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U.S. Department of State
95/06/09 Fact Sheet:  Global Environmental Issues
Bureau of Public Affairs

Fact Sheet:  Global Environmental Issues

The environmental challenges confronting the world today are greater 
than at any time in recent history. Threats to the global environment--
such as climate change; stratospheric ozone depletion; and the loss of 
biological diversity, forests, and fish stocks--affect all nations 
regardless of their level of development. As a result, the environment 
is an increasingly important part of the foreign policy agenda. The 
United States accords high priority to addressing global environmental 
problems and is pursuing a wide-ranging agenda of action to protect the 
environment and promote the goal of sustainable development.

UN Conference on Environment and Development

The June 1992 UNCED was a landmark event in addressing the global 
environment. Unlike other environmental conferences, UNCED focused on 
"sustainable development," i.e. economic growth that takes into account 
environmental concerns. UNCED resulted in the adoption of three key 

-- Agenda 21--an action program to guide national and international 
environmental and development efforts into the 21st century; 

--  The Rio Declaration--a statement of principles regarding the 
environment and development; and

-- A statement of principles for the conservation and sustainable use of 
forests worldwide.

Based on UNCED's recommendation, the United Nations has established a 
Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) to monitor implementation of 
Agenda 21 recommendations. The U.S. strongly supports the CSD as a 
primary international body for promoting sustainable development 
worldwide. The CSD will  next convene in early 1996 to review progress 
on the ocean environment. It meets annually to pursue follow-up to the 
Rio Conference; in April 1995, it reviewed forest issues.

The United States works domestically to implement the recommendations 
made at the Rio Conference.  On June 14, 1993, President Clinton 
announced the formation of the President's Council on Sustainable 
Development (PSCD), which now is developing policy recommendations for a 
national strategy for sustainable development that can be implemented by 
the public and private sectors. The PSCD represents a ground-breaking 
commitment to explore and develop policies that encourage economic 
growth, job creation, and effective use of natural resources.

In addition to the treaties on biodiversity and climate change, UNCED 
also endorsed a convention to combat desertification. In October 1995, 
the U.S. signed a new UN Convention on Desertification, which promotes 
international cooperation on the sustainable use of fragile, dry-land 
ecosystems, particularly in Africa. It also addresses one of the root 
causes of African poverty and hunger. The convention is being prepared 
to be submitted to the Senate for ratification.

Global Climate Change

That human activities may cause climate change is a serious 
international environmental concern. The United States has led the 
effort in response to this threat. Negotiations on a Framework 
Convention on Climate Change--which began near Washington DC, in early 
1991--culminated in an agreement that received more than 150 signatures 
at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de 
Janeiro in June 1992;  the convention entered into force March 21, 1994.

The climate change convention establishes a process to deal meaningfully 
with this issue. Industrialized countries are developing specific action 
plans to limit emissions of greenhouse gases and enhance forests and 
other greenhouse gas "sinks."  Other countries are to take similar 
actions in the future. 	President Clinton announced in April 1993 that 
the U.S. intends to return its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels 
by the year 2000. In October 1993, the President presented a National 
Climate Change Action Plan, containing nearly 50 domestic measures 
designed to meet the U.S. commitment. 

In September 1994, the United States made its national submission, the 
U.S. Climate Change Report, which details U.S. actions to address the 
threat of global climate change.  It includes the U.S. Initiative on 
Joint Implementation (USIJI) which promotes cooperation between 
countries on projects that will reduce or sequester greenhouse gas 
emissions. The first seven projects for inclusion in the initiative were 
announced in February 1995. Partner countries include Costa Rica, 
Honduras, Belize, the Czech Republic, and Russia. The United States 
expects to announce another round of projects in the near future.

In fiscal years 1994 and 1995, the United States offered $30 million in 
financial support and technical assistance to assist developing 
countries and countries in transition to market economies in 
establishing analytical foundations for addressing the threat of climate 
change. Eligible efforts included inventories of greenhouse gas 
emissions, vulnerability studies, and analyses of options to address 
vulnerabilities and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The United States 
is now working with more than 50 countries on such studies.

The First Conference of the Parties to review the climate change 
convention was held in Berlin, Germany, March 28-April 7, 1995. The 
participants secured a mandate to negotiate "next steps" for the post-
2000 era by 1997 as well as to begin a pilot phase for "joint 
implementation" projects. The United States hopes that the USIJI and 
similar programs will assist in the development of international 
criteria for the partnership projects needed to reduce worldwide 
greenhouse gas emissions.  

Protection of the Ozone Layer

The depletion of the ozone layer continues to be a serious problem. The 
United States has led efforts to address this threat, beginning with a 
decision in 1978 to ban the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in non-
essential aerosols. The U.S. urged the conclusion of an agreement to 
restrict the use of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances in all 

This effort has led to a succession of landmark international agreements 
since 1985 designed to protect the ozone layer, including the 1985 
Vienna Convention and the 1987 Montreal Protocol. Countries will 
completely phase out the production of CFCs and most other ozone-
depleting substances by the end of 1996. The U.S. has met its 
commitments to phase out halons by the end of 1994 and continues toward 
meeting phase-out targets for CFCs and allied substances by January 1, 

Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity

A central objective of U.S. environmental policy is the preservation and 
sustainable use of natural resources, pursued through a combination of 
bilateral and multilateral activities.

