(Notes: Strong confirms relationship with Prince Charles and presence at 4/91 private meeting with then- Senator Al Gore and others on how to get Rio and Agenda 21 to go down.
Strong confirms that Smart Growth is United Nations Global Biodiversity.)
Veon: You started in 1972 1970 with the UN...
Strong: Well in 1970 to take on responsibility for preparing the first world conference on the environment in Stockholm in 1972.
Veon: What kind
of preparation did you do in 1970 for 1972 meeting and 1990-1991 for the 1992
Strong: Well there was a preparatory process in both instances. In case of Stockholm, the whole issue was just new on the international agenda so we needed to prepare people politically to deal with it. Undeveloped countries saying this is just a rule of the rich, a disease of the rich, a disease we wouldnt mind having, if it can give us the Economic growth that the rich have had. And then of course we had the problem of the two Germany s. At that stage they were insisting that the environment is indivisible-you should not exclude countries like East Germany, which at that stage were not members. So the problem was really more than the issue of introducing the issue to a political system and on a public front, which the issues were new. Now by the time of Rio, of course, the issue was very much more understood. Almost all countries as a result of an outcome conference had a environmental ministry or equivalent environment policy and regulations. There was a broad understanding of what is meant by the environment. So the Rio conference was a much more substantial type of preparation. Preparation to deal with the actual issues, for example; initiation of a negotiation process which eventually produced the Framework on Convention on Climate Change, and the Framework Convention Biodiversity and then led to a new negotiation process which finally produced a Convention on Desertification, a problem of great concern of developing countries and so and then there was the negotiations of what we call Agenda 21, the Agenda for the 21st Century which was Painstakingly negotiated, every word of it, negotiated by governments. And, of course, that didnt make it a great piece of literature but it did give it a certain degree of political authority. So there was a very substantive negotiation process leading to Rio. Of course it had a very important political dimensions. A gain very much the same although in more detail then the preparations for the Stockholm conference where there was a very real and continuous division between the perceptions and priorities of the developing countries and those of the industrialized countries. The developing countries, not only at the Stockholm Conference were concerned that the issue was really an issue for the industrialized countries and one that would divert attention and divert resources away from their primary preoccupations with the elimination of poverty and getting on with their own developing process not having it inhibited by this new fad called environment. Whereas at Rio, the same issue prevailed but it had a lot more meat on it because by that stage the developing countries did understand the issue they realized that they, too, were being affected by it, but they took a even stronger position that they were not the main cause of the problem and therefore they couldn t be expected to do it on their own, to move on to a sustainable development pathway without help from the North help in terms of money, yes help in terms of access to technologies, and they insisted that if they were going to join in effort to create a better, more sustainable development pathway for the whole human community, that they needed to have access to the funds and to the technology that would enable them to do that. So the issues were broadly speaking of the same nature but much more explicit in detailed than the negotiation for Rio.
Veon: I want to ask you about Rio plus 10 in a minute, but, I was reading a Bio on Prince Charles. Were you at the meeting he held in Rio de Janeiro in June and Al Gore was there were you at that Meeting?
Strong: You mean before the......
Veon: Yes in June or April of 91......
Strong: Not only was I there I went with Prince Charles
Veon: Did you really?
Strong: I went
on the airplane. Actually I had a funny little incident because I kind of dosed
off and someone tapped me on the shoulder and I thought it was a stewardess
I said No, no I don t want anything, maybe a glass of water. It was Diana she
said she wanted to talk to me. She said; Oh ok, I will go get you a glass of
water. So I said, I am sorry, I didn t realize it was you. But she was very
understanding and at her charming best at that time when we were traveling together
. Then we went to the Royal Yacht Britannia. I have had that kind of interaction
with Charles for quit a while. Haven t seen him in the last year or so. I am
just a humble International servant and as such I get to work with people who
are more important than I am. Prince Philip I was his vice president for world
wild life when he was president not for his entire term but for part of it.
Veon: How did you get on the plane?
Strong: It was nothing to do with his father . I knew him because you know he has been actively in the environment . Because I have been actively involve in the environment it isn t unnatural that we would have met. But, I met him really when he invited me prior to his meeting in Rio. He invited me to a meeting in London. Then I have seen him on several occasions never knowing him that well but knowing him moderately well.
Veon: Well, of course, I should know that somebody like you would, of course work with the Prince, I was just interested. There were a number of things that came out of Rio climate warming, how do you feel about President Bush? I think he tabled it, is maybe the best description would you agree with that?
Strong: Well I was encouraged with candidate Bush before he was President Bush, when he said that although he was skeptical about the climate change convention and the results of the negotiation at Kyoto, he never was committed. He felt that the climate change was an important issue and he was going to address it. What was going to be important would be the Framework of Kyoto. Then I was naturally disappointed that President Bush decided that he was going to repudiate the results of the Kyoto negotiations. I, however, look at that as the first word of a new President who has not yet had a opportunity to examine all the evidence, or hear all the voices he needs to hear, before he finally takes the U.S. position. One can keep an open mind on this in hope the other promise he made as a candidate, which was that he would have his own proposal dealing with the issue. That, in fact, he will have some. Although he has said the U.S. will not be bound with the agreements reach so far at Kyoto. He has hopefully not walked away from negotiating table because the people of the U.S. and their future, the future of their environment, the future of their economy, is very closely related to those negotiations. Now whether you like, or don t like, what has occurred up to now, the U.S. can not deal with these issues on its own. Its one of the issues-- it can build a missle system on its own it cannot create environmental security for Americans on its own. That needs cooperation with everyone else. You can say it was his first act of a new President--hopefully it will not be the last act. And that it will not mean that he walks away from the negotiating table. Rather, America will roll up its sleeves as a world leader, not only in terms of economic and military power, but also the world leader in impacting the environment. Americans contribute 25% of the greenhouse gases that affect the atmosphere. Americans use twice as much energy per capita than Europeans. Europeans live very well they have a very good standard of living which demonstrates that you can, in fact, be more efficient in your use of energy by enjoying very robust economies and good standards of living. Americans haven t yet recognized that. But Americans are sensible and I believe...
