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'Action' needed at Earth summit

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Sweden has been a frontrunner in environmental issues since the 1970s  

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Environmentalists have urged participants in the Earth Summit to focus on concrete targets when they meet in Johannesburg in August.

About 250 scientists, government officials joined environmentalists in Stockholm this week to mark 30 years since 114 nations agreed on a common duty to protect the global environment.

The participants gave a Viking helmet to Swedish Environment Minister Kjell Larsson and urged him to take some "Viking spirit" to the Johannesburg summit.

"When you meet in Johannesburg... keep in mind it is your children and their children that will suffer if action is not taken now," Afifa Raihana, president of Bangladeshi environment youth organisation STEP, told the conference.

Businesses and countries move to help environment 

The Johannesburg meeting has already been criticised after a preparatory meeting in Bali, Indonesia failed to produce a draft text.

Larsson said he expected finance and trade issues to cause the biggest disputes in Johannesburg, Reuters news agency reported.

He said in Bali there was a logical demand from the developing countries' group, the G77, for the U.S. to open up its markets for their products.

"The European Union is not a saint in this area," Larsson said, but he added that the odds of the EU and the G77 countries striking agreement on trade issues were much higher than the U.S. finding a common note with the poorest nations.

Director of U.S. renewable energy provider Green Mountain Energy, Dianne Dillonridgley, urged the meeting to bring sustainable development into the international spotlight.

"The real story of the Johannesburg Summit is not about the text at all. It is to draw the attention of people and sectors who haven't looked at sustainable development," she said.

Sweden has for decades been a world leader in environmental issues, holding the world's first conference on the global environment in Stockholm in 1972.

"During the last 30 years, 15 developing countries have halved the number of citizens living in extreme poverty," Sweden's development co-operation Minister Jan Karlsson said in the draft text of his speech on Tuesday.

"Never ever have so many people left poverty behind as during these decades. But we can do more and we have to do it faster," Karlsson said.


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