Environmentalists urge Mbeki to push energy and trade concerns

 

Environmentalists have urged the South African President, Mr Thabo Mbeki, to ensure that next week's Earth summit draws up plans to boost renewable energy and improve trade for poor nations.

Mr Mbeki told the activists that he met them to hear their views and to see if some could be incorporated in the final pact of the 10-day Johannesburg summit starting on Monday, which aims to find ways to cut poverty while safeguarding the environment.

"The matters that we are about [are discussing] are peoples' matters, not just governments'," Mbeki said.

"We would like to hear your views on what the outcomes of this summit should be," Mr Mbeki told the gathering of activist groups from across the globe, from Greenpeace to Friends of the Earth and the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

He was handed a long wish list ahead of the August 26-September 4th summit. Mr Remi Parmentier, political director of Greenpeace, said Mr Mbeki had listened to their views and taken notes.

"He showed a genuine concern about the matters we raised," Mr Parmentier said.

Mr Parmentier told Mr Mbeki Greenpeace wanted the summit to launch an action programme to provide access to reliable, affordable and sustainable energy to some two billion people it said currently have no access to modern energy services.

It also wanted governments to phase out subsidies to conventional energy sources such as oil, coal and the nuclear industry.Greenpeace also wants governments to agree to increase the share of modern renewable energy in the world's energy supply - such as small scale hydro-power, wind energy, geo-thermal, marine and solar - to 10 per cent by 2010.

Other activists said they shared concerns of developing countries about the imbalance of international trade, pinpointing government export subsidies in Europe and North America, and problems of market access for developing countries.

Mr Lucien Royer, representing trade union movements, said his group wanted governments to agree principles of corporate accountability and how to enforce them. They also wanted governments to be obliged to implement any Johannesburg pact. Several dozen security agents were at hand at a Pretoria hotel where the meeting was held, a reminder that South Africa has gone into a top security alert ahead of the summit.

Police and non-governmental organisations said police had arrested more than 75 people after they defied orders to disperse during a protest in Johannesburg.

The protest was organised by a group which says it caters for landless people.