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How Sides Line Up on Environmental Issues Depends on More than Ecology With PM-Earth Summit,

June 10, 1992

How Sides Line Up on Environmental Issues Depends on More than Ecology With PM-Earth Summit, Bjt

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ The politicking going on at the Earth Summit shows the environment isn’t always foremost in delegates’ minds, and what makes ecological sense to one nation can outrage another.

″This is political pollution,″ scoffed an Israeli Foreign Ministry official at a treaty clause on the ″natural resources of people under oppression, domination and occupation″ - a veiled reference to Palestinians living in the Israel-occupied West Bank.

″We don’t see any need to politicize the conference,″ Benjamin Orin added. ″This is not the time or place for it.″

Arab and developing nations don’t necessarily agree, and they are pressing other long-standing claims against traditional rivals: the countries of the so-called First World.

″We cannot save the environment if the rich refuse to give greater aid to the poor,″ said Pakistan’s environment minister, Anwar Saifullah.

″Developed countries must plow back a little bit of their prosperity into the Earth to avoid global deterioration,″ said Kamal Nath, India’s emnvironment minister and a leading spokesman for the group of 128 developing nations. ″It is a very small price.″

Actually, the estimate by conference organizer Maurice Strong on what it might cost to clean and protect the environment is $125 billion a year through the year 2000.

The Bush administration, for one, refuses to sign the plant and animal protection treaty in part because of what it might cost, and who would spend the money. Developing nations want as few strings as possible on their ability to use the funds in their countries.

″Individual interests and biases are killing the whole conference,″ said Magda Renner, president of Friends of the Earth International. ″Each country is looking just at its immediate interests instead of the future of the earth.″

To a certain extent, that is undeniable.

The republics of the former Soviet Union want favorable financial treatment for ″countries in transition to a market economy,″ i.e., them ahead of others. The developing countries oppose that concept.

Arab states led by oil-rich Saudi Arabia are trying to eliminate wording in a policy statement that favors ″renewable sources of energy that respect the atmosphere″ over fossil fuels - e.g., oil - because they pollute.

″Obviously our economy depends on oil and we must defend our own interests,″ said Sulaiman Al-Omani of Kuwait’s Oil Ministry.

Canada with its long coastline wants to regulate fishing. The United States, concerned about potential job losses, doesn’t want carbon dioxide emissions tightly restricted. Tanzania worries about desertification. Brazil opposes limits on its sovereign right to burn down Amazon jungles.

How to protect forests is a major point of dispute. One proposal would require an international consensus on the conservation and management of an individual country’s trees.

″We are strongly opposed to this because it would globalize our natural resources,″ Nath said. ″In other words, industrial countries would dictate the environmental policies.″

Other Third World leaders suggest that if forests be considered common property, so should gold mines, ocean fisheries, First World technology and other resources now accepted as private.