Kofi Annan Cites Climate Change in the Opening Session of the UN World Summit 0n Sustainable Development

By Yusuf Ali
September 2, 2002

Kofi Annan"Let us not be deceived when looking at a clear blue sky, into thinking that all is well," warned the Secretary General of the United Nations as he delivered his speech to the Heads of State at the Opening Session of the meeting of Heasa of State at the ongoing World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

"Science tells us that if we do not take the right action now, climate change will bring havoc, even within our lifetime," Annan told the leaders.

"Let us not be fooled, when gazing at a vista of open land, into thinking that the desert is not advancing, or that toxic chemicals are not poisoning the soil. And when looking at a sparkling lake or ocean, let us not forget the water pollution and depleted fisheries beneath the surface" he added.

Annan told delegates at the Summit to stop being economically defensive, and start being politically courageous to face the uncomfortable truth that the current model of development accustomed to by the global nations has been only fruitful for a few, but flawed for the many.

"A path to prosperity that ravages the environment and leaves a majority of humankind behind in squalor will soon prove to be a dead-end road for everyone" the Secretary General stated.

He said the focus from now on must be on implementing the many agreements that have been reached. This includes the Millennium Development Goals.

"Action starts with governments. The richest countries must lead the way. They have the wealth. They have the technology. And they contribute disproportionately to global environmental problems," Annan said.

Civil society groups, and commercial enterprises were also told to be partners, advocates and watchdogs in meeting the goals of sustainable development.

"We are not asking corporations to do something differently from their normal business; we are asking them to do their normal business differently" he said.

"Sustainable development need not wait for tomorrow's technological breakthroughs. The policies, the science and the green technologies at our disposal today can begin to do the job. With concerted action in five areas- water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity, progress could be far quicker than is commonly believed" Annan told the delegates.

South African President, Thabo Mbeki, in his speech asked the Heads of State to take necessary decisions that will make it possible for the delegates to emerge from the Summit with a concrete Plan of Action that will give meaning to the theme of People, Planet and Prosperity.

"The message is simply this- that we can and must act in unity to ensure that there is a practical and visible global development process that brings about poverty eradication and human advancement within the context of the protection of the ecology of the planet Earth" he said.

He told the leaders to ensure that they meet the expectations of the billions of people of the world on whose mandate they meet, and who expect a very clear and unambiguous answer to the pressing challenges of sustainable development.

The Heads of State go into the plenary meetings this afternoon to work on the Draft plan of implementation of the world Summit on Sustainable Development.

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