Annan Cites Climate Change in the Opening Session of the UN World Summit
0n Sustainable Development
By Yusuf Ali
September 2, 2002
"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
"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"
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
"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
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