FINANCING: Money dominates the issues, with developing countries angry about the industrialized world's broken promise to give them 0.7% of the rich nations' GDP to help with development. In fact, the rich nations are giving less now than they did before Rio.

WATER: The pollution and scarcity of fresh water are issues that have been given "highest priority" by governments planning the meeting. The UN says two-thirds of humanity will lack clean fresh water by 2027 unless action is taken.

TOXIC WASTES: Poisonous chemicals and radioactive waste continue to menace the environment, and millions of tons of toxic and hazardous wastes cross international borders each year. Among the issues being discussed is whether radioactive wastes should be stored in the country in which they are generated.

OCEANS & FISHING: The Food and Agricultural Organization says 70% of commercial fisheries are overfished or depleted. The draft document for the meeting says governments urgently need to prevent or eliminate overfishing, excess fishing capacity and wasteful practices.

FORESTS: Participating countries have left unresolved whether to pursue a legally-binding agreement on forests, or to continue talking. Countries like Canada, Malaysia and Russia, which have large forest reserves, want a legal agreement. Brazil wants to consider the question later, while the U.S. opposes an agreement. Most environmental groups are also opposed, since they say the years of negotiation required would delay action needed now.

CLIMATE CHANGE: Burning coal and oil releases carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases" which help trap heat around the Earth, raising global temperatures. The European Union has proposed a 15% reduction in emissions below 1990 levels by the year 2010. Small island states, which obviously have more at stake, want a much higher reduction.

ENERGY: The European Union has proposed the adoption of energy prices that better reflect economic and environmental costs and benefits. It also would like to reduce and gradually eliminate subsidies for energy, but the U.S. and developing countries oppose this.

(Source: United Nations)


[Critical Issues]