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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Almanac/Rio Summit

Air Date: Week of

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This week, reporter John Rudolph takes us back ten years to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. After a last minute decision to attend the summit, the elder George Bush received criticism of his environmental agenda.


CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Ten years ago, the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro set much of the agenda for this meeting in South Africa. Reporter John Rudolph went to Rio and I’ve asked him to take us back to 1992 for this week’s Living on Earth Almanac.

RUDOLPH: The Earth Summit showed widening differences between industrialized countries and poor nations over how to solve environmental problems. It also featured the most intense security I’ve ever seen, with one security person on duty for every individual attending the conference, and heavy artillery aimed at the entrance to at least one of Rio’s infamous slum neighborhoods.

As the conference began in early June 1992, Mr. Bush still wouldn’t say if he was coming. Critics said he was trying to undermine the Earth Summit. The President did not support the proposed treaty on biodiversity, and his administration had worked to weaken the proposed climate change treaty designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In the end, President Bush did come to Rio to be part of the largest gathering of world leaders in history, and to defend his environmental record.

BUSH: America’s record on environmental protection is second to none. So I did not come here to apologize. We come to press on with deliberate purpose and forceful action. And such action will demonstrate our continuing commitment to leadership and to international cooperation on the environment.

RUDOLPH: The Earth Summit produced Agenda 21, a broad action plan to promote sustainable development--that is economic development that conserves resources for future generations. The conference also yielded two treaties, one on climate change, which Mr. Bush signed while in Rio, and one on biodiversity, which he continued to oppose.

At the Earth Summit, Mr. Bush’s speech was widely criticized for lacking new ideas and new financial commitments to developing nations. But ten years later that speech is now considered by some environmental activists to have been a call for forceful action. Just before the Johannesburg meeting began this year, the Natural Resources Defense Council issued a press release praising the 1992 speech and calling on President George W. Bush to fulfill his father’s promises at Rio.

That’s this week's Living On Earth Almanac, I’m John Rudolph.



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