Earth Summit failure leaves planet in peril

Yesterday's failure by world leaders to agree a new deal to address the world's escalating environmental crisis places the planet in greater peril than ever. The second Earth Summit failed to produce a breakthrough on any of the main issues before it.

Forests are being felled faster than ever, driving tens of thou sands of species to extinction and disrupting water supplies as rain clouds no longer form above them, but the summit could only agree to delay considering a treaty to protect them.

The leaders - meeting in the midst of a record heatwave - called global warming "One of the biggest challenges facing the world in the next century", but only just put together a form of words that prevented negotiations on tackling it from breaking down completely.

Dramatic falls in aid to the Third World which the first Earth Summit in Rio five years ago promised to increase, were at the heart of the breakdown: but proposals to reverse the decline were immediately shot down. And the leaders abandoned an attempt to produce a ringing declaration designed to inspire the world to action.

All this betrays both the genuine agreements at Rio five years ago and the many organisations - including more than two-thirds of Britain's local authorities - who have tried to put them into practice locally.The biggest culprit is the Republican majority in the US Congress which has served repeated notice that it would oppose any progress.

Geoffrey Lean, page 9