Climate accord leaves loopholes, say environmentalists

Issue 

WASHINGTON — "The big fossil fuel industries have turned what was supposed to be the jewel in the crown of the Earth Summit into a lump of coal", commented Greenpeace spokesperson Paul Hohnen on the Earth Summit global warming accord signed by delegates from 143 countries in New York on May 9.

The accord requires the developed countries to make unspecified reductions in carbon monoxide, methane and other greenhouse gas emissions, and requires regular reporting on their efforts, but omits a European Community proposal establishing a timetable for eventual elimination of all harmful emissions.

"It's better than we feared, but not as good as we'd hoped", was the view of Earth Summit secretary general Maurice Strong, who added that some other difficult issues remain unresolved. These include finance for programs coming out of the summit, and an agreement on biodiversity. The Earth Summit, or United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED), is scheduled for the first two weeks of June in Rio de Janeiro.

Paul Hohnen said no world leader signing the climate convention "can claim they are saving the world from global warming. Climate change has been clearly identified by scientists as probably the greatest risk facing us in the next century. What it deserves is a convention which eliminates or minimises those risks. What it got was something which only encourages governments to wriggle out of any meaningful action."

Hohnen said the blame for the weak convention could be laid squarely on the shoulders of US President George Bush, who said he would not sign an agreement requiring specific controls on industry, including US industry, the world's largest source of harmful gas emissions. Bush threatened not to attend the summit if he found the climate accord unacceptable.

The accord also proposes that the World Bank-administered Global Environment Facility be the "the international entity entrusted with the operation of the financial mechanism on an interim basis". Third World nations had earlier opposed this, saying World Bank policies are a major contributor to environmental and development problems in the poorer countries.

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