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British Prime Minister Tony Blair made the following remarks on June 23 at the United Nations Earth Summit II in New York, on the fifth anniversary of the UN Conference on Environment and Cooperation held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
"...This is my fifth international meeting in eight weeks in office. My three young children in London say that I'm not enough at home, but I know that this is one summit that they would really want me to be at, because they know that the decisions here will have a profound effect on the world that they inherit. So I speak to you not just as the new British prime minister, but as a father.
Three principles should guide us as we strive to protect the environment for future generations.
" First, we must give everyone a stake in the world's environment. That is why the fall in aid flow since 1992 is so worrying, and why my government supports the UN aid targets, and why we are committed to improving further the quality of our assistance, reversing the decline in Britain's development assistance, and refocusing our efforts on combatting poverty. We shall give priority to the poorest countries, including in Africa.
" At the Denver summit [of the Group of Seven plus Russia], I committed the U.K. to raising by 50% our bilateral support for health, education, and water projects in Africa. And we believe in the objective of halving abject poverty in the world by the year 2015.
" Reducing poverty is in our own interests. The poverty of landless and desperate people causes most of the destruction of the rain forest. And it is the reduction of the rain forest, the lungs of the world, that threatens the stability of our own climate.
" I hope this week we will agree to start negotiations on a forest convention. It takes less than an hour to fell a tree; it can take a lifetime to replace it. If we are serious about sustainable development, we must show that we are serious about sustainable forestry management.
" Britain has long experience of the public and private management of forests. We are keen to share that experience. And today, I can announce that we intend to adopt a new forest standard to provide a benchmark for the regeneration of our forest. It may help provide a model for other countries. So I can announce that Britain will be increasing our development assistance for forestry management to countries wanting to share our expertise.
" There is a liquid more precious than oil--water. Yet while some countries expect running water on tap, too many people in the same world get through the day on what they can carry back from the morning trip to the well. Britain will play its part in developing an action plan to ensure universal access to clean water and sanitation. I hope progress this week will lead to real results at next year's Commission on Sustainable Development.
" Five years ago, Mr. President, the Rio summit launched Agenda 21. Since then, in Britain, 70% of our local authorities have been inspired to think global, act local through local Agenda 21. But we must do more. I want all local authorities in the United Kingdom to adopt local Agenda 21 strategies by the year 2000.
" Perhaps the most worrying problem is climate change. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise unabated, by the year 2100, global temperatures will have gone up by 1 to 3.5@dgC and sea levels risen by, perhaps, as much as a meter. Some small islands are seriously at risk. So, the European Union has proposed the new and challenging target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries to 15% below their 1990 level by the year 2010. In Britain we will be ready to go further, to a 20% target. This target will require significant measures: more efficient use of transport, improved energy conservation, and greater use of renewable sources of energy.
" Many of you were at Rio. It was an exciting event. Environmental issues dominated politics and the media. Challenges were laid down, targets set. I attacked the last British government for many things, but they did deliver on the greenhouse gas emission targets set at Rio. Some other countries cannot say the same, including some of the industrialized nations. I say that our targets will not be taken seriously by the poorer countries until we, the richer countries, are meeting them.
" To be really effective, we must act globally. At Kyoto [UN Climate Control Convention in December], industrialized countries must agree to legally binding targets for significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions during the first decade of the next century. The biggest responsibility falls on those countries with the biggest emissions. We in Europe have now put our cards on the table. It is time for the special pleading to stop and for others to follow suit. If we fail at Kyoto, we fail our children, because the consequences will be felt in their lifetime. And we must deliver on all the commitments that we make. Setting new targets means little if old ones are ignored.
" At the same time, industrialized countries must work with developing countries to help them combat climate change, biodiversity loss, and other global environmental challenges. We must live up to our side of the bargain and ensure they have the resources to do this. So, the United Kingdom supports the replenishment of the global environment facility, and we propose to enhance the U.K.'s partnership with key developing countries in energy efficiency and climate change research and observation.
" Mr. President, we are all in this together. No country can opt out of global warming, or fence in its own private climate. We need common action to save our common environment. The Earth is the only planet in the solar system with an environment that can sustain life. Our solemn duty as leaders of the world is to treasure that precious heritage and to hand on to our children and grandchildren an environment that will enable them to enjoy the same full life that we took for granted. And indeed, young people themselves have an important part to play in all of this.
" Like other nations, Britain is now preparing to mark the coming millennium. But the millennium project on which we must all work is to rescue the global environment so that it can nurture life in all our countries for another thousand years and more. Let us show this week that we have the vision to rise to the task and the commitment to see it through. "
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