Paying for the North's "eco-dumping"

Published: Thursday 31 March 1994

Every country should have, the right to protect its people and environment from the negative actions of foreign countries. Based on this basic principle, the German Minister, Klaus Topfer was right in saying in Agra that he will not allow Third World to dump products that under the environment and called it "eco-dumping .

At present, GATT does not allow a country to restrict imports of products that are harvested or produced in an environmentally harmful manner. But environmentalists will push for this principle to be accepted. However, developing countries, knowing the political power of Northern industry, fear that this will be used more for their economic advantage than for an environmental cause.

The North is mainly responsible for global environmental problems, as it accounts for four-fifths of the world's consumption, resource use and pollution. It has also been the main beneficiary of past and present trade, and has the financial "cushion" to absorb costly adjustments.

Some 57 per cent of the world trade is in manufactured products, mostly emanating from the North, and these products are in one way or another dependent on fossil fuel consumption. The emissions of carbon dioxide are still increasing in the West, thus building up an environmental disaster for the whole world. If even the most modest scientific predictions come true, this may become the cause of unprecedented misery to several hundred millions of innocent, people. But the North refuses to include the cost of cleaning this mess in the pricing of all its exports, making' it clear case of "eco-dumping".

For instance, trade in automobiles - a major polluter and cause of the greenhouse effect - does not take into account the costs of cleaning up the atmosphere. This is a clear case of "eco-dumping". We should, therefore, include the cost of using this atmosphere in the price of German automobiles.

The problem is the power structure that governs global decisions. On the one hand, the North does not internalise its ecological ,costs; on the other, it denies the payment of ecological costs to the South for its exports. The North uses its economic domination to sabotage all attempts to manage commodity agreements to ensure a minimum price for commodities'and include their ecological costs.

Kamal Nath should take this issue to its logical conclusion by commissioning an objective study of the environmental impacts of all products, services and processes exported by both North and South, and focussing the debate on a fair and equitable system of global governance. This is the only way the dubious preachings can be challenged.

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