World environmental damage getting worse, poverty widespread, report says
Thursday, January 10th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
WASHINGTON (AP) _ During the 1990s, deaths from AIDS increased from half a million to more than three million, global emissions of carbon dioxide climbed more than 25 percent and damage to the world's coral reefs grew, a private research group said Thursday.
In its annual report, the Worldwatch Institute said problems such as poverty, disease and harm to the environment should be confronted with the same determination as the war on terrorism.
``The fact that 1.12 billion people lack access to adequate clean water _ more than double the number who use computers _ suggests a level of poverty that is inconsistent with our image of the 21st century,'' said Christopher Flavin, president of the institute.
The report, ``State of the World 2002,'' is intended to help define the agenda for the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg from Aug. 26-Sept. 4. The summit is a 10-year follow-up to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
The conference will bring together thousands of participants including heads of state and government, national delegations and leaders of civil society and business, to discuss ways of improving the quality of life for the world's citizens without increasing the use of natural resources beyond the earth's capacity.
In a Dec. 20, 2001, report on the subject, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan wrote that ``progress toward the goals established at Rio has been slower than anticipated and in some respects conditions are worse than they were 10 years ago.''
But with strong political will, practical steps and strong partnerships, hurdles can be overcome, he said.
Sustainable development means reshaping the world economy to make it less environmentally harmful and more socially equitable, Worldwatch said.
The report listed several barriers to that over the past decade:
_Environmental policies remain a low priority. The growing number of environmental treaties suffer from weak commitments and inadequate funding.
_Foreign aid is stagnating. Despite a more than 30 percent expansion in global economic output since Rio, aid spending has declined substantially, falling from $69 billion in 1992 to $53 billion in 2000.
_Third World indebtedness is getting worse. Despite pledges at Rio to reduce indebtedness, the total debt burden in developing countries has climbed 34 percent since then, reaching $2.5 trillion in 2000.
Worldwatch said almost all of the AIDS deaths occurred in the developing world, and nearly four out of five were in sub-Sahara Africa, where drug treatments are largely unaffordable.
The report said the degradation of coral reefs ``shocked the scientific community with the breadth and pace of its advance over the decade. Some 27 percent of the world's coral reefs are effectively lost, up 10 percent from 1992.''
Coral reefs are second only to forests in biological wealth, and such losses take a great toll on many species, the institute said.
In a section on global warming, the report criticized the United States, which is responsible for nearly a quarter of global carbon dioxide output.
``Although armed with the wealth and technology to curb carbon emissions, and in spite of ample scope for cuts, U.S. emissions rose some 18 percent between 1990 and 2000,'' the report said.
It criticized the Bush administration for last year deciding to abandon the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on global warming. The United States has said it plans to draw up its own action plan.