PAUL WILENIUS: Anti-globalisation protesters
attack a symbol of capitalism during last summer's riots. Western police
forces are braced for another long hot summer of clashes this year as world
leaders gather for the Earth Summit in South Africa and the World Economic
Summit in Canada, under pressure to do less for big corporations and more
for the environment and the poor.
The government wants to be seen to be green by supporting measures which
protect the environment and help the poorest countries. However, campaigners
say this will never succeed unless the government is prepared to take on
big global business.
The first Earth Summit in Rio ten years ago appeared to forge agreements
to save the planet and map out a better future for developing countries.
Although Britain has just signed up to the Kyoto Treaty aimed at cutting
greenhouse gas emissions, campaigners say it means nothing while the Americans
remain outside it. Environment Ministers are off to Bali this week to pave
the way for the second Earth Summit in Johannesburg, but environmentalists
are pessimistic about its chances of success.
ZAC GOLDSMITH: The Earth Summit was the
biggest ever meeting of world leaders to deal with the environmental crisis
ten years ago and everyone, I can safely say that everyone's hopes were
huge at that time, they thought the problem was going to be solved. Actually
what's happened is that none of the goals set at the World Summit have
been met, on the contrary the environment is in a worse condition, more
people are living in poverty and so on and so it has been a failure.
TONY JUNIPER: We've seen a shift in political
and diplomatic commitment after Rio away from global sustainable development
treaties towards the promotion of trade liberalisation and global economic
deregulation and that's where this summit in Johannesburg is going to have
its biggest test. Are the governments turning up there going to recommit
to the sustainable development priority that they said they signed up to
in Rio de Janeiro or are they going to continue with the process of corporate
globalisation which is doing so much damage across the globe.
WILENIUS: There appears to be as
much environmental damage and global poverty now, as there was then in
Rio, but activists are more prepared to take on big business to help clean
up the planet.
Environmental protesters are running a campaign to stop Esso - owned by
the US oil giant Exxon - as they blame it for helping to torpedo the Kyoto
global warming treaty. They say voluntary rules to try to control the actions
of such big global corporations are not strong enough. For them, the only
way to stop such protests is for the next Earth Summit to come up with
a tough, legally binding agreement to put the environment before trade.
Protesters have been blockading Esso forecourts, backed by stars from
Jonathan Creek and Absolutely Fabulous, to try to hit the company's sales.
STEPHANIE TUNMORE: 'Stop Esso' recently had a day
of action in the UK where they picketed four-hundred petrol stations in
the UK and the campaign has also gone global, we have 'Stop Esso' campaigns
now in Canada and in the USA and recently in Germany. For a long time people
have been angry and upset about climate change, but it's a very complex
issue, it's very difficult to point at somebody and say it's your fault.
Having pointed out what Esso is doing, their role in this, it's given the
customer a choice, it's given them something to do, it's given them someone
to blame and we are getting a lot of support from customers.
PAUL MERCER: There is a tendency to believe
boycott campaigns are relatively unsophisticated but in reality they're
run by very professional campaigners, they pick out very limited objectives
that they know the companies can agree to without having to suffer too
great a loss, and what they aim for because markets are very competitive
these days is only a few percentage change in sales, because they know
that will force the company into backing down and agreeing to their demands.
WILENIUS: Despite the protests,
there's little sign of Esso backing down. The company's defiant, bluntly
refuting the accusations levelled at it by the campaigners that is doesn't
care about the environment.
GORDON SAWYER: The charge that somehow we determined
the US Government's decision to withdraw from the Kyoto protocol is frankly
rubbish. Anyone who knows our company knows that we operate to the highest
ethical standards wherever we are in the world. Of course we take the issue
of climate change seriously and we're taking action in our company. We
are taking actions to improve energy efficiency in everything that we do
today and we are also investing in energy solutions for tomorrow.
WILENIUS: The nerve centre of the
'Stop Esso' campaign is inside the London HQ of Greenpeace, but it's also
backed by the Friends of the Earth. These groups want legally binding corporate
accountability rules from the forthcoming Earth Summit, to force global
companies to behave better. They want big fines to give them real teeth
as they feel the existing voluntary controls have failed.
GOLDSMITH: There's no sign yet that voluntary
methods have worked and this was first proposed during Rio by Bush Senior
who promised that America would voluntarily reduce, cut its greenhouse
emissions to nineteen-ninety levels by the year two-thousand. In fact
by the year two-thousand emissions had increased by twenty per cent.
JUNIPER: The Bali agenda and the
Johannesburg agenda will be dominated by calls for voluntary agreements,
for partnership arrangements but what is actually needed is some really
tight regulatory frameworks which can start bringing some of the errant
players in the sustainable developments sphere back to the table in a way
where they're going to start behaving in a, in a way which is more aligned
with some of the treaties and speeches of politicians.
