The conference was set up to reach an international agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. It is now widely accepted that there are climatic changes taking place and that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane contribute to the global warming process.
It ought to be possible for humanity at the end of the twentieth century to find ways and means of cutting back polluting emissions and to use the technology available in the advanced industrial countries to address the problem.
But this is a world dominated by capitalism in which the processes that create greenhouse gases are exceedingly profitable for a wealthy and powerful minority. The problem is not just technical -- it is largely an economic and political matter.
The wealthy industrialised countries are the greatest producers of pollution and greenhouse gasses. The United States is the biggest polluter of all. These countries should be the ones giving the most and making the biggest contribution to cleaning up the environment.
But the US and other western governments have already demonstrated to the world who they really represent. The war against Iraq was a war for US control over a major oil-producing region. The foreign and military policies of the US, Britain and the other leading capitalist powers are shaped by the demands of big oil, big banks, huge energy companies, transnational and multinational companies.
We should not then be surprised that the representatives of these powers in Kyoto spent their time struggling to keep the proposed cuts in greenhouse emissions to a minimum as far as their own countries were concerned.
Even the modest cutbacks that were agreed -- seven per cent reduction on 1990 levels for the US -- seem likely to be offset by a tricky pollution points trading scheme promoted by none other than the US.
Furthermore, it is expected that the oil, coal and steel-producing lobbies in the US are fully prepared to step up the pressure on Washington to reduce the Kyoto conference into, quite literally, just so much hot air -- the US Congress and Senate have still to ratify the agreement.
While the rich protect their profits the poorest countries are being whipped into line. They are being told to keep to the terms.
Ultimately the peoples of the developing world and working people everywhere will foot the bill for reducing emissions as the costs of cleaner energy and less polluting manufacturing processes are passed on in higher prices to consumers along with an intensification of the level of exploitation.
If anything demonstrates the need to get rid of the capitalist system it is the Kyoto conference.
It is clear that the world needs to come together to rationally discuss how best to reduce greenhouse gasses while still ensuring economic growth for the developing world and to raise living standards for millions of working class people.
But because of the grip of imperialism this need is not fulfilled. Instead of rational agreement the world is forced to heed the profit-hungry concerns of big oil companies, steel barons, car manufacturers, big bankers and giant utility companies.
Kyoto shows that not only is capitalism opposed to any form of planning -- it is also extremely difficult to regulate.
For progress to be made the discussions about pollution and greenhouse gas emissions should focus attention on the biggest polluters, not on the poorest countries who need economic growth in order to overcome widespread poverty.
The United States and other major industrial countries must be
compelled by international pressure to realise they are not free to pollute
the earth and fill the skies with harmful gases just to keep the greenbacks
flowing into the coffers of the rich.
DERRY erupted and blazed last Saturday as a provocative loyalist parade, and hundreds of British-controlled RUC "police" in battle mode protecting them, insulted and assaulted the nationalist community. It's the starkest warning yet that peace talks must cut to the chase when it reconvenes in the New Year.
The Bogside Residents' Group (BRG) had warned that unless the 3,000-strong Apprentice Boys parade was rerouted away from the nationalist community, residents would hold a counter-demonstration. Mitchel McLaughlin, Chairperson of Sinn Fein, had earlier called for all nationalists to support the rally.
On Saturday morning, with the loyalists consistently refusing to negotiate with the residents' group, RUC riot police with armoured vehicles moved into the city centre. This cut off the community's access to the Diamond -- the heart of the busy city centre area -- and in many cases split up families of shoppers and prevented local workers from getting in, or out.
Sinn Fein's talks chief negotiator Martin McGuinness, who described the RUC's invasion as "provocative", approached the paramilitary phalanx of RUC and landrovers, and requested that he should be let through to observe the parade. Waiting with Mitchel McLaughlin, he was refused access.
The BRG held a peaceful protest rally close by as hundreds of RUC police positioned themselves. Donncha MacNiallais, spokesperson for the BRG, told over 300 demonstrators that the rights of Derry 's people had been sidelined "to accommodate an organisation which has for years inflicted sectarian violence and abuse upon us."
