" meeting (also known as Earth Summit III). He also briefed participants on the outcome of an UNDESA-hosted regional consultative meeting in Manila in November 1998 aimed at facilitating the implementation of Agenda 21 at the regional and national levels. Such meetings will also be held by other regions, including Africa, in the future. He suggested three categories under which progress since Earth Summit (UNCED 1992) should be reviewed, namely, environmental challenges, economic development challenges and social development challenges. 

18. Ms. Kayoko Mizuta, Deputy Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN/ESCAP) presented an overview of the progress of preparations for the 4th Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific in Kitakyushu, Japan which would be held consecutively with ECO ASIA 2000. This Ministerial Conference is expected to adopt a Regional Action Programme for 2001-2005, which will incorporate a strategic approach for tackling the critical issues of the next century which will become one of the major regional inputs to "Rio + 10."

19. Mr. Hamanaka of the Environment Agency of Japan discussed ECO ASIA's preparations for "Rio + 10" with particular attention drawn to the efforts made during Phase II of the ECO ASIA Long-Term Perspective Project. It was recognized that the outcome of that Project could play an important role in the Asian-Pacific contribution to "Rio + 10".

20. Mr. Saburo Kato, President of the Research Institute for Environment and Society, delivered a report on the most recent Long-Term Perspective Project international workshop. Under the title of "Search for New Development Patterns: Challenges of the Asia-Pacific Region in the 21st Century", three project leaders from IGES introduced strategies for dealing with the issues of climate change, urban environment, and forest conservation.

21. The participants expressed appreciation for input from IGES which not only provided a sound basis for discussion but also proposed future directions for ECO ASIA's work towards creating a sustainable society in the Asia-Pacific region in the 21st century. They welcomed a continuing role for IGES as an international think-tank for ECO ASIA and expressed the hope that IGES play a key role in conducting the Long-Term Perspective Project through collaboration with participating countries and present reports on useful projects for discussion at ECO ASIA. 

22. Mr. Hideaki Ueda, Director-General, Multilateral Cooperation Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, introduced various points to be considered for the success of "Rio + 10," specifically, (1) that changes are needed to find balance between traditional concepts of sovereignty and new concepts of global sustainability; (2) that fairness is important, such as fairness between generations, fairness between developed and developing countries, and fairness in participation and in burden-sharing; (3) that participation of non-governmental actors should be encouraged; and (4) that reform of international institutions dealing with the environment could promote better effectiveness in tackling global environmental problems

23. Finally, Malaysian Environment Minister Hon. Datuk Law Hieng-Ding introduced Malaysia's initiatives towards sustainable development and re-emphasized the importance of genuine partnership between developed and developing countries for the success of "Rio + 10". He highlighted eco-investment and eco-technology in the ECO ASIA Long-Term Perspective Project to be promoted such that concrete suggestions will be generated providing not only useful input for "Rio + 10" but also good examples for other regions of the world.

24. In the active discussion that followed these presentations, views were expressed on effective preparation for and the expected outcome of "Rio + 10", reform of international organizations, input from the Asia-Pacific region, and the role of ECO ASIA. Preparations by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU/ IAS) were also introduced. Ministers and other participants shared the view that the success of "Rio + 10" is a major challenge for humanity and that the implementation aspect of Agenda 21 and relevant international agreements should be highlighted. It was pointed out that greater participation by developing countries would be a key element for its success, and that coordination of various international meetings should be sought in order to avoid too many meetings without adequate preparation. Ministers and other participants shared the view that the Asia-Pacific region should play an active role in working towards the success of "Rio + 10" and should have a clear impact on the preparation process. They encouraged ECO ASIA to make every effort in its future activities to provide meaningful regional input to "Rio + 10." Those preparations should take due consideration of (a) the importance of reflecting the needs of developing countries; (b) the need to reflect strategic approaches towards sustainable development; (c) interdisciplinary linkages and balanced concerns among various environmental, social and economic considerations; (d) the education and training necessary to establish the basis for sustainable development; and (e) strengthened partnerships among politicians, governmental, and non-governmental sectors.

25. Participants expressed their appreciation to the Environment Agency of Japan, the Hokkaido Prefectural Government, the Municipality of Sapporo and other parties involved in organizing the meeting. Special gratitude was expressed to Hokkaido Prefecture and the Municipality of Sapporo for hosting the meeting and to the people of the city for the warm hospitality they extended to the participants.