BANFF, Alberta - With new global policies emerging to help poor nations develop, environment ministers of the world's industrial powers met Saturday to plot how to make environmental concerns a major component of those efforts.
The meeting — called the first by G-8 environment ministers to discuss 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 decide policies for 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 his 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."
He encouraged the environment ministers to work closely with their countries' ministers of trade, finance and international development, as well as international institutions, saying such cooperation is needed to ensure environmental concerns get attention.
Other issues on the agenda include linking environmental and health policies, with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd-Whitman leading the discussion planned for Sunday.
Noting 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 on economic and environmental issues in developing countries.
"Those all have enormous impact on the ability of developing countries to sustain a vibrant economy," she told journalists. "We all feel it's important to have some kind of framework to understand are we improving the environment. That's what's behind all of this, is improving the environment."
While not on the formal agenda, the Kyoto Protocol on limiting greenhouse gas emissions clearly was on the minds of ministers as an example of a global environmental agreement rocked by political considerations.
U.S. President Bush's administration has rejected the 1997 protocol that was signed by the Clinton administration and is supported by most of the G-8 countries. Bush says Kyoto's limits on emissions from energy production and other industries would harm the U.S. economy, and he has proposed an incentive-driven program intended to induce voluntary reductions.
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.
Margaret Beckett, the British secretary of state for the department for environment, food and rural affairs, urged Canada to ratify Kyoto and even managed praise for Bush for recognizing the climate change problem by proposing his U.S. domestic program.
"It is absolutely the view it is very important they have come this far in announcing these measures," she said. When asked how to encourage further U.S. progress, she responded: "Not by shouting at one another."
Margot Wallstrom, the European Commission environment minister, argued Kyoto must be part of the discussion because "you cannot look away from the fact that climate change is an outstanding example of an unsustainable development."
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