In the post-WSSD world, the sustainable development agenda has successfully
integrated the WSSD targets and the internationally agreed development
goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration of 2000,
into the substantive work of all the relevant multilateral environmental
agreements that held meetings in 2003. The link between poverty reduction
and environment has also been increasingly recognized, as evidenced
by the constant calls for environmental issues to be framed in a human-centred
development context and integrated with national poverty reduction strategies.
On the heels of the Millennium Declaration and the WSSD, the 2003 International
Year of Freshwater helped keep water on the global agenda (see Feature
Focus) and led to increased cooperation on related issues, including
at the Third World Water Forum in Japan in March, and the G-8 Summit
in Evian, France in June. The Global Environment Facility’s announcement
that it plans to increase funding for water projects over the next four
years further reflects an important commitment to sustaining the planet’s
water resources and ecosystems. The Commission on Sustainable Development
(CSD), at its 11th session in 2003, agreed that freshwater, sanitation
and human settlements would be its major themes of focus in 2004–05.
This ensures that water will remain in the forefront of the sustainable
development agenda for the next two years.
Forest issues, particularly illegal logging, also received a good deal
of international attention during the year (see Box 3).
Box 3: Forest policy developments
The issue of illegal logging dominated debate on international
forest policy in 2003, highlighting much wider issues such
as appropriate forest governance, effective law enforcement,
sustainable trade, and ethical investment.
In May 2003, the European Union published its Action Plan
on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade. This outlines
proposals for voluntary licensing to ensure that only legally
verified timber could be imported into the EU, procurement
policies that discriminate against illegal timber, encouragement
of responsible financing and support for private sector-led
trade initiatives. However, NGOs have criticized the action
plan as lacking the necessary legislation to make it effective,
but deliberations are ongoing.
Regional Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG) processes
have been running in tandem with the EU initiative. In the
Asia Pacific region, for example, the East Asia FLEG, which
was launched in 2001, met in January 2003 in Bali, Indonesia,
delivering tough messages but less in the way of concrete
action plans. Many of the governments involved have additionally
signed up to other regional initiatives. Indonesia, home to
the most extensive tropical forest cover in Asia, is the key
member, with Japan, of the new Asia Forest Partnership (AFP).
Indonesia also entered in 2003 into bilateral agreements on
illegal logging and timber trade with China, South Korea and
In Africa, the first ministerial meeting of the FLEG process
was held in Yaoundé, Cameroon, at which a ministerial
declaration was endorsed by 27 African governments to promote
good governance and strengthen forest law enforcement capacity
through a number of joint actions. Momentum is also coming
from the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, which was launched
in January 2003. It will support multi-purpose community-based
forest management, combat poaching and illegal logging, and
improve management of protected areas. It has a starting budget
of US$53 million from the US government. A number of countries
in Western and Southern Africa have also started up a Forest
Governance Learning Group aimed at sharing learning on key
challenges for equitable and practicable forest policy.
The FLEG processes around the world have also opened space
for action and calls for accountability by civil society.
In Latin America, for example, where an official FLEG process
is in the pipeline, a consortium of over 500 NGOs agreed in
October 2003 to urge the Brazilian government to drop infrastructural
plans in Amazonia which could worsen deforestation.
|Source: CIFOR 2003
On the broader issue of the status of the planet’s terrestrial
ecosystems, scientific findings weighed in with the release of a study
indicating the apparent greening of the biosphere (Box 4).
Box 4: Greening of the
globally comprehensive analysis of satellite and climate data
between 1982–1999 was published in 2003. The results
indicate an apparent greening of the biosphere. These changes
could not have been identified without the up-to-date, consistent,
and comprehensive picture of the planet that was provided
by the long-term satellite data sets that are now available.
The results of this study demonstrate that net primary production
(NPP), the amount of energy produced by plants through photosynthesis
minus what they use in respiration, increased globally by
about six per cent during the last two decades of the 20th
century. Increasing temperatures, precipitation, carbon dioxide
levels, and nitrogen deposition, changes in cloud cover and
land use have all been implicated in the global greening,
even though their relative roles remain unclear. In addition,
advances in agriculture and successful implementation of a
number of conservation programmes around the world may have
contributed to the greening trend.
The study revealed that ecosystems in tropical zones and in
the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere accounted for
80 per cent of the increase in global net primary production.
Tropical rainforests in the Amazon contributed nearly 40 per
cent of the global increase, attributed to a decline in cloud
cover and the resulting increase in the sun’s energy
that reached the surface. Changes in monsoon dynamics resulted
in more rainfall in the 1990s that led to increased vegetation
over the Indian sub-continent and the African Sahel.
|Source: Nemani and others 2003
Moving to the atmosphere, issues related to the implementation of the
Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer were again
on the agenda, with the phase-out of methyl bromide proving to be a
challenge to resolve (Box 5).
Box 5: Methyl bromide
a sticking point
The Fifteenth Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol
on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (MOP-15), which
was held in November 2003 in Nairobi, adopted numerous decisions,
including one on trade in hydrochlorofluorocarbons. It also
addressed good housekeeping of, and destruction technologies
for, ozone-depleting substances (ODS), and adopted a plan
of action to modify regulatory requirements that mandate the
use of halons on new aircraft.
However, the parties failed to agree on key issues related
to ozone-destroying methyl bromide, including the critical-use
exemptions for this broad-spectrum pesticide, conditions for
granting and reporting on them and further interim reductions
of methyl bromide consumption for the period beyond 2005,
applicable to developing country parties. An extraordinary
meeting of the parties was, therefore, proposed for March
2004 to follow up on issues related to this chemical.
Many experts believe that the amounts of methyl bromide nominated
for critical use exemptions by several industrialized countries
were excessive and could hamper progress in implementing the
protocol. The methyl bromide issue is currently one of the
key challenges faced under the Montreal Protocol.
|Source: UNEP 2003
Regarding climate change, more governments than ever seem convinced
of the importance of multilaterally-agreed solutions to this global
problem. By the end of 2003, 188 countries had ratified the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), while 120 had ratified
the Kyoto Protocol (UNFCCC 2003).
However, as 2003 drew to a close, the Kyoto Protocol had still not gathered
sufficient support to enter into force as a legally binding international
treaty. To do so, it must be ratified by industrialized countries and
former Eastern bloc nations (known under the Convention as Annex I countries)
responsible for at least 55 per cent of total anthropogenic carbon dioxide
emissions for the year 1990. With many of the major developed countries
having already ratified, and the US having rejected the treaty in 2001,
the focus is now on what the Russian Federation will do. Its ratification
would be sufficient to trigger the Protocol’s entry into force.
However, at year’s end, the Russian Government had yet to make
a final decision.
The ninth Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, in Milan in December,
concluded with experts applauding a deal on the use of carbon sinks
in the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). This
initiative is designed to help industrialized countries meet their emissions
targets in a cost-effective way while helping developing countries to
meet sustainable development targets. With this issue resolved, most
of the details of how the Kyoto Protocol could function in practice
have now been agreed.