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UNU/IAS conference discusses global sustainable future
Since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, "sustainable development" - defined broadly by the Brundlandt Commission as development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of the future - has been high on the world's agenda. To clarify the scope of the concept and to discuss the highly complex and interdependent issues that constitute it, the second "International Conference on Sustainable Future of the Global System" was jointly organized by the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU/IAS) and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), with support from the Environment Agency of Japan.
Held at the United Nations University Headquarters in Tokyo on 23-24 February, the conference addressed a wide range of issues - including climate change, tradable permits, sustainable production and consumption, energy, food security, natural resource depletion, and degradation of agricultural and forested land - from a variety of academic disciplines and perspectives.
Dr. Robert T. Watson, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), gave the keynote speech on central issues raised at the Fourth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP4) and their implications for the future of the global system. Among the many challenges he issued to the more than 400 participants was examining the issues of climate change holistically by placing the issue in a broader context of global environmental change and sustainable development, but also linking it with issues of local concern.
Over 40 leading experts from universities, research institutes, and international agencies around the world participated as speakers and panellists. Several UN agencies were represented, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The seven sessions spanning two days centred around three main themes: (1) key issues arising from COP4, including progress in multilateral efforts to reach a global accord and alternative emission scenarios; (2) sectoral issues relating to sustainable development, ranging from energy and natural resource management to production and consumption; and (3) elements of sustainable development in China and developing countries and, in general, an overall policy framework based on them.
Within the third theme, the UNU/IAS made a noteworthy contribution by reporting on its project entitled "Sustainable Development Framework: The Case of China." As 85 per cent of the world's future population will reside in developing countries, it becomes more imperative than ever for such countries to economically develop - necessary if they are to support their rapidly growing populations - without further deteriorating the environment and depleting natural resources. Towards this end, the UNU/IAS has taken the initiative by launching a project to develop an integrated sustainable development framework in China for policy analysis and strategic planning within a sustainable development path.
Coordinated by Prof. Fuchen-Lo, Deputy Director of IAS, the project is being undertaken by a team of IAS in-house researchers, together with a network of institutions and scholars from China. During Session III of the conference, project members from both IAS and Chinese institutions presented a Summary Report that highlighted their research findings during their first year of work. It is hoped that the case of China is but the first articulation of a sustainable development framework, with research focusing on other large developing countries, including Indonesia and India, planned for the future.