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ENVIRONMENT REPORT - September 13, 2002: Summit on Sustainable Development - 2002-09-12

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Last week, delegates from almost two-hundred nations agreed on a plan designed to protect the environment and help poor people in developing countries. They met at the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The action plan calls for countries to reduce by half the number of people living without clean water and waste removal systems by the year two-thousand-fifteen. Delegates also promised to reduce the loss of plant and animal species and to protect the world’s fish supply. They agreed to urge businesses to work to protect the environment. The plan also includes promises to deal with such issues as foreign occupation, terrorism, and AIDS.

The goal of the meeting was to find ways to put into effect the ideas that were discussed ten years ago at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. However, many delegates were unhappy with the meeting in Johannesburg. They said most of the summit was a fight to stop governments from weakening already-existing agreements.

Environmental groups said the summit was a failure. They said the final agreement lacked clear targets to deal with climate change. They also said it failed to end government payments to farmers in some countries. These payments make it difficult for developing nations to compete in world markets.

Environmental groups criticized the United States for blocking agreement on a stronger final plan. For example, the United States helped block a proposal by the European Union to set goals for using renewable energy, such as power from the sun.

The delegates condemned the Bush administration for rejecting the Kyoto treaty on global warming last year. They said President Bush’s decision not to attend the summit showed he is not serious about environmental protection.

American Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke during the conference. But he was repeatedly forced to halt his speech as demonstrators shouted and held signs in protest. The criticism began when Mister Powell condemned the government in Zimbabwe for its land reform policies. He said the policies are causing widespread starvation.United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the agreement reached at the summit is an important beginning.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.