Cleaning up the planet can be a dirty business, but as the saying goes, someone has to do it. And following the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, everyone will be trying that little bit harder, not only because of some historic decisions by world leaders committed to reducing global warming and helping poverty-stricken nations.
But it is also because the 60,000-plus delegates generated 290,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions on their travels and during their stay at the event, which ended last week.
Putting such a mammoth figure into perspective, these greenhouse gas emissions are equivalent to the drivers on an average 100-car fleet covering more than 10 million miles between them, or 100,000 miles each – the equivalent of four-years hard motoring.
Governments have been urged to sign up to commit millions of pounds to a programme of 15 projects designed to neutralise greenhouse gas emissions created by the green summit, although so far less than 10% of delegates have agreed.
But it is bound to be a low priority, as this is just one of hundreds of agreements made at one of the biggest summits in world history, that aimed to push forward with a global plan for helping the planet.
When dealing with issues on a global scale, it may be difficult to see how it will affect everyday life for fleets.
However, previous world agreements are already having their effect.
The World Summit is a follow-up to the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit where the international community adopted Agenda 21, a global plan of action for sustainable development.
Rio and a follow-up meeting in Kyoto agreed wide-ranging global targets on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, which have directly affected UK Government policy, including the launch of CO2-based company car tax this year.
The Johannesburg Summit aimed to persuade the world's leaders to adopt concrete steps and identify quantifiable targets for better implementing Agenda 21.
Although the end result has been a sea of paper covering everything from third-world debt and female rights to access to clean water, some details on transport policy have been agreed.
Extracts from the future draft report of the Main Committee of the World Summit on Sustainable Development talk specifically about changing unsustainable patterns on consumption and production.
It says: 'All countries should promote sustainable consumption and production patterns, with the developed countries taking the lead. Governments, relevant international organizations, the private sector and all major groups should play an active role in changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns.'
Nations should 'encourage and promote the development of a 10-year framework of programmes in support of regional and national initiatives to accelerate the shift towards sustainable consumption.'
Companies are put in the front line of cleaning up the environment in the 60-plus page document, as it states countries should 'enhance corporate environmental and social responsibility and accountability'.
This would include actions at all levels to encourage industry to improve social and environmental performance through voluntary initiatives and develop workplace-based partnerships and programmes, including training and education programmes.
There is also a call upon Governments and companies to manage energy use, covering actions to 'develop and disseminate alternative energy technologies with the aim of giving a greater share of the energy mix to renewable energies, improving energy efficiency and greater reliance on advanced energy technologies, including cleaner fossil fuel technologies'.
However, there is no target for use of renewable energies, because of objections from the United States, Australia, Japan and oil producing countries.
However, world leaders have also initially agreed to 'accelerate the development, dissemination and deployment of affordable and cleaner energy efficiency and energy conservation technologies.'
Furthermore, they will promote increased research and development in the field of various energy technologies, including renewable energy and fossil fuels. They have also agreed in principle to 'utlilise financial instruments and mechanisms' to encourage take-up of cleaner fuels, while using public private partnerships to speed up development.
The document includes an agreement that nations will introduce integrated transport policies, including transport strategies for sustainable development.
The document added that countries should 'take immediate steps to make progress in the formulation and elaboration of national strategies for sustainable development and begin implementation by 2005'.
Critics may argue that Britain has already introduced many of these policies and the lack of specific targets makes the agreements useless.
But summit secretary-general Nitin Desai said: 'The test is whether governments, along with civil society and the private sector, can pursue the commitments that are in the document, and take actions that achieve measurable results.
'The agreement calls for countries to act 'with a sense of urgency' to substantially increase the global share of renewable energy sources, although it does not set for a specific target.
'The reality is that with sustained action, we can build up the renewable energy industries to the point where they have the critical mass to compete with fossil fuel-generated energy. We have a commitment to make it happen and now we need the follow-through.'
Toyota/Nissan link for hybrid technology
WHILE governments discussed how to clean up the environment, car manufacturers were leading the way and taking action. Toyota and Nissan have agreed a ground-breaking tie-up to jointly develop hybrid engine technologies.
The agreement aims for a long-term business relation-ship of 10 years or longer and involves Toyota supplying state-of-the-art hybrid system components to Nissan.
In addition, both companies have also agreed to start exchanging information and discussing joint development of components related to hybrid systems that both Toyota and Nissan are currently developing independently.
As an initial project, Nissan will be installing a hybrid system currently under development by Toyota in Nissan's vehicles to be sold in the United States in 2006. Volume is expected to reach approximately 100,000 units within a five-year period starting in 2006. The components for the hybrid system will be developed by Toyota, while Nissan will conduct development of its own engine and application of the hybrid system on its own vehicle, which will have a direct impact on Nissan's product.
Toyota was among the first automakers to introduce hybrid vehicles to its line-up, with the launch of the Prius in 1997. It is now the world's biggest seller of hybrid vehicles, with cumulative sales of 120,000 units.
A spokesman for Nissan said: 'For us, it means we can get hybrid cars up and running cheaper and quicker. Toyota has been good at getting its technology into production and we have been good at developing very advanced technology.'
Space Age welcome for BMW guests
THE BMW Group put the world at the centre of its discussions with delegates at the World Summit in Johannesburg.
The motoring giant, promoting its investment in clean technologies such as hydrogen-powered cars, built a massive half-sphere to house its centre of operations near the summit.
BMW says that sustainability is at the core of its strategy and it has already produced a hydrogen-powered version of the 7-Series to show how far its developments have progressed.
The BMW Earth Lounge, which had a cover made of balloon silk, depicting the world from space, was also used as the site of a nightly laser show to entertain delegates after attending the conference.