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Words may sink Eco-Summit

Many poor countries have to use resources regardless of consequences, writes EVELYN LEOPOLD in Now York. Now they fear the big powers may just offer words Instead of protecting the environment.

UNITED NATIONS - Forests, farmlands and coral reefs are dwindling, pollution is increasing, oceans are overfished and one billion people are so poor they threaten to use any resource available just to stay alive. Environmentalists are jittery. And so are the organisers of the second Earth Summit, apprehensive that speeches from world leaders will be bereft of concrete action. As the fifth anniversary of the landmark Summit in Rio de Janeiro approaches, more than 65 heads of state or government will meet at United Nations headquarters. Their aim is to set hew targets on "sustainable development" - economic growth moving in tandem with ecological goals. But days before this week's conference, . experts were huddling to complete a draft paper that lacks agreement on several basic issues financing for poor nations, climate change, energy, fishing and forests preservation. 'This should be a wake-up call," said Clifton Curtis of Greenpeace International. "We should be beyond promises of Rio and into implementation." Chancellor Kohl of Germany is expected to propose that all the United Nations environmental bodies be in one place Bonn - when his govemrnent moves to Berlin. President Clinton has promised some initiatives, although Europeans find Washington shying away from specific goals.

An many developing nations are refusing any commitments until rich states keep their promises in Rio for assistance they need for basic technological, health and educational programmes. But such aid is decreasing rather than rising. "If it becomes universally accepted that even aid is no longer an option, then one can predict that discussions on international cooperation will collapse," Tanzania's minister plenipotentiary Msuya Waldi Mangachi told a recent meeting. What remains is a call for each country to find its own resources, "if it can, and do whatever it can or wants."

In Rio, about 10,000 diplomats produced "Agenda 21" - some 2500 goals followed by treaties on biological diversity, climate change or conservation and "desertifaction" or land degradation. And at least 1800 communities set up their own environmental programmes. But the scarcity of fresh water, the loss of agricultural land and forests and the downward spiral of poverty are undermining a rise in food production, health standards and a slower population growth. "Overall, we haven't made the fundamental changes of course promised in Rio," said Canadian businessman Maurice Strong, who was secretary-general of that conference. According to John Gummer, Britain's former environment minister, "We do have to recognise that the rich notions have to pay the price. "We benefit from pollution, from over-exploitation of fishing and so on.

'And richer nations are more able to deal with geographical catastrophes. But Mr Gummer said developing countries could not opt out of negotiations. "The North cannot operate unless it is seen that the South is part of the process," he said. Another highly contentious issue is climate change and energy efficiency. The European Union has set targets to reduce so-called 'green- house gases" such as carbonon dioxide or nitrous oxide, to roll back global warming, affecting climate changes. The EU formula calls for a 15 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below the 1990 level by the year 2010, Small island states are righting for a 20 per cent reduction by 2005. To achieve these goals, energy usage has to be more efficient, subsidies for fossil fuels have to be phased out and wind or solar energy altematives have to be explored. But the United States wants no specific targets now, preferring to leave itself negotiating room at a December conference on the issue in Kyoto, Japan. And not much can be done without full participation from Washington. Despite many American innovations toward energy efficiency, experts say it still takes 120 workers to produce the energy needs for the average American, 60 for each European but only eight for each Chinese and one for each person in Bangladesh.

Dire Warning at Earth Summit - Poor condemn broken promises

NEW YORK - The United Nations Earth Summit opened with Europe attacking the United States for not doing enough to combat global warming and poor nations condemning broken promises by the rich. The week-long, 173-nation conference is taking stock of what has been done to save the planet from ecological disaster since the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. President of the United Nations General Assembly Razali Ismail of Malaysia said achievements since Rio had been "paltry" and predicted castrophe if action was not taken soon. "We as a species, as a planet, are teetering on the edge, living unsustainabty and perpetuating inequity, and may soon pass the point of no return," he said.

Challenging the United States, the world's largest polluter, to do more against climate change, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "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." Europe failed at the Group of Seven summit in Denver last week to push President Bill Clinton into setting speciflc targets for cutting greenhouse gases. Britain, Germany and the Netherlands renewed the pressure on New York At a separate news conference, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki and Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong underlined their support for targets proposed by the European Community. The four said they expected the summit to send the world a "clear message", calling for 15 per cent reductions in carbon dioxide emissions below 1990 levels by 2010, with a 10 percent reduction by 2005. Dr Kohl also asked that the United Nations put its myriad environmental agencies under one roof in a 'global environmental umbrella organisation" with the Nairobi-based United Niations Environmental Programme as a "major pillar." This week's second' Earth Summit comes five years after a heady conference in Rio where 10,000 diplomats and environmentalists outlined an ambitious blue-print to safeguard the planet, covering nearly every aspect of human, animal and plant life. Concrete results include framework treaties on conserving wildlife, preventing the spread of arid lands and committing industrial states to lower their emissions

But since Rio, forests, farmlands and coral reefs have dwindled, pollution is increasing, oceans are overfished and 1.3 billion people are so poor they threaten to use any resource available just to stay alive. Worldwide carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, like oil or coal, climbed. to 6.25 billion tonnes in 1996, altering the atmosphere and the climate. Japan and Canada, whose carbon emissions are rising, have also made no commitments on cutting the gases. REUTER

July 1997 Summit Big on Words - Not so Hot on Action

NEW YORK - A week-long UN Earth Summit ended with its chairman delivering the verdict: "Our words have not been matched by deeds." Razali Ismail, the blunt Malaysian UN General Assembly president, called the results of the session attended by, dozens of presidents and prime ministers sobering' but "honest" in not attempting to gloss over failures. He accused the more than 170 participating nations of lacking the "political will to tackle critical issues" set out at a landmark 1992 enviroranent summit in Rio de Janeiro. But he said there was wide-spread recognition that abject poverty affecting 1.3 billion people had to be eradicated if the world was to make economic and ecological progress. And, he said, 'we have advanced our understanding on the need for action on fresh water, forests, climate change and energy policies. - Delegates made no firm commitments on greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate changes or on providing more aid to developing countries so they would not follow the polluting paths of wealthier industrialised nations. Prospects, however, were good for new agreements on protecting fresh water in separate negotiations after the conference ended.

On protecting forests, the session put off until 2000 a decision on whether to negotiate a treaty, pushed by Europe, Canada, Malaysia and Russia but opposed by the United States and Brazil. Echoing Mr Razali's words, Tanzania's UN ambassador, Daudi Ngelautwa Mwakawago, representing Third World states, told the meeting: "The world is. crying for positive answers. This session has not provided them." Most industrial countries pledged at Rio to increase foreign aid to 0.7 per cent of their gross national product, a goal on the UN agenda since 1972. Only Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands have ever achieved this goal. Elswhere aid has fallen to below 0.3 per cent, with the United States registering the sharpest drop in the past few years. After five days of speech-making, the conference's main committee completed its work in a lighthearted atmosphere as a blizzard of amendments was gavelled into acceptance. The paper patchwork was then stitched together and passed on to and adopted by the General Assembly's plenary. The final summit document, however, failed to include a political statement of intent because governments could not agree on one. Instead a more general, shorter preamble was attached to the voluminous final document reaffirming the lofty principles set forth in Rio that enshrined the concept of 'sustainable development" - economic growth compatible with social justice and ecological safety. While acknowledging a number of positive achievements since Rio, the text said: 'We are deeply concerned that the overall trends for sustainable development are .worse today than they were' in 1992." As expected, a Major battle will take place before agreements ort global warming are reached among industrial states meeting in Kyoto, Japan, in December.

Greens attack Clinton Speech

NEW YORK - Environmental groups attacked President Bill Clinton yesterday for refusing to announce specific targets for cutting the greenhouse gases that cause global warming when he addressed the United Nations Earth Summit. But a key business group welcomed his cautious approach, saying he had softened his position from several months ago.

"He resisted the temptation to use this highly public event -to unveil draconian measures that would be harmful to our economy and harmful to the American people," said Gail McDonald -, president of the oil and coal industry-backed Global Climate Coalition. "We urge the President to continue to evaluate the economic impacts of his climate policy and how it will affect American workers and their families."

Fred Krupp, executive director of the Environmental Defence Fund, said: "If countries whose economies are weaker than the United States are willing to commit to significant reductions in green-house gases, what does that say about the United States?" In his speech, Mr Clinton pledged to cut "significantly" United States green-house gases and promised to spend $US 1 billion ($1.47 billion) to help developing nations reduce their production of the gases. But he rejected European Union targets for sharp cuts as "impossible.' "To help developing nations reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the United States will provide them with $1 billion in assistance over the next five years," Mr Clinton said. Most of the $1 billion aid plan will come from money already ear-marked for foreign assistance. United States officials said $750 iWIlion would be shifted from existing foreign aid programmes. Mr Clinton said the United States, the world's biggest polluter, had clear responsibilities to control its own emmisions of carbon dioxide and to help the efforts of developing nations. Sensitive to the complaints of European leaders that the United States has failed to commit itself to specific reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, Mr Clinton said he would seek specific targets when a United Nations conference on global warming meets in Kyoto, Japan, at the end of the year. "We will work with our people - and we will bring to the Kyoto conference a strong American commitment to realistic and binding limits that will significantly reduce our emissions of greenhouse gasses.

"Here in the United States, we must do better with 4 per cent of the world's population, we produce 20 per cent of its greenhouse gases." But Richard Mott of the Worldwide Fund for Nature said: "He devoted his entire speech to global warming and the best he can do is offer up one million solar roofs." Barbara Dudley of Greenpeace said Mr Clinton had not "used this pulpit to do anything dramatic but he hasn't said 'no'." "He is feeling the pressure from both sides, and right now the pressure from industry is greater." REUTER