New York, February 8, 2002 – Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) today criticized Governments gathered at a formal UN meeting for putting trade priorities above people and the planet. FoEI argued that governments are failing to act on the real causes of global inequality and environmental degradation.

Formal preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (also known as Rio+10) have been conducted at UN Headquarters in New York over the past two weeks. The UN meeting set the agenda for the summit to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, this August. The paper agreed will be the basis for negotiations over the next seven months.

FoEI argued that instead of establishing clear social and environmental limits to economic globalisation, governments have opted to make sustainable development subservient to the free trade agenda being promoted at the WTO [1]. Governments refused to start negotiating on a binding agreement on corporate accountability and thus failed to reign in one of the key sectors that are responsible for worsening environmental and social trends worldwide. Governments also failed to effectively act on climate change. They aim to promote further fossil fuel use at Johannesburg and fail to call for an ambitious renewable energy use target [2].

Daniel Mittler of FoEI said: “One of the key obstacles to progress since Rio has been the unquestioned devotion to neoliberal trade objectives and the excessive power of large corporations over government policy. It seems that even as the ENRON scandal unfolds, governments have decided that corporations and free trade dogma are untouchable. If governments do not improve on the Summit’s agenda in coming months, the Johannesburg meeting will be “Rio Minus 10” not “Rio Plus 10″. If governments fail to reign in the excesses of economic globalization at Johannesburg and deliver an agenda for positive change another wave of global protests may be inevitable”.

[1] The agreed paper states: “Encourage WTO members to implement the outcome of the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference so that world trade can support sustainable development in all countries”. FoEI believes that the outcomes of the Fourth Ministerial have the serious potential to undermine sustainable development. For more information see
[2] The text reads (grammatical faults in original): “Diversify the energy supply, by developing cleaner and more efficient fossil fuel technologies, innovative technologies and increase the share of new renewable energy sources at least 5 % of total energy use by 2010 in all countries”. FoEI calls for a phase out of international and domestic subsidies for conventional energy and a renewable energy target in industrialized countries of at least 12% of energy use by 2010 (the current EU target). Targets in developing countries must be supported by adequate funding.