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Environment dominates debates at UN population commission, chairman says

Environment dominates debates at UN population commission, chairman says

Economic Development

The relationship between demographic factors and environmental degradation -- now under discussion at the United Nations Commission on Population and Development -- remains a divisive issue, that body's chairman said today.

"This is contentious not only between developed and developing countries, but also among developed countries," said Makoto Atoh, President of the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in Japan, who is chairing the current session of the Commission, a 47-member panel that monitors the implementation of the Programme of Action adopted by the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development.

The week-long session is tackling the question of the environment as part of the international lead-up to next year's ten-year review of the 1992 UN Conference on the Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, known as the "Earth Summit."

Speaking at a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Atoh noted that disagreements among developed States were exemplified by their divergent attitudes towards the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty which contains binding targets for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Atoh said developing countries viewed excessive patterns of consumption as playing a greater role in environmental degradation than population growth. The relative importance of population growth and excessive consumption in causing environmental degradation had historically been debated "again and again," he noted.

A report prepared for the session by Secretary-General Kofi Annan notes that in today's globalized world, governments, the international community and the average citizen are growing ever more concerned about the relationships among population, the environment and development.

The report notes that domestic programmes and effective international agreements to curtail environmentally harmful activities are essential. "Population and development policies -- especially those relating to the size, growth and distribution of population -- are necessary and vital components of the constellation of actions needed to ensure sustainable development and to safeguard the environment during the twenty-first century and beyond," it states.