- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2002

American diplomats left the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg yesterday with their goals largely fulfilled, despite blistering public criticism from environmental groups and some foreign officials.
Even as activists interrupted a speech by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, the United States managed to win over other countries with strategies for economic development that emphasized private initiative, not government fiat.
The United States gained support partly by opening its wallet, promising $3.6 billion for various economic and social development projects. The money, some of which the Bush administration had promised before the South Africa meeting, was to go for safe drinking water, health care, agriculture and forestry.
"Hecklers get a lot of attention, but I was more impressed by the excellent discussions" with foreign counterparts, Mr. Powell told reporters yesterday.
After his speech, Mr. Powell helped initiate a project to preserve forests along the Congo River and received polite applause. He said he was "very pleased and proud" of what American negotiators achieved during the meeting, which wrapped up yesterday with formal approval of a 65-page list of measures designed to promote environmental and economic well-being.
The fury of environmental groups, who had staged a walkout, was a strong indicator that the American agenda prevailed in key areas during the meeting, a follow-up to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
"Big business and polluting governments like the U.S. have joined forces in Johannesburg once again," said Paul Horsman, spokesman for the environmental group Greenpeace.
The United States suffered setbacks as Canada and Russia announced in Johannesburg that they would ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol limiting greenhouse-gas emissions thought to cause global warming. Their assents will allow the pact to take effect, probably sometime next year.
President Bush had denounced the treaty as "fatally flawed" and pulled out of negotiations last year. Other countries kept the Kyoto mission alive, leaving the United States alone among major industrialized nations.
A senior official denied that the United States was isolated over the Kyoto agreement and said the Bush administration had begun talks with China and Russia on other ways to limit greenhouse gases.
American officials also failed to persuade African countries on the brink of famine to accept donations of genetically modified corn. In an interview with The Washington Times, Andrew Natsios, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, called environmentalists' campaign against gene-spliced corn "revolting and despicable."
But on two points in particular, the United States scored notable successes.
Allied with major oil-producing nations, the United States fought off demands by the 15-nation European Union and other countries to enshrine hard targets in the final declaration for promoting renewable energy.
As a result, the document called for a "substantial increase" in the use of renewables such as wind and solar power, not the mandatory 15 percent increase advocated by Europe.
The United States also won recognition for programs bringing together governments and private groups, such as businesses or academic institutions, in pursuit of the summit's goals.
"Central to this approach is the realization that sustainable development is too big for any government alone or any combination of governments," Mr. Powell said.
A senior U.S. official said this approach allows American tax dollars to be "leveraged" to two or three times their normal value. The official, who asked not to be identified, said the United States would form these partnerships not by imposing its wishes but by listening to the desires of host countries.
"These partnerships will go on beyond Johannesburg and will breathe life into the text" adopted at the meeting, the official said.


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