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Western Press Review: Overriding International Ecology Problem -- Hot Air

  • Don Hill
  • Dora Slaba

Prague, 24 June 1997 (RFE/RL) -- With world leaders meeting at the United Nations in New York for a conference on the environment, Western press commentary focuses on the earth's ecology.

TIMES OF LONDON: America has four percent of the world's people and accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions

In a news article and an editorial today, the paper faults the United States for failing to honor anti-pollution targets set five years ago at a pioneering international Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Times writers Philip Webster and Nick Nuttall report from New York on a UN speech by the British prime minister. They write: "Tony Blair yesterday called on world leaders to save the planet for their children and grandchildren. He urged them to match Britain's ambitious target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by a fifth within 13 years. In a plea to 70 heads of government at the United Nations in New York the prime minister used his family to press home his message that the big industrial nations such as will America would fail future generations unless they stopped the 'special pleading and acted now."

An accompanying editorial says: "When the world's most like-minded and most powerful club cannot agree on policies that would benefit both them and the world, they can hardly expect the inherently unwieldy forum of a United Nations conference to do better. The failure at (the just-ended Summit of Eight conference in) Denver to set targets for reducing the West's emissions of the 'greenhouse' gases that contribute to global warming has soured the prospects for this week's global environmental stocktaking."

The editorial says: "America, which with 4 percent of the world's people accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, refused to play ball. Reducing these would be in America's own interest; but (U.S. President) Bill Clinton's zeal for world leadership apparently stops short of taking on powerful domestic lobbies."

WASHINGTON POST: The Clinton administration declines to set specific goals

Writer Joby Warrick says in a news analysis today that rancor over the issues of air pollution is marring the UN conference from the outset. He says: "A rift over air pollution clouded the start (today) of the second United Nations Earth Summit, as European governments criticized the United States for failing to commit to a specific timetable for reducing the emission of gases believed responsible for global warming. In a further airing of the dispute that emerged during the weekend Summit of the Eight in Denver, European Union leaders signaled their impatience with the Clinton administration over its refusal to adopt their ideas for reducing global releases of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere."

Warrick writes: "The remarks were seen as a rebuke to the Clinton administration, which favors cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other byproducts of fossil-fuel combustion but has declined so far to set specific goals."

NEW YORK TIMES: There is little progress to celebrate

Both The New York Times and the U.S. newspaper Journal of Commerce predicted in editorials before its start that the UN meeting starting today was in trouble. The Times said Sunday: " Five years ago, more than 100 world leaders came together for the first international Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, leaving a diaphanous trail of promises to clean the earth's atmosphere, save its rain forests and otherwise collaborate on common environmental challenges. Many of these leaders or their successors will convene at the United Nations this week to review their work. There is little to celebrate. The oceans are as polluted as ever, and deforestation proceeds at a ruinous pace. Perhaps the most conspicuous failure, however, involves the hugely contentious subject of global warming."

JOURNAL OF COMMERCE: Environmental meetings have become struggles over wealth transfers

Earlier, the paper editorialized: "Preparations for next week's Earth Summit Two in New York, marking the anniversary of the celebrated 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, are not going well. Third World countries have blocked a variety of environmental proposals to protest what they say is inadequate financial aid from the West. (Such) comments offer yet another example of how environmental meetings have become struggles over wealth transfers rather than honest inquiries into how to protect the Earth."


An ecumenical conference in Graz, Austria, new legislation proposed in Russia, and the death penalty in the United States generated German and U.S. press commentary on the topic of religion.

WASHINGTON POST: Russia's Duma approved legislation to restrict foreign missionaries

David Hoffman analyzes in today's edition, legislation to inhibit missionary activity in Russia. Hoffman writes: "The lower house of parliament, the State Duma, gave its approval (yesterday) to legislation that would sharply restrict the activities of foreign missionaries and many religious faiths here except for the 'traditional' religions of Russian Orthodoxy, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism. The measure is being closely watched by human rights advocates as a barometer of Russia's commitment to freedom of conscience. Opponents of the legislation say it would be a giant step backward, toward state control of religion, and they are urging President Boris Yeltsin to veto it."

He writes: "The legislation has its origins in fears by some leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church that its growth and revival are threatened by an onslaught of foreign missionaries." Hoffman says: "The church has bridled especially at foreign missionaries who have come to Russia bearing generous humanitarian aid. Tensions have also flared in outlying regions between missionaries and local authorities."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: There is a danger that the Iron Curtain will be replaced by a silver one

The paper discusses in a news analysis today remarks yesterday at a European Ecumenical Conference in Graz, Austria, by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II. The account quotes Alexei as saying: "East Europe is disintegrating and inter-confessional relationships are deteriorating. The coercive society in East Europe has fallen apart after the disintegration of the Soviet arm-bending elite's demise. The states are going their own way. Relationships among the Christian confessions are also far freer."

The newspaper says: "The church of the Moscow patriarch does not miss the Soviet authorities under whom it experienced such horrors as murder, slavery and corruption of the entire hierarchy." It says: "Patriarch Alexei is far more open than most of the metropolitans of his church. But for him, too, Russia belongs to the Russian church alone."

It says: "Alexei II declared that the end of totalitarianism has proved unfair. The material living conditions of the population have become much worse. There have been bloody conflicts among ethnic groups. In the place of old divisions, new ones have arisen. As West Europe proceeds to integrate, East Europe is falling apart. The economic rifts between Eastern and Western countries are ever deeper. There is a genuine danger that the Iron Curtain will be replaced by a silver one."

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The Roman Catholic Church opposes the death penalty for Timothy McVeigh and others

In the United States, an analysis by Steve Kloehn recently examined a different religious issue. Kloehn wrote: "Pope John Paul II and Roman Catholic bishops throughout the United States have made it abundantly clear: from their religious perspective the death penalty is wrong, for Timothy McVeigh (convicted of murders in the bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building) or any other convicted criminal. But Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating is Roman Catholic, too, and he said (recently) that he and most lay Catholics would agree that McVeigh should be executed. Surveys back him up. What does it say about the Roman Catholic Church that, after such prolonged and vehement debate, believers still do not agree on the morality of the death penalty? Nothing that you couldn't say about most other organized religions in the United States."

The writer says: "From Theravadan Buddhists to Southern Baptists, the search for a clear theological answer continues. And the faithful on both sides of the issue claim God, scripture and wisdom are in their camp."