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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Earth Summit Leaders Struggle for Consensus

UNITED NATIONS -- Representatives of 170 nations -- big polluters and tiny islands, oil sheikdoms and poor African states -- haggled into the small hours Friday morning to try to produce consensus documents for the UN Earth Summit's conclusion.


Negotiators, resuming talks in late morning, still had not agreed on final wording in such key areas as global warming, forests and foreign aid. The summit's final day looked like it would be a long one.


The weeklong conference was convened to revive the "spirit of Rio'' -- the historic 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.


But many of Rio's lofty environmental and development goals were eclipsed by 1997's hard political realities.


On foreign aid, for example, most industrial nations pledged at Rio to sharply boost assistance to developing nations. But aid levels have dropped.


"The decisions of Rio remain empty slogans,'' the delegate from the poor African nation of Sudan, Elfatih Mohamed Ahmed Erwa, complained in his speech to Thursday's main summit session.


"Official assistance, the backbone of development in Africa, has declined or is absent altogether,'' he said.


But summit negotiators were making little progress toward strengthening aid commitments here.


Many delegates were also disappointed that U.S. President Bill Clinton, in his speech Thursday, did not offer a specific plan for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions -- blamed for global warming -- as the European Union has done.


But environmentalists were at the same time heartened that Clinton dwelled at length on the potentially devastating impact of global warming, and that he promised a "strong commitment'' to emissions reductions.


"It was far and away the strongest statement by any [U.S.] president that global warming is a serious problem,'' said Richard Mott of the World Wildlife Fund-U.S.


Combating global warming was a fundamental goal of the Earth Summit in Rio.