102nd Congress (1991-1992)
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EXPRESSING SENSE OF CONGRESS THAT U.S. SHOULD DEVELOP NATIONAL STRATEGY IMPLEMENTING EARTH SUMMIT AGREEMENTS (House of Representatives - October 02, 1992)
Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
(Mr. ENGEL asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of House Concurrent Resolution 353, expressing the sense of the Congress that the United States should assume a strong leadership role in implementing the decisions made at the Earth summit in Rio de Janeiro by developing a national strategy to implement Agenda 21 and other Earth summit agreements through domestic policy and foreign policy, by cooperating with all countries to identify and initiate further agreements to protect the global environment, and by supporting and participating in a high-level U.N. Sustainable Development Commission, as amended.
The Brazil meeting of the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development [UNCED], in June, marked global concurrence on the need to better integrate environmental and developmental activities, and presented a plan to achieve it. Some 175 countries gave their approval to the comprehensive program of action known as Agenda 21 . The task now before nations is to implement the precepts of that document, which will be a demanding, yet necessary, endeavor if the world's development is to be viable and endure. Each nation must do its part. The resolution now before the House, House Concurrent Resolution 353, as amended, is an effort to get the U.S. process in gear.
At the outset I would like to commend my distinguished colleague, the chief sponsor of the resolution, the Honorable Nancy Pelosi for her leadership and interest in shaping this very significant measure. It has been 4 months since the Rio summit, and it is very important that Congress show its commitment to effective implementation of the UNCED initiatives.
I also wish to commend the chairman and ranking minority member of the Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations, the Honorables Gus Yatron, and Doug Bereuter for their support in expediting consideration of this measure, and their continuing efforts on behalf of environment and development.
The text of House Concurrent Resolution 353, as amended, highlights congressional sentiments on behalf of achieving the UNCED objective of environmentally sustainable development. It recognizes that the ultimate success of UNCED is dependent on actions taken at all levels: international, national, state, local, public, private, and individual. Specifically, it calls for the following:
A national strategy, based on countrywide consultations with a broad diversity of interests, and with efforts to engage all sectors, and levels in the process.
A Presidential plan for coordinating U.S. policy to implement agenda 21 ;
Formulation of domestic and foreign policies, including foreign aid, to implement agenda 21 ;
Research on sustainable consumption and production patterns, creation of an appropriate policy framework, and a strategy to cut subsidies which promote degradation of the resource base;
A Congressional plan to reallocate defense savings to environmentally sustainable development;
Active U.S. support at the U.N. General Assembly for the Sustainable Development Commission, including provisions for meaningful participation by other U.N. entities, international financial institutions, and NGO's;
Presidential affirmation of a strong U.S. commitment to the Commission by appointing a high-level American to that body, and by encouraging the U.N. Secretary General to appoint an Under Secretary General for Sustainable Development to coordinate and implement Agenda 21 ;
Submission of a national report, by the President, on U.S. domestic and international activities, to implement agenda 21 , fulfill other UNCED initiatives, and encourage other nations to also submit national reports; and
An annual report to Congress on measures to implement agenda 21 , and the recommendations of this resolution.
Mr. Speaker, I urge the adoption of House Concurrent Resolution 353, as amended.
Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as she may consume to the sponsor of the resolution, the gentlewoman from California [Ms. Pelosi], to explain the resolution.
Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Fascell, Mr. Broomfield, Mr. Yatron, Mr. Bereuter, and members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, are to be commended for their efforts to expedite consideration of this legislation.
The Earth Summit Environmental Leadership Act, presents us with the opportunity to follow up on the important work of the Earth summit to develop its blueprint--agenda 21 --for global environmental action.
House Concurrent Resolution 353 outlines a comprehensive national strategy for sustainable development, in accordance with the principles of agenda 21 , to be coordinated under the leadership of a specific office and the direction of a high-level government official.
The resolution also urges the United States to identify and initiate further agreements to protect the global environment and to support the creation of a high-level U.N. Sustainable Development Commission headed by an Undersecretary General. The President is urged to report to Congress on the progress of these steps.
House Concurrent Resolution 353 is supported by the administration. I have been in contact with the appropriate offices of the State Department and have incorporated their suggestions in the resolution. The 71 cosponsors of this measure include one-half the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee and all of the House delegates to the Earth summit. It is also supported by the major United States' nongovernmental organizations.
The Earth summit presented world leaders with an opportunity that should not be lost. We must now embark on a new course that will sustain our planet and its resources for the benefit of future generations. This resolution calls on the United States to assert its leadership to achieve this goal.
I urge my colleagues to support this resolution. Thank you, again, to Members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, for their recognition of the importance and timeliness of this resolution.
We must make the promise of Rio a reality.
Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. BROOMFIELD. Mr Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
(Mr. BROOMFIELD asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks and to include extraneous material.)
