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Environmental, Campaign & Website News > Powell's Summit Talk Met With Jeers

Powell's Summit Talk Met With Jeers

Date : 4th September 2002, Source : Newsgroup

Powell's Summit Talk Met With Jeers
Associated Press Writer

AP Online
Copyright 2002 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) - Repeatedly interrupted by activists' jeers and protests, Secretary of State Colin Powell defended the United States' environmental record and its efforts to help the poor in the developing world at the World Summit on Wednesday. "The United States is taking action to meet environmental challenges, including global climate change," he said to loud booing from the rear of a hall filled with government leaders and delegates ranging from youth activists to environmentalists. The United States has been strongly criticized by leaders and activists here for President Bush's decision last year to reject the Kyoto Protocol, which many countries view as crucial for reversing a global warming trend blamed for cataclysmic storms, floods and droughts. Bush has said the United States was taking other actions to fight global warming, but the international agreement's strictures were inappropriate and too costly for the U.S. economy. Washington also had been hammered by some at the summit for resisting binding targets to increase the use of renewable energy sources, and for Bush's decision not to attend. As Powell spoke, delegates from U.S. and Australian environmental groups repeatedly interrupted him, shouting "Shame on Bush." Some held up banners reading, "Betrayed by governments" and "Bush: People and Planet, Not Big Business." Thirteen people were forcibly removed from the hall by security.

Powell looked annoyed, answering back "I have now heard you," at one point, then continuing with his five-minute speech. South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who was chairing the session, yelled at the hecklers to stop and called the outbursts "totally unacceptable." Powell's chief spokesman, talking to reporters afterward, said the secretary wasn't upset and had told him that "this kind of thing happens." Spokesman Richard Boucher said the secretary was confident that the hecklers did not represent a widespread opinion. The heckling started when Powell criticized Zimbabwe for pursuing land reform policies that have exacerbated the food crisis in that country and pushed "millions of people to the brink of starvation." He also criticized Zambia, which is also facing a hunger crisis, for rejecting genetically engineered corn that Americans eat every day. However, much of his speech focused on outlining America's commitment to the developing world and the environment. "The American soul has always harbored deep desires to help people build better lives for themselves and their children," he said. "We have reaffirmed the principle that sound economic management, investment in people and responsible stewardship of our environment are crucial for development," he said. Powell also repeated the U.S. explanation for resisting setting specific target dates for action on the summit's goals, saying that concrete actions were more important than paper agreements. "Plans are good but actions can put clean water in the mouths of thirsty young girls and boys, prevent the transmission of the deadly (AIDS) virus from mother to child and preserve the biodiversity of a fragile African ecosystem." Many activists said they were disappointed with Powell's speech.

American officials "say they are committed to sustainable development but at the same time have been so obstructionist (during) the process," said Leslie Fields, an official with Friends of the Earth. "I really think he's in another world on this." The 10-day summit was envisaged as an unprecedented global gathering to refocus the world's attention on the plight of the poor and the destruction of the environment. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who met with Powell before his speech, called the gathering a success. "Sustainable development is firmly back on the agenda. We realize we need to maintain that delicate balance between development and the environment," he said. "I think we have to be careful not to expect conferences like this to bring miracles ... but to bring general commitment." Many activists lashed out at the final agreement as inadequate.

One Powell heckler who was dragged from the hall by police said afterward that he blamed Bush. "We are proud to be American but we are embarrassed by its policies," said Michael Brune of the Rainforest Action Network in San Francisco. "When it comes to the environment, Bush is moving us in the opposite direction we need to go." While there were a few achievements - mainly in the protection of fisheries and plans to bring sanitation to the poor - activists charged that much of the summit was a desperate fight to stop governments from weakening already existing agreements. "We're running on a treadmill. We are running just as fast as we can to prevent ourselves from moving backward," said Andrew Deutz, an official with the World Conservation Union. "It's a missed opportunity." Late Monday, negotiators resolved sticking points in a plan to turn commitments made at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro into reality. Most of the items were geared to helping the world's poorest people without polluting. After losing its push for targets on the use of wind and solar energy, the European Union said it would form a coalition of "like-minded countries and regions" willing to commit to strict timetables for increasing renewable energy. Many developing countries had sided with the United States and Japan against including the targets in the summit's plan, arguing they were a rich country's luxury. The text agreed to late Tuesday includes a commitment to "urgently" increase the use of renewable energy sources, but says cleaner use of fossil fuels is also acceptable, diplomats said. Dropped language linking women's health care with human rights became a sticking point in 11th hour deliberations, but was restored before the plan was officially adopted by the summit's main committee of ministers.

On the Net:

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Rainforest Action Network
Ilyse Hogue, South Africa, 082 507 4549
Sara Brown Riggs, San Francisco, (415) 398-4404
CITIBANK Exposed As #1 Funder of Global Warming and Deforestation

Rainforest Action Network Banner Hang Targeting Citigroup's Destructive Lending Grand Finale at World Summit #

Johannesburg, September 4 -Today two activists from Rainforest Action Network (RAN) hung a banner from Citibank's local headquarters as a grand finale to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Dangling from Citibank's familiar logo, the banner pointed to Citigroup as a top funder of destructive fossil fuel projects that destroy fragile ecosystems, accelerate global warming and displace communities. The banner read "Citibank: The Face of Global Warming." A pair of scissors cutting a Citibank credit card was displayed on the banner in reference to RAN's "Not with My Money" consumer boycott of Citi's credit card. "The summit is ending with a step backward for the earth, making it more important than ever that people know the names and faces of who is really impeding progress," said Ilyse Hogue, global finance campaigner for Rainforest Action Network.

"As the world's largest financial institution, Citigroup has a responsibility to end investments in destructive industries and make accessibility and affordability of renewable energy and sustainable alternatives a priority. Until Citi steps up to the plate, we will be unable to meaningfully address the world's environmental problems." Unlike top European Banks such as ABN AMRO that have policies prohibiting the financing of extractive industries that clear or degrade primary forests, Citi lacks basic environmental and social standards. Instead, Citi ranks as the top funder of new oil, gas and mining projects around the world. According to Bloomberg analytics, Citi's loans and corporate bond underwriting secured its position as the number one financier of both the coal industry and the fossil fuel industry in the year 2001. Citi's controversial projects include the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, funding for palm oil plantations in critical orangutan habitat in Indonesia, the Camisea Gas Project in the Peruvian Amazon, and a pipeline through the Orinoco Delta in Venezuela.

The banner follows on the heels of RAN's hard-hitting ad in last Friday's International Herald Tribune targeting Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill, World Bank President James Wolfensohn, and U.S. President George W. Bush for their refusal to confront the crises of global warming and forest destruction. The ad features photos of the three environmental villains under the headline "Put a Face on Global Warming and Forest Destruction." The ad then reads, "Put An End To It," followed by copy detailing each of the men's roles in fueling global warming and forest destruction. The ad can be viewed at . Non-governmental organizations have criticized the summit as resembling a trade ministerial rather than an honest effort to address environmental destruction and poverty around the world. As examples of this breakdown in process, RAN cited the lack of targets on renewable energy as well as weak proposals from the financial sector with regard to investment in sustainable development. "Citigroup's lack of policies mirror the lack of progress that we've seen at the summit," asserted Randall Hayes, who hung the banner and is the founder and President of RAN. "It's not just a matter of companies like Citigroup failing to do enough about the severe threats posed by climate change and deforestation - it's the fact that they are going in the absolute opposite direction of what is necessary."


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