BANFF, Alberta (AP) - With new global policies emerging to help poor nations develop, environment ministers of the world's industrial powers met Saturday to discuss how to make environmental concerns a major component of those efforts.
The meeting — called the first by G-8 environment ministers on links between environmental and development issues — is a prelude to the G-8 summit in nearby Kananaskis, Alberta, in June and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa in August.
Canadian environment minister David Anderson said the goal is to make sure G-8 leaders consider environmental issues when they make decisions on reducing poverty, improving global health and other aspects of sustainable development at those meetings.
"We need to better understand issues which are driving the international agenda and demonstrate the relevance of environmental objectives," Anderson told colleagues from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia. Representatives from the European Union and the U.N. Environment Program also attended.
Anderson cited the "growing focus on trade, international financing, aid effectiveness, and private sector investment as the engines of economic growth needed to address poverty reduction, which is now seen as the key to sustainable development."
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd-Whitman noted that bad water kills 2 million children a year and airborne diseases kill another 3 million. She called Saturday for making children's health an indicator of progress in developing countries.
Background papers for the meeting urge the G-8 ministers to set an example for the developing world by following through on environmental policies and commitments they make.
Such wording is meant to send a message to the Bush administration, which has rejected the Kyoto Protocol — an 1997 agreement to limit pollution that was signed by the Clinton administration and is supported by most of the other G-8 countries.
Bush says the Kyoto limits on emissions from energy production and other industries would harm the U.S. economy. He has proposed an incentive-driven program intended to induce voluntary reductions in U.S. industries.
Canada, which once fully supported ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, now is wavering due to energy industry concerns that Canadian companies would face a disadvantage against U.S. competitors.
Benedict Southworth, the Greenpeace international climate change director, argued the Kyoto Protocol represented an opportunity to reduce dependence on traditional energy sources.
"The economy won't collapse overnight," he said. "If the United States was to bring its force to bear on renewable energy, it would lead the world. Now's the time for other countries to get the jump."
He criticized the G-8 ministers for leaving specific mention of the Kyoto Protocol off the formal agenda, though climate change was to be discussed Sunday.
The ministers are riding natural-gas powered buses, eating mostly organic food and getting gifts of recycled materials this weekend. Anderson said they want to infuse such thinking in new development policies.
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