September 10, 2002
World Summit on Sustainable Development:
Success or Failure?
Dear GENI friend,
Having just returned from the Johannesburg United Nations Earth Summit, I was intrigued by the conversations with people back home. Almost everyone said that the media described the Summit as a failure— that several nations stonewalled certain issues and the environmental groups called it Rio minus 10. This is exactly opposite from my personal observations in being there.
Having attended several UN summits in the past decade, I find them to be overwhelming, confusing and inspiring. Getting 200 nations and numerous international agencies to agree on a direction is a bit like herding cats. And this summit had a huge agenda put forward by Secretary General Kofi Annan called WEHAB: water and sanitation, energy, health care, agriculture and biodiversity. 7000 official delegates (these are mostly career government officials) worked late every evening and concurred on most of these issues with commitment and financial pledges like never before.
Much attention was given on targets and timetables for the development of renewable energy. This was not possible due to reluctance by the U.S., Japan and OPEC nations — but the European Community and nation after nation spoke powerfully about the necessity for renewable energy development— both for those developing societies who have no energy services and for the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This was a sea-change from 10 years ago where energy wasn't even on the agenda.
I also attended 2 special energy meetings hosted by ESKOM, the national utility of South Africa. One of their Directors, Steve Lennon, made a comment that will always stick with me. He had seen our exhibit in Rio ten years ago, and said that we seemed "a bit looney." He then continued to say that today, ESKOM was doing exactly what we we've been talking about ever since! That's movement.
I've enclosed some of the reports about the Johannesburg Summit and the UN Millennium Goals. As you'll see, there is progress -- and still a long way to go. You helped us make the change in ESKOM and put renewable energy onto the global agenda. (Every UN agency and national delegation received the GENI newsletter and CD ROM "There is no energy crisis.") Now we need to accelerate it's realization.
In partnership for the planet,
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