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Rich nations under fire for neglecting environment

The Swiss Environment Agency has called for a more coherent global environmental policy in order to safeguard the world's resources and future economic development.

On World Environment Day, the organisation also criticised G-8 leaders meeting near Lake Geneva this week for failing to tackle environmental issues.

"I would like to see the G-8 nations work in solidarity to address not only the final [consequences of environmental damage], but also the original problems," said Philippe Roch, head of the agency.

Roch told swissinfo that polluters should pay for damage their industry causes to the environment, while production and consumption should become more compatible with the planet's ecological capacity.

Nature has had to evolve and diversify over the millennia in order to survive and globalisation should now do the same if the planet is to survive, he said.

"There will be no economic development in the long-term if we do not develop a coherent environmental policy."

Globalisation fallout

War, migration, poverty and environmental damage are the result of an imbalanced globalisation policy, Roch maintains.

Almost two billion people lack access to clean water, fuelling poverty and violent conflicts.

Continued desertification is depriving entire populations of any hope of development and is wreaking havoc on the environment.

The agency estimates that around 10 million hectares of irrigated land are being abandoned each year, leaving millions without a livelihood and food.

Targets

The agency has set out key areas needed to bring economic development in line with the environment.

Roch explained that the main goal being pursued by Switzerland was for the World Trade Organization to define, by the end of 2004, the relationship between trade regulations and multilateral environmental agreements.

Conventions regarding chemicals needed to be adopted, while implementation of the Kyoto Protocol would slow down climate change and conserve biodiversity, Roch said.

Water

Water is another factor central to the environment and the global economy - be it in agriculture or industry.

The dwindling natural resource has been given political priority this year, which has been designated as the United Nations International Year of Fresh Water.

"Ecosystems that naturally capture, filter, store and release water, such as forests, wetlands and well-managed soils [should be protected]", Roch pointed out.

If not, the impact on not just on the environment but also the global economy will be catastrophic, the agency warns.

swissinfo, Samantha Tonkin


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