Chair's Summary of the
Ninth Environment Congress for Asia and the Pacific
(ECO ASIA 2000)
3 September 2000
1. The Ninth Environment Congress for Asia and the Pacific (ECO ASIA 2000) was held in Kitakyushu, Japan on 3 September 2000, hosted by the Environment Agency of Japan, the Fukuoka Prefectural Government and the Municipality of Kitakyushu. The Congress was attended by 247 participants, including 23 Ministers, 117 other national delegates representing 40 countries mainly from around the Asia-Pacific region, 51 participants from 17 international organizations, and a wide range of other participants.
2. The Congress was chaired by H.E. Ms. Yoriko Kawaguchi, Minister of State and Director-General of the Environment Agency of Japan. The Hon. Dato' Law Hieng Ding, Minister for Science, Technology, and the Environment of Malaysia, served as Vice-Chair of the Congress.
3. Minister Kawaguchi framed the Congress' first session by laying out the following issues for discussion: (1) the question of what are the key policy areas and key approaches for attaining sustainable development in the 21st century, especially in light of ongoing globalization; (2) the issue of what forms of international cooperation are desirable in promoting sustainable development, including enhanced partnership between developing and developed countries; (3) the formulation of strategies for realizing sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific region, including the strategies expected to be formulated at the ESCAP Ministerial Meeting and the strategies pursued through the activities of other regional and subregional processes; (4) the possible themes to be addressed at "Rio+10" and the results that Asia and the Pacific region should pursue there. Minister Kawaguchi framed the discussions of the second session by introducing the following points for consideration: (1) ways for making the Kyoto Protocol enter into force as early as possible; (2) ways and means of facilitating efforts to address climate change in the Asia-Pacific region, which might include, notably, the development of the CDM, the enhancement of technology transfer and progress in capacity building; (3) consideration of the possibility of strengthening cooperation in the region in the area of climate change
Regional Cooperation towards the Success of "Rio+10"
4. The session on Regional Cooperation towards the Success of "Rio+10" began with a progress report on Phase II of the ECO ASIA Long-term Perspective Project, delivered by Mr. Kazuo Matsushita of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES).
5. Mr. Matsushita described current trends in the Asia-Pacific region and highlighted key issues concerning the establishment of sound policies for sustainable development. After describing the relationship between population and environmental pressures, he explored key features of environment and development in the region, such as fresh water availability, future CO2 emissions as projected by the AIM model, and urbanization trends. He concluded by suggesting means for shifting to new development patterns that are economically and ecologically sound and that address threats to environmental stability, such as trends in land use, energy consumption, and urbanization, in an integrated way.
6. The progress report was followed by leadoff speeches by Dr. Klaus Topfer, United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Mr. Lowell Flanders, Assistant Director of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), and Prof. Motoyuki Suzuki, Vice-rector of the United Nations University (UNU).
7. Dr. Topfer provided the context for the discussion on "Rio+10." He stressed that "Rio+10" must not engage in a renegotiation of Agenda 21, but that it must focus on a review of implementation. The outcome of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992 was Agenda 21, which both provides a blueprint for actions towards sustainable development and serves as a universal yardstick on regional and global progress towards that goal. Dr. Topfer argued that "Rio+10" cannot be considered a success unless it strengthens the political will for implementation of necessary actions, including those actions of the donor community. He also stated that work is needed on better infrastructure to implement Agenda 21. Poverty eradication should be firmly established as a top priority, he said.
8. Mr. Flanders discussed the importance of "Rio+10" and how regional preparations can contribute to the global preparations for, and ultimate success of, the meeting. The five-year review after UNCED ("Rio+5") concluded that progress in implementing Agenda 21 had been disappointing, but that the world would be expecting more positive results from "Rio+10." The goals of Agenda 21 have not changed, although economic crises and issues such as globalization have deflected attention from commitments to strive for sustainable development. Mr. Flanders briefly introduced a detailed review and preparation process for "Rio+10" at the national and regional levels which would be decided upon by the United Nations General Assembly at its upcoming session. He argued that national assessments should begin as early as possible with the participation of a broad variety of stakeholders, and that national preparations should be closely linked to regional preparations. There is thus a new imperative for international dialog and cooperation.
9. Prof. Suzuki drew attention to the increased complexity and inter-linkage of environmental problems. He noted that the main challenge in the build-up to "Rio+10" was using the limited resources available effectively and efficiently in dealing with issues on the environmental agenda. He next addressed the issue of coordination among multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), arguing that natural inter-linkages and synergies needed to be taken into account through holistic approaches during the negotiation and implementation of MEAs. Prof. Suzuki then outlined the three-year UNU Inter-linkages Initiative, which, when fully implemented, is intended to contribute to the development of model implementation frameworks at regional and national levels. The Initiative approaches this task through a three-category approach, looking specifically at framework building, capacity building and dissemination. The Initiative centers on an ecosystem approach in order to better expand the potential for developing holistic and comprehensive solutions to issues. It was noted that in focusing on ecosystems, the Initiative therefore focuses on regional issues, as ecosystems cross over borders.
10. Dr. Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commissions for Asia and the Pacific, informed the Congress of the Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific 2000, being organized by ESCAP concurrently with the ECO ASIA, from 31 August to 5 September. Dr. Kim, referring to the Preparatory Meeting of Senior Officials of the Conference, which concluded on 2 September, expressed briefly the main observations of this Meeting. He was confident that the Ministerial segment of the Conference, commencing on 4 September, would give additional insights and commitment for the Regional Message to "Rio+10," which had been endorsed by the Preparatory Meeting for consideration and adoption by the Ministers. Dr. Kim drew the attention of the Congress to the parallel events of the Conference, such as the NGO symposium, private sector, media, youth and women's groups' discussions to formulate their views on the region's environment and development. He stated that arrangements were being made so that the Ministers would have a chance to hear their voices. Dr. Kim confirmed that the importance of participatory and sub-regional approaches was being emphasized in the regional preparatory process for "Rio+10."
