'Consumption Barometer' to Help Keep Johannesburg Summit Green

'Consumption Barometer' to Help Keep Johannesburg Summit Green

Delegates to the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa, will be able to consult a "consumption barometer" offering a daily update on how much food, water, energy, paper and other resources they use. Environmental audits carried out before, during and after the summit will chart its impact -- and what it would have been without efforts to stay "green."

The Greening WSSD Initiative, launched by the Government of South Africa, UNDP and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), will showcase environmental best practices to leave a useful legacy for the host country and create greater awareness about environmental concerns championed at the summit. More than 60,000 participants are expected to converge on Johannesburg for the event from August 26 to September 4.

The Greening Initiative is expected to influence how UN and other major gatherings are organized in the future.

The Department of Agriculture, Conservation, Environment and Land Affairs (DACEL) of Gauteng Province, UNDP and GEF are providing more than US$4 million for the initiative. The South Africa country office of the World Conservation Union is providing technical assistance and managing the initiative.

Mary Metcalfe, the provincial member of the executive in charge of DACEL, said: "We must make sure that in our efforts to demonstrate and document the effects of the summit we leave a legacy of greater public awareness, which will positively influence how people relate to the environment in the future."

The initiative is a "tangible way of showing that we can learn by putting into action the message of the summit," said John Ohiorhenuan, UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator.

Mohamed T. El-Ashry, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of GEF, said that the project will also demonstrate to participants the "choices that they can make during the WSSD and in their daily lives to minimize the negative environmental impacts of their activities."

Over the next few months, extensive awareness campaigns through the media, schools and other channels will educate South Africans about the challenges and opportunities of promoting sound environmental practices and sustainable development.

Summit organizers will try to ensure that procurement transactions take into consideration and reflect best environmental practice. Service providers, such as those dealing with waste management and transport, are expected to apply environmentally-friendly standards in their services.

Caterers are expected to source and use reusable and recyclable materials as much as possible, and the five "R's" -- reduce, re-use, replace, recover and recycle - will be watchwords for the summit.

Specially designed tours will enable delegates to visit field projects that demonstrate the challenges and opportunities associated with sustainable development at the local level. Awards for the hospitality industry will encourage environmentally sustainable operations.