Thank you

Dear Editor,

I’m receiving the hard copy of Our Planet for a couple of years. Every issue is full of information useful to me and to my office. The current issue as always has a fund of information. Mr. Klaus Topfer’s editorial is full of enthusiasm. The story of “Jeevani” from Kerala in my country is of particular interest to me. What a lot of things are there to know and explore still.

The articles by world leaders are all awe-inspiring and touching. I wish the magazine and the team which runs it all the very best in their endeavour. Good luck & Godspeed.

Yours sincerely,
K. Jude Sekar

The Environmental Significance of the Doha Declaration

An agreement to launch new trade negotiations is itself significant for the environment. A failure at Doha would have pummeled the World Trade Organization (WTO) and undermined global governance. The WTO has now recovered from the institutional and political failure that occurred at Seattle in 1999. The trade ministers were undoubtedly inspired by the successful climate change talks concluded in Marrakesh on the opening day of the Doha conference. The Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention made a recovery from the poor negotiating outcomes at The Hague in 2000 and in Bonn in July 2001.

The Doha Ministerial Declaration contains a large amount of language regarding the environment, far more than was predicted a week before the meeting. This language seems to have emanated from bargaining over other issues, but how it got there is less important than what it says.

Basically, there are two key environmental achievements. First, the Declaration designates environment as an agenda item in the new trade round. Second, the ministers are encouraging efforts to promote cooperation between the WTO, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and other international environmental and development organizations. This may set in motion a WTO contribution to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held next September in Johannesburg.

Green negotiations
The agreement to initiate negotiations on the environment in the new round opens the door in the WTO to better integration of trade and environmental objectives. The movement in this direction began at the trade ministerial conference in 1990 when the late Austrian Ambassador Winfried Lang catalyzed an effort to put environment on the agenda of the Uruguay Round. That this goal took over a decade to accomplish is exemplative of the challenges of making global governance more coherent.

The approved areas for negotiation are limited, but perhaps may be expandable as the new trade talks get underway. The governments agreed to negotiate the reduction of trade barriers to the sale of environmental goods and services, and to clarify and improve WTO disciplines as they pertain to fishing subsidies. The governments have also agreed to negotiate the relationship of WTO rules to the trade obligations in environmental treaties, but only the narrow issue of same-party membership in the WTO and the environmental treaty. Moreover, this negotiation must not add to or diminish the rights and obligations now in WTO agreements, so the exercise will be more about clarification than reconciliation.

The Ministers also directed the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE) to make recommendations on other issues that might benefit from negotiation. This responsibility had already been assigned to the CTE in 1994 as part of the carryover from the pre-WTO committee efforts. The fact that the CTE has failed to make policy recommendations over the past seven years does not augur well for its future productivity. The problem, as many analysts have noted, is that the CTE is too narrowly constituted to produce anything that adds value to the debate. The CTE needs the input of environmental officials and civil society. Although the CTE has had the advantage of some very good chairpersons and a high quality staff, it has not been able to overcome its inherent flaw of narrow composition.

This weakness in the current CTE structure will diminish the usefulness of Paragraph 51 of the Doha Declaration which directs the CTE and the Committee on Trade and Development to "act as a forum to identify and debate developmental and environmental aspects of the negotiations, in order to help achieve the objective of having sustainable development appropriately reflected." The fact that the trade ministers recognize that the new round needs such a forum and that negotiators should be working to reflect an environmentally sustainable outcome is a very important step forward for the WTO. The epistemic community working on trade and environment – which includes government officials, UNEP, many nongovernmental organizations in the North and South, a few business groups, and of course the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) – will need to intensify efforts in the next three years to assist the WTO in thinking through the complex interactions.

Institutional cooperation
The Ministers have given a go-ahead for much-needed institutional cooperation between the WTO, UNEP, and other international environmental organizations, especially in the lead-up to the World Summit. Numerous beneficial activities could be undertaken. For example in the Doha Declaration, the Ministers “recognize the importance of technical assistance and capacity building in the field of trade and environment to developing countries, in particular the least-developed among them” (para. 33). Some constructive capacity building has already occurred, most notably by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, UN University, and ICTSD, but the levels delivered are far below what is being sought. The developing countries need assistance in securing new environmental technologies through trade, improving coordination within their own governments, and assessing the benefits of trade liberalization. The need for such capacity building will soon grow as governments and the private s! ector take actions pursuant to the

One possibility in that regard will be the new WTO negotiations on dispute settlement, which are slated to conclude by May 2003. The problem of how the WTO dispute settlement system should deal with environmental disputes is one that has bedeviled the WTO from the beginning. Almost all of the WTO panels hearing environmental or health disputes have availed themselves of scientific expertise, and the most recent decisions have been environmentally sound. But no progress has been made on providing a better interface between WTO dispute procedures and the dispute and arbitration systems that exist in environmental regimes.

