Environmental News: Media CenterMain page | Archive
The Johannesburg Summit 2002: A Call for Action
February 22, 2002
"Recognizing that people's actions toward nature and each other are the source of growing damage to the environmental resources needed to meet human needs and ensure survival and development, I PLEDGE to act to the best of my ability to help make the Earth a secure and hospitable home for present and future generations."
Nearly a decade ago, President George H. W. Bush and the leaders of more than 100 other nations made this commitment at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. This Earth Pledge was a recognition of the importance of the environment to our own well-being and of our common responsibility to protect it. Today, following the September 11 terrorist attacks and their aftermath we are even more aware of our global interdependence and vulnerability. While we must respond to the immediate threats to our national security, we must also work to assure environmental security for all of Earth's people.
Next September, the world's leaders will gather in Johannesburg, South Africa to address once more the intertwined problems of environmental protection, social equity and economic development. The World Summit on Sustainable Development could be a watershed event where our leaders set out a vision and commit to concrete actions for a brighter future. Mr. President, you have shown tremendous determination in forging a broad international coalition against terrorism. We now call upon you to declare your intent to attend the Johannesburg Summit and to join in partnerships with other nations to address the environmental challenges threatening our long-term well-being and security.
In Rio, world leaders set out Agenda 21 -- a blueprint for moving the world to sustainable development -- and agreed upon two treaties to protect the earth's atmosphere and its biological riches. Since then, we have made progress on many fronts. Many countries have created new institutions and adopted laws and policies to promote sustainable development and have taken concrete actions to protect the environment, improve social equity, and strengthen governance and human rights.
At the same time, globalization has emerged as a major force. While actions to reduce barriers to trade and investments have stimulated economic growth, there are deep concerns about the uneven distribution of these economic gains among and within countries, the growing pressure on natural resources, and increasing pollution. The failure to address these tensions provides the impetus for unrest, social conflict and violence.
The environmental challenges identified in Rio remain and are even more urgent today. More than one billion people lack access to clean drinking water and more than one billion urban residents breathe polluted air. Two billion people lack adequate energy supplies to meet their needs. We emit ever-growing volumes of carbon dioxide that alter the Earth's climate. About 75 percent of the world's fisheries have been exploited at or beyond their capacity. Over 11,000 plant and animal species face a high risk of extinction. Globally, from 1990 to 2000, at least 90 million hectares of forests were lost -- a trend that continues unabated. Traces of toxic chemicals are now found in human and animal tissue around the globe. The most vulnerable to these and other environmental threats are the poor.
World leaders must act now to reverse these trends and close the gap between governments' promises and on-the-ground realities. The Johannesburg Summit must be different than many past UN gatherings. It should be a forum where governments and other stakeholders feel compelled to put forward more precise commitments and measures -- initiatives that will make a real difference.
Mr. President, we ask you to declare now that you will attend the Johannesburg Summit. We urge you to provide an example for other nations by announcing at the Summit the specific actions you have taken and will take to reassert the importance of protecting the environment and achieving sustainable development, including to:
- ratify and implement the major environmental treaties forged at Rio and thereafter;
- reduce United States emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants;
- stimulate development and deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies;
- protect critical land and marine ecosystems;
- provide increased financial and diplomatic support to strengthen international environmental institutions and structures;
- reform international trade and financial institutions and export credit agencies, and establish adequate safeguards to protect communities and the environment;
- eliminate subsidies that cause overfishing, halt destructive fishing practices, and enforce controls on ocean pollution;
- support expedited development of a strategic approach to international chemicals management that is coordinated, coherent, and environmentally sound;
- increase U.S. assistance to developing countries to protect their environments and the global environment; and
- defend the fundamental democratic rights of citizens and communities around the world to protect the resources on which their lives and livelihoods depend.
We live in the richest and most powerful nation in the world, and we have an enormous impact on the global environment. Thus, we have a special responsibility to act. Your global leadership -- so apparent in response to the events of September 11th -- is critical if we are indeed to make the Earth a secure and hospitable home for present and future generations.
John Adams, President, Natural Resources Defense Council
Brent Blackwelder, President, Friends of the Earth
Robert O. Blake, U.S. Ambassador, Retired
Lester Brown, President, Earth Policy Institute
Philip E. Clapp, President, National Environmental Trust
Charles K. Dayton, Esq, Senior Partner, Leonard, Street & Dienard*
Chad Dobson, Director, Consumer's Choice Council
Mark Epstein, Executive Director & CEO, World Federalist Association USA
Christopher Flavin, President, Worldwatch Institute
Kathryn Fuller, President, World Wildlife Fund
J. William Futrell, President, Environmental Law Institute*
Michel Gelobter, Executive Director, Redefining Progress
Dr. Stanley Greenfield, first Assistant Administrator of Research and Development, US Environmental Protection Agency*
Denis Hayes, Chairperson, Board of Directors, Earth Day Network
Randy Hayes, President, Rainforest Action Network
Dr. Stephen Hubbell, Professor of Botany, University of Georgia*
Danny O'Keefe, Director, The Songbird Foundation
Fred Krupp, Executive Director, Environmental Defense
Dr. Donald N. Langenberg, Chancellor, University System of Maryland and former Deputy Director, National Science Foundation*
Langdon Marsh, Director, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality*
Steve McCormick, President, The Nature Conservancy
Dr. Mario Molina, Nobel Laureate, Institute Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology*
Monica Moore, Co-Director and Program Director, Pesticide Action Network North American Regional Center
Robert K. Musil, PhD, MPH, CEO & Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility
William R. Pace, Executive Director, Center for Development of International Law
John Passacantando, Executive Director, Greenpeace USA
Carl Pope, Executive Director, Sierra Club
Dr. Stephen Pulliam, Regents Professor of Ecology, University of Georgia and former Director, National Biological Service, Department of the Interior*
Mark Van Putten, President & CEO, National Wildlife Federation
Philip D. Radford, Executive Director, Power Shift
Fred O'Regan, President, International Fund for Animal Welfare
Mark Ritchie, President, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Stephen E. Roady, President, Oceana
Kathleen Rogers, President, Earth Day Network
James Gustave Speth, Dean, Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies*
Robert B. Stang, Managing Member, ReNEWal Realty LLC
Rabbi Daniel Swartz, Executive Director, Children's Environmental Health Network
Wren Wirth, President, The Winslow Foundation
John Wise, Executive Director, Natural Heritage Institute
George M. Woodwell, Director, The Woods Hole Research Center
Durwood Zaelke, President, Center for International Environmental Law
*Affiliations listed for identification purposes only
Signatories as of February 22, 2002
Sign up for NRDC's online newsletter
NRDC Gets Top Ratings from the Charity Watchdogs
- Charity Navigator awards NRDC its 4-star top rating.
- Worth magazine named NRDC one of America's 100 best charities.
- NRDC meets the highest standards of the Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau.