A new "rich-poor" war (22 October 1996)


The more rapidly developing countries of Asia and Latin America - what I call the "new South" are leading the revitalization of the global economy, challenging its domination by the traditional industrialized countries and re-shaping the geo-political landscape.

Lecture by Maurice Strong to the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, Seoul, Korea, 22 October 1996

I am pleased to have this opportunity of sharing with you some of my reflections on where we stand today in the movement towards a more environmentally sound and sustainable way of life on our planet, and prospects for the future.

In the twenty years between the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972, and the Earth Summit in 1992, a good deal of progress was made in many areas, including our understanding of the complex system of interaction through which human activities impact on the environment and resources of the planet. And a host of new institutions have been established at the governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental levels to deal with the policy, regulatory, scientific, economic and other dimensions of these issues. Virtually every nation, including developing countries which prior to Stockholm had evidenced little interest in the subject, established national ministries or agencies with responsibility for environmental policies and regulations. And the United Nations Environment Program was established with its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, to provide the focal point and framework for the international cooperation which is so essential to effective action on most environmental issues.

Most of this progress was directly attributable to, or given impetus by, the Stockholm Conference, which succeeded in giving the environment an important place on the agenda of the international community. And it was accompanied by some significant progress in addressing a number of important substantive environmental concerns, notably the "close-in" problems of air and water pollution in industrialized countries. Some environmentally devastated areas were reclaimed and the deterioration of others arrested; there were improvements in energy efficiency and reductions in emissions of some of the more noxious pollutants like sulphur dioxide.

Deterioration

But despite this progress, it became evident by the mid-1980s that, overall, the conditions of the Earth's environment and some of its most vital ecosystems had continued to deteriorate and some of the primary global risks such as global warming and ozone depiction had become more acute and menacing than they appeared at Stockholm. At the same time, developing countries were experiencing problems of pollution and environmental degradation rapidly approaching the levels of the more industrialized countries while lacking the resources to cope with them. It was also becoming increasingly evident that there was a direct and inextricable link between economic development and its environmental impacts.

Against this background. the United Nations General Assembly decided in December 1983 to establish the World Commission on Environment and Development to examine the condition of, and prospects for, the economy and the environment in the perspective of the year 2000 and beyond. The Commission, under the leadership of Norway's talented and able Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, in its landmark report released in 1987, "Our Common Future", made a compelling case for sustainable development as the only viable pathway to a secure and promising future for the human community, and produced a set of recommendations for achieving it.

This report provided the basis for the decision by the UN General Assembly in December 1989 to convene, on the 20th anniversary of the Stockholm Conference, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, and that participation would be at the level of heads of state or government, making it the first "Earth Summit".

Preparations for the conference evoked the participation and contributions of an unprecedented number of governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations. It produced a massive amount of evidence documenting the sobering fact that, despite all the progress made since Stockholm, the processes of environment deterioration, identified there and of the population and economic growth that drive it, had accelerated. Let me cite but a few examples:

Population growth


Between 1972 and 1992, world population grew some 3.8 billion to 5.5 billion, an increase equivalent to the total population of the world at the beginning of the century. And most of this increase occurred in the developing world. At the same time the percentage of population concentrated in urban areas grew from 38 to 46% and the number of mega-cities, with populations of 10 million inhabitants or more, grew from 3 to 13% of which 9% are in the developing world. The number of nuclear reactors grew from 100 in 15 countries to 428 in 31 countries; atmospheric concentration of CO2 from 327 parts per million to 357 parts per million; the number of motor vehicles from 250 million to 600 million; the annual fish catch from 56 million tonnes to 90 million tonnes and the annual rate of destruction of tropical forests from 100,000 square kilometres to 170,000 square kilometres per annum.

Preparations for Rio made it starkly clear that fundamental changes in economic behaviour offer the only viable prospect of effecting a transition to a secure and sustainable future as we move into the 21st century. Even some of the more enlightened and well informed business leaders recognize that this is a situation that is simply not sustainable as was pointed out persuasively in the seminal report, "Changing Course", of the Business Council for Sustainable Development to the Earth Summit. New patterns of production and consumption, which we have come to refer to as "sustainable development" are not just idealistic notions, but survival imperatives if our Earth is to remain a secure and hospitable home for humans and other forms of life with which we share our planet.

One of the questions I am asked most frequently these days is "was Rio really successful?" Little more than four years after the Earth Summit, it is still too early to pronounce any final judgement.

Next year a special session of the United Nations General Assembly will be convened in June to review progress since the Earth Summit and provide new impetus and direction to following up and implementing its results. And I am very pleased to know that Korea has chosen to be the global host for World Environment Day on what will be not only be the 5th anniversary of Rio. but the 25th anniversary of the UN Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972. Next year's special session of the UN General Assembly will be preceded by a meeting of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development And on March 13-19, 1997, a "people's assembly" will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for which President Cardoso of Brazil has agreed to be the Honorary Chairman with strong support from his government, the State Government of Rio de Janeiro and the Brazilian non-governmental, business and professional communities. It will bring together representatives of National Councils for Sustainable Development and similar bodies together with representatives of key sectors and constituencies to share their experience and renew their commitment to Rio's Agenda21. This assembly will provide an important civil society input into the official processes.

Remarkable and historic

As an event itself, Rio was clearly remarkable, indeed historic. Never before had so many of the world's political leaders come together in one place, and the fact that they came to consider the urgent question of our planet's future put these issues under an enormous international spotlight. This was helped by the presence at Rio, both in the conference itself and the accompanying "Global Forum", of an unprecedented number of people and organizations representing every sector of civil society, and more than double the number of media representatives than had ever covered a world conference.

This "people-pressure" helped to move governments to agree on a set of principles, the Declaration of Rio, and a comprehensive program of action to give effect to these principles, Agenda 21.

The Earth Summit also produced agreement on two historic framework conventions, one on Climate Change and the other on Biodiversity which have since come into effect. It also launched the negotiating process which has since produced agreement on a Convention on Desertification, an issue of special importance to many developing countries, particularly in the arid regions of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Despite shortcomings, the agreements reached at Rio represent the most comprehensive program ever agreed by government for the shaping of the human future. And the fact that they were agreed by virtually all of the governments of the world, most of them represented by their head of government, gives them a high degree of political authority. But, as we have seen, it does not ensure their implementation. This will depend on what governments and others do to follow up and give concrete effect to the decisions taken at Rio.

So far the record is mixed at best, particularly at the level of governments. To some degree this is understandable. The changes called for at Rio were fundamental in nature and will not come quickly or easily.

Positive developments

There have, however, been some positive developments from which we can draw encouragement. The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, accompanied by a high-level advisory committee, has made a promising start as the forum for continuing governmental consultation and cooperation in following up and implementing the Rio agreements. After a period of recession in political will, the United States is reasserting its leadership in respect of the issues on which it was so reluctant at Rio. Japan an enacted a basic environmental law. Other countries, notably China, have developed their own national "Agenda 21" in response to the global Agenda 21. Particularly encouraging is the fact that many developing countries have initiated measures to give effect to Agenda 21 despite the fact that the additional financial resources called for by Rio have not been forthcoming.

Despite replenishment of the Global Environment Facility, developing countries have good reason to be disappointed in the response by industrialized countries to their needs for financial support in effecting the transition to sustainable development. In fact many countries have actually reduced official development assistance. The rich have never felt, or acted, so poor as they do today.

It would clearly be unrealistic at a time when all industrialized countries are experiencing severe economic pressures and budgetary stringency to expect these additional resources to come through increases in foreign aid in traditional terms. What is required is not totally new funds, but a massive reorientation of current budgets, subsidies, fiscal, tax and economic policies to provide positive incentives for sustainable development, and new, innovative approaches to resource transfers. A recent study commissioned by the Earth Council makes it clear that literally hundreds of billions of dollars are being used by both industrialized and developing countries to subsidize activities that are both unsustainable in environmental terms and unnecessarily costly and wasteful in economic terms. Some, including subsidies on water and energy in developing countries, actually serve to impair and increase the cost of these vital services to the poor.

Estimates made for the Earth Summit indicated that if developing countries were accorded full and free access to the markets of industrialized countries, they could earn through trade much more than they now receive as development assistance.

Economic instruments and tradeable emissions permits offer promising means of using the market system for channelling resources available far environmental improvement to those places in which they can be utilized most cost effectively. While there are still many difficulties to resolve in designing and implementing emission trading, the US government has introduced an ambitious SO2 program as part of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment.

