“The Bush administration won this ballgame 44-0.” That was how Brandon MacGillis, a spokesperson for the Washington, D.C.-based National Environmental Trust, summed up the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which wraps up today in Johannesburg, South Africa. Like MacGillis, many greens saw the 10-day conference as a step backward or, at best, a stalemate, with human rights and environmental organizations fighting to prevent governments from weakening existing international agreements. One triumph, however, did occur during the final hours of the summit: Russia confirmed that it would ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change in the near future, a step that would bring the treaty into effect for the 80-plus countries that have signed on. The U.S. does not number among those nations — which is one reason why Secretary of State Colin Powell, who led the U.S. delegation in Johannesburg, was booed and heckled incessantly during a five-minute speech he gave at the summit today. Unfazed, Powell said he was confident that the hecklers did not represent the majority opinion, and he defended his country’s much-maligned resistance to establishing target dates for meeting the summit’s goals by saying that concrete actions were more important than paper agreements.
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