Brazil leader says much still needed on environment
Author: Andrei Khalip
Brazil's Fernando Henrique Cardoso met with South African President Thabo Mbeki, whose country hosts the next Earth Summit Aug. 26-Sept. 4, and offered a sobering assessment of the results achieved since the 1992 Rio de Janeiro summit. Cardoso also handed Mbeki the symbol of the 1992 Rio meeting - a tray made of wood from the Amazon rain forest.
"There is still a lot to be done and, unfortunately, very little to celebrate," Cardoso said during a U.N.-sponsored meeting in Rio ahead of the Johannesburg conference. "The Rio legacy is being threatened."
Environmentalists and government leaders held the three-day meeting to discuss key global environmental and development issues in preparation for the summit Mbeki will host. Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson also took part, along with nongovernmental groups such as the Worldwide Fund for Nature, Greenpeace and Worldwatch Institute.
Officials from Brazil and other nations criticized the low rate of accomplishments of the targets set at the 1992 Rio summit. Cardoso said poverty continued to grow worldwide, while water resources and biodiversity were diminishing.
"If 10 years ago there were doubts among scientists about the greenhouse effect, these have disappeared now ... with the situation being more serious than initially thought and poor countries becoming more vulnerable," Cardoso said.
'A SOBERING PICTURE'
Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate change program at the Worldwide Fund for Nature, said the Johannesburg meeting would be more challenging than Rio.
"The Rio summit launched plenty of great new projects.... (But) we see a sobering picture. What has happened at the government level is too little to stop emissions from growing and species from disappearing," she told Reuters.
Still, she said international meetings at the highest level dedicated to nature conservation and sustainable development were very useful, and praised the Rio summit for contributing to making possible the Kyoto treaty on limiting emissions of gases that many scientists blame for rising global temperatures.
Environmentalists praised the initiative that Brazil - Latin America's largest country - is taking to Johannesburg, which is a call for developed countries to cover at least 10 percent of their energy needs with renewable energy sources - such as water, wind, solar power or biomass - by 2010. Biomass is plant and animal matter used to produce power.
Renewable energy now accounts for about 2 percent of the total, according to Brazilian government officials.
Brazil, along with other Latin American countries, also urges more aid money for environmental and sustainable growth projects in developing countries, as well as better, unrestricted access to global markets for poorer countries.
World leaders at the 1992 summit committed to devoting 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product to such aid in a nonbinding resolution, but aid funding on average has fallen from 0.4 percent to 0.2 percent of GDP on average, Brazilian government officials said.
"If the world can unite and marshal its forces to defeat terrorism, it can do the same to combat poverty," said British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.