Veon: Wont biodiversity and smart growth implementation of smart growth help us with energy?
Strong: Absolutely and also paradox, we are going to see higher energy prices, and higher energy prices will provide a very strong incentive for people to use energy more efficiently [JV: like giving a dog a bone]. Not that one should advocate high prices, but high prices are not all bad, they will permit people, and even [encourage] people to use energy more efficiently. I ran a large power utility company. We spent 700 million dollars teaching our clients to be more energy efficient which means using our product more efficiently and that means using less of a product. Why would we do that? One, because it actually keeps our customers more economically valuable. And if they are more economically valuable they may use less electricity but their going to be customers for a lot longer period. And their volubility as customers is important to us. So helping them come more valuable by being more efficient in their energy use makes sense. I was criticized for this but it made sense for us. And it makes sense for America to use energy and to provide it so you don t have to force people to do it. But you can make them more aware, you can show them how better use of energy makes sense for them and also meets their bottom line as corporations and as individuals. You know there s an abundance of evidence today that the most efficient corporations in environmental terms are those that are also the most efficient in industrial terms. The two things go together, industrial efficiency produces environmental efficiency. Environmental efficiency contributes to industrial efficiency all that contributes to the bottom line of corporations, of countries, societies. Now of course that isn t expected by everybody. Its not yet conventional wisdom but literally hundreds of Chief Executive Officers now believe in it, and are committed to it. Stockholm there are very few industrial business leaders who really were pro-environmental. Now there still not a majority, but the majority at least take it seriously and are out in front. I remember the CEO of Dupont saying at the time of the summit, Our present industrial civilization is not viable. We need to make a change of course. Then he went on to explain that the change, of course, will produce more opportunities for business then it fore closes. That it will meet, and that this is the new generation of opportunity for business America should be in the lead. America is a great nation, The world can never be a better world than America. But America cannot be a better America without cooperating with the rest of the world.
Veon: Are you going to be in Johannesburg?
Strong: Well I expect to be there but I am not running this conference.
Veon: Youre not?
Strong: Oh no, I have to pass these things on to new generation
Veon: Who is running it?
Strong: Well my former Deputy and colleague, Nitsin Desai. Under Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs at the UN and who was my Deputy and who actually did most of the effective work in preparing for Rio, He is in charge. He has a good secretariat and then the governments are creating their governmental preparatory committee and I believe they have now agreed on a very outstanding Indonesian environmental leader Emil Salad (sp) I am not sure if that is official yet but it seems to be in the works. He is extremely confident, he has the respect of other environmental officials from around the world as well as the non governmental community. So there s a good team in place but, frankly, the time is very short and the attitude of rest of this stage is certainly an anonymous one as to what we have to celebrate next year in Johannesburg. Will Johannesburg be an occasion to celebrate the progress we have made or to demonstrate dramatically or how much we have slipped back.
Veon: You haven t slipped back have you? Look sustainable development It is in everyones vocabulary. I mean 10 years ago it was only in a few at the international level. You hear it everywhere sustainable growth, sustainable corporations. You have United States, implementing the biodiversity in forms of Smart Growth. I mean so what......
Strong: There has been a lot of progress. I mean overall. For example, you look at the targets under the Climate Change Convention, they have not been reached and they are not going to be reached. If you look at the progress under the Biodiversity Convention, yes some progress, but very little progress in terms of the intellectual property issues for example. I am not trying to suggest that there is no progress. For example, you say unsustainable government more than 3,000 cities and towns around the world have adopted their own Local Agenda 21 based on the Earths Summits Global Agenda 21. So yes, there s progress a number of corporations, the number of industries but all of that is good but overall the condition of the environment is deteriorating because the forces driving it which are population growth in developing countries and even more so the continued addiction of our industrialized societies too wasteful.
Veon: That s all changing
Strong: Its changing Well its slow yes . In fact the overall process of harming the environment is accelerating . For example, the U.S. today produces 11% more CO2 and other greenhouse gas into the atmosphere than they did in 1990. Where as they promised, of course that wasn t ratified by Congress but they undertook it to reduce it by 7%. So, yes, progress, but not nearly the progress we d like to have and that s why I am saying that next year will be some victories to celebrate, some progress to celebrate. Overall we will be confronted with a start realization that despite this progress, we are still falling behind and that our civilization is at real risk and what we do or fail to do in our generation is going to make a difference. We need the leadership of the United States. And the United States needs the cooperation of the world community. It just has to go that way. President Bush is an intelligent person He will listen. He demonstrated that. He knows best. But know he has broader constituency and I am sure he will adhered and he will find that many Republican and many business leaders are committed in assuring that the climate change issue is addressed constructively. So that s why I say and hope and expect that this first word by President Bush as disappointing as it is, that is certainly a set back and that will not be his last word.
Veon: I don t think so, I think it is