Rio promises ring hollow in isles of despair

THE MOST important environmental conference since the Earth Summit in Rio two years ago - and the first test of whether the world's leaders intend to implement the resolutions they agreed there - is heading for failure.

At the Earth Summit the industrialised countries agreed to provide 'new and additional' finance to help Third World countries towards more environmentally friendly development. But here in Barbados, at the first international conference on the world's small island developing states (Sids), they are backing down.

The conference is addressing the future of one-sixth of the Earth's surface: the Sids control more than 30 million square miles of ocean through their exclusive economic zones.

Many of the world's most serious environmental problems are at their worst in Sids. Three- quarters of all known extinctions have occurred on islands.

Their water supplies are fast depleting, their forests are falling and their soils are being eroded. They have become dumping grounds for toxic wastes from overseas, while their fisheries are being depleted by foreign fleets.

Some also face a threat to their very existence from global warming. At least five countries - Tuvalu, Tokelau, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands in the Pacific and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean - could be completely submerged if the sea levels rise.

Only 3 per cent of a diminishing pot of aid is provided to tackle environmental problems.

But the Sids' case is falling on deaf or, in many cases, absent ears. Despite earlier promises, most of the rest of the world has refused to send senior figures to the conference. Then US Vice-President, Al Gore, was due to come, but will not now turn up; and Britain is sending Lord Arran, a junior environment minister. Even the usually sympathetic Nordic countries have clubbed together to send only one minister (from Iceland).

Many Third World countries want the conference to fail, because the Sids compete with them for aid money, and because they want an excuse to blame the rich for the failure of the follow-up to Rio.

'The momentum generated at the Earth Summit is faltering,' according to a report to the conference by 10 'eminent persons', including Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, and Maurice Strong, who ran the Rio meeting. It blames the industrial countries for failing 'to honour the commitments' made two years ago.

Elizabeth Dowdeswell, executive director of the UN environment programme, terms the mood 'post-Rio depression'. And Gus Speth, head of the UN development programme, says: 'The momentum of Rio has rapidly declined. Where are the new and additional resources that were promised?'

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary-General, spoke of the 'fatigue' of rich countries. 'We have too many other problems all over the world - drugs, Aids, so many ethnic wars,' he said. 'This creates a kind of distraction.'

He urged the Sids to get together and 'lobby' to gain attention for their problems. This is already taking place: 18 of their heads of state will meet here this week. They are forming a block at the UN - where they control more than one- fifth of the votes - and are beginning to assert this power.

'Before long there will continually be at least one or two members of the Security Council, who owe their place to the small islands,' said one senior UN official. Annette des Iles, the Trinidad & Tobago ambassador, warns: 'Those who don't take our concerns seriously will be sorry.'

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn