Chirac calls for new UN environment body

5th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 3, 2007 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac led calls on Saturday for a powerful new UN environment agency and for a safe and protected environment to be enshrined as a fundamental human right.

PARIS, Feb 3, 2007 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac led calls on Saturday for a powerful new UN environment agency and for a safe and protected environment to be enshrined as a fundamental human right.

Speaking at a conference here a day after a panel of UN experts issued their bluntest warning yet over global warming, Chirac said the proposal to replace the existing UN Environment Programme (UNEP) had the support of 46 countries.

"We call for the transformation of the UNEP into a genuine international organisation to which all countries belong, along the lines of the World Health Organisation," Chirac said.

However his call for a fully-fledged UN agency has not received unanimous backing, with opponents including the United States, the world's biggest polluter, Russia and the world's top three emerging economies: China, India and Brazil.

Russia had reservations about the creation of such an agency, Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov told the Itar-Tass news agency.

"Russia has certain doubts about the timeliness of such a step," he said.

"At the moment the UNEP makes it possible to resolve the tasks in this area," said Denisov, who attended the Paris conference, though he agreed it should be reorganised so it could better "correspond to the demands of today."

Even many non-governmental organisations question whether another expensive supranational body is the answer to the world's problems.

"This UN agency for the environment will be a strong and recognised voice in the world," said Chirac, who is widely expected to leave office after 12 years as president following elections in May.

"It will be an instrument for evaluating ecological damage and how to remedy it ... for promoting those technologies and behaviour patterns most respectful of eco-systems ... and for supporting the implementation of environmental decisions across the planet," he said.

The Nairobi-based UNEP was set up in 1972 to promote environmental protection. But Chirac shares the belief of many experts that its capacities are insufficient to cope with the growing problems linked to global warming and habitat destruction.

Chirac also called on Saturday for a new "universal declaration of environmental rights and obligations" in order to guarantee "a new human right -- the right to a safe and protected environment."

He said the first meeting of a pioneer group of 46 nations pushing for a UN environmental agency would take place in Morocco.

The 46 include most countries in Europe and north Africa, Latin American states such as Chile and Ecuador, as well as some of the world's poorest nations like Burkina Faso and Cambodia.

The two-day "Citizens of the Earth" meeting was attended by some 200 degates and was timed to coincide with the meeting in Paris of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- the UN's paramount scientific authority on global warming -- which on Friday delivered a stark assessment about the reality of climate change.

In its first report in six years, the IPCC said global warming was almost certainly caused by humans and that carbon pollution disgorged this century could disrupt the climate system for 1,000 years to come.

Washington has also argued that measures to lower emissions of greenhouse gases, blamed for global warming, should not come at the expense of economic growth.

But delegates at Saturday's conference tried to find a middle way.

Jeremy Rifkin, economist and former adviser to former US president Bill Clinton, said that society has to find ways to produce and consume differently -- an "industrial revolution" to arrive at a "post-carbon" era, he called it.

He argued that there were other ways than gross domestic product (GDP) to measure the strength of economy, such as quality of life.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Jacques Chirac, UN, Environment

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