Mr. BROOMFIELD. Mr. Speaker, I support this resolution, which expresses the sense of Congress with respect to implementing the decisions of the recent U.N. Conference on Environment and Development.
I wish to commend the gentlelady from California, Congresswoman Pelosi, for her sponsorship of the resolution.
Mr. Speaker, despite all the criticism of administration policy toward the Earth summit, the fact is that the U.S. Government made a very constructive contribution in Rio and in the talks that led up to the meeting in Rio.
Largely as a result, the conference adopted four major items: The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development; the lengthy action plan referred to as Agenda 21 ; the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change; and nonbinding but authoritative principles for the management and conservation of forest resources.
In addition, the conference adopted the U.N. Biodiversity Convention, which the administration decided not to join at this time. This was due to concerns about intellectual property and also the decision making and funding mechanism.
The administration has already made a good beginning in implementing the results of the conference:
During the talks on climate, the administration pledged $75 million for related projects in developing countries including the development of national plans;
The President announced that the United States would have our own national plan on climate ready by the end of the year in order to start international consultations in January 1993.
The President announced a forests for the future initiative to double worldwide forestry assistance, beginning with a $150 million additional U.S. contribution.
The administration is preparing for consideration by the U.N. General Assembly of establishment of the Sustainable Development Commission called for in Rio, and is working on an interagency basis to formulate further plans to implement the other recommendations of the conference.
The good start made by the administration shows that the United States is serious about international cooperation to address global environmental problems. The resolution before us calls for similar measures to implement the recommendations of the Rio conference.
The State Department supports the provisions of this resolution, which are fully consistent with U.S. policy toward implementing the results of the Earth summit. Ms. Pelosi should be further commended for her cooperative attitude on the issues that were raised by the Department at an earlier stage in the consideration of this resolution.
Mr. Speaker, I was appointed to the Earth summit observer delegation. Although I did not actually attend the Conference, I followed the proceedings in other ways.
Recently I had the opportunity to contribute an article on these matters to a magazine called Michigan International Lawyer. I include this summary of my views for inclusion in the Record at the conclusion of my remarks.
`IT STARTED IN RIO': INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LAW AFTER THE EARTH SUMMIT
BY THE HONORABLE WILLIAMS S. BROOMFIELD
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) or `Earth Summit,' which took place in Rio de Janeiro during June, will undoubtedly be remembered as a milestone in international environmental law and politics. Whether or not the agreements reached in Rio mark the trail toward real solutions for global environmental problems, the negotiations will serve as a benchmark for future international relations on the subject of the environment.
As will be familiar to anyone who followed press reports of the conference, the Earth Summit was characterized by a variety of disagreements among the industrialized countries (the `North'), and between them and the poorer countries (the `South'), concerning responsibility for global environmental problems and how to address them. Despite traditional U.S. leadership in the environmental area, the governments of many other countries--not to mention environmental activists and the press--were highly critical of U.S. policies and positions.
UNCED had an ambitious agenda , including several major documents discussed below. Throughout these complex negotiations, however, a small group of issues were at the core of discussion: whether the advanced industrial countries should adopt specific `targets and timetables' for reducing pollution, especially emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases that contribute to potential global climate warming; whether developing countries should expect `new and additional' financial resources from the North as the price of taking action for the environment; and whether the South should obtain technology on `preferential and noncommercial' terms.
Thus, the Earth Summit came to be at least as much about development as environment. Apart from steps by the industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the primary issues concerned demands by the South for money and technology. How is it that these issues, which are related to earlier calls for a `New International Economic Order,' came to the forefront at UNCED?
The pattern was actually set when concern over the discovery of the hole in the stratospheric ozone over the Antarctic in the late 1970's quickly led to a series of international actions. After it was discovered that depletion of stratospheric ozone is primarily caused by chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) and certain other industrial chemicals, the international community reacted by adopting the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and then successive agreements, including the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which provide for a phase-out of CFC's and other ozone-depleting chemicals.
It soon became obvious to the poorer countries that they had new leverage over the North as a result of emerging concerns about the global environment. While production and use of CFC's and other ozone-destroying chemicals overwhelmingly take place in Industrialized nations, a solution to this problem has to be worldwide. Not only is it necessary to phase out CFC's and similar chemicals everywhere, but economic growth in the developing countries would otherwise actually lead to a proliferation of these chemicals. The nations of the South realized that they could demand compensation as the price of agreeing to cooperate in protecting the global environment. In the case of the Montreal Protocol, they were successfully able to demand that the richer countries make good the incremental costs of substituting for CFC's and similar substances as well as the refrigeration and other equipment in which they are used.
