Clinton's Kyoto Conference Aide Says, ‘Africa Is Underpolluted’


Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Dec. 25, 1997
issue of Workers World newspaper

By Brian Becker

Third World countries "are under-polluted." That’s what Lawrence Summers wrote in a 1991 internal memorandum when he was the chief economist of the World Bank.

Despite its name, the World Bank—headquartered in Washington—is a tool of the White House and Wall Street.

Did its chief economist really complain that Africa was "under-polluted"? Yes he did. And today Summers is a key presidential advisor on environmental issues.

"Health-impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the countries with the lowest wages," Summers wrote confidentially to his fellow bankers and economists at the World Bank who quietly determine the fate of hundreds of millions of workers.

"Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the [Third World]?" Summers wrote.

He posed this argument: If toxic waste or pollutants cause cancer in later life, why not send that material to countries where people don’t live so long?

"The economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that," Summers wrote to his banking colleagues in 1991.

When his racist view that Africa, Asia and Latin America should be garbage dumps for the United States and other major capitalist countries became publicly known, did this person’s career crash?

Quite the contrary. In 1993 President Bill Clinton appointed Summers deputy secretary of the treasury.

Summers at Kyoto conference

At the Kyoto, Japan, conference on global warming that closed Dec. 10, Summers was a principal advisor helping to formulate U.S. strategy.

In Kyoto the Clinton plan was unveiled. The "pollution credit" proposal would allow rich countries and corporations to buy and sell the "right" to pollute.

The plan’s details are not fully known. But the proposal brought an angry uproar from China, India and other developing countries.

These countries assert that the "pollution credit" would allow U.S. corporations, for instance, to buy their way out of commitments to reduce carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and the other greenhouse gases that are dramatically increasing world temperatures.

Meanwhile, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund continue to promote lending policies that bring Third World economies under the domination of U.S. and other imperialist banks. In south Korea, for instance, the World Bank and IMF insist that hundreds of thousands of Korean workers be laid off so the country can continue to pay its debts to Lawrence Summers’ banker friends.

Outrage at the Kyoto conference prevented the "pollution credit" from being fully adopted. But the issue is not dead.

The U.S. delegation did accept a mild proposal to reduce emissions of the five greenhouse gases. They have risen by 8 percent in the last seven years.

Modest as it is, the U.S. Senate may not ratify the global warming treaty that came out of Kyoto. Before the Kyoto conference the Senate voted 95-0 to derail any treaty unless the Third World and developing countries shoulder a significant portion of the emissions restrictions.

U.S. industry accounts for one-quarter of all the greenhouse gas emissions in the world—far more than any other country.

Fifty key Senators who all sit on the three energy committees in the Senate have recently received over $11.7 million in donations from U.S. oil and gas corporations.

Behind the senators, behind the new breed of "pollution intellectuals" like Lawrence Summers, stand the captains of Big Banking and Big Oil. Ending their power is the ultimate answer to cleaning up the environment and assuring that the planet is habitable for future generations.

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