Date: Wed, 14 May 97 17:27:00 CDT
From: rich%pencil@cmsa.Berkeley.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Report Says World Condition Worsens Since Rio Summit

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** Topic: Report Says World Condition Worsens Since Rio Summit **
** Written 10:48 AM May 12, 1997 by econet in cdp:headlines **
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Report Says World Condition Worsens Since Rio Summit

Source: Reuters

WASHINGTON, The Reuters World Service via Individual Inc. : Five years after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, treaties to protect the atmosphere and biodiversity are foundering, the world's population is spiraling, and more than one billion people cannot feed themselves, the Worldwatch Institute said on Saturday.

In a downbeat assessment of the world's troubled environment, social and political unrest, and prospects for feeding itself, Worldwatch's annual State of the World report listed a series of problems that have worsened since the landmark world environment summit.

"Since Rio, human numbers have grown by 450 million; vast areas of forest have been stripped of trees, and annual emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, the leading greenhouse gas, have climbed to all-time highs, altering the very composition of the atmosphere,'' the report by the Washington-based think tank said.

Two of the key initiatives from Rio -- treaties to cut fossil fuel emissions that are warming the atmosphere and to protect biodiversity -- have stumbled on a lack of commitment from major nations, the report said.

In particular, it said the United States' environmental leadership has receded in the last five years as it has missed targets set in the climate convention by wide margins and failed to ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The United States is among eight countries with 56 percent of the world's population and 53 percent of its forests that ``have the Rio agenda -- and the fate of the earth -- in their hands,'' the report said.

Other "environmental heavyweights'' are Germany, Japan, Russia, China, India, Indonesia and Brazil, countries that Worldwatch said should play a bigger role in bridging differences between industrialised nations of the Northern Hemisphere and developing nations of the Southern Hemisphere.

China, India and other developing countries increasingly hold the key to reversing the environmental slide, and their burgeoning use of resources may force developed countries to face up to their own unsustainable economies, the report said.

The report also faulted international institutions, and rich countries' flagging commitments to them, for failing to confront environmental threats.

For example, it said government funding of the United Nations Development Programme and the U.N. Environment Programme has been inadequate.

The World Bank, which lends some $20 billion annually to developing nations, has claimed to have expanded its environmental lending since Rio. But the report said, "It continues to lend large sums for development schemes that add to carbon emissions and destroy natural ecosystems -- while the broader vision of a sustainable economy is neglected.''

The State of the World report -- the 14th in the usually grim series -- cited some improvements, including the Montreal Protocol to phase out use of ozone-depleting chemicals and slower-than-expected population growth.

But it said, "Too many governments still pursue economic growth at any price, ignoring the fact that damage to global commons such as the atmosphere and the oceans could severely disrupt the world's economies.''

Until finance ministers -- and more importantly prime ministers -- take these problems as seriously as environmental officials do, nations will continue to undermine the natural resource base and ecosystems on which they depend,'' it said.

While global schemes such as the Montreal Protocol have had some success, the report said Rio likely marked the end of a "Marshall Plan'' approach to environmental problems.

"If the world's economies are to be put on a sustainable footing in the 21st century, it is unlikely to be the result of a single top-down plan,'' Christopher Flavin, one of the report's authors, said.

"The answer is more likely to lie in an eclectic mix of international agreements, sensible government policies, efficient use of private resources, and bold initiatives by grassroots organisations,'' Flavin said.

But, the report said Rio "energized the efforts of private citizens to promote environmentally sustainable development,'' and encouraged non-government organisations around the world to "provide ideas as well as pressure for change.''

[01-11-97 at 17:03 EST, Copyright 1997, Reuters America Inc.]

** End of text from cdp:headlines **