Gore adviser proposes global environmental watchdog
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A top adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore proposed creating a new global environmental organization to protect wildlife and address concerns about the impact of trade on natural resources.
Outlined Monday by Gore economic policy adviser Laura Tyson, the organization would provide nations with a permanent forum similar to the World Trade Organization (WTO) or the International Labor Organization (ILO) to tackle cross-border disputes that affect the health of forests, oceans and endangered species.
"You wouldn't expect the WTO to really be the right forum. So the argument is a simple one, which is, if this pattern of multilateral environmental agreements is going to continue, which I think it will, then you are going to see a sensible development of an institution which allows (environmental negotiations) to be done on more of a standing, regular basis," said Tyson, who now serves as the dean of the business school at the University of California, Berkeley.
The proposal could prove popular with U.S. environmental groups, a key constituency in the November election, and help blunt charges that the free trade policies of President Clinton and Al Gore threaten forests, oceans and endangered species.
The Democratic candidate has used environmental issues as a club against his Republican rival, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who Gore claims has reigned over one of the nation's most polluted states. In 1991, Gore wrote the bestseller, "Earth in the Balance," a call to arms to protect the air, water and land.
But Tyson's proposal could spark a backlash from politically powerful business groups and meet with stiff opposition from Republicans in the U.S. Congress, who see environmental regulation and international accords like the Kyoto Agreement on greenhouse-gas emissions as a threat to opening markets and increasing trade around the globe.
Tyson, who has chaired the White House Council of Economic Advisors, said the proposed environmental organization was one of several under consideration by the Gore campaign. Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway said he has yet to review the proposal, but could not rule it out. "(Gore) certainly wants to work at a national and international scale," Hattaway said.
During a briefing at the Democratic National Convention,
Tyson provided few details about the proposal, such as whether sanctions could be imposed on nations found to be in violation of the body's environmental rules.
The Sierra Club said it welcomed any proposal that would "address the growing conflict between trade and the environment," but wanted to see the specifics.
"There's always the chance that a new organization would simply deflect a lot of energy without producing results," said Daniel Seligman, director of the Sierra Club's Responsible Trade Program.
Environmental groups have long complained that the WTO speeds the destruction of the world's forests and other resources by pressing its member nations to throw open their markets to increased trade.
In response, the White House has proposed new rules that call for U.S. trade officials to review how proposed market-opening agreements would impact the environment. But many environmental groups said the rules did not go far enough.
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