Letter: Whitehall ignores Rio summit findings on ocean pollution

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The Independent Online
Sir: Having heard reports of the attempts of the UK delegation to scuttle a resolution on the protection of the oceans at the meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Kyoto, I was dismayed to read John Gummer's letter (15 May). He calls on Norway to work with the international community on environmental issues and attempts, by a selective portrayal of the situation within the IWC, to juxtapose Norway's legitimate position on the sustainable use of whales with prime minister Gro Harlem Bruntland's renowned leadership in international protection of the environment.

In Kyoto, the UK asked Norway to withdraw a draft resolution of the Nordic countries seeking to draw attention to the problems of marine pollution. The Whitehall view was that such problems were being dealt with adequately in other forums. This assertion flies in the face of the conclusions of the Rio Conference on Environment and Development, where the serious threats of land- based pollution are identified and

it is acknowledged that there is

no global scheme to address such pollution.

Moreover, the statement served as a reminder of the UK role in preventing agreement among the European nations on a permanent ban on dumping of radioactive wastes at sea. At Kyoto, the fear of having to vote against the Nordic proposal, thereby exposing the inconsistencies in the UK environmental policy, apparently caused Mr Gummer's delegation to join in the consensus. Could it be that Mr Gummer's service to the environment is confined to cost-free public statements?

Those countries whose very survival depends on a healthy marine environment can only hope that Mr Gummer will respond to the call

of the IWC and work to remove the notorious threats to the oceans that fall within the jurisdiction of his government.

Yours faithfully,


Minister of Foreign Affairs

Reykjavik, Iceland

17 May