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Environmental, Campaign & Website News > Crunch Time Nears for Earth Summit Accord

Crunch Time Nears for Earth Summit Accord

Date : 30th August 2002, Source : Reuters

Crunch Time Nears for Earth Summit Accord
Fri Aug 30, 2:40 PM ET
By Matt Daily and Robin Pomeroy

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Exhausted Earth Summit negotiators raced to agree ways to enrich poor nations while protecting the planet on Friday, trying to settle rows over trade, energy and sanitation before world leaders arrive.

Horse-trading between rich and poor countries on ways to make the world a better and fairer place appeared to be reaching a climax at the enormous gathering, which host South Africa wants to help end what it calls "global apartheid."

"It is the next two or three days that are vital," said British Environment Minister Michael Meacher.

Russia jolted the summit's massed ranks of environmentalists by saying it could decide against ratifying the Kyoto Protocol ( news - web sites) a move that in effect would kill off the pact against global warming ( news - web sites) that has already been rejected by the United States.

"There is a risk. There is a risk, without a doubt," Deputy Minister Mukhamed Tsikanov of the Ministry for Economic Development and Trade told Reuters in Johannesburg.

He stressed President Vladimir Putin ( news - web sites)'s government wanted to ratify. But billions of dollars Moscow hoped to earn by selling "rights to pollute" under the treaty's quota trading mechanism are now in doubt since the United States, the biggest polluter and potential buyer, has pulled out of the Kyoto process.

Greens were aghast. "If the pact was killed we would have to go back to square one," said Greenpeace's Steve Sawyer. "To get to the stage we're at now took 10 years and the planet can't wait another 10 years." EU ministers played down the risk.

A big protest march on Saturday from the slum shanty township of Alexandra to the nearby summit venue in the rich suburb of Sandton may help put a human face to the disputes between haves and have-nots over abstruse diplomatic language.

Delegates said those disputes may well drag on through the weekend, risking the ire of heads of state who expect subordinates to forge the necessary compromises and may not relish wading through the fine print of how to save the planet.

"This just isn't good enough," said Danish Environment Minister Hans Christian Schmidt.


Top summit mediator Valli Moosa, South Africa's environment minister, reported reasonable progress but did not elaborate.

The bulk of the U.N. text has been agreed but delegates said 14 key issues remained unresolved. "A sense of urgency is required," the 15-nation European Union ( news - web sites) said in a statement.

Negotiators talked into the small hours on Friday at the half-way stage of the 10-day summit, mired in disagreement on wording such as "good governance" and "globalisation."

Delegates said South Africa had now put forward seven crunch topics it felt nations should focus on -- sustainable production and consumption, renewable energy, sanitation, biodiversity, targets and timetables, access to energy and natural resources.

Delegates are trying to reconcile U.S. and European Union demands for aid to be tied more clearly to efforts to improve human rights and democracy, and insistence by developing nations that the rich states must do more to cut subsidies to their own farmers that help keep Third World imports out of their markets.

Greens fumed over the lack of progress, directing particular ire at Washington for refusing to contemplate binding targets for introducing renewable energy technologies like solar power.

"This building has become a danger zone," cautioned Greenpeace policy director Remi Parmentier. "This conference has entered...into arm-twisting mode."

"The economic interests of the rich are being put before poor people and the environment," said WWF's Claude Martin.

Brazil, Norway, Mexico, the Philippines and green groups want the summit to ensure modern renewable technologies such as wind and solar power make up 10 percent of world energy by 2010.

The EU aims for a target of 15 percent -- but its plan is less green than it seems as it would include big environmentally damaging hydro dams and the burning of firewood and dung.

The United States is adamant about opposing targets, which it says are too often ignored or abused by other countries.

"It wouldn't be appropriate to have a target for all countries," said U.S. negotiator Jonathan Margolis.


Eight rights groups said they had pulled out of an informal consultation role on trade and globalisation with government delegates because the text on those areas was so watered down.

"What we fear is that the WTO (World Trade Organization ( news - web sites)) agenda seems to be overriding...the objectives of sustainable development," said Meena Raman of Third World Network.

About 100 world leaders are due to sign up to a broad but non-binding plan calling for actions ranging from cleaning up water supplies to saving trees and fighting AIDS ( news - web sites).

Vigorous personal criticism has been reserved for the most notable absentee, President Bush ( news - web sites) who has become a bogeyman for masses of green lobbyists incensed by American reluctance to increase aid or let in more of their exports.

In a bold stroke of green campaigning, the Rainforest Action Network published a full page announcement in the International Herald Tribune showing the photographs of Bush, World Bank ( news - web sites) chief James Wolfensohn and bank chairman Sandy Weill of Citigroup.

The group said all three men headed institutions that funded major fossil fuel-powered energy projects and as such bore key responsibility for global warming. Both Cititgroup and the World Bank say they are committed to protecting the environment.

Document last updated on Wednesday 01 August 2018

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