From Portugal to South Africa …

08 Dezembro 2001 - 22:27:54 | por webmaster

A Portuguese ENGO Contribution towards a Global Agenda for Johannesburg

Portugal is a member of the European Union, with a population of 10 million, located on the Western seaboard of the Iberian Peninsula, with an Atlantic and Mediterranean influenced climate. Beyond continental Portugal, its territory also includes the 11 islands of the North Atlantic archipelagos of Azores and Madeira.

The Portuguese Environmental Non-Governmental Organisations represented here have chosen five themes for inclusion in the agenda of the Johannesburg Summit. These issues are of equally crucial importance at the Portuguese and the global level.

Public participation, citizenship and participative democracy

The involvement of populations in decision-making processes — at the local, regional, national or global level —- is one the principles established by the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. In Portugal, 10 years on, many national or regional plans, laws and strategy documents are still not adequately discussed with stakeholders other than government agencies. The most recent example was the National Evaluation Report on the Implementation of Local Agenda 21, a document produced by the Environmental Ministry with neither public discussion nor contributions from civil society.

While there is an urgent necessity for the creation of a national strategy for sustainability, it should however be the fruit of a fully participative process, by means of a diverse civil society dialogue, and a democratic and transparent final decision-making process.

Globalisation and Equity

The globalisation of the Economy has, at best, not improved, and, at worst, degraded quality of life for the majority of the world’s peoples; and has accelerated environmental degradation. We therefore support the “New Global Deal" to combat poverty. Furthermore, we emphasise "fair" trade over "free" trade, and the promotion of consumer choice instruments, such as rigorous environmental product labelling. These instruments must safeguard environmental quality during primary production and extraction, whilst at the same time serving the local populations along the production chain.

In addition, we call for increased co-ordination amongst environmental, social and international development NGOs, as well as for the effective involvement of civil society in international development programmes.

Land use and water resource management

In many countries agriculture is still the primary land use, and Portugal is no exception. Excess sediments, nutrients and pesticides often significantly impair water quality. To improve water quality and prevent land degradation, we propose watershed demonstration projects on agricultural non-point source pollution targeted at landusers.

We envision a "Food – to – Soil" strategy, aimed at returning the organic matter of foodstuff waste to our seriously depleted and fragile soils. We also propose a "pesticide amnesty day" programme to clean up, collect, and properly dispose of banned and unused pesticides. This programme would be aimed at landusers and the general public, and it would call attention to the urgency of disposing hazardous materials in an environmentally safe manner.

Sustainable Energy Use

An economy that consumes less fossil fuels can be more competitive and sustainable, benefiting all countries environmental, social and economic development.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, which Portugal has recently ratified, commit the world community to reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Such reductions can be significantly obtained, inter alia, through an increase in the share of renewable energy sources, greater energy efficiency and conservation in and better use of public transportation. Portugal does not take advantage of its potential in renewable energy sources. At the same time, it has one of the poorest energy efficiency records amongst the OECD. Various experts believe Portugal could achieve a 29% share of renewable energy sourcing by 2010. However, currently, a mere 1% of its photovoltaic solar energy potential and none of its wave energy potential is used. Reliance on imported fossil fuels has been steadily increasing over the last decades, reaching the current levels of over 70%.

Biodiversity

Despite the measures implemented at the international and national levels, and the increase in protected areas worldwide, the loss of biodiversity, both in terrestrial and marine ecosystems continues at an alarming rate.

Oceans are rich and potentially sustainable resource reservoirs of food, energy and raw materials. Moreover, they are composed of complex and fertile ecosystems, and play a determinant role in the overall equilibrium of the planet. It is therefore essential to safeguard the richness and biodiversity of ocean life and also the future of those who depend on it to survive. We call on the world community, and Portuguese society, to take into account the recommendations of the 1998 World Independent Commission on Oceans, which produced the landmark report "The Ocean: Our Future."

Portugal has the European Union’s biggest Excusive Economic Zone. However, ten years after the Rio Conference, Portuguese authorities have not yet established a national strategy for marine environmental conservation and management in order to guarantee the protection of its biodiversity, including its vast marine ecosystems.

In this document, we have attempted, from our particular vantage point, to select themes that we believe merit serious consideration based on their importance to Portugal and to the world. These themes were borne out of discussions within and between our organizations, and the beginning of a process we have initiated to involve our national stakeholders. We offer these in the spirit of collaboration and our common quest for a better world through serious and rigorous implementation of sustainable development for all.

The above insights represent the views of the following ENGOs (list). We invite your feedback via email ( geota@mail.telepac.pt or real21_adrr@hotmail.com ).

Amigos da Beira – Associação de Defesa do Patrimonio, Ambiente e Consumidor
Armeria – Movimento Ambientalista da Peniche
Geota – Grupo de Estudos de Ordenamento ou Territorio e Ambiente
LPN – Liga para a Proteccao da Natureza
Quercus – Associação Nacional de Conservacao da Natureza
Real 21 – Associação de Defesa do Rio Real



The participation of the above mentioned environmental NGOs, at Prepcom II of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Jan 28th to Feb 8th , New York) was sponsored by the Foundation for Luso-American Development (FLAD, http://www.flad.pt/ ) through its RIO+10 ENGO Competition.


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As initially proposed by South Africa and elaborated by Dan Nielsen, Danish ambassador for environment and sustainable development.
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