Declaration - Towards sustainable development

1. Prologue

International processes are presently taking place that the Socialist International (SI) considers of vital interest for sustainable development.

Failing to reach an agreement in The Hague in December 2000, the 6th Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP6) will meet again in Bonn in July 2001.

South Africa will in the autumn of 2002 host the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). The conference will take place in Johannesburg 10 years after the Rio conference, which is why the ongoing process towards the Johannesburg summit is often called the "Rio+10" process.

The Socialist International will be an active and constructive participant and give substantial input in these processes. Environmental challenges can only be solved internationally, finding solutions together to the inequality between rich and poor, both within countries and between North and South.

This memorandum is based on the document "Platform for Global Progress", adopted at the meeting of the Council of the Socialist International in Maputo, Mozambique, in November 2000 and the meetings of the SI Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol and related global environmental issues in Oslo, Norway (January 2001) and London, UK (June, 2001).

2. Background

Global warming is the greatest threat to the environment. Poor countries suffer the most from global warming, due to the fact that the consequences hit them the hardest, and because they lack both the technology and the financial resources to meet the challenge.

Scientists are now more explicit than ever before; the climate is affected by human activities and results in changes in the climate.

In 1988, UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) and WMO (World Metereological Organization) jointly established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as concern over climate change became a political issue. The purpose of the IPCC was to assess the state of knowledge on the various aspects of climate change including science, environmental and socio-economic impacts and response strategies.

The IPCC is recognised as the most legitimate scientific and technical voice on climate change, and its assessments had a profound influence on the negotiators of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol. The IPCC continues to provide governments with scientific, technical and socioeconomic information relevant to evaluating the risks and developing a response to global climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) recently concluded that the climate is being altered more quickly than originally thought and that the threat of major environmental disruptions linked to global warming is actually greater.

As evidence accumulates that we may already be witnessing the early signs of global climate change, the need to communicate this issue to both policymakers and the general public becomes ever more urgent. Knowledge of complicated issues is a prerequisite for progressive policymaking. This is a fact, not least in the fight against global warming. The Socialist International supports the efforts to strengthen climate research domestically and internationally, and will contribute to spreading the results to decision makers as well as to the general public.

3. The climate process

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the foundation of global efforts to combat global warming. It was concluded in 1992 in New York, and opened for signature in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit. Its ultimate objective is the "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic human-induced interference with the climate system." The Convention's supreme body is the Conference of the Parties (COP), which comprises the 180 States that have ratified or acceded to the agreement. 

On 11 December 1997, in Kyoto (Japan) ministers and other high-level officials from 160 countries reached agreement on a protocol. This protocol is known as the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Kyoto Protocol), and it was reached after ten days of negotiations at COP3 (Third Conference of the Parties to the Convention). It is not yet in force. The Kyoto Protocol enters into force on the ninetieth day after the date on which not fewer than 55 Parties from the so-called "Annex 1 countries" to the Convention which accounted in total for at least 55 per cent of the total CO2 emissions for 1990, ratify it.

The Kyoto Protocol contains individual emission limitations and reductions commitments for the Parties. These range from an 8 per cent reduction for some countries to a 10 per cent increase for other countries by the period 2008-12, calculated as an average over these five years. Overall, these individual emission commitments will result in a reduction of 5.2 per cent in emissions of climate gas emissions from 1990 levels.

At COP4 in November 1998, representatives of 170 governments adopted the Buenos Aires Plan of Action. It contains six decisions for future work under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. To strengthen the implementation of the Convention and prepare for the future entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol, it established deadlines for finalising the outstanding details of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Sixth Conference of the Parties to the Climate Convention (COP6) in The Hague ended without an agreement and concluded with the decision to suspend COP6 and reconvene again in 2001. Ministers of Environment will meet in Bonn, Germany, in July 2001, and will hopefully come closer to implementation of the protocol.

After the meetings in Bonn, the Presidency of the Climate change process will be handed over to Morocco, and COP7 will take place in Marrakech in the autumn of 2001. The Socialist International considers the forthcoming meeting in Morocco as vital for further progress in the climate process.

The SI supports a ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in 2002 at the latest, so that the agreement can come into force as planned in 2008.

4. The current situation

Early in the spring of 2001, disturbing new signals on the climate change issue came from the Bush administration in the United States.

On this background, the Socialist International on the 3rd of April 2001 issued a Press release stating that: "For the Socialist International, the abrupt decision by the Bush administration to withdraw the United States from the historic Kyoto Protocol on climate change is unacceptable. The unilateral abandonment of the treaty by Washington, after so many years of productive negotiations between nations, is short-sighted and self-serving, which is why it has sparked dismay and frustration throughout the world, including within the United States itself". The Press release concluded with the words "Now more than ever is the time for revitalising and sustaining the global environmental effort."

5. The role of the Socialist International in the climate process

The Socialist International is aware of its responsibility as the largest party organisation and network in the world, with more than one hundred Socialist and Social Democratic member parties in all corners of the world, and will use this network to get the international climate process back on track. Therefore, the Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol and related global environmental issues was established by a decision of the SI Council meeting in Brussels in April 2000.

The Socialist International consists of political parties both in the North and South, many of them presently in government. This makes it possible for SI to play a key role as forerunner and bridge builder in political processes like the current climate issue. Bridging the gap between North and South is crucial in order to reach solutions in combating climate change. Our values are solidarity, social justice and democracy. These values must also be reflected in the international cooperation on climate issues. The wealthy countries of the world have a responsibility because, so far, it is mainly the consumption of resources in these countries that has led to the emission of climate gasses, and these countries have the economic preconditions to implement the action needed. The Socialist International insists that all wealthy countries should share responsibility in dealing with climate change.

Developed countries must now start to reduce their own emissions, in order to reach the goals set by the Kyoto Protocol. In addition, they must contribute with a substantial, new transfer of technology to the developing countries. This is a precondition if the developing countries are to have the capacity to implement environmental priorities within the limits of their economies. The work towards an international climate regime must be seen in a broader context, and together with other international processes that aim to increase global equality, such as the "UN Conference for the Least Developed Countries", the UN Conference "Financing for development" and replenishment of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF).

6. National and international efforts necessary

The Kyoto Protocol is a first step in the efforts to reduce climate gas emissions. New steps are needed to ensure the survival of future generations on earth. The Kyoto Protocol must not be watered down or weakened.

The Socialist International cannot and will not accept a protocol with large loopholes. Sinks should only be counted where concerns about scale, uncertainty and risks have been met. We call on all countries to work towards ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in a way which ensures it meets its environmental objectives.

The SI supports the Kyoto Protocol which is based upon the principle that each country is responsible for its own emission reduction, but that flexible mechanisms such as trade of quotas, Joint Implementation (JI) and the Green Development Mechanism, can be a supplement to domestic reductions. The SI would like to point out that the so-called Green Development Mechanism will contribute to a better environment as well as to economic growth in developing countries. Rich countries must participate in partnership with poorer countries and will facilitate massive technological transfer and economic resources to ensure that poor countries are able to reduce emissions.

It is important that the dialogue facilitates a comprehensive agreement between all Parties — developed as well as developing country Parties. Furthermore, it is important to focus on a political agreement on key outstanding issues without affecting the Protocol’s environmental integrity. Consensus must be achieved while maintaining the Protocol’s integrity.

7. New technology and renewal of the energy sector

Climate challenge demands technological improvements that lead to changes in production- and consumption patterns, especially in wealthy countries. For example, new "fuel cell" technology can reduce emissions from the transport sector. Hydrogen as an energy carrier can also open new possibilities in the energy systems of the world. The Socialist International urges governments in all countries to contribute substantial resources in co-operation with the business and scientific communities, to promote the implementation of new technology. We must ensure that developing countries also get access to this technology.

Participation "on equal terms" in international negotiations requires technical assistance to define programmes regarding international negotiations on the environment; aid measures to implement the Kyoto Protocol in conformity with national laws; training programmes in the field of environment; and the transfer of clean technologies and skills in sustainable development.

If the climate challenge is to be solved, the world must use much more renewable energy. To avoid irreparable damage to the environment as a consequence of burning fossil fuels, energy production must become cleaner and the use of energy more effective.

In a world where energy needs are constantly increasing, it will be difficult in the short term to replace all the forms that use of fossil fuels take. However, in a transition period, most energy needs could be covered virtually pollution free - at a modest cost - by converting fossil energy into electricity and hydrogen.

Most countries have great potential for new sources of renewable energy; these sources include coastal wind, great amounts of biomass, heat pumps and geothermal energy, and solar heat, all readily available to be put into the production of energy. The SI urges all countries to develop a strategy for implementing renewable energy sources such as wind, bio, and waste energy, geothermal energy and tidal power, to use energy more efficiently, renovate hydropower plants, develop small hydropower stations and make the transition from electricity to water-borne heat, such as heat pumps, bio energy, waste energy, solar panels, and geothermal energy.

8. Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol before the 2002 summit

The Socialist International calls on all countries to work towards ratifying the Kyoto Protocol before the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) meeting in Johannesburg in 2002. This is necessary to ensure the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, and important as a follow up to Rio in 1992. Because the United States of America alone is responsible for 25 per cent of the total climate gas emissions of the world, it is important that the USA plays a constructive role.

The Socialist International is determined to work to keep the Kyoto treaty alive, and calls upon all other signatories to the Kyoto Protocol, as well as all concerned non-governmental organisations and social partners, to make every possible endeavour to ensure that the objectives of the treaty are achieved. Now, more than ever, is the time for revitalising and sustaining the global environmental effort.

9. The "Rio+10"- process

In its meeting in Maputo in November 2000, the Council of the Socialist International adopted the "Platform for Global Progress". In the Platform it is stated that "The Rio+10 process has the aim of reviewing what has happened since the Rio Conference in 1992, evaluating the work that has been done thus far, and determining strategies for following up. The Socialist International re-emphasises that the connection between the environment and development is the fundamental component in this process. We therefore call on the international community in all its forms — public, private and civic — to work towards a "Rio + 10" anniversary that culminates in a major global gathering, to ensure that the momentum of the international environmental effort can be maintained."

The Socialist International welcomes the announcement from the South African government of 11 December 2000 that the "World Summit on Sustainable Development" (WSSD) will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002.

Rio in 1992 set the stage for a new global agenda through a round of global conferences focusing on various aspects of global sustainability, including the Population Conference (Cairo, 1994), the Social Summit (Copenhagen, 1995), the Women’s Conference (Beijing, 1996) and the conference on Human Settlements (Istanbul, 1996), most recently followed by the UN Millennium Assembly in 2000 and the ongoing Finance for Development process. These processes can be characterised by a common desire to achieve equality, solidarity, respect for nature and shared responsibility in managing world-wide economic, social and environmental development.

Transforming this desire into tangible forward-looking commitments acceptable to all is, in a nutshell, the political challenge of the Rio+10 process.

The SI understands that developing countries can enter the Rio+10 process with the view that developed countries have not delivered what they promised back in 1992. There has been an overall steady decline in developing aid over the past 10 years. Only a few countries — the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Norway - are fulfilling the target of 0.7 percent of GDP. On the other hand, FDI (foreign direct investment) has increased, but the overall majority of developing countries has not benefited. Africa in particular, is lagging behind. The Socialist International considers this a significant political challenge.

We need brave politicians that can identify key political challenges and who can rekindle an interest and commitment to the environment and sustainable development among both the media and the general public.

The Socialist International would like to underline that the contributions of women and the full recognition of their perspectives on the world are essential to moving forward on the road of global progress in the social and the environmental field. The negative aspects of economic globalisation - increasing inequality, environmental degradation and the undermining of traditional social bonds - have affected people in a dramatic way. Women constitute the majority of the disadvantaged. They are the least qualified and skilled as a workforce, have the least opportunity for ownership of property and are often subjected to cultural customs and rules which expose them to exploitation. Therefore equality between the genders and a gender perspective is important for the Socialist International, which must also be reflected in the Rio+10 process.

The Socialist International will play an active role in the preparations towards the Rio+10 meeting, and we call on all member parties to participate in this important process.

10. Substance in the Johannesburg Summit (WSSD)

Since the Rio meeting in 1992, globalisation has increased dramatically. World trade has grown fast and will continue to grow. For many parts of the world, this has brought economic growth and prosperity. But at the same time we face new challenges. The rapid increase in movement of people, goods and finance, however, can also lead to new and serious problems. These need to be tackled effectively through appropriate regulations and controls which are properly implemented. Free trade means the increased transport of goods, which in itself is a challenge to the environment.

Trade has brought great benefits, but one important challenge now is to bring in consumer protection, safeguards to make globalisation safe and ensure producer protection so that citizens of poor countries and the poorest citizens in all countries do not suffer from exploitation. The SI will therefore actively contribute to making real progress in the field of environmental globalisation.

Effective democratic international structures are important and a precondition for this. All countries must give the United Nations and its institutions the possibility to play a vital role.

The SI also considers the ongoing discussion on "international governance" as a very important step towards more effective and stronger international governance on sustainable development.

Natural resources must not be over consumed in order to create economic growth, and "eco-efficiency" must be an integrated part of every country’s policy. The SI firmly believes that a "green-knowledge based economy" and new technology can contribute to a fairer and more environmentally friendly development.

11. Each and every country has a challenge — and responsibility

The key to sustainable development is that all countries, and in particular the richer countries, should be willing to participate in international governance, and to control the growing financial markets. The SI urges all countries to participate in the process of creating sustainable development and a global partnership, built upon solidarity and equality between countries and continents.