Brussels, 18 February 2005 - Europe's largest network of environmental groups today warns that trans-Atlantic relations cannot improve unless the United States takes environmental issues and citizens' rights more seriously, and drops its corporate-led foreign policies. Ahead of President Bush's visit to Europe, Friends of the Earth is particularly scathing of the US's lack of action on climate change and its blatant attempt, via the World Trade Organisation, to force-feed the world genetically modified (GM) foods.
Martin Rocholl, Director of Friends of the Earth Europe said: "President Bush should act as an ambassador for the American people, not as the Ambassador for the Exxon, Monsanto and other US corporations who are putting private interests above all else. The Bush administration must join the fight against climate change. It must also respect peoples' right not to eat genetically modified food.
"Trans-Atlantic relations cannot hope to improve unless Bush starts to take these issues seriously. We call on EU leaders during the visit to flex their diplomatic muscles and make clear to the US administration that the status quo is not acceptable."
The planet faces an unprecedented threat from rising temperatures caused by the burning of fossils fuels. Last Wednesday the Kyoto climate treaty came into force, containing legally binding targets for most industrialised countries to cut emissions. The US is the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, yet has refused to accept the Kyoto agreement. Bush's plan to reduce "carbon intensity" by 18% over the next ten years means absolute emissions will continue to rise, and the USD 5.8 billion Bush has earmarked for action on climate change is mostly meant for developing technologies of the distant future, such as carbon sequestration. Friends of the Earth believes this is a smoke screen to protect US fossil fuel businesses. Instead, the US should begin to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions, e.g. by drastically increasing the use of readily renewable energies.
2. GM Trade War
In 2003 the United States launched a trade complaint in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against Europe's more precautionary stance on genetically modified foods. The complaint enters a new phase on Monday (21 Feb) as officials of the EU and US meet in secret In Geneva to argue their case for the last time. A ruling is expected for summer 2004. If the WTO rules in favour of Bush, Europe will have to weaken its rules in favour of biotech industry at the expense of people's health and the environment or Europe will face financial penalties. FoEE is call ing on Bush to withdraw the case at the WTO.