People filled the city centre, while some protesters unfurled a banner on top of a building overlooking the Diamond where the cenotaph dominates, calling for the RUC to be disbanded.
Inevitably, the parade would aggravate the community's anger. The main parade was allowed to take a route past the cenotaph, and on their return through the Diamond, heading for the Waterside, one of the Belfast bands defied agreed practise and began playing music. Fights broke out.
The RUC, protecting the marchers, were attacked. On and off clashes continued for 12 hours with hundreds of petrol bombs gutting the city centre, and the RUC firing off an estimated 170 rounds of plastic bullets. Remarkably, there were few injuries and there were 13 arrests.
Donncha MacNiallais, who said that the BRG were not involved in the uprising, pointed out that it was an understandable reaction "to the imposition of military law on their streets".
He also said: "The RUC for their part acted as they did in 1969, when they facilitated a sectarian parade by banning Derry people from their own city centre.
"The result of this was that people were baton-charged and police dogs were used to terrorise shoppers while loyalists were allowed to roam freely around the Diamond."
Sinn Fein's Northern Chairperson Gerry O'hEara, while not condoning "hi-jacking and burning of vehicles and damage to property", understood "the frustration felt by the young people of Derry who were savagely attacked by the RUC wielding batons and who set Alsatian dogs on them in Ferryquay Street."
Coming so soon after Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams's meeting with the British Premier, the events in Derry are a direct warning of what the peace talks should be about, and what Sinn Fein have been arguing about since the process began: The Unionists must negotiate and the British govemment in particular must act to put the talks into gear.
As far as the nationalist community is concerned, not even the so-called confidence building measures to create the right atmosphere for progress in talks has produced anything tangible. And their fears will hardly be helped by the remarks of George Robertson, British Defence Secretary, about "hooligans" being responsible for the Derry events.
Following the Adams-Blair meeting, Martin McGuinness suggested the next step should he a meeting between David Trimble and Gerry Adams. Predictably, Trimble still rules out direct talks "For the forseeable future".
The Stormont talks adjourned on Tuesday without progress. And, as usual, the Unionists were stirring it up by attributing false statements to Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Irish government. In particular, Unionists said, Sinn Fein were blocking progress because of their opposition to a Six-County assembly. In fact, Sinn Fein wanted an all-inclusive comprehensive list of key negotiating issues, they didn't.
Martin McGuinness said: "Sinn Fein is prepared to discuss any issues of concern to any of the other participants. Likewise we expect that all the other participants be prepared to face up to those issues which Sinn Fein wants to see resolved on behalf of the broad nationalist community." He said Unionist claims were "wildly inaccurate and erroneous".
The small working group set up to identify key issues and agree a new agenda for the New Year, co-ordinated by talks Chairman Senator George Mitchell, has not materialised. Bleak inside and bleak outside, though not so bleak perhaps for Derryman Liarn Averill, an IRA PoW who escaped from the Maze last week.
Even token efforts -- one act of British troop withdrawal, unacceptable British proposals for RUC "reform" and the continuing checkpoint reinforcements for instance, act as a cynical blind to the continuing heavy British patrolling and RUC harassment of the nationalist community.
One recent incident involved a British helicopter following, buzzing and confronting a catholic woman who had her children with her in her car. It was so low she thought the blades would hit them.
After Derry, there can be no doubt of the need to scrap the RUC and to put an end to its terroristic rampages. Not only are the SDLP as well as the UIster Unionists opposed to the "minimalist reforms", the RUC's own latest internal survey of its regular and reserve officers showed that it victimised Catholic RUC members.
Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said this demonstrated the "true and unchangeable nature" of the RUC. Those Catholics who joined thinking life would suddenly be different, "were proved wrong", he said.
Especially hit in this strained process are the community's younger members. Gerry Adams pointed out early last month, amid growing fears of loyalist attacks: "If people in Creggan, or in Crossmaglen, or in Ballymurphy, or in Coalisland -- if young people especially -- see no real change on the ground then they have to ask, what peace process?"
Derry's residents, yet again, must have thought it was British
rule -- business as usual.
