Johannesburg, Sept. 2 (Reuters): A dispute between Europeans and Americans today over curbing the use of oil held up a deal at the Earth Summit as world leaders urged support for the grand UN action plan to end poverty and save the planet.
A parade of heads of state and government took to the podium in Johannesburg to support its lofty goals, urged on by children who demanded an end to international bickering and chided them for breaking the promises they made to future generations at the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro 10 years ago.
“Too many adults are too interested in money and wealth to take notice of serious problems that affect our future,” said 11-year-old Justin Friesen from Canada, standing next to UN secretary-general Kofi Annan on the podium before the leaders.
But the reality of human conflict was everywhere in view.
Behind closed doors, officials from the United States and Opec oil exporters stonewalled efforts by the European Union and some developing countries for a firm global target for switching away from oil and other climate-warming fossil fuels toward “green” renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
In the main hall Third World leaders blasted greed among the rich nations as tensions over Iraq and Zimbabwe crackled.
In downtown Johannesburg, police turned water cannon on about 100 pro-Palestinian protesters outside a venue where Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres was due to speak.
The energy issue was the main remaining hurdle to agreeing a plan tackling a host of threats to mankind, from pollution and poverty to AIDS and the extinction of plant and animal species.
Sceptics say its vast ambition deprives it of meaning, especially as the United States has resisted what it sees as empty symbolism in setting targets for such sweeping goals and argues that, as after Rio, many nations will simply ignore them.