ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
After 10 days of bargaining, debate, protests, speeches, presentations, negotiations, renegotiations, and etcetera, the World Summit on Sustainable Development is over. What remains behind is a 70-page non-binding plan and a burning question: Was anything achieved? Well -- the plan does include a relatively strong stance on improving sanitation and protecting fish stocks, leading one observer to wryly note, "It's good news if you don't have a toilet or if you're a fish. Otherwise, it's nothing." The plan also contains resolutions to curb species loss and phase out agricultural subsidies in wealthy countries, but leans more toward the "nothing" front on energy, where the U.S. successfully blocked efforts to establish timetables for increasing reliance on clean sources. In general, the post-conference mood was one of disappointment, despite heroically Panglossian efforts by the organizers to view it as a success.
- Christian Science Monitor
"...These people at the summit are not kind. We earn peanuts and they don'teven tip us. They think they are so important, they fly around the worldhaving meetings and getting waited on, but they know nothing of how we live.I came here from Zimbabwe because my people are very desperate there. I livein a shack in Soweto now, one room with two children, no privacy, trying toearn money to send home. For months the government has talked about cleaningup the city for the summit, but when these people go home, everything willbe back like it always was. They will still be rich, we will still be poor.It's not right that they say they meet for our sake. It's all for theirbenefit, not ours."
- Rosemary, a Zimbabwean refugee waiting tables under the shining towers ofSandton, South Africa, where the conference was held.
SchNEWS would never snipe at the sidelines telling anyone who'd listen 'wetold you so' but as the Johannesburg Earth Summit finishes, the newblueprint to save the planet is about as useful as waterproof bogroll.Corporations hailed it a success (hooray - no strings, we can carry onpolluting), there was fine words from politicians (like Vice-President Blairbanging on about climate change then promising to improve the people of Iraq's climate by bombing them), plenty of NGO hand wringing and muttering inVictor Meldrew 'I don't believe it' style disbelief and demonstrators beinggiven a good kick in the privates so they don't feel left out in the new eraof global partnerships. SchNEWS has sifted through the final 65 pagedocument with its eight key commitments and come up with summit of thehighlights.
* Dropping all renewable energy targets, because oil rich nations arguedthat until they figure a way of charging us for the sun and wind they aren'tinterested in bloody solar panels and windmills.
* Promising to increase the number of people cut off from essential serviceslike water and electricity by privatising services immediately.
* Getting rid of poor people, or at least making them disappear out of view,with the use of very big fences surrounded by razor wire and men withmachine guns (hey, just like the Earth Summit).
* Making people re-use envelopes and dig ponds in their back gardens topreserve fish stocks.
* Handing out free umbrellas and suntan lotion to help lessen the effects ofclimate change.
*A pledge to stop species extinction through gene transfer and cloning ofprofitable animal and plant crops.
* A free market monopoly in exchange for eternal debt and gratitude plusspontaneous culling of various groups as and when necessary all done in thebest possible taste.
- SchNEWS Of The World
1. The Bush Administration vs. the World at the Earth Summit
As the World Summit on Sustainable Development draws to a close in Johannesburg, perhaps the most noteworthy product ofthe two-week conference was the almost unanimous opposition to the Bush administration's stance on climate change.America's closest ally, Britain, and its largest trading partner, Canada, both announced that they planned to ratify thelandmark Kyoto Protocol, despite strenuous attempts by the U.S. to keep global warming off the agenda.
The Bush administration's one big proposal for the event was a system of "voluntary partnerships" between business andgovernment to protect the environment. Without a binding framework for corporate accountability, this won't do much to turnbusinesses into responsible citizens. Johannesburg showed that most nations are committed to tackling the most pressingenvironmental and development problems facing the world. America should join the club.
- Sierra Club Currents
The Earth Summit was slammed by environmentalists and development campaigners this week as lacking much in the way of new action to tackle poverty and environmental degradation.