11. The floor was then opened for discussion on the topic of "Rio+10" and Asia-Pacific regional cooperation. Several important points arose in the course of the discussion. One which several countries mentioned was the difficulty of countries working alone and the clear importance of regional efforts. Many countries outlined the key environmental issues they faced, reminding the participants of the rich diversity of the region and the variety of issues to be addressed. Countries suggested that it was necessary to seek closer cooperation while recognizing these differences. The need to fulfill commitments made at UNCED in 1992, particularly those regarding ODA, was also mentioned by several countries. Some speakers stressed that it was imperative that "Rio+10" not be used for the renegotiation of Agenda 21, but instead should be a forum for reviewing progress and renewing commitments. Participants enthusiastically supported the proposal of holding "Rio+10" in Indonesia. Cambodia expressed the desire to host a regional preparatory meeting for "Rio+10." The need was expressed to establish environmental legal infrastructures, and environmentally-sound science and technology, as well as monitoring and assessment systems; these are needed to create an institutional basis for sound environmental management. An appeal was made to take early and urgent actions to ensure the supply of pure drinking water and fight arsenic contamination, which is affecting some countries and spreading quickly. It was also emphasized that education at the grassroots level, especially for women, must be made available so that they can play a vital role in their homes and environment. The Congress appreciated progress made by the ECO ASIA Long-term Perspective Project so far and expressed their expectation for its future work particularly toward the "Rio+10" conference.
12. Minister Kawaguchi set forth a proposal to create an eminent persons' meeting of Asia and the Pacific for environment and development. It would engage in high-level discussions aimed at formulating new development models that would "help define the equitable and environmentally-sustainable society for which we aim, and thereby enable us to focus our efforts on a common goal." The ministers expressed their support for the proposal. However, there is a need to discuss the details of the mechanisms in the selection of the eminent persons. Minister Kawaguchi offered to convene a preparatory meeting of some eminent persons, preferably by the end of this year, for the purpose of clarifying the basic goals and the setup of the larger group. She invited participants to notify her within three weeks if they had suggestions on membership. Minister Kawaguchi stated that at ECO ASIA 2001, ministers will assess and discuss the preparations to that point and then provide further guidance to the project for the year to come. Initial results of the discussions would be presented at the "Rio+10" conference in 2002, with a final report prepared by 2004 for distribution around the globe.
Momentum towards the Success of the 6th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
13. The session on Momentum towards the Success of the 6th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP6) began with a leadoff speech by H.E. Dr. Jan Pronk, Minister for Housing, Spatial Planning, and the Environment of the Netherlands.
14. Minister Pronk of the Netherlands, which will host the upcoming COP6, presented his views regarding the elements that will lead to the success of that conference. He said that the growing impacts of climate change are jeopardizing sustainable development, and that COP6 should be the last conference at which negotiations take place prior to ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. The conference should clear the way for ratification so that implementation can begin. Key articles must be refined and clarified, but it may not be necessary to finalize every issue. For the first commitment period, there should be a certain degree of flexibility as to which instruments countries wish to use. He asserted that the "environmental integrity" of the agreement will be a measure of success of COP6. Carbon sinks may help some countries fulfill their commitments. However, caution is required when considering sinks, because scientific and methodological uncertainties remain. The final result of actions should be a downward trend in emissions, starting in industrialized countries. Minister Pronk asserted that while we must pay attention to the various interests of different countries, we must also achieve an environmentally credible outcome, never forgetting our shared obligation to future generations.
15. The floor was then opened for discussion about building momentum for COP6. Many countries expressed deep concerns about their vulnerability to impacts of climate change, such as sea-level rise, coastal erosion and desertification. They called for adaptation measures as well as early actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Participants also stressed the need for enhanced partnerships between developed and developing countries and the need to strengthen regional cooperation. Many participants stressed the importance of placing an emphasis on the implementation of the UNFCCC, equal to that placed on the Kyoto Protocol. In particular, enhancement of technology transfer and capacity building deserve attention. The participants recognized the Asia-Pacific Seminar on Climate Change, held in July in Malaysia, as a positive example of regional cooperation to address climate change.
16. The delegates expressed the common view that the early entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol was a clear priority and they called for strong political leadership in making COP6 the forum for overcoming any obstacles remaining in the path to the Protocol's ratification and entry into force. In this context, it was expressed that a strong political message should be sent to the world for the success of COP6 and early entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol. At the same time it was stated that Ministers should direct negotiators to produce short negotiating texts as outcomes from upcoming meetings of Subsidiary Bodies and informal meetings. Some participants stated that the Kyoto Protocol should come into force by the year 2002.
17. The Congress stressed the importance of the Kyoto Mechanisms for the Asia-Pacific region, and many of the delegates called for early decision-making regarding the rules and modalities of the Mechanisms. Many delegates expressed high expectations towards the Clean Development Mechanism, in particular for its potential role in technology transfer and financial investment for the region.
18. The participants expressed their appreciation to the Environment Agency of Japan, the Fukuoka Prefectural Government, the City of Kitakyushu and other parties involved in organizing the meeting. Special gratitude was expressed to Fukuoka Prefecture and the City of Kitakyushu for hosting the meeting and to the people of the city for the warm hospitality they extended to the participants.