Custodians of biological resources


Developing countries serve as custodians of most of the world's biological resources. The indispensable services they provide to the world community have always been taken for granted and treated as free goods. We must now begin to place an economic value on them if we were to expect developing countries to maintain them largely for the benefit of the rest of the world. Doing so would not only ensure the conservation of these precious resources, but provide an additional source of resource flows to these countries which would represent a wise investment by the international community, rather than an act of aid or charity.

The most exciting and promising post-Rio developments are occurring outside of governments, where there has a virtual explosion of activities and initiatives on the part of grass-roots organizations, citizen groups and other key sectors of society. It is evident that people returning from, and inspired by, Rio have been determined to translate its basic themes into their own responses to Agenda 21. Engineers and architects, through their international bodies, have committed their professions to cooperative programs designed to support implementation of Agenda 21 in their sectors. The World Tourist and Travel Council. representing what is now the world's largest single industry, and the International Road Transport Union representing the transport sector which is so important in both environmental and economic terms, have both, in cooperation with the Earth Council, developed their own versions of Agenda 21 for their industries, and other sectors are taking similar action. Some 1600 cities and towns around the world have adopted their own local Agenda 21 under the aegis of the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives, again with the support and cooperation of the Earth Council.

The Business Council for Sustainable Development has been reconstituted with a membership of some 120 chief executives of major companies around the world with a commitment to continuing leadership in effecting the change of course called for at Rio. And regional business councils are being established to facilitate this process at the regional level.

The evidence produced for the Earth Summit made it clear that what is needed is fundamental change in the dynamics and direction of our economic life. This basic change of course has not occurred and until it does we will despite our rhetoric and good intentions. continue to move in a direction that is simply not sustainable.

Heart of the dilemma


Business is at the heart of this dilemma. For it is largely through our businesses, big and small that we manifest our economic behaviour and conduct our economic life. In addressing the challenge of achieving global sustainability, we must apply the basic principles of business. This means running "Earth Incorporated" with a depreciation, amortization and maintenance account. On this basis, much of what we have been regarding as wealth creation has in fact represented a running down of our capital. Earth Incorporated, like any other business, can simply not function for long on that basis. In fact, if we were present its accounts on a business basis, Earth Incorporated would be in a very real sense, in the process of liquidation, headed for bankruptcy.

It is nevertheless understandable that those faced with painful trade-offs between immediate economic benefits, including jobs, are seldom prepared to exchange these for long term environmental benefits to society. This is nowhere more true than in the field of natural resources, which has given rise to so many of the most immediate and divisive conflicts in my own country and others. in which natural resources are an important source of income and employment. But our natural resource industries must learn the lesson that the fisheries industry is paying such a high price for learning too late -- that sustainable development is the only pathway to a healthy, productive future. The experience of some OECD countries has shown that environmental improvement and efficiency in the use of energy and resources is fully compatible with, and indeed contributes to, good economic performance.

Asia has become the primary engine of world economic growth. But as a recent United Nations report warned, there is a real danger than many Asian nations will repeat the patterns of environmental destruction which characterised our industrial revolution. With the same of our environmental knowledge to date, this would be not only unnecessary, but patently disastrous. It would be no exaggeration to say that the battle to save our planet through sustainable development will be won or lost in Asia. It inconceivable that there could be an effective global transition to sustainable development, unless Asia develops sustainably. But any visitor to the rapidly developing areas of Asia and the Pacific today could not help but be concerned at the lack of any great evidence on the ground of this increasing awareness and commitment at the policy level. Korea has a great opportunity to set an example and, in doing so, to position itself on the leading edge of the changes that are shaping our world community as we move into the next century.

Progress in Korea


Korea has performed remarkably in transforming itself from a low-income developing country to one of the world's most dynamic industrial economies. This performance is all the more remarkable in that Korea has had to overcome the high human and economic cost of war and of continuing division and tension. It has demonstrated the quality and resourcefulness of the Korean people and their ability to meet the goals they set for themselves, I am encouraged by the evidence that your government, your industry and the Korean people are now becoming more aware of the growing environmental and social costs of following the traditional pathway to industrialization. I welcome the signs that Korea has decided to make the transition to sustainable development through your commitment to "Segyemwa". This is, I submit, the only viable pathway to a secure and sustainable future for Korea and to a leading place amongst the nations of the world in the 21st century.

Energy is an important case in point. It is both an essential driver of industrial and urban growth and a major source of both local and global environmental problems. The World Energy Council. in a recent report called Energy for Tomorrow's World, noted that energy issues are shifting from the industrialized to the developing world. Within 30 years, it said, energy consumption in developing countries will rise to 55 percent from the current 33 percent of the world total.

Within only 25 years, developing nations on the Pacific Rim and Southern Asia will Increase their coal consumption by up to 250 percent. China alone will double its already heavy use of coal in the electric power sector in the current decade. China is the second largest national source of carbon dioxide emissions, accounting for more than 11 percent of the world's total, and is rapidly moving up to first place.

Let me quote from the World Energy Council report: "The dominance of China in this matter is such that assisting China in achieving economic development with reduced greenhouse gas emission rates may be the single most beneficial action which mankind can take -with the potential improvement eclipsing that obtained by further improving the performance of the developed world."

Rising energy demand


Certainly Korea, like China, - and the rest of developing Asia - will have to build new facilities to meet the rising energy demand that will accompany their growing economies.

But they must also recognize that improving the efficiency of existing plants and existing uses, is usually the fastest, often the cheapest, and certainly always the most environmentally advantageous way to increase energy supply.

This is true not only of energy. Efficiency is what sustainable development is all about. This point was made very persuasively by the Business Council on Sustainable Development in its report to the Earth Summit when it said that ceo-efficiency is the key to the new generation of industrial opportunity and increased prosperity for all - efficiency in the use of energy, resources and materials, as well as in the prevention, disposal and recycling of waste.

The Rio experience highlighted the fact that government action needs to be inspired and nourished, and at time sharply prodded, by the insights, policy analyses and initiatives of the private sector. It is to aid in this process that the Earth Council has been created following more than a year of preparation and consultations with some 10,000 organizations and a broad cross-section of development, environmental, social and public policy leaders and experts throughout the world. The headquarters of the Earth Council has been established in San Jose, Costa Rica. It will act as a catalyst to facilitate implementation and follow-up of the results of the Earth Summit. It does this by cooperating with and adding value to, rather than duplicating, the work of other organizations to ensure that the issues of Rio remain at the centre of the public agenda. It helps to ensure that the concerns and the experience of people at the grass-roots level are brought to bear at all levels of public policy and decision making.

The issues addressed at the Earth Summit in Rio are integral to the fundamental processes of civilizational change in which we are now caught up. The demise of the cold war signalled the end of the old order that had shaped international, political, economic and security relations since the end of World War II. Yet a new world order has not emerged. We are in a dangerous and frustrating interregnum in which political leaders are more prone to resort to ad hoc responses to the problems and pressures they face based on considerations of narrow, short term political expediency than to face up to the root causes of these problems.

Rich-poor dichotomy


This process has extremely important implications for the prospects of effecting the transition to sustainable development called for by the Rio agreements. It threatens to deepen and entrench the rich-poor dichotomy both within nations and internationally. I am convinced that addressing the increasing dichotomy between the haves and the have-nets will be the principal challenge to industrial societies, as well as to relations between industrialized and developing nations in the period ahead.

When traditional institutions and constraints break down -whether they are democratic or totalitarian - the result is often a regression to anarchy, tribalism and social conflict. We need look no farther than Bosnia to see that in a post-Cold War world that is awash with weapons, ethnic tensions and regional rivalries can readily ignite armed conflict.

Reversion to nationalism, parochialism and narrow self-interest can provide only a brief respite from the realities of an interdependent world, and only at a cost that most would find unacceptable, The only conceivable answer is to establish a new international system of governance, which would provide the mechanisms required to avoid the risks and realize the benefits of our global technological civilization.

The 50th anniversary of the United Nations focussed on the need to restructure and revitalize the UN and its system of organizations and agencies, including the Bretton Woods Institution, to prepare them for the vastly increased role they must have as the primary multi-lateral framework of a new world order. The report of the independent Commission on Global Governance "Our Global Neighbourhood" made a timely and invaluable contribution to this process, But little progress has been made in effecting the needed changes. The UN continues to be weakened by an ongoing financial crisis.

Critical area of governance


In this critical area of governance, environmental issues cannot be seen or dealt with as separate and distinct from the major issues now shaping our destiny. The wasteful and destructive economic practices which have brought us to our present pass are in a very real sense the products of deficiencies in our economic structures and our processes of governance. National governments need to share with internal jurisdictions, regional, provincial and local, as well as non-governmental actors, responsibility for activities that can be most effectively handled at these levels.

The real world cause-and-effect system through which human policies and actions are translated into their economic and social consequences is systemic in nature, and can only be managed on a systemic basis. Yet the processes of governance through which we are trying to manage these issues are highly compartmentalized, There must be a more systemic relationship amongst each of the various levels of government than now exists, and amongst the institutions and disciplines into which our response capabilities are divided. The world needs some breathing room, and we in the industrialized world must begin the process of lightening OUR demands on the Earth's resources, and reducing OUR impacts on Earth's environment. And what this implies -in fact, demands, is nothing less than an eco-industrial revolution - not some comprehensive patching-up of our old political and economic systems. And for the venturesome and the entrepreneurial, it will create many more opportunities than it forecloses.


The issues I have been addressing are focused on the pragmatic challenges of transforming our vision of a sustainable civilization into reality. But we must recognize that this will not occur without a major cultural transformation - a reorientation of the ethical, moral and spiritual values which provide the primary motivations for human behaviour. For the privileged it will require a shift to lifestyles of sophisticated modesty which place much greater emphasis on the qualitative. non-material dimension of living. Concepts of caring, respect for, sharing and cooperation with others must be at the centre of the motivational system that undergirds the transition to sustain ability. This does not mean homogeneity. Diversity and variety are as much a source of strength and resilience in human affairs as they are in natural ecosystems. But as we see, in the human domain it is also a source of conflict and division. Nevertheless our common interest and security require that we transcend our differences and cooperate on matters that are essential to the survival and well-being of the entire human family.

Capital investment

In a world which capital investment is one of the primary drivers of societal change, development finance institutions such as the World Bank and the ADB have a pre-eminent role. But it is one they share with leaders and practitioners of politics, economics, social affairs. culture, education and religion. The task of moving the human community toward a more secure. sustainable and equitable future is a challenge which must unite us all as never before.

Is there, then, any basis for confidence that we can rise to the challenge? Despite the persuasive case for pessimism, I remain convinced that we can do it. The reason is that we must do it Of civilization will degenerate into chaos, conflict and continued degradation of the environment. Pessimism would be self-fulfilling. As long as there is the slightest chance that we can make the transition to a more secure and sustainable way of life on our planet, we must continue to strive for it.

Korea has an important opportunity - and responsibility - to be in the vanguard of this process. With the demise of the communist regimes of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, the full extent ofthe massive environmental devastation they produced was revealed. They too will need massive additional investment and assistance to ensure that the rebuilding of their shattered economies is carried out on an environmentally sound and sustainable basis. Unfortunately there are all too few signs at present that this is happening.

The economic growth of developing countries and the re-development of the former Soviet Union, if it proceeds in the traditional mode, will soon overtake industrialized countries as the principal Source of global environmental impacts. That would increase risks to dangerous levels the world community cannot afford to accept. Yet the right of developing countries to grow cannot be denied; nor can it be constrained by conditions unilaterally imposed by the industrialized countries.

The only answer to this dilemma lies in industrialized countries reducing their impacts to leave environmental "space" for developing countries to grow, while expanding then support for developing countries in effecting their transition to sustainable modes of development.

Serious imbalances

All of the environmental deterioration we have witnessed to date has occurred at levels of population and human activity a great deal less than they will be in the period ahead The astounding success of the human species, its proliferation in numbers and in the scale and intensity of its activities, is threatening the future of the Earth's life systems and of the human species itself. And the concentration of population growth in developing countries and economic growth in industrialized countries which has given rise to such serious imbalances in our global society shows no significant signs of changing.

One of the traditional outlets for the pressures generated by population growth, conflict and economic difficulties has been migration. But today the borders of the world are closing as pressures for migration escalate. Scarcely had we celebrated the tearing down of the Berlin Wall than new walls were being erected in Europe and elsewhere against the entry of the poor, the homeless and the dispossessed of the east and the south.

The "new world order" which has entered the rhetoric of international politics is far removed from the grim realities in which nations are retreating from the commitments and responsibilities this entails. Any new world order must provide for the full and fair participation of the majority of the people of the world who live in developing countries. They must have equitable opportunities to share the benefits, just as they share the risks, of our technological civilization. And surely the highest priority should be accorded to eradication of the dire and debilitating poverty that condemns so many people to suffering and hunger that are an affront to the moral basis of our civilization.