But there is still a deep difference of opinion between the PCA and Stephen's parents over the root cause of these flaws, which Doreen and Neville Lawrence attribute to police racism.
They claim the police were more interested in investigating the family and possible criminal links rather than acknowledging that it was an unprovoked racist killing and following up the leads that were available.
And the PCA inquiry found that 11 promising lines of inquiry have yet to be followed up.
Its report said that "vital" witnesses were ignored as was evidence linking the suspects to other knife attacks in the area.
There was confusion in the handling of identification evidence that may have meant that one attacker was overlooked.
The police claimed they were met with a "wall of silence" from local white residents, but there is no evidence to support this. In fact local people did come forward with valuable information about the killing but there was delay in acting upon it.
Police failed to arrest two of the suspects for a separate offence of attempted murder in another knifing incident.
Anonymous notes and phones calls to Eltham police station soon after the murder, naming four of the suspects eventually arrested, were ignored. With greater effort, these sources could have been traced and vital evidence collected.
The Lawrence family quickly lost confidence in the police investigation and it has never been restored.
The report continued: "In general, the investigation has identified weaknesses in the leadership, direction and quality of work of the first murder investigation.
"The quality of supervision of officers was poor and assumptions were made about the standard of work being carried out that would not have withstood proper scrutiny.
"The detective superintendent in charge of the investigation was unavoidably absent at a crucial time shortly after the arrests of the main suspects."
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon said the case will come to be seen as "a watershed", and will lead to improvements in the way that murder inquiries are conducted by all police forces.
Certainly the dogged persistence of Doreen and Neville Lawrence in refusing to let the matter drop will send a strong message to all police forces that in future they cannot get away with making racist assumptions about crime victims and carrying out shoddy work in investigating these crimes, hoping the families will despair and the issue will just go away.
In the past, in certain areas racist thugs have counted on the fact that police will not take too much trouble to investigate their attacks and they are likely literally to get away with murder.
In challenging this state ofaffairs, the Lawrences have made this country a bit safer for all young black people.
Paul Condon said he deeply regretted that "the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence was not followed by the successful prosecution of his killers".
He added that disciplinary action against some police officers could not be ruled out. But his words do not make it seem likely -- as it should be.
The most senior officers involved in the case have now retired.
The PCA report will be a part of the evidence submitted to the public judicial inquiry into the Lawrence killing and other similar attacks and racist murders in the area that happened within three years, including the fatal stabbings of Rolan Adams and Rohit Duggal.
The public inquiry was formally opened two months ago but will get properly under-way in January.
Neville Lawrence disputed the findings of the PCA report that there was no police racism involved. "There can't be any conclusion about racism until the findings of the judicial inquiry. If there was no racism, why didn't the police do their duty on the night."
The problem has not gone away. Only last month a mixed race family
living on the council estate where Stephen Lawrence died at a bus stop,
have had to send their teenage son away to live with relatives after a
series of attempted arson attacks on their home and racist death threats
against the boy.
ISRAEL'S hard-line Likud government has at last revealed its ideas on a "final " settlement with the Palestinians. But the two options presented to Benyamin Netanyahu's Cabinet can only be described as bad and worse. Neither provide the basis of a realistic settlement with any section of the Palestinian community except in the imagination of Likud's coalition of Zionist fanatics, settlers and Jewish fundamentalists.
Both plans envisage Israel retaining the Jordan Valley and what they call "Greater Jerusalem" -- Arab east Jerusalem and a large swathe of Arab territory surrounding it.
The "worse" plan comes predictably from National Infrastructure Minister, General Ariel Sharon. Sharon's map leaves Israel with 70 per cent of the occupied territories -- keeping all the Zionist settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and leaving the Palestinians with little more than they've already got under the Palestinian National Authority's "autonomous" zones.
The "bad" plan, tabled by Defence Minister Yitzhak Mordechai gives the Palestinians about 50 per cent of the West Bank with Israel keeping the rest. Some 44 Zionist settlements would either remain as little enclaves inside the Palestinian zone or be disbanded.
