JOHANNESBURG, Sep 4 (IPS) -
Activists say the oil sector has led the world's energy industries to triumph at a United Nations meeting that aimed for a very different result - to boost the use of ''clean'' energy sources and curb global pollution caused by burning fossil fuels.
Not only does the final document of the 10-day World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) fail to reflect an effort led by Brazil to seek new global commitments on renewable energy, it is weaker than the text written prior to the summit, say the critics.
here looking for serious commitments to address poverty and the environments,
but things have gone backwards. It is clear that the U.S. had an agenda to water
everything down and they have got it.
Paragraph 19 of the 'Draft Plan of Implementation' of the WSSD contains only vague references urging countries to ''substantially increase'' the world's share of clean, renewable energy sources, like wind energy, solar power, marine energy and modern biomass.
The original text circulated ahead of the summit set targets and timelines for the world to achieve, making it a contentious issue as the summit opened more than a week ago.
''The big winners are the oil interests and those who are members of the axis of environmental evil,'' says Daniel Mittler, WSSD coordinator for Friends of the Earth International (FoEI), one of the largest environmental grassroots networks.
''The oil industry (and) fossil fuel interests have gained concessions to supply fuel to the developing world.''
The countries that helped to secure victory for the energy industries are
the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan and the 11-member Organization of
Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), adds Mittler.
''They stopped other governments from taking forward the renewable energy revolution.''
Shortly after the meeting began on Aug. 26, environmentalists were praising Brazil for lobbying the 190 countries at the summit to support its energy plan.
The Brazilian Energy Initiative - developed with about 30 other Latin American and Caribbean countries - called for countries to support a target to generate 10 percent of new energy with renewables by 2012. The plan excluded large hydropower schemes and the unsustainable traditional fuel sources used by the world's poor, such as firewood.
But as the WSSD drew to an end, it was not to be.
The compromise is ''an outright disaster'', says the non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) working as the Energy and Climate Caucus at the summit. ''It is clear that
the USA-OPEC alliance is behind blocking every opportunity to make any progress
on energy issues.''
''Many world leaders, U.N. officials, as well as NGOs (made a call) to get
clear commitments, targets and time frames for energy access for the poor, and
to phase out subsidies to unsustainable forms of energy such as fossil fuels,
in order to achieve an increased share of renewable energy globally,'' it adds.
But they could not defeat the pressure to weaken the plans, adds the caucus.
Environmentalists were also critical of how the G-77, a group made up of 133 developing countries, was manipulated into falling in line with the countries opposed to specific renewable energy targets.
''They were hamstrung because the chair of G-77 is an OPEC member,'' Steve Sawyer of Greenpeace said at a press conference Tuesday, referring to Venezuela.
''Iran also had a say in controlling the G-77 energy policy at the summit,'' he added.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the energy section of the implementation plan ''delivers nothing to provide energy services for the two billion people worldwide who have no access to modern energy services, nor anything to curb global warming.''
During negotiations, the U.S. delegates were determined to secure support for such a vague text, says a Third World diplomat. In return, U.S. officials agreed to compromise on calls to halve the proportion of people living without access to sanitation by 2015.
The setback on energy was one of the many issues that failed to measure up to what the WSSD promised to achieve - a concrete plan of action to create environmentally-friendly development, the ''sustainable development'' so triumphantly conceived during the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
Those living in extreme poverty, estimated at over one billion people, were to be among the major beneficiaries of the WSSD.
Little wonder why, by Tuesday, environmentalists had begun calling the WSSD the 'World Summit on Shameful Deals'.
It has ''failed to protect or manage the origins of water, has failed to confirm the supremacy of the needs of poor people and the environment over the free trade agenda and is weaker than existing agreements on controlling chemicals that threaten nature and our health,'' states the WWF.
''We came here looking for serious commitments to address poverty and the environments, but things have gone backwards,'' says Melanie Steiner, policy adviser at WWF. ''It is clear that the U.S. had an agenda to water everything down and they have got it.''
The WSSD attracted 104 heads of governments, with U.S. President George W.
Bush noticeable by his absence. In addition, 9,000 delegates and 8,000 NGO representatives
from 190 countries attended.
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