RUTH LEA: I don't think the way
forward is to have these international agreements being forced on global
companies because at the end of the day what is that saying? It's saying
that for the, particular national governments, they cannot decide what
sort of relationship they want with particular global companies. In other
words it's stripping away national sovereignty from national governments.
WILENIUS: For the campaigners running
the Esso boycott the fate of the planet is much more important than the
sovereignty of national governments. For them, Western governments must
move in the direction of putting the environment before trade.
JUNIPER: It seems quite logical
to us given the way in which the globalisation experiment is harming the
environment that there needs to be a clear political statement that the
environmental rules take precedence over the trade rules. We're very, very
far from that being the case but again this is one of the jobs that the
governments have to do in Johannesburg is to rebalance the international
machinery so that the environment does get a chance.
WILENIUS: A coffee bar in the Bluewater
shopping mall in Kent seems an unlikely place to find a trade battleground.
Yet the fair trade coffee on sale here is part of a growing campaign to
persuade environmentally concerned consumers to pay a little more for goods
from Third World producers.
The choice for many coffee drinkers is between a cafe latte and capuccino,
but many environmentalists prefer coffee from a fair trade producers.
Indeed, they feel it helps poorer countries to develop, by buying agricultural
products from companies that care for the environment and their workers.
They also accuse Western governments of hypocrisy, for insisting that Third
World governments open up their markets, while spending billions supporting
their own agriculture.
A new batch of coffee arrives at the Cafe Direct plant. The slightly higher
prices for the coffee, is used to give producers who respect the environment
and their workers more cash. Yet there's no sign the West is ready to scrap
tariff barriers or even cut the huge subsidies given to its own producers.
Some campaigners believe it's better to help small farms rather than encourage
large scale production.
GOLDSMITH: Eighty per cent of all malnourished
children in the world today actually live in countries whose agriculture
has already been geared towards export exactly as they were told to by
the world bank and the IMF. So it's not helping alleviate poverty, what's
happening is that environments are being degraded across the board by bad
agriculture, we're seeing countries plunged into debt in order to keep
this, this lunatic economic system going.
LEA: Companies are for
good, trade is for good, economic growth is for good, wealth creation is
for good. And if you compare say countries in South-east Asia, countries
like South Korea or Thailand or whatever, how did they grow out of poverty?
They grew out by trade.
WILENIUS: Despite the contribution
made by companies like Cafe Direct this can only have a limited impact
as campaigners say the global food market is rigged to favour the rich
countries. Farmers can produce cheap food and then send it out to undercut
Third World producers, because they've been given huge subsidies by their
own governments, in Europe and America.
JOHN CRYER MP: We keep hearing time and
time again that the Common Agriculture Policy is going to be tackled not
just by the British government but by the other governments in Western
Europe and it simply never happens, it just carries on - that's deeply
damaging to the developing world because we keep dumping this cheap food
on the Third World.
LEA: And the problem with
all this protectionism is that it keeps out developing countries food exports
to the developed world and of course it's through exports, it's through
free trade in those particular products that should enable some of these
developing countries to grow and grow out of poverty.
WILENIUS: Campaigners say the problem
for Western governments is they are inextricably linked to big global corporations.
So many protest groups have decided the only thing these companies and
governments listen to is direct action. Now there's a growing threat of
more mass demonstrations here in Westminster and consumer boycotts.
MERCER: The reason direct political
action is growing is because of a perception that large corporations are
now more powerful than a lot of national governments and that one can't
effect or increasingly one can't effect political change by campaigning
within party political structures, one actually has to then target those
corporations and that's the reason for the growth and the more that people
perceive these corporations to be all powerful then the more that they're
going to get targeted.
WILENIUS: But the first step for
many is to try to persuade politicians to do more to help the environment
and promote sustainable development. Both young and old campaigners are
preparing for what is expected to one of the biggest ever lobbies of Parliament
on June the nineteenth. Tens of thousands are expected to call for a fair
JUNIPER: We're hoping that thousands
of people will turn out to the Houses of Parliament to bring to their MPs
attention a set of concerns that are rarely debated in the democratic institutions
in this country and that is about the assumption that free trade will end
poverty, that free trade will protect the environment and that a deregulatory
approach on the global economic stage is the right way forward.
WILENIUS: Protesters limber up
for the big day with a dance in Leeds. The environmental campaigners are
all joining forces to demand changes to the world trading system and more
action to save the planet. But there are fears this government may not
be truly, madly, deeply committed to green policies and helping the poorest
countries in the face of the might of the global corporations.
CRYER: The idea that globalisation
is sort of a fact and you can't do anything about it, it leads to this,
it leads to, to a feeling amongst Ministers I suspect that you can only
kind of, play around at the margins, you can't do anything fundamental
and you can.
WILENIUS: Tony Blair's government
will need to do a lot more to convince campaigners that it's serious about
green issues and helping the Third World. Although the minority of violent
protesters might be contained by the police, it could be a lot more difficult
to extinguish the passion of those battling for the future of our world.