But the 10-day conference and its hefty action plan, if followed, may produce some winners and losers, as illustrated by these possible pairs:
- - - -
Winner - Fishermen in poor countries
In one of the summit's few firm commitments, governments promised to restore the world's depleted fish stocks by 2015. "This should lead to more local food available to coastal communities and less fish going to the West to be put in catfood," said Greenpeace's Steve Sawyer.
Loser - Farmers in poor countries
Despite a vague agreement from rich countries to approach the next round of trade talks "with a view to phasing out all forms of export subsidies", rich countries such as those in the EU are under no obligation to phase out massive payments to their farmers which make many Third World exports uncompetitive.
- - - -
Winner - Amazon rainforest tribes
Indigenous peoples could make a killing if scientists stumble across the cure for cancer in the genes of a plant or animal living in their part of the jungle. The Johannesburg action plan says locals should share in any benefits Western companies gain from exploiting natural resources found there.
Loser - Brazilian coffee farmers
Still at the mercy of commodity market price fluctuations, growers of cash crops gained little from the summit, according to Oxfam's Andrew Hewett. "Fluctuating commodity prices are one of the main causes of poverty in the developing world. The lack of action at this summit was yet another failure," he said.
- - - -
Winner - Ethiopia
A political minnow that managed to delete words in the action plan that would have made environmental treaties subservient to World Trade Organisation rules. Diplomats said Ethiopian delegate Tewolde Gebre Egziabher made an impassioned plea on behalf of poor nations in closed-door talks to win over hard-nosed negotiators in intense late-night talks.
Loser - Tuvalu
The tiny island which rises only four metres (13 ft) above the South Pacific will be the first nation to vanish if U.N. predictions on global warming come true and seas rise. With no new action by rich, energy-guzzling nations to fight climate change, Tuvalu's long-term prospects are as grim as ever.
- - - -
Winner - Germany's Gerhard Schroeder
Struggling for re-election in less than three weeks, the German chancellor scored a hit at the summit by promising 500 million euros over five years to promote renewable energy in developing countries. Amid a deluge of vague "partnership agreements" where governments promised to work with the private sector on aid and environment projects, Schroeder's plan was singled out by Friends of the Earth as one of the few that offered new money. Will Germany's green-minded voters notice?
Loser - Germany's Juergen Trittin
One of the first Green party politicians to enter government, Germany's environment minister pushed in vain to persuade the summit to set a target to boost the use of renewable energies such as wind and solar power. Trittin underestimated the intransigence of the oil-friendly United States and other oil-producing countries.
- - - -
Winner - Anti-globalisation lobby
Campaigners hoping to rein in global capitalism were given something to celebrate in the action plan - a call by the summit to "actively promote" corporate responsibility even if it did not create a global policeman to catch corporate polluters and human-rights abusers. A reference to "intergovernmental agreements" and "international initiative" could open the way to some kind of global convention on corporate behaviour, according to the more optimistic activists.
Loser - BMW
BMW had a massive presence at the summit. The luxury German carmaker's displays of prototype zero-emissions hydrogen-fuelled cars were unmissable in Sandton Square, the main conference thoroughfare. Unfortunately many delegates were irritated by BMW's colossal plastic dome proclaiming "sustainability - it's possible". "The square was totally dominated by BMW and its hydrogen car - the problem is there are none in their showrooms," said Friends of the Earth's Tony Juniper.
- - - -
Winner - Big oil
The summit promised to help get affordable energy to some of the two billion people who have no access. With 80 percent of the world's energy coming from fossil fuels, oil, coal and gas producers may well enjoy new, if low-spending, markets.
Loser - small solar A crushing blow for environmentalists, the text contains no target, no deadline and not much encouragement to boost renewable power.
- - - -
Winner - Sandton restaurant owners
Restaurant owners in the up-market, cordoned-off shopping mall surrounding the conference centre watched contentedly as foreign delegates with fat allowances swilled wine and scoffed steaks - a bargain for many because of South Africa's weak currency.
Losers - Sandton hawkers
Hawkers who eke out a meagre living selling fruit, snacks, cigarettes and cheap shoe-shines outside the convention centre were hustled off the streets before the summit began - "for their own safety", according to Johannesburg's police chief.
Story by Robin Pomeroy - Planetark
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