The United States is party to the Convention on International Trade in 
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which enables the 
122 CITES signatories to monitor and control international trade in wild 
species. CITES was crucial in efforts by the U.S. and other countries to 
protect the African elephant by banning trade in elephant ivory, and it 
is now involved in efforts to protect the rhino and tiger. The Ninth 
CITES Conference of Parties was held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 
November 7-18, 1994.

While CITES has been effective in protecting species that are threatened 
as a direct result of international trade, the main cause of species 
loss is habitat destruction. The U.S. seeks to address this issue 
through a variety of means, such as increased funding for forest 
conservation programs, the establishment of protected areas under the 
World Heritage Convention and other agreements, and through the Ramsar 
Treaty on International Wetlands.

On June 4, 1993, the United States signed the UN Convention on 
Biological Diversity, which establishes a framework for countries to 
cooperate on protecting the earth's species. The convention presents a 
unique opportunity for nations not only to conserve the world's 
biological diversity, but also to realize economic benefits from the 
conservation and sustainable use of its genetic resources. The treaty is 
now before the U.S. Senate for ratification. 

The U.S. is promoting sustainable use of the world's forest resources 
through the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, which, in April 
1995, established an intergovernmental panel to explore more efficient, 
better coordinated international programs. The U.S. Government and non-
governmental organizations are cooperating to help preserve threatened 
biodiversity-rich forests in countries such as Suriname and Papua New 
Guinea, and on a regional basis in Central Africa and the Amazon.

The U.S. also has launched a new international partnership--the 
International Coral Reef Initiative--to promote the protection, 
sustainable management, and monitoring of coral reefs and related 
ecosystems, such as mangroves and sea grasses. U.S. partners in this new 
undertaking include Japan, Australia, Jamaica, the United Kingdom, 
France, and the Philippines.

Population and Environment

During the 1990s, world population growth will increase between 90 and 
100 million people annually. Unaddressed, global population will almost 
certainly double and could triple before the end of the next century. 
The implications of such growth for global economic, political, social, 
and environmental security are profound.

The third UN International Conference on Population and Development 
convened in Cairo, Egypt, September 5-13, 1994. This conference provided 
a once-in-a-decade opportunity to marshal resources behind a 
comprehensive global effort to stem rapid population growth. The U.S. 
worked with its international partners to develop comprehensive 
programs, which include addressing the unmet need and demand for family 
planning and reproductive health services;  developing strategies for 
improving women's health needs and improving child survival; improving 
the social, economic, and political status of women; and mobilizing 
institutional and financial resources to meet these goals. All these 
initiatives influence population growth and are most effective when 
pursued together; efforts in this regard will continue.

Financing Environmental Protection

The United States supports effective use of resources and institutions 
to promote the goals of sustainable development and environmental 
protection. It has long been a leader among bilateral donors in 
supporting environmental programs abroad and ensuring that environmental 
considerations are taken into account in assistance programs. The U.S. 
foreign assistance budget emphasizes sustainable development, including 
programs for ameliorating natural resource degradation; protecting 
water, air, and land from pollution; and making progress toward 
environmental conservation, among others.

Multilateral institutions remain essential to efforts to promote 
economic reforms and development in a rapidly changing world; they also 
are important instruments to promote sustainable development and 
environmental protection. The United States helps ensure that the 
multilateral development banks take environmental considerations into 
account in all their lending programs. The U.S. also strongly supported 
creation of the Global Environmental Facility, which helps fund projects 
that provide global environmental benefits, such as those related to 
climate change and the loss of biodiversity.

Marine Conservation and Pollution

The world's oceans are threatened by human activities such as 
unsustainable resource use and pollution. The United States long has 
played an active role in ocean conservation program--from its efforts 
early in the 1980s to protect whales to a UN-sponsored moratorium in 
1992 on the destructive practice of driftnet fishing. The collapse of 
several valuable fisheries, concern about the continued sustainability 
of fully and over-exploited fisheries, and the development of new 
fisheries have brought special attention to international fisheries 
matters and point to the need for new mechanisms of international 

Overall, the U.S. leads international efforts to better conserve and 
manage important living marine resources through global cooperation. It 
is a leading proponent of two major international agreements to address 
marine pollution: the Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from 
Ships, which regulates discharges of harmful substances during the 
normal operation of ships at sea;  and the London Convention, which bans 
the ocean disposal of a number of wastes and lists others that may be 
disposed of only with special care.

The United States promotes efforts to address pollution from land-based 
sources--the most serious threat to the marine environment. UNCED 
delegates adopted a U.S. proposal calling for an intergovernmental 
conference--which will be hosted by the United States in Washington, DC, 
in October 1995--to consider effective ways to deal with this threat.