The Israeli Cabinet has still to agree the final proposals, which will then go to the Americans and after that be tabled for the next round of peace talks in January.
Significantly, Yuri Edelstein, the minister in charge of Jewish immigration, said that the gap between the two plans was "not too big" and he expected the Cabinet to reach a consensus soon.
The gap may not be that big amongst the Likud Cabinet -but it's a chasm compared te even the minimum that any Palestinian leader could accept.
Which leaves the Americans with their usual headache -how to keep the talks going while avoiding the "final" settlement talks which on present going will only lead to the complete collapse of the whole "peace process".
Washington is, of course, extremely concerned at the resurgence of anti-American feeling amongst the Arab masses in recent months which has meant that even its most loyal Arab clients could not bring themselves to back the United States in its latest confrontation with Iraq.
The Americans also know that they can only restore their standing amongst the Arabs -- or at least with the oil princes and pro-Western regimes which depend on US hand-outs to remain in power -- if their is progress on Palestine.
It's clear that they're lobbying for a further substantial Israeli pull-hack from the West Bank which could spin things out for an other year or possibly until the next Israeli election. Netanyahu offered the Palestinians 8 percent -- the talk in Tel Aviv is now hardening around a 10 per cent withdrawal, which would give the "autonomous" zone, which controls over 90 per cent of the Gaza Strip, direct and indirect control of some 30 per cent of the West Bank.
It's a strategy which Palestinian President Yasser Arafat may go along with. Though under fire from the Muslim fundamentalists and the progressive Palestinian resistance for failing to stand up to Netanyahu's provocations. Arafat knows that as long as there's momentum in his favour he can hope for better days to come. This basically means waiting for Likud's defeat at the polls and the return to power of the Israeli Labour Party.
Now Labour in opposition is always cager to court the Israeli peace movement. Former premier Shimon Peres, a self-proclaimed "dove" openly calls on Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria and recognise the future Palestinian state. Other Labour leaders want a unilateral withdrawal from south Lebanon and a "generous" settlement on the West Bank.
But the Labour leaderships' own solution still falls far short of Palestinian demands. Their own "map" -- which goes back to the "Allon Plan" in the Seventies -- keeps Arab Jerusalem and its environs plus the Jordan Valley for themselves with nothing for the four million Palestinian refugees denied their right to return to their homes by Israel since 1949. The prospects for 1998 look very grim indeed.
Only the week before she'd been faced with the anger of MPs, including a revolt within the Parliamentary Labour Party, when she tried to defend the government's proposals to cut lone parent benefits.
The government front bench is being rather more coy about its plans for disability benefits. But Harman failed to give straight answers to direct questions and no one came away feeling reassured that disabled people would not have their benefits taxed, cut or means-tested.
But the government's less strident style shows that the fight over the lone parent benefit has had some effect on the leadership.
It shows too that the pressure on the government over social spending cuts needs to be stepped up inside and outside of Parliament. And those MPs who took a stand in defending lone parent benefit should be given publicly expressed support.
The same pressure is needed to see off the threatened attack on the sick and disabled.
The concern over disability benefits stems from a leaked Whitehall memo believed to have been written by a senior DSS official.
It calls on other government departments to support Harriet Harman by ensuring that she has "a convincing story to tell" when "substantial savings" in sickness and disability benefits are announced.
In the Commons Harman would not rule out means-testing. The government only repeated its mantra that those "in need" would not be hit. And, as with the debate over lone parent benefit cuts, the government trying to sweeten the pill with talk of helping people back into work.
The use of the term "in need" can only mean one thing -- the government does plan to introduce means-testing of these benefits -- how else could the government identify who those "in need" are'!
This is another outrageous attack on some of the most vulnerable people in society and, if allowed to proceed, would breach the principle of universality for statutory benefits. Once this principle is undermined the path is clear for means-testing to be gradually introduced for Child Benefit and even the State Retirement Pension.
It is no different to the Tory arguments for so-called "targeting"
of benefits and serves the same purpose -- to save money by taking it from
the pockets of the working class so as to preserve the generous tax breaks
awarded to the rich. We demand better of a Labour government!