During the course of the High-Level Segment two panel discussions were held. Many delegates and NGOs commented that these panels were the most useful part of the session because they fostered a constructive dialogue.
The Panel on Sustainable Development and the Economy focused its discussions on finance and technology. The panelists were: Enrique Iglesias (Inter-American Development Bank), Jonathan Lash (World Resources Institute), Lin See Yan (Bank of Malaysia), Maurice Strong (Ontario Hydro and Earth Council), and Vito Tanzi (IMF).
Canada noted that those in attendance were "the converted." Most agreed that all governments should internalize external costs, especially environmental costs. Lin noted that the cost to implement Agenda 21 is US$625 annually, requiring many policy changes such as taxes, tradeable permits and incentives. While these concepts are not new, the question of how to implement them on a global scale has not been answered. Accordingly, the CSD has been asked to continue with detailed studies in this area.
Lash was concerned that in most countries it was still not profitable to be "green" because the full environmental costs of projects are not internalized. When asked if industries move to States with lower environmental standards, Lash replied that while there is a strong visceral belief that companies do move, he knows of no evidence to support this.
Strong mentioned some greening of Ontario Hydro and called for the CSD to provide a strong impetus for the drive towards energy efficiency. He acknowledged that energy prices are too low and do not reflect the environmental cost. The Chair asked if the recent Basel Convention ban of hazardous wastes from OECD to non-OECD countries would in fact make matters worse by moving environmentally unsound industries out of OECD countries and into non-OECD countries, especially small island States. Denmark responded that the ban was one of the few substantial things to have happened since Rio and it is unlikely to have such an effect. Denmark also called for similar bans on hazardous chemicals and pharmaceuticals, noting how disgraceful it is that what cannot be sold in some countries can be exported to less developed countries.
The US asked how the economic costs of health impairments can be better reflected and included in financing decisions. She described how the removal of leaded gasoline in the US has saved approximately US$400 million in reduced health care costs. She also asked how progress in the implementation of financial mechanisms can be measured and questioned whether indicators could be developed. Lin suggested that the global implementation of internalizing environmental costs would require a "green round" of negotiations.
The Panel on Women and Sustainable Development also provoked a lively debate. The five female panelists were: Nancy Barry (President, Women's World Banking); Sheila Copps (Minister for the Environment, Canada); Elizabeth Dowdeswell (UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP); Dr. Nafis Sadik (Executive Director of UNFPA and Secretary-General of the International Conference on Population and Development); and Chief Bisi Ogunleye (Nigeria). The Chair, Ms. Copps, opened the discussion by asking why attempts to control reproduction always focus on women and not those who impregnate women -- particularly when women could have approximately 15 children in a lifetime whereas men could have hundreds. Dr. Sadik recognized that women have a special role in decision making and asked what kind of indicators could measure every member of the population, focusing on gender disparities. She noted that through the ages men have dominated women through control of fertility and that women should be given real choice.
Elizabeth Dowdeswell noted that there is no more reliable strategy than empowering women to solve the problems of poverty and environmental degradation. She said that the CSD is stuck somewhere between rhetoric and achievement. She noted that the time for set speeches is past and that we need to move to action.
Chief Bisi Ogunleye asked what the CSD wants her to sustain in Africa -- as there is nothing to sustain. She told the audience that if poverty is to be eradicated they must act. They must call women to the decision-making table and listen to them. Nancy Barry noted that environmental degradation caused by poverty in the developing world and greed in the industrial world is at the core of the CSD documentation, but at no point do the texts address these two concerns. The US asked what can be learned from this -- what recommendations can be made to help the CSD process? Barry replied that one step would be to have quarterly panel discussions on women in each country and invite women to make concrete recommendations.
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