'Green' technology initiative attacked

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Development agencies reacted angrily to plans unveiled by John Major yesterday to help protect the planet by improving access by developing countries to British environmental technology, writes Susan Watts.

The Prime Minister told the Global Technology Partnership conference in Birmingham: 'The world market for environmental goods and services is at about dollars 200bn a year. It is anticipated to grow by a further 50 per cent in the next seven years. That is a prospect few businesses will wish to ignore.'

But development groups complained that Mr Major treated the event as a trade show, rather than an opportunity to help developing nations pursue plans for sustainable growth. 'It (the speech) misses the mark in a quite spectacular manner,' Frank Almond, chief executive of Intermediate Technology, a development agency, said.

Mr Major said the initiative aimed 'to allow those who are industrialising newly today to bypass old technologies and to move straight to cleaner processes.' Development groups say there seems to have been too little emphasis on asking developing countries what they need, and too much on shipping out existing UK technology. There had been no apparent attempt to look at what was affordable or appropriate to developing nations, Mr Almond said.

The initiative includes a new guide listing more than 400 UK companies who can offer technology or expertise, and a training scheme in new technology for senior business executives from developing countries.