Published on Monday, April 15, 2001 in the Sydney Morning Herald
Global Greens Conference Debates Naders Candidacy
Nader May Have Cost Us Kyoto Protocol, says Swiss Delegate
by Andrew Clennell
The presidential candidate Ralph Nader, hero of environmentalists in the United States, was painted as the villain at the Global Greens conference in Canberra yesterday.
A Swiss delegate questioned if his candidacy had cost the world the Kyoto Protocol agreement on greenhouse gases.
Mr Nader's vote in Florida was much greater than the difference in margin between Mr George Bush and the Democrat Mr Al Gore which swung the key State.
Mr Schaffner also questioned why Mr Nader was not at the conference, saying he may have been afraid of the backlash from other greens around the world. (A statement from Mr Nader was earlier read on his behalf by another US green, supporting the delegates and apologising to them for not being able to attend the conference.)
But a Sierra Leone delegate said the greens should be prepared to take a risk. Mr Nader had done that by standing for office and should not be condemned for it. "The people are looking out for an alternative - they need an inspiration," Ms Matilda Banga said.
The Association of State Green Parties from the US has insisted Mr Nader's decision had not affected the protocol as Mr Gore would have been just as ready to dump the agreement as Mr Bush.
Mr Schaffner said later that he had spoken out because other parties around the world felt the same, but no-one was prepared to say it.
But Mr Nader also had the backing of Senator Ingrid Betancourt, a Colombian MP, whose emotional speech received the biggest reception at the conference so far. Elected to Colombia's Senate in 1994, the 40-year-old has campaigned for environmental causes and against corruption despite death threats against her family. She had to move her two children out of the country after threats, including one in which she received a photograph of a mutilated child and a warning that her children would suffer the same fate.
In the national Parliament, Senator Betancourt, who intends to run for president next year, has tried to expose corruption, alleging alliances between politicians, drug cartels and the Colombian mafia.
The name of her Partido Verde Oxigeno (the Oxygen Green Party) reflects the pollution problems of the capital, Bogota, where many children suffer from pollution-related respiratory illnesses.
Senator Betancourt told the conference that sticking to principles was more important than life and defended Mr Nader, saying greens had to be radical.
"If Ralph Nader had gone to support Al Gore, maybe they would have won, maybe not," she said. "But the thing is, at the end of the campaign, everybody would have forgotten Ralph Nader."
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