Aside from the fact that 1992 is the twentieth anniversary year of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, the idea of holding a new world conference was given impetus by increasing world concern about several other environmental problems of global significance. These included potential climate change (global warming) as a result of increasing GHG levels; the loss of biological diversity (`biodiversity') around the world, especially as a result of deforestation and other threats to wildlife habitat; and a general loss of productive potential, especially in the South, resulting from the expansion of human settlements and overexploitation of renewable resources such as forests and soils.
The outcome of the various negotiations which culminated in Rio was not wholly satisfactory to any party of interest. While public failure was averted, most participants went away at least partially disappointed. Nevertheless, the renewed attention to international environmental concerns that resulted from the conference and the acceptance of certain principals and commitments there may contribute to the resolution of global environmental issues in the future. To understand the results of the conference, however, it is necessary to look at the five key items under discussion:
(1) CONFERENCE DECLARATION
The parties agreed to a broad set of principles known as the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. The North, including the United States, had sought a more concise and inspirational document, or `Earth Charter', that would help raise public consciousness about the importance of environmental protection. But the South insisted on recognition of several points, including national sovereignty over natural resources and a `right to development.' Ultimately, the North agreed, and even accepted an acknowledgment of responsibility for current global environmental problems. Even so, the most the South would agree to in terms of environmental protection is that all nations are `common but differentiated responsibilities.'
(2) AGENDA 21
This several-hundred page document is supposed to serve as a guide for action into the 21st century. In addition to numerous chapters on specific issues, it also contains key language on financial commitments and new institutions. Implementing the various actions contained in Agenda 21 would take $125 billion or more in external support, but clearly many if not most of them cannot be addressed without major private sector involvement. About half the necessary funds would be made available if the richer countries met the target of 0.7% of gross national product previously established by the U.N. General Assembly for foreign aid; the rest would have to come from additional contributions. The United States went along with these statements, but only after noting that it had never agreed to the 0.7% level in the first place and that the new and additional resources required for the remainder would have to include voluntary government contributions as well as private efforts.
On institutions, the United States was largely successful in preventing duplication of effort by obtaining agreement to assign oversight responsibilities to a new committee of the existing U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). One of the more interesting developments at UNCED, however, was the creation of a Sustainable Development Commission, which will provide a forum for debate on related issues, with input from non-governmental organizations (NGO's). Due to concerns of the richer countries, financial administration of additional environmental projects will be through an expanded Global Environment Facility (GEF) in the World Bank, for which new management arrangements will be worked out.
(3) CLIMATE CHANGE
Prior to the Rio meeting itself, the best-known item under discussion was the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The U.S. Administration was roundly criticized by other industrialized countries, particularly in the European Community, as well as environmentalists, for its refusal to agree to targets and timetables for the reduction of GHG emissions, particularly the proposed stabilization of CO2 emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000. The Administration was also criticized by developing countries, as well as others, for its reluctance to make commitments on providing new and additional financial resources or transferring technology.
The Bush Administration was ultimately successful in preventing inclusion of a specific pledge on CO2 emissions, although it did agree to the goal of reducing overall GHG emissions to 1990 levels. The Administration succeeded in obtaining provisions requiring submission of national plans describing measures to respond to potential global climate change. The Administration also agreed to provide new financial resources, but on a voluntary basis; at the last meeting of the International Negotiating Committee, the Administration announced a $75 million package of assistance for developing countries, including a $50 million contribution to the GEF and $25 million over two years to assist in the development of national plans.
The Bush Administration was subjected to unrelenting criticism by European officials, environmentalists, certain members of Congress and others for its refusal to accept a CO2 stabilization requirement as part of the Framework Convention. Aside from the fact that greenhouse warming still has not been scientifically detected, however, the Administration has other points in its favor:
First, the other nations urging adoption of such a requirement had no concrete plans to meet it and were in fact relying on a variety of schemes that were either questionable or self-interested. Japan was basing its projections on an unsustainable expansion of nuclear power capacity; France had similar plans and also hoped to increase electricity exports from its nuclear plants; Germany would probably rely on the elimination of subsidies to coal miners.
Second, U.S. emissions of CO2 and other GHG's will probably stabilize at or around 1990 levels in any event. This was documented during the negotiations and is to be demonstrated in the U.S. national plan to be submitted pursuant to the Convention. Adopting a binding commitment, however, could have unforeseeable effects on the economy. If the Administration had agreed to make CO2 stabilization a legal requirement, Congress was poised to enact it into law without even specifying how to achieve it.
Third, it is important to recall the way the international community responded to the threat to the ozone layer--a much more immediate, well-documented, and specific environmental threat. Agreement was initially reached on general principles through the Vienna Convention; only after these were specific requirements adopted through the Montreal Protocol and other agreements. Similarly, through adoption of the Framework Convention, the nations of the world have not only accepted general obligations of climate for the first time, but also have put in motion a process for responding to emerging developments on climate.
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