NEWS

Unrestricted economic development

Has anything positive occurred regarding the environment in recent years? A great deal has been done. After Rio, a number of new institutions were founded such as the UN Committee for Sustainable Development in New York (although as yet it is simply a forum for discussion); the World Environment Fund has matured and now funds various programs. Above all, many important international treaties have been signed, such as the one on climatic change that resulted in the Kyoto Protocol, the treaty on fighting desertification and another on protecting biodiversity. These are three umbrella treaties that are setting standards. Then there are over 300 multilateral environmental agreements governing the status of international waters, wetlands, mountainous regions, issues of pollution, the transport of pollutants, cross-border use of water sources, and management of forests at world or regional level. These are very important legislative tools, but the ability to implement them is limited as there is no super-organization to impose its will. There is no coordination, there is no central regulatory mechanism. The development mandate cancels out all these achievements, and naturally increases the divide between rich and poor. If this divide is a large one at world level, it is even more terrifying within the poorer countries themselves. For example, consumption in the US and India is at the ratio of 60 to one. Within India, the ratio between the 1 percent that is the highest income group and the lowest 10 percent is 200 to one. Where are we headed? We are heading toward a new international system and this is closely related to the environment. The ecology movement was the first to raise the question of globalization even before the term was coined, due to the globalization of environmental problems. So the environmental community is very interested in ecumenical solutions for the simple reason that it cannot construct an ecological society in just one country or in a «fortress Europe.» It calls for international action. Without the cooperation of the US, we will not achieve very much. The US has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, nor the Convention on Biological Diversity, 11 years after Rio. Although within the US itself there is a very lively environmental movement, it is on a course toward uncontrolled economic development and is not very interested in what is going on outside its own borders. I hope that the isolation it is experiencing as a result of this war will make it wiser. For the US has to work with Europe for the benefit of the environment.