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Delegates began the session by electing Svante Bodin (Sweden) as Chair of the Working Group. In his introductory statement, Bodin suggested that, due to the current intensive work on conventions and concurrent meeting of the main subsidiary bodies of the Convention on Climate Change, the intersessional group concentrate on matters not covered by existing conventions.

Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, stated that the issues of oceans and atmosphere were some of the most difficult issues in Rio. They are at the cutting edge of discussions on sustainable development and require an international response. He expressed hope that the expert character of the intersessional meeting would be reflected in its output.

Delegates then adopted the agenda, as contained in document (E/CN.17/ISWG.I/1996/1), Adoption of the agenda and other organizational matters.