In summary, the Doha Declaration provides a new beginning for the trade and environment debate. The trading system now looks at ecological issues in a more mature, less frightened, way that it did in the past. Environmentalists should support the new round and work hard to secure fair outcomes for developing countries.

Article first published in Bridges, Year 5 No. 9, Nov/Dec 2001

Steve Charnovitz practices law at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering in Washington, D.C. He was a founder of the Global Environment & Trade Study, which is co-located at Yale University and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

Solar cookers

I read with interest the article Smoke and Fires on pp. 24-25 of Our Planet, vol. 12 no. 2. I‘m wondering why the author makes no mention of one very promising solution to this problem: solar cooking. Solar cookers are relatively inexpensive, need no fuel, generate no pollution, and can be used for water purification as well as cooking.

I urge you to contact Solar Cookers International at

Rick Davis

Wildfire problem

Dear Ms. Koch-Weser;

Thanks for your fine Our Planet article with Geoffrey Lean on globally organizing to combat species eradication.

After 6 years’ fighting to bring to bear on our wildfire problem one of the most obvious solutions, we readily identify with the challenge in species eradication. Johann Goldammer, of Global Fire Monitoring Centre, once told us it there are structural challnges finding an organizational home for global fire management. Various agencies argue with one another. Nothing gets done.

Although far from a wildfire-fighting organizational solution, removing barriers for mainstay globally competent aircraft (one of only two with this capability) may be getting simpler. Since the uniquely capable and powerful Russian IL-76 aircraft we promote could *only* be manufactured either in the US or Russia, we look to the US for a solution. There, we have accurately identified our nemesis; a herd of goats within the US Forest Service which has purported to act as judge, jury, and executioner.

For information on the controversy, please visit this site: Scroll down to the portion dealing with the aircraft controversy.

Again; thanks to you and Geoffrey Lean for a good solid piece. I think we are getting somewhere. Good luck with your program. Thank God for the Internet.

John Anderson,

Pollution ‘makes you stupid’
Brain at risk from the environment

By environment correspondent Alex Kirby

Pollution and other environmental threats are harming the intelligence of millions of people across the world...

The author, Dr Chris Williams, a social scientist at the Institute of Education, London University, said one problem could compound another, with iron deficiency in children, for example, able to increase their lead uptake.

“We only have single-substance science, which does not account for compounding effects. So the overall scale of the problem is far greater than previously estimated.”

Global review
Dr Williams is a fellow of the Global Environmental Change Programme, a 15m social science initiative of the Economic and Social Research Council. He undertook a global review of science-based research into the impact of environmental factors on intelligence.

One of his most disturbing findings is that epidemiologists have detected a statistically significant increase in the birth of children with Down’s (syndrome).

Dr Williams told BBC News Online: “The big feeling I have about this is in the context of evolution. The human brain is now at risk from its own behaviour, and nothing else in the ecosystem is harming itself in the same way...”

Need for action
The bright people move out, the spiral continues, and you see what can happen to a community. “I’m afraid there’ll be many more underfed, poisoned people in the poor world unless we recognize what is happening.”

The director of the Global Environmental Change Programme, Dr Frans Berkhout, said: “This issue reveals a wider problem that science has when faced with complex and uncertain environmental issues.

“Some of the most difficult environmental challenges are not being adequately addressed simply because of the difficulties of collecting the necessary evidence and establishing cause and effect.”

First time reader

This is the first chance I've had to read your publication, and I must say that I really enjoyed it. In addition to the thorough and very interesting global reporting of waste issues, it is full of great tips for organizations, policy-makers, and individuals. Keep up the good work!

Gail Anderson
Ottowa, Canada.

Thank You

Although I am so far, here in Central America, I want to take advantage of this means of communication to thank you and your workmates for the excellent work you are doing for our planet. Be sure that the magazine is a valuable tool for my work here.
Carlos Vargas, Programme Coordinator, Fair Trade Programme for Mexico, C.A. & the Caribbean.

Memorable quotes

You should have a column for memorable quotes that is permanently visible on your site. One of the most incisive and memorable quotes is this one from Volume 6/1...

"Simply to tell those on the margin of existence not to cut down trees in the forest or not to have children, when they see both as necessary to their survival, is not only insensitive, but downright provocative. We can only help endangered people to help rescue the environment if we link the Earth's salvation to their own."

I find the statement so pertinent that I keep it on my desk at all times. I am an environment management consultant, and it is a good reminder to me that my primary purpose should be the people to help them survive the changing environment, and not the environment in abstract.
Tolu Orekoya, Envir. & Dev. Consultancy Services (EDCS)

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