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Swiss disappointed with UN environment meeting

The problem is about globalisation and the environment Keystone

Switzerland says it is disappointed with the outcome of a conference in New York of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.

This content was published on May 12, 2007 - 15:09

The conference ended without a final declaration, with both Switzerland and the European Union rejecting a draft document.

The Swiss delegation said the draft was a step backwards compared with previous decisions but hoped that the failure could be used as an opportunity for the future.

Energy, economic development, air pollution and climate change were at the centre of the talks.

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, called on delegations at the opening of the discussions on Wednesday to recognise the relationships between industrialisation, energy use and climate change.

Energy issues provoked the most confrontation, according to the Swiss delegation. Renewable energy and energy efficiency, which are being pushed particularly in Europe, had a difficult time against representatives from oil-producing countries.

"This meeting should have made a difference. It was important not to be content with repeating earlier declarations," Franz Perrez from the Swiss delegation told swissinfo.

No goals

"But in the draft of the final document there were no concrete goals and no decisions that could have developed new action."

Switzerland hopes, however, that the absence of a final document will give a "healthy shock" and make the commission have a rethink.

"The worst scenario would have been to agree on the proposed declaration, which didn't even go as far as earlier documents," Perrez added.

Apart from Switzerland and the 27 members of the EU, Norway and Iceland were in favour of a clear political declaration.

The draft of the final declaration in the name of the Group of 77 developing countries and China was approved by Pakistan and the United States.

Those countries refuse any specific reference to human activities playing a role in climate change.

Switzerland had demanded more political will for the use of environment-friendly energy.

Challenge

It believes that climate change is the "greatest challenge of the human race" and can only be stopped with a sustainable development that respects the environment.

The delegation had travelled to New York with the aim of getting the conference to recognise that energy use, economic development and climate change are closely linked.

It had hoped for a strong signal supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency, and a clear declaration that clean energy is a key factor in the fight against climate change.

Switzerland believes that to achieve the Millennium goals such as the reduction of poverty industry has to be developed respecting the principles of sustainability.

There have to be joint efforts, or as Thomas Kolly from the Federal Environment Office put it, quoting the late Swiss author Friedrich Dürrenmatt, "What concerns everyone can only be solved by everyone".

However, the draft final document did not fulfil the expectations of the Swiss delegation in any respect and as a result, it rejected the text.

"We wanted clear and significant decisions," Perrez said, adding that the text had no added value.

swissinfo, Rita Emch in New York

UN Commission on Sustainable Development

The commission was created at the Rio environment summit of 1992 to put into practice Agenda 21.

Agenda 21 fixes the goals of sustainable development. There should be economic development leading to better living standards with respect for the environment.

It is the only UN body that deals with the economy, social development and the environment, and is gaining in importance in an increasingly globalised world.

The commission meets once a year in New York at ministerial level. It has 53 members.

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Zimbabwe

Despite objections from Western nations, the commission voted to give the chairmanship to Zimbabwe.

The post rotates among regions, and Africa nominated Zimbabwe's environment and tourism minister, Francis Nhema.

The vote – by secret ballot – was 26 in favour and 21 against, with three abstentions.

The US and the EU have taken sanctions against Zimbabwe for human rights abuses.

Switzerland believes that the credibility of the commission is important. With this in mind, it feels that the chairmanship of the body should not polarise countries but be in a position to build bridges. Switzerland is therefore not happy with the election.

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