A New Model for Global Environment Protection

Article excerpt

THE difficulty of striking a worldwide environmental bargain is emerging as diverse interests begin to jockey for influence at the United Nation's "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro next June.

"But it is not precisely what happens in Rio that's critical, it's Earth Summit process, beginning now and going maybe two years after, where a lot of proposals are being surfaced, a lot of governments are facing up to the things they haven't heard about before" that will be critical to a change in thinking about the way environmental problems are handled internationally, says James Gustave Speth, president of the World Resources Institute.

As part of that process, the New World Dialogue - a group of 28 prominent Western Hemisphere politicians, economists, environmentalists and businessmen organized by WRI - today released a proposed model for international cooperation on environmental protection.

That model, The New World Compact, calls for eight multilateral initiatives to protect forests, increase energy efficiency, slow pollution, reduce poverty, stabilize population growth, enhance scientific and technical capacity, promote trade and investment, and provide financial resources.

Treating these issues as interdependent under the umbrella of the environment, the compact calls for them to be negotiated much as a trade or security treaty would be settled, with specific goals, timetables and incentives, including multilateral agencies to enforce and fund them.

Underlying the compact is the principle of sustainable development, which holds that current development should meet needs in ways that won't compromise the environment and resources needed by future generations. Essentially, as the New World Dialogue interprets this, it means preventing the kind of urbanized, polluting industrialization characterized by North America.

In announcing the compact, Mr. Speth was critical of the Bush administration for a lack of leadership in the preparatory negotiations for the Rio summit and for a lack of environmental measures in its Enterprise for the Americas initiative, which has successfully pulled the region together on free-trade agreements.

Michael Deland, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, disagreed. "The administration has been represented significantly at each of the {Rio preparatory} meetings," he says, adding that the free trade initiative includes a subgroup working on environmental aspects of the plan. …