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UNEP to provide strengthened environmental dimension to CSD debate

New York/Nairobi, 15 April 1999 - Strengthened and energized by its recent successful Governing Council session, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will be providing a clear environmental input to the upcoming discussions at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), which begin on Monday, 19 April, in New York.

The CSD, which follows up on the work of the 1992 Earth Summit, will be addressing four main topics at its two-week session: sustainable tourism; oceans, including overfishing, land-based pollution and the destruction of coral reefs; issues facing small island developing States; and sustainable production and consumption patterns. UNEP's Governing Council, at its meeting in February of this year, made a series of recommendations on the environmental aspects of all the subjects before the Commission.

"I am convinced that coherent and coordinated environmental policy must stand alongside economic development and social responsibility if we are to meet the challenges of a rapidly globalizing world", says UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. "The UNEP Governing Council has provided the CSD delegates with valuable input if they are to reach the comprehensive policy conclusions needed for the sustainability of the planet."


Sustainable Tourism Dialogue

The CSD will open with a dialogue among the various stakeholders in the tourism industry -- national and local authorities, industry representatives, trade unions and activist groups.

With more than 260 million employees and annual capital project investments of more than $800 billion, the tourism industry accounts for 10.7 per cent of the world gross domestic product (GDP) and ranks as one of the world's largest industries. While contributing to social and economic development, tourism can also have serious negative environmental impacts, resulting from resource consumption, pollution and wastes generated, thereby destroying the sound environment on which the tourism industry depends, to thrive and grow.

UNEP has been working with its partners, such as the World Tourism Organization and UNESCO, to ensure that environmental considerations are fully integrated into the wider economic and social aspects of tourism development. At the CSD session, UNEP, along with WTO and a group of tour operators including British Airways Tours and Touristik Union International, will be launching a Tour Operators Initiative for Sustainable Tourism.


Action Sought On Oceans Issues

The Commission will be focusing its attention on a few urgent ocean issues that are considered especially problematic: depleted fish stocks -- at least 60% of the world's fisheries are either fully exploited or overfished; protection of fragile marine and coastal ecosystems -- an estimated 58% of the world's coral reefs are threatened by human activity; and continuing degradation of the marine environment from land-based sources of pollution -- nearly 80% of marine pollution is caused by activities such as agricultural run-off, sewage and industrial waste.

Governments will have before them reports on the various UNEP programmes related to ocean issues, including the International Coral Reef Initiative, in which UNEP is a major partner, and the status of the 1995 Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (GPA), whose secretariat in the Hague is provided by UNEP. In that connection, the recent UNEP Governing Council session has called for an intergovernmental conference next year to address one of the major land-based pollution sources affecting human and ecosystem health -- sewage.

Another more recent UNEP programme, the Global International Water Assessment (GIWA) will focus on five critical issues of coastal waters and associated river basins: water scarcity; pollution; habitat modification and destruction; over-exploitation of fisheries and other living aquatic resources; and global changes. In addition to the identification of problems related to those issues, the project will also analyse their underlying root causes through a set of regional analyses.

A UNEP sponsored side-event on Monday, 19 April, will be an opportunity for delegates to learn more about the above programmes, as well as efforts to revitalize the Regional Seas Programme, which currently involves over 140 countries and territories in a series of 13 regional treaties and action plans.


Sustainable Production/Consumption

The CSD will also be discussing current patterns of production and consumption which are leading to increased generation of wastes and pollutants, and unsustainable demand on the planet's natural resources. It is clear that greater attention needs to be paid to improving resource efficiency of industry, adoption of cleaner and safer methods of production, including in service sectors, and encouraging improvements in the conception and use of products during their entire life-cycle.

UNEP's work in this area includes its Cleaner Production Programme and, more recently, the development of the International Cleaner Production Declaration, which commits signatory Governments and industry leaders to adopt quantified targets to achieve increased resources productivity and pollution prevention. On Friday, 23 April, UNEP will be hosting a Ministerial-level luncheon at which several Governments will be signing the Declaration. The Declaration now has over 100 signatories, including 18 Governments.

On the "supply side", UNEP has been undertaking initiatives in the areas of advertising and marketing to promote responsible consumer behaviour. With respect to voluntary initiatives, extensive work has already been undertaken in issuing guidelines and case studies, as well as reports that regularly benchmark progress in environmental reporting. A report before the CSD will be reviewing the effectiveness of such voluntary initiatives and charting the way forward.

Consultations will also start on a "Youth Consumption Strategy". A brainstorming session involving UNEP, the CSD secretariat, UNEP's Youth Advisory Council and any other interested partners will take place from 20-23 April. In addition, a 26 April round-table, sponsored by UNEP and CDG -- the non-profit organization Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft -- will look at the issue of "How can sustainable consumption lead to new business opportunities".


Small Island Issues

The remaining major item on the agenda is the environment and development problems of small island nations. The CSD is preparing for a special UN General Assembly session on the topic scheduled for 27-28 September. At that session, Governments will assess the progress achieved since the adoption of the 1994 Barbados Programme of Action on the subject.

UNEP will make available to the CSD session an advance version of the special environmental outlooks that were undertaken for the Caribbean, the Western Indian Ocean and the South Pacific. This is a project financed by the European Community with input provided by the Indian Ocean Commission, the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme and the University of the West Indies. The final report will be available for the September special General Assembly session. The CSD will also have before it the results of two UNEP-sponsored regional consultations among small island States, held late last year in Malta and New Zealand.


New Biodiversity Initiative

UNEP will use the occasion of the CSD's High-level Ministerial segment, on 21 April, to announce a new biodiversity information and assessment project. UNEP, the UK Government and IUCN-the World Conservation Union have agreed that the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, located in Cambridge, will be reconstituted as an integral part of UNEP and be the centre of its biodiversity monitoring, management and development systems. WCMC is well-known for its wide range of conservation information services, including the Red Data books of endangered species.

Finally, on 22 April, UNEP, as part of its enhanced outreach strategy to major groups, will be hosting the Earth Day celebration at UN Headquarters, with the theme "New Energy for a New Era". The Earth Day Network will be giving out a series of awards, including to Sir John Browne, the CEO of British Petroleum. Plans will also be announced for a continuum of events between Earth Day 2000 and World Environment Day 2000 (5 June).

"To meet the challenges of a rapidly globalizing world coherent and coordinated environmental policy must stand alongside economic development and social responsibility" says Klaus Toepfer


For more information please contact:

Jim Snffen,
Information Officer
in UNEP's Regional Office for North America,
New York,
on tel: (+1-212) 9638138, Fax: 9637341,

In Nairobi,
contact Tore J. Brevik,
UNEP Spokesman and Director of CPI
on tel: (254-2) 623292,


Robert Bisset
on tel: (254-2) 623084, fax: 623692,

UNEP News Release 1999/27

Friday 16 Apr 1999
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