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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JULY 15, 2002
12:18 PM
CONTACT:  Sierra Club
Stephen Mills, 202-675-6691
Bush Administration May Cause Failure of Environmental Summit
Group Says Polluter-Friendly Approach at Odds with Summit's Sustainability Goals
 
WASHINGTON - July 15 - The Sierra Club today expressed deep concern that the Bush Administration's approach to the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg may seriously undermine the global community's efforts to protect clean air and water, and fight global warming. The Sierra Club is stressing to the Administration that working with other countries at the Johannesburg Summit to hold enormous global corporations accountable for their environmental impact will help protect the environment both here at home and around the world.

"The Administration has consistently blocked attempts to protect the global environment by promoting plans that benefit large corporations rather than the billions of citizens who have to deal with environmental crises, like dirty water and air, and global climate change," said Sierra Club Director Michael Dorsey, who has represented the Club during the preparatory meetings and will attend the Johannesburg Summit. "People around the world are seriously concerned that the Bush administration is undermining the World Summit instead of working with other countries to benefit everyone."

In 1992, heads of state, including President George H. W. Bush, attended the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They were asked to support binding international treaties on forest protection, climate change and biodiversity protection. President Bush Sr. agreed to the Rio Declaration and its Principles on Sustainable Development "with the goal of establishing a new and equitable global partnership through the creation of new levels of cooperation among States."

A decade later, George W. Bush is attempting to reverse his father's legacy and turn back the clock. Instead of a partnership among nations, he proposes to eliminate oversight of corporations on the 10-year anniversary of the Earth Summit slated to begin in August in South Africa. The President is ignoring in this approach, the very lesson he has just affirmed with regard to domestic corporations for "standards enforced by strict laws and upheld by responsible business leaders."

At the final preparatory meeting held in May in Bali, the US government delegation, following the directive of the Bush Administration, repeatedly resisted any serious steps to address a host of global environmental problems, especially global warming. The Administration steadfastly opposes international efforts to hold multinational corporations accountable for their business practices. The head of the US delegation criticized environmental targets and timetables as "theater" and "fiction" not worthy of serious consideration. Already more than 200 non-governmental organizations have signed a critique of the Johannesburg meeting entitled, "A Disaster in the Making".

"What is fiction is not the concept of the global community holding global corporations accountable," said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope, "but the idea that voluntary actions by these corporations will protect the world's citizens from pollution, destruction of their communities and the natural resources upon which they depend."

"Unfortunately, this appears to be another attempt by President Bush to withdraw from global cooperation," said Stephen Mills, Director of the Sierra Club's International Program, who will also be attending the summit for the Sierra Club. "Americans want to be part of a country that acts as a responsible neighbor, and they know we need to cooperate with other nations to protect the environment if we expect them to cooperate with us."

The Sierra Club will be asking the Administration to promote efforts to shift policy away from an approach that benefits corporations but rarely protects the environment. At the summit, the Sierra Club will be advocating for the Administration to:

  • Represent public interests before corporate interests by supporting binding corporate accountability measures, including public release of corporate environmental performance data. The Administration supports voluntary, non-binding environmental agreements that rely on corporations policing themselves.
  • Reverse its position that World Trade Organization rules should trump international environmental agreements.
  • Seriously address climate change and air pollution: So far the Administration has shown a lack of commitment to curbing climate change and protecting clean air, as evidenced by withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, and domestic efforts to weaken the Clean Air Act.
  • Respect the basic human right to clean drinking water - not undermine it by privatizing water services. In March, during its testimony on the Water Investment Act of 2002 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stated that the Administration did not support additional funding to help the country's crumbling water systems, but instead believed that privatization is a better solution. The Administration is expected to support a similar position in Johannesburg. As we have just seen with Enron and Global Crossing, unregulated private companies cannot be relied upon to provide basic public services at a fair and just cost. We should not add drinking water as yet another vital public service that will be open to corporate manipulation and profiteering.
  • Protect Agriculture and Biodiversity. The Administration must resist pressure from huge agri-businesses and instead support calls for biosafety in order to prevent the widespread production and use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture.

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