News and Events

(9) Because of our pollution, people are dying – Ambassador Ton Boon von Ochssee

25 July 2013 - His Excellency Ton Boon von Ochssee of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was the guest speaker at the Ambassador’s Forum@AIM held last 23 July 2013. He tackled several issues in sustainable development and shared some insights on how to get sustainable development work.

Holland_ambassadorHe first gave a short history and definition of sustainable development. It is a concept that was first accepted in the 1980s (Brundtland Commission 1987) as “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The concept was further developed into a framework of international agreement in 2002 at the World Commission for Environment and Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. Sustainable Development was defined as:

‘A dynamic process which enables all people now and in the future, to realize their potential and improve their quality of life in ways which simultaneously protect and enhance the Earth's life support and ecosystems’.

The Ambassador shared that in various efforts to protect the Earth and enhance its life support and ecosystems, advocates are being confronted with the following critical facts: People produce more people. By 2050, the earth will have to support 9 billion. How then are these people going to sustain their livelihood? People need more food, more energy, sufficient clean water. Can we manage when: there is a loss of biodiversity? there is a shortage of clean water? complete ecosystems disappear? lack of sustainable energy sources? climate is changing? people needs are detrimental for nature? The Ambassador highlighted these questions and emphasized the major outcome of not caring for the environment – “because of our pollution, people are dying.”

•  2 million people globally die prematurely due to outdoor and indoor air pollution;

•  Per capita freshwater is declining globally (water crisis);

•  Contaminated water single greatest environmental cause of human sickness and death (sanitation crisis);

•  The majority of well-studied species are declining in distribution, abundance or both. (environmental crisis)

•  75 percent habitable earth disturbed by human activity (Hanna et al. 1994)

The Ambassador believed that the best way forward to address these issues is for all major entities to work together: governments, multilateral and intergovernmental org, science and research institutes, non-governmental organizations, civil society, business/private sector and individuals/consumers. Sustainable Development will require the collaboration at the global, regional, national level and consumer/production level between social, economic and environmental sectors of society. It will also require a different mentality, behavior and understanding (consumerism). Holland_amba3

How can we start doing something about it? The Ambassador shared that there are three things that needs to be done: (1) reducing consumption, (2) redistributing consumption, and (3) decarbonisation (90% reduction in carbon use in industrialized economies to have global fair shares by 2030) and dematerialization (radical improvement in resource productivity using technological advance). Holland_amba2

The Ambassador also shared what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Netherlands’ goals are towards contributing to protecting the environment.

™  Energy: reduce energy use by 2% a year

™  Procurement: 100% sustainable in 2012

™  Travel: reduce air-travel by 10% in 2012

™  Catering: 100% sustainable in 2012

™  Paper use: Phase out table printers in 2010


Individual consumers can also do their part, the ambassador emphasized: Take yourself as a consumer and look at your daily habits. Look at your daily needs and behavior, consumption and production patterns, use of communication and other technology. Then ask yourself – Can I do things differently? Eat differently? Move differently. Make different  foodchoices. He mentioned that there is a website ( that can help individual consumers and companies calculate the impact of their activities to the environment. Knowing one’s carbon footprint can aid in finding ways to minimise that impact by choosing a more sustainable way of living.

About the speaker

Before coming to the Philippines in October 2012, H.E. Mr. von Ochssée was Ambassador of the Kingdom of Netherlands in Kuwait from 2008 to 2012. Prior to this post, he was Ambassador at Large for Sustainable Development in the Netherlands. He chaired the national inter-ministerial Task Force on Sustainable Development as well as the OECD Annual Meeting of Sustainable Development Experts (2006-2008). In that period he was member of the Council of the International Union of Nature Conservation (IUCN).

From 1999 to 2003, H.E. Mr. von Ochssée was employed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in Washington DC, USA and was responsible for coordinating GEF dialogue programs with the Implementing Agencies, UNDP, UNEP and the World Bank with the aim to strengthen member country involvement in the GEF. From 2000 to 2002, he supported the GEF involvement in the regional preparatory meetings of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

About the Ambassador's Forum @ AIM 

The Ambassadors’ Forum @ AIM is a venue for the professional exchange of knowledge and skills related to international development issues and trends. Its objectives are : (1) to broaden the regional and global perspective of AIM students taking up both the Master in Development Management and the Masters in Business Management,  (2) to provide a venue for the exchange of information for foreign ambassadors in Manila, and (3) to educate the community at large on internal relations and development issues and trends as they affect the Philippines and the region. Through the forum, ambassadors and embassy officials have been invited to discuss their countries’ views on Asian issues including political regimes, economics, finance, trade systems, demographics and migration, climate change and energy, strategic security, and world view.   

These fora are free and open to the public, unless stated otherwise. For information on our future events, visit the News and Events section of this website or like us on Facebook ( 






Thanks to him for raising this issue. Surely, we need factories for the developments of the world and we need power for that, but we cannot let this world die for that. We need to maintain the balance. Thanks to Ambassadors Forum for organizing such program.



Not enough people are informed of the fact that people are actually dying because of pollution, as it's not something that is going to affect us in the distant future - it already is. Most think we are too far deep into the rabbit hole with decades of pesticide usage, outrageous CO2 emissions and careless water supply spending. But talks like these need to spread the word- it's still worth trying to change our ways!

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