As a result of the 1980s focus on the adverse impacts of large-scale 
pelagic driftnet fishing, the UN General Assembly, in 1990, adopted a 
resolution calling for a global moratorium on the use of large-scale 
driftnets on the high seas. The United States attaches great importance 
to continued compliance with this resolution and continues to encourage 
all nations to take measures to prohibit their nationals and vessels 
from undertaking any activity contrary to the terms of the resolution.

Through U.S. leadership and international cooperation, the incidental 
take of dolphins in the eastern Pacific Ocean's tuna fishery area has 
been reduced to its lowest levels. The United States also is 
participating in multilateral negotiations toward concluding a Western 
Hemisphere Sea Turtle Protection and Conservation Convention.

Since 1993, the United States has participated in the UN Conference on 
Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks--an outcome of 
UNCED, which called for a global conference to promote effective imple- 
mentation of the provisions of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the 
Sea on fish stocks. 

To date, the conference has completed four substantive sessions and 
hopes to complete its work in August 1995. More than 80 nations are 

In addition, the United States is engaged in efforts through the UN Food 
and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to improve international fishery 
conservation and management. The U.S., FAO, and other countries are 
preparing an international code of conduct for responsible fishing, 
which will provide principles and standards applicable to the 
conservation, management, and development of all fisheries. The code 
will address such issues as fishing operations, aquaculture, habitat, 
fisheries research, and the integration of fisheries into coastal area 
management plans. (###)


The Environment and G-7

Environment has been a key issue for the G-7 since the 1989 Paris 
Summit. The Halifax Summit should reinforce efforts that have been made 
over the past few years to implement the Rio Earth Summit's blueprint 
for sustainable development--as Agenda 21--and will show support for the 
conventions on climate change, biodiversity, and the CSD process on 

Climate Change. The United States will encourage all developed countries 
to meet their commitments to return greenhouse gas emissions to their 
1990 levels by the year 2000 and to consider what measures should be 
taken with regard to greenhouse gas emissions in the post-2000 period.

Biodiversity. The U.S. works through a wide range of multilateral and 
bilateral mechanisms to address arresting the rapid loss of species 
worldwide. It is, however, the only G-7 country which has not ratified 
the biodiversity convention--one of the major outcomes of the 1992 Earth 

Forests. The U.S. strongly supports efforts by the UN Commission on 
Sustainable Development to develop proposals on the sustainable 
management and conservation of forests through an "open-ended 
intergovernmental panel on forests." This panel will provide proposals 
for action on a range of priority areas. It will consider ways to 
enhance international forest aid coordination and recommend a clearer 
division of forest-related work among UN agencies. It also will examine 
factors effecting trade in forest products and assess the need for 
additional international agreements, possibly establishing a legally 
binding forest convention.

On April 30 and May 1, 1995, G-7 environment ministers met in Hamilton, 
Ontario. EPA Administrator Carol Browner and Under Secretary of State 
for Global Affairs Timothy Wirth attended the meeting, together with 
environment ministers from other G-7 countries. The meeting focused on 
three themes:

-- International institutional arrangements for sustainable development 
and environment issues; 

-- Environment-economy integration with emphasis on "greening of 
government operations;" and 

--  Progress on major international environmental issues, including 
those related to the conventions on climate change and biodiversity.

The institutional arrangements theme focused on CSD and UN Environment 
Program (UNEP) mandates. It was agreed that the CSD should be the high-
level global forum at which broad policy directions and strategic goals 
for sustainable development are set. UNEP was urged to reaffirm its 
mandate as the environmental voice of the UN system, focusing on 
science, environmental monitoring and assessment, catalyzing regional 
responses to common environmental problems, and promoting the 
development of international environment law.

Discussions also focused on the role of international financial 
institutions (IFIs)--expressing the view that the G-7 should encourage 
the World Bank and other IFIs to emphasize the quality, rather than 
simply the quantity of loans, and to continue to progress toward 
transparency and openness by making information available early in the 
project evaluation process.

Environment-economy integration discussions focused on "greening" 
government operations. Participants reviewed their domestic policies to 
find common challenges related to greening government policy; for 
example, removing unsound subsidies, using environmental assessments, 
implementing green tax reform, and promoting job creation through 
environmental technologies. Participants urged G-7 governments to take 
the lead in making their operations and activities more environmentally 
sustainable and sound through their procurement practices, energy use, 
and building maintenance. The U.S. Government already is moving in this 
direction through President Clinton's various executive orders regarding 
the use of recycled products, alternative fuel vehicles, energy-
efficient and water-saving equipment, "green" computers, and the 
reinventing government initiative.

Finally, the participants reviewed ongoing international efforts to 
address issues related to climate change, biodiversity preservation, and 
trade in wastes and toxic chemicals. All G-7 countries support action to 
address global environmental concerns, although each country emphasizes 
different issues. 

June 9, 1995
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