Thursday, May 3, 2001

Mayors’ world summit
to address environment

Envoys of 29 nations will tackle
issues on bettering conservation

By Diana Leone

Mayor Jeremy Harris wants Honolulu at the center of a more optimistic environmental future.

So he is rolling out the red carpet for the Mayors' Asia-Pacific Environmental Summit 2001, which begins tomorrowat the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

More than 300 delegates are expected from 29 countries to talk about the kind of stuff mayors and cities have to deal with on a regular basis: drinking water, sewage, garbage, air quality -- life quality.

"The U.S., with 4 percent of the world's population, uses 25-30 percent of its resources," Harris said in an interview yesterday about the conference he is co-chairing.

That kind of short-term approach won't work anymore, he said, especially when half of the world population lives in coastal cities along the Pacific Rim. "We really do face potentially enormous regional environmental problems."

Honolulu, he said, "has a responsibility and an opportunity to play a part in the development of the Asia-Pacific region."

Two years ago, the city hosted the first Asia-Pacific Environmental Summit, which was attended by 400 leaders from 19 countries and 118 cities.

More than 350 delegates are expected this time, including 127 from the United States (80 from Hawaii), many of whom represent environmental or engineering companies with services to offer.

Other countries with the largest delegations include China (37), Japan (32), the Philippines (21), India (18), Thailand (16), Korea (16) and Vietnam (10).

Even tiny Palau is sending 14 people, and the Marinas Islands are sending four.

Delegates will be in Honolulu for several days, allowing them to share information about how they solved problems in ecologically sound ways -- or to present problems looking for solutions. Participants can continue to share information long after the summit is over, Harris said, with Honolulu and Kitakyushu, Japan, jointly developing a Web site.

A high point should be reports back from mayors who pledged two years ago to take certain actions in their cities, like planting a certain number of trees or establishing an electric bus system.

One outgrowth of the summit should be some regional consensus to take to the next United Nations World Summit, set for Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002.

Keynote speakers include Klaus Toepfer, the former German minister for the environment and now a United Nations official; Amory B. Lovins, a consultant physicist and co-founder of the applied research center Rocky Mountain Institute; and Maurice Strong, a former advisor to the World Bank president and an advocate of affordable, eco-friendly energy.

Harris said he will speak on environmental issues discussed at the Environmental Summit when he speaks Monday at a pre-Asian Development Bank workshop.

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