Mr President, may I begin by congratulating you on your election as President of this Special Session.
This is my fifth international meeting in eight weeks in office. My three young children in London complain I am never at home. But if there is one Summit they would want me at, it is this one.
They know our decisions here will have a profound effect on the world they inherit. So I speak to you not just as the new British Prime Minister, but as a father.
Our election campaign themes are particularly important to our approach to the environment. First belief in community, that we all owe obligations to each other. Second, the belief that rights and responsibilities go hand in hand - a right to a clean environment; and responsibilities to promote it.
Three principles should guide us as we strive to protect the environment for future generations.
First, we must give everyone a stake in the world's environment. That is why the fall in aid flows since 1992 is so worrying; why my Government supports the UN aid target; and why we are committed to improving further the quality of our assistance, reversing the decline in Britain's development assistance, and refocusing our efforts on combating poverty. We shall give priority to the poorest countries, including in Africa.
At the Denver Summit, I committed the UK to raising by 50% our bilateral support for health, education and water projects in Africa.
Reducing poverty is in our own interests. The poverty of landless and desperate people causes most of the destruction of the rainforests. And it is the reduction of the rainforest, the lungs of the world, that threatens the stability of our own climate.
I hope this week we will agree to start negotiations on a Forest Convention. It takes less than an hour to fell a tree. It can take a lifetime to replace it. If we are serious about sustainable development, we must show we are serious about sustainable forestry management.
Britain has long experience of the public and private management of forests. We are keen to share that experience. Today, I can announce that we intend to adopt a new Forest Standard to provide a benchmark for the regeneration of our forests. It may help provide a model for other countries. So I can also announce that Britain will be increasing our development assistance for forestry management to countries wanting to share our expertise.
All of us, but particularly the industrialised world, must recognise that we have the opportunity and responsibility to combine economic progress with environmental improvement. The best, most successful companies worldwide realise that newer, cleaner processes and more attractive, greener products mean increased markets and more jobs. Yes, economic growth; but growth that is environmentally and socially responsible.
We must make the process of Government 'Green'. Environmental considerations must be integrated into all our decisions, regardless of the sector. They must be in at the start, not bolted on later.
There is a liquid more precious than oil. Water. Yet while some countries expect running water on tap, too many people in the same world get through the day on what they can carry back from the morning trip to the well.
Britain will play its part in developing an action plan to ensure universal access to clean water and sanitation. I hope progress this week will lead to real results at next year's Commission on Sustainable Development.
Five years ago, the Rio Summit launched Agenda 21. Since then 70% of our local authorities have been inspired to 'think global, act local' through Local Agenda 21. But we must do more. I want all local authorities in the UK to adopt Local Agenda 21 strategies by the year 2000.
Action at the international level is just as vital - the world's environmental problems do not respect national boundaries. We need stringer global environmental initiatives and a vigorous United Nations.
Perhaps the most worrying problem is climate change. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise unabated, by the year 2100 global temperatures will have gone up 1-3.5C and sea levels risen by perhaps as much as a metre. Some small islands are seriously at risk. So the EU has proposed the new and challenging target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions in developed countries to 15% below their 1990 level by the year 2010. In Britain we would be ready to go further to a 20% target.
This target will require significant measures:
* more efficient use of transport
* improved energy conservation
* and greater use of renewable sources of energy
All of us in the UK - business, consumers, government, and individuals - will need to change our ways of living and doing, to achieve this target. New forms of energy. A new approach to transport, in particular the promotion of public transport.
As evidence of our commitment I have merged our Transport Department with our Environment Department and put my Deputy Prime Minister in charge. A new approach to transport may mean sometimes not travelling at all. Who knows whether a future Earth Summit might be done through tele and video conferencing, with all of us staying at home?
Many of you were at Rio. It was an exciting event. Environmental issues dominated politics and the media. Challenges were laid down, targets set.
I attacked the last British Government for many things. But they did deliver on the greenhouse gas emission targets set at Rio.
Some other countries cannot say the same, including some of the great industrialised nations. To them I say this: our targets will not be taken seriously by the poorer countries until the richer countries are meeting them.
To be really effective, we must act globally. At Kyoto, industrial countries must agree legally binding targets for significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions during the first decade of the next century. The biggest responsibility falls on those countries with the biggest emissions. We in Europe have put our cards on the table. It is time for the special pleading to stop and for others to follow suit. If we fail at Kyoto, we fail our children, because the consequences will be felt in their lifetime. And we must all deliver on the commitments we make. Setting new targets means little if old ones are ignored.
At the same time, industrialised countries must work with developing countries to help them combat climate change, biodiversity loss and other global environmental challenges. We must live up to our side of the bargain and ensure that they have the resources to do this. So the United Kingdom supports replenishment of the Global Environment Facility. And we propose to enhance the United Kingdom's partnership with key developing countries in energy efficiency and climate change research and observation. We all need a clearer idea of the environmental hazards each country faces.
We are all in this together. No country can opt out of global warming or fence in its own private climate. We need common action to save our common environment.
This earth is the only planet in the solar system with an environment that can sustain life. Our solemn duty as leaders of the world is to treasure that precious heritage and to hand on to our children and grandchildren an environment that will enable them to enjoy the same full life that we took for granted.
Like other nations, Britain is preparing to mark the coming millennium. But the millennium project on which we must all work is to rescue the global environment so that it can nurture life in all our countries for another thousand years. Let us show this week that we have the vision to rise to that task and the commitment to see it through.