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White House Undermining Environment
By Chris Baltimore
Wed Jul 24, 6:03 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When global leaders gather next
month at an environmental summit in Johannesburg, the
Bush administration will try to block discussion about
heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming
, the head of the Senate Environment and Public
Works Committee said on Wednesday.
Some 100 heads of state are expected to attend the
summit, which will focus on the Kyoto treaty's aim to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions by industrialized countries,
as well as the clean water, sanitation and electricity
needs of developing nations.
The United States is the world's largest emitter of
greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane,
which are produced by automobiles and electric utilities.
Sen. Jim Jeffords, a Vermont independent who chairs
the Senate's environmental panel, accused the White
House of trying to "keep global climate change off of
the agenda" at the Johannesburg meeting.
The administration will likely send a "smaller and
lower- level delegation that has sought to narrow the
scope of the discussions," Jeffords said at a Senate
hearing on international environmental treaties.
Many Democrats and environmental groups criticized
's decision last year to pull the United States
out of the Kyoto treaty, which would have required it
to cut greenhouse gas emissions seven percent below
1990 levels by 2012. Bush said the targets would be
too costly for the U.S. economy.
Japan, all 15 European Union members and a dozen other
nations have signed the treaty. It is expected to be
ratified by enough countries by the end of the year
to go into effect.
Bush administration officials testified that, while
the U.S. delegation to the Johannesburg meeting has
not yet been chosen, the White House is committed to
act on global warming.
The Washington delegation may be led by Undersecretary
of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, although
a final decision has not yet been made, according to
John Turner, an assistant secretary at the State Department.
Some countries that support the Kyoto treaty are also
trying to downplay the issue at the summit meeting,
"Many of the advocates of Kyoto hope to keep it off
the agenda because they want ratification of the treaty.
They don't want countries to come and start renegotiating,
seeking more advantages in the Kyoto process," Turner
told reporters after the hearing.
The summit would accomplish more by focusing on other
environmental issues, he said.
The Bush administration views clean water and health
issues as the top two U.S. priorities at the environmental
summit, Turner said.
"Taking care of the environment means talking care
of people," he said.
During the hearing, the administration officials reminded
the senators of a White House proposal for U.S. companies
to voluntarily cut greenhouse gas emission "intensity"
by 18 percent over the coming decade. The proposal,
which is due to be finalized by January 2004, would
also allow companies to trade emissions credits.
The plan has been criticized by green groups, which
say it would allow greenhouse gases to rise in tandem
with the U.S. economy instead of requiring real cuts.
The administration wants to hold U.S. greenhouse gas
emissions "at a level that will prevent dangerous interference
with the climate," said James Connaughton, chairman
of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
But "given current scientific uncertainties, no one
knows what that level is," he told the Senate panel.
The Kyoto treaty would have cost the U.S. economy
$400 billion and wiped out as many as 4.9 million
jobs, according to White House calculations.
Earth Summit Hijacked By Bush's Globalization
and Big Business
earth summit has been hijacked by big business and the
original goals of enhancing the lives of the world's
poor are fast disappearing, according to research by
an aid agency seen by the Guardian.
Aid has launched a blistering attack on the business
community in the lead-up to the world summit on sustainable
development, which opens in Johannesburg on August 26.
has greater access and influence than any other
group and we are concerned that the agenda is
being unduly skewed towards the wishlists of companies
and away from those of the poor.
Binding regulations on companies, covering such issues
as human rights and the environment, have been dropped
in favor of voluntary codes, its report says. The draft
plan now calls only for the "promotion of corporate accountability
and responsibility and the exchange of best practices".
blames this on specially formed lobby groups including
Action for Sustainable Development (BASD), supported
by the World
Business Council for Sustainable Development and
Chamber of Commerce.
has greater access and influence than any other group
and we are concerned that the agenda is being unduly
skewed towards the wishlists of companies and away from
those of the poor," the agency says. Its report concludes:
"Ten years after the Rio earth summit, the Johannesburg
summit offers the chance to place corporate accountability
at the center of sustainable development. Corporate
influence means this does not look like happening."
leaders last night said the summit was an intergovernmental
conference and they had no more influence as observers
than any other non-governmental organization.
for regulation of corporate accountability, BASD said:
"It is up to individual governments to look at what
is feasible, possible and desirable. NGOs have the best
interests of developing countries and small and medium-sized
companies at heart but they have not really thought
through the consequences."
rules could set standards that many smaller firms could
not meet, leading to decreased investment in developing
Christian Aid points to comments made by the foreign
secretary, Jack Straw, last September, who said: "We
cannot leave companies to regulate themselves globally,
any more than we do in our national economies."
agency is not the only NGO to complain that the summit
has come under the sway of big business. This week Friends
of the Earth said a "creeping corporate takeover
of the UN itself" was under way.
the environment minister, Michael Meacher, said yesterday
he was delighted to have been picked as part of the
five-strong ministerial team to attend the summit, after
Downing Street announced it had reinstated him in the
Meacher had been dropped on the instructions of Tony
Blair, who was concerned Britain was taking too many
ministers in a delegation of 100 to what will be the
world's biggest conference.
the Guardian reported that Mr Meacher had been excluded,
enraged environmental groups offered to pay his fare
and hotel bill so Britain could be represented by the
only minister they think fully understands the issues.
course I am delighted to be going," Mr Meacher said.
"Now we have settled the delegation I hope we can concentrate
on the issues involved. I believe [these are]
pushing forward the agenda on energy, water, health,
food security and biodiversity to make the world better
for the poor and underdeveloped countries."
Blame Bush for Failing Earth Summit
Reuters News Service
WASHINGTON - Next's month Earth Summit in South Africa
may not produce a concrete plan for sustainable development,
but still could be a successful breeding ground for
new ideas, a U.S. official said this week.
U.S. Commerce Undersecretary Grant Aldonas acknowledged
the potential for the August 26-September 4 meeting in
Johannesburg to be dominated more by talk than action.
not at the stage ... (where) we've got a concrete five-point
annual plan we can follow through on," Aldonas said
at a conference on trade and development issues.
a sense that it will be a gaggle and we ought to use
it as gaggle. As a consequence, one of the things that
you want to do is not to lose the opportunity to put
new ideas out on the table to change the future of the
debate," he said.
World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) seeks
to halve the number of people living in poverty by 2015
while curbing pollution.
Africa says it expects more than 100 world leaders and
around 60,000 participants at the summit and parallel
meetings held by nongovernmental organizations and business.
President George W. Bush is not expected at the summit,
although both French President Jacques Chirac and British
Prime Minister Tony Blair have pledged to attend.
does plan to visit Africa in 2003, following recent
trips by Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Trade Representative
Secretary Don Evans also plans a trip to Africa by the
end of the year, Aldonas said.
environmentalists blame the United States for the current
low expectations for the summit by putting the brakes
on environmentally-friendly policies for water and sanitation,
energy, agricultural productivity, biodiversity and