| New book describes how to move from words to action for global sustainability
The Challenge of Sustainability: An Action Agenda for the Global Environment
Tuesday 25 March 2003, by Web Team
With the ink still fresh on the global action plan signed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, an important question for world leaders is how to meet the specific objectives agreed upon in Johannesburg. A timely new book from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), The Challenge of Sustainability, is a treasure-trove of practical strategies and recommendations for action.
The book identifies key strategies for meeting the challenge of global sustainability. Among them are phasing out subsidies that encourage inefficient and excessive use of natural resources; creating business environments and public policies that attract more foreign direct investment; creating conditions that foster socially responsible investments; mobilizing additional financial resources for environmental improvement; removing barriers to imports from developing countries, particularly in the agricultural sector; ensuring that countries implement their commitments to international environmental agreements; and expanding and replicating successful pilot programs, experimental projects, and innovative policies.
Although the focus is hopeful, the book is also realistic. A number of major constraints and barriers must be removed before progress can be made. These include:
The book makes a compelling case that the next decade offers a unique opportunity to lift future generations from poverty and to eliminate the threat of living on an irredeemably spoiled planet.
"The human community faces an array of choices about the quality of our lives and the state of the global environment," says Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, in the foreword. "Each of these choices will help to determine what kind of world our children and grandchildren will live in. One possibility is that at long last we will pave a path toward environmental stewardship and sustainable development. But it is also quite possible that we will travel a less enlightened course, running down earth’s natural capital and severely limiting the choices our descendants will face. . . .The legacy is largely ours to shape."
Mohamed T. El-Ashry, CEO and Chairman of the GEF, is also optimistic: "In many ways, we have entered one of the most creative phases in human history. Science, technology, and communications are advancing at breathtaking speed and offering unmatched opportunities for political consensus and responsible choices. We have new tools and a vastly increased understanding that our strength lies in working together to overcome the threats facing our planet."
The Challenge of Sustainability describes dozens of successful sustainable development initiatives that are models for the future:
"What will it take to protect our biological heritage, avoid the devastation that climate change could bring, sustain the soil and water that give us life, protect human health, and reduce the scourge of poverty and hunger?" Mr. El-Ashry said. "It will take leaders from all walks of life who are willing to think and act differently and lead the way. We must internalize the lessons learned and replicate our successes. Most importantly, we must build on what we have learned in the past."
The Challenge of Sustainability is based in large part on a series of GEF Roundtables on sustainable energy, forests and biodiversity, land and water degradation, and financing. At each Roundtable, panels of experts and Ministers of Finance and Environment from around the world-in consultation with civil society and other participants-provided concrete and practical recommendations for an action agenda to achieve global sustainability over the next decade. The recommendations were presented at the WSSD preparatory committee meetings, a special briefing at the UN Forum on Forests, at the International Conference on Financing for Development, and in other international fora.
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