This was a primary theme of the Earth Summit and Agenda 21, and represents the principal challenges we confront in giving effect to their conclusions and recommendations the need for fundamental changes in our economic life through a full integration of the environmental dimension in economic policies, decision making and behaviour. This can only be achieved through major changes in the system of incentives and penalties by which governments motivate the economic conduct of corporations and citizens. In general terms, this means providing positive incentives for environmentally sound and sustainable practices, products and services together with penalties and taxes that deter environmentally unsound behaviour. This needs to be accompanied by the adoption of accounting methods, both in national accounts and business accounting, in which environmental costs are fully integrated into the costs of products and transactions. It is, after all, fully consistent with the principles of market economics that the price of all products and transactions should incorporate their full real cost.

The "new South"


The more rapidly developing countries of Asia and Latin America - what I call the "new South" .are leading the revitalization of the global economy, challenging its domination by the traditional industrialized countries and re-shaping the geo-political landscape.

A recent World Bank reports points out that even in the two decades from 1974 to 1993, developing countries as a whole grew at a rate slightly higher (3%) than the rich industrial countries (29%) and are expected to grow by almost 5% per year in the next decade compared with 2.7% in the traditional industrial countries.

On this basis, as the Economist noted in a survey of the global economy, China will replace the United States as the world's largest economy by 2020, and 9 of the top 15 economies of the world will be today's developing countries. And the same survey projects that developing countries' share of world output will grow to 62% by 2020 while that of the rich industrial countries will decline to 37%. It is always dangerous to put too much weight on surveys based largely on the extrapolation of current trends, But there seems little doubt that the direction pointed up by the Economist is valid.

Yet the immense geopolitical implications of this shift of economic power have not yet begun to be reflected in the existing world order, which is still deeply rooted in the power structure that emerged in the aftermath of World War II. Meanwhile, the new South continues to be home to most of the world's poverty and much of its conflict at the same time as it is generating the lion's share of economic growth. But the developing world has never been homogeneous and the new South is much less so. The rapid changes occurring there are deepening the processes of differentiation, particularly between those that arc growing and those that continue in the grip of economic stagnation and poverty.

The gaps between rich and poor, privileged and underprivileged, are deepening, both within and amongst societies. This process, if it is not reversed will inevitably lead to greater social tensions and potential for conflict. The Economist, hardly a radical publication, recently said in a review of the world economy that one of Karl Marx' main premises may yet be validated in the emergence of a new "rich-poor" war.

Poverty is as much a source of environmental degradation as the mis-management of wealth. The poor are caught up in a vicious circle in which the imperatives of day by day survival drive them to undermine and destroy the natural resources on which their future depends. Paradoxically, the economic growth of the developing countries also poses a major threat to the prospects for global environmental security and sustainability.

Immense implications


These issues have immense implications for all of us. In environmental terms alone they could be decisive for the human future. For developing countries, particularly if they follow the same growth pathway taken by the more mature industrialized countries, win have a growing impact on the larger global environmental risks we face that will undoubtedly move us beyond the thresholds of safety and sustainability. Our environmental future will be largely determined by what happens in the developing world. Yet we who have largely created these risks, and benefited most from the processes of industrialization that have given rise to them, can scarcely deny the right of developing countries to grow. Nor would it be fair or reasonable for us to act unilaterally in imposing constraints on their growth in the name of environment.

The new South is contributing more and more to the larger global risks such as those of climate change, ozone depletion, degradation of biological resources, and loss or deterioration of arable lands. China has already become the second largest source of CO2 emissions and will almost certainly succeed the United States to the dubious honour of becoming number one.

Developing countries which once saw pollution as a problem of the rich are now experiencing these problems in even more acute form than we did. The cities of the developing world are growing at rates beyond anything experienced in the industrialized countries - outstripping this capacity to provide even the most basic housing, infrastructure, health, eduction and social services to their exploding populations. In the year 2000, 13 of the 21 megacities - cities with more than 10 million people - will be in Asia. Only two will be in the United States and none will be in Europe.

Cities like Cairo, Manila. Bangkok. Calcutta and Mexico City are amongst the most polluted on earth. Many are faced with the prospect of environmental and social breakdown which would make them festering cauldrons of conflict, suffering and disease. The United Nations Conference on Habitat, the last in the series of great UN conferences of this decade, held in Istanbul, Turkey, this year focussed world attention on these issues.