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Planet Ark World Environment News ANALYSIS - World earth summit all set for major flop

Date: 17-Jun-02
Country: UK
Author: Jeremy Lovell

Just days after the final preparatory meeting for the World Summit on Sustainable Development ended without agreement, Friends of the Earth (FOE) activists said last week the draft text was all talk and no action.

"This draft plan is weak in the extreme," FOE spokesman Mike Childs said. "Without firm targets, finance and enforcement mechanisms, it threatens to be no more than hot air."

FOE said the planning meeting on the tropical paradise island of Bali failed even to agree whether globalisation was good or bad for the sustainable development the whole discussion process was supposed to support.

Childs' comments echo the fears of some scientists as a forecast 65,000 delegates prepare to descend on Johannesburg from August 26 in a supposed bid to drive forward world development while saving the planet.

Kelly Rigg, of Greenpeace, accused the United States and other countries of having systematically removed anything smacking of action from the draft text.

"Governments are walking away from their responsibilities. Now, more than ever, there is a need to work together. Now is the time to save the planet, but it is just not happening," she told Reuters from Amsterdam.

The Johannesburg summit was originally intended to review progress since the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and plot the path to a future free of the grinding poverty that grips large portions of the world's population.

NO PLAN OF ACTION

The United Nations Environment Programme said in its annual report last month the world was at a crossroads where it had to chose between greed and humanity - with a disaster awaiting the wrong choice.

"We need a concrete action plan...concrete projects...and above all a clear political declaration," UNEP head Klaus Toepfer said presenting the report.

But critics say the Bali draft for Johannesburg contains none of that and could not even decide whether to mention the Kyoto protocol on limiting carbon dioxide emissions - a treaty the United States has refused to adopt.

Emil Salim, chairman of the Bali talks, said last week there could be further debate before the summit, but also said the meeting had failed to reach agreement on aspects such as time commitments and ways of financing pledges.

Scientists are dubious that Johannesburg will achieve anything other than a restating of the deep divide between the rich, mostly northern hemisphere, developed nations and the poor southern countries struggling under mountains of debt.

"It is really very depressing. It doesn't look like there will be any science at Johannesburg," Professor Georgina Mace, director of science at the Zoological Society of London, told Reuters.

"Everything is stuck in politics. That is why so few scientists are actually going there. They know nothing will come of it. There will be no targets set and no initiatives taken. We need movement and we will not get it at Johannesburg," she added.

Some scientists point to the recent replacement of Robert Watson, who aggressively pushed conservation, as head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in a move largely instigated by the United States as an indication of attitudes towards environmental concerns.

"He was a thorn in the side of the U.S. energy lobby which is extremely powerful and has the ear of President Bush, so they got rid of him," Chris Rapley, director of the British Antarctic Survey told Reuters in a recent interview.

"I think that speaks volumes about the U.S. position on climate change. It is not even certain if Bush will go to Jonhannesburg," he added.

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