Earth Summit agrees on energy, angers greens
JOHANNESBURG - The Earth Summit gave a muted push to \"green\" energy this week as part of a plan to curb poverty and protect the planet, angering environmentalists who branded it a weak-minded sell-out to the U.S. oil industry.
The energy accord, a defeat for the European Union and a victory for the United States and OPEC oil exporters, was the penultimate hurdle before the August 26-September 4 summit can agree a blueprint to try to safeguard the planet.
The vaguely worded energy text urges nations to \"substantially increase\" the global share of renewable energies like solar and wind power but stops short of setting any targets as sought by the EU and some developing nations like Brazil.
A new dispute, which ministers hoped to settle yesterday, cropped up on abstruse wording about a previously agreed text on health and touching on abortion and female genital mutilation.
Away from the negotiating sessions, South African police used water cannon and stun grenades against pro-Palestinian activists demonstrating against a visit by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, witnesses said. And tensions crackled at a meeting of about 100 world leaders over Iraq and Zimbabwe.
Environmentalists denounced the energy deal for lacking targets or timetables for switching from oil and said it bowed to U.S. President George W. Bush - the main absentee among world leaders at the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
\"We\'re calling it the Bush-Cheney energy plan,\" said Jennifer Morgan of WWF, referring to Vice President Dick Cheney.
\"The Americans, Saudis and Japanese have got what they wanted...It\'s worse than we could have imagined,\" Steve Sawyer, climate policy director of Greenpeace, told Reuters.
The energy deal will be part of a sweeping plan to combat everything from pollution and poverty to AIDS and the extinction of plant and animal species.
\"This is not an ideal text for us,\" European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom told reporters.
Environmentalists said the deal would do nothing to rein in emissions of greenhouse gases, caused by burning fossil fuels like oil and coal, which are blamed for blanketing the planet, driving up temperatures and disrupting global weather.
The EU had wanted all countries to agree to raise global use of renewables to 15 percent by 2010 from 14 percent now.
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky hailed the targetless deal.
\"This document clearly highlights the need to increase access to modern energy services and signals the valuable role renewable energy will play in the future,\" she told Reuters.
The text makes no mention of nuclear power, for or against.
South African Energy Affairs Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told EU delegates: \"Don\'t despair. You have raised the challenge...clearly this is not enough.\"
The health dispute, raised by Canada, pressed for clearer wording on \"human rights\" to protect women from cultural practices such as mutilating young women\'s genitals.
In the main conference hall, a parade of heads of state and government took to the podium to support its lofty goals, urged on by children who demanded an end to international bickering and broken promises a decade after the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro 10 years ago.
\"Too many adults are too interested in money and wealth to take notice of serious problems that affect our future,\" said 11-year-old Justin Friesen from Canada, standing next to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the podium before the leaders.
But the reality of human conflict was everywhere in view.
In downtown Johannesburg, police said one policeman was taken to hospital after being stabbed in the leg during a protest in front of the venue where Israel\'s Peres was due to speak, the worst violence so far to hit a peaceful summit.
And in the main hall of the meeting, where Bush was represented in Johannesburg by a low-level delegation led by Undersecretary for Energy Robert Card, Third World leaders blasted greed among the rich nations.
President Robert Mugabe laid into British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his support for white farmers being forced off land in Zimbabwe.
\"Blair, keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe,\" he said to loud applause for a stand against colonialism. Blair had already left.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who sent Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz to the summit, won some support from Nelson Mandela over U.S. threats to oust him.
\"We are really appalled by any country, whether it is a superpower or a poor country, that goes outside the United Nations and attacks independent countries,\" the former South African president said.
Sceptics say the summit\'s vast ambition deprives it of meaning, especially as the United States has resisted what it sees as empty symbolism in setting targets for such sweeping goals and argues that many nations will simply ignore them.
\"We deal with everything and there is a risk at the end of the day that it means nothing,\" said Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, whose country holds the EU presidency.
Story by Alister Doyle and Jodie Ginsberg
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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