HOUSTON, JULY 8 -- A report card of the world's seven leading industrialized nations released here today gave the United States a "poor" grade of 41.5 percent in meeting the environmental objectives those nations set at last year's Economic Summit in Paris.
On the eve of this year's summit, the seven countries were graded by a consortium of 150 environmental groups on six key issues ranging from global warming to environmental aid for Eastern Europe. West Germany, which has announced plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent, ranked at the top of the class, with a "good" rating of 65 percent, and Italy was "poorest" with 39 percent. Japan, the United Kingdom and Canada were also rated "poor," while France received a grade of "fair."
But overall, said Jay Hair, president of the National Wildlife Federation, the group of seven nations "failed" to protect the environment. Their actions over the past year, he said, have not lived up to their rhetoric. "If the G-7 were a soccer team and I a sportscaster, I would say the team had a bad season overall," Hair said on the same day that West Germany won soccer's World Cup. "The game plan looked good but the players showed minimal defense and almost no offense."
Each country, in addition to an overall grade, was ranked on a scale of 1 to 10 on the six major issues.
The highest score for the United States was a 6 on the issue of protection of biodiversity. Included in that category were efforts to stop the destruction of the world's rain forests, which are disappearing at the rate of 27 million acres a year, and to diminish the effects of acid rain. The United States has taken a vocal role at the World Bank and elsewhere in discouraging rain forest destruction.
But on the other issues, said James Tripp of the Environmental Defense Fund, the U.S. response over the past year has been weaker. On the concern that Tripp and the consortium considered most pressing, global warming, the United States was given a failing grade of 3.
While other countries, especially West Germany, were moving to reduce carbon dioxide emissions over the next 20 years, the Bush administration, Tripp said, "was not a leader but a hinderer" in that effort.
The scorecard gave the United States its lowest grade, a 2, on population, which has not been discussed at the Economic Summit since the strongly antiabortion Reagan administration took the issue off the agenda in the early 1980s.
On the issues of environmental aid to Eastern Europe and control of ocean pollution, the United States was given scores of 5, while it received a 4 for a category that was called the global environmental bargain, which included actions to ease debts in Third World countries to allow them to improve long-term management of their natural resources. It was in that category that Italy received the lowest score of any country in any category, a 1.
The environmental report cards were among myriad reports, meetings and symbolic actions in Houston this weekend as hundreds of environmentalists and social activists arrived to stage events in the shadows of the Economic Summit.
There are two key counter-conventions. The first-ever Envirosummit met to monitor the environmental actions or inactions of the seven industrial leaders.
A session known as The Other Economic Summit (TOES) has been convening in summit host cities since 1984 to present Third World and other alternatives to the actions of the industrialized nations.
The TOES conference, held at a hotel near the Astrodome after the University of Houston declined at the last minute to serve as host, featured a gathering of representatives from seven developing countries, including Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, leader of Mexico's Democratic Revolutionary Party, who nearly won the Mexican presidency in 1988. Cardenas said that the new trade alliances being formed among the industrialized nations will only lead to more exploitation of Third World countries.
His view was shared by Martin Khor Kok Peng of Malaysia, coordinator of the World Rain Forest Movement. The Malaysian said underdeveloped countries would have their sovereignty to set environmental and health standards preempted by provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) being discussed this year. Where in previous generations Third World countries were colonized through the use of force, he said, they are now being colonized through the use of trade agreements. "Trade is the main weapon today -- more than weapons," he said.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, a keynote speaker at the TOES conference, said the latest GATT proposals setting up international trade rules on agriculture would prove devastating for American farmers. The GATT agreement could cut wheat prices by 44 percent and rice prices by 59 percent, he said.
Hightower said farmers "don't know what GATT means, but they're going to figure out it means 'Gotcha Again!' "