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Trinity College in the University of Toronto

Sustainable Development
at the Houston Seven-Power Summit

John Kirton
Prepared for the Foreign Policy Committee,
National Roundtable on Environment and the Economy, Ottawa,
September 6, 1990

  • Introduction
  • Houston as a Sustainable Development Disappointment
  • Houston as Sustainable Development Progress
  • Houston as a Surprising Canadian Success
  • Table A: Environmental References in the Houston Summit Economic Declaration

  • Introduction

    The 15th annual economic summit of the world's seven major industrial democracies and the European Community, held under United States auspices in Houston, Texas, on July 9-11, 1990, represented a substantial, if uneven step forward in the process of securing international agreement and action on the principles and practices of sustainable development. The critical issue of the environment did receive somewhat less attention at the summit than it had at Paris the year before, and Houston's environmental achievements did fail to meet the expectations of either the nongovernmental environmental community or such activist governments as the Federal Republic of Germany. However, despite strong resistance from the host United States, the summit succeeded in setting international environmental priorities, making conceptual advances on the key issue of climate change, and taking action in several other important envirorunental areas. Moreover from a Canadian standpoint, Houston represented a significant and surprising success, as it affirmed Canada's generally mainstream position on major global environmental issues, accepted most Canadian initiatives on issues of particular national concern and allowed Prime Minister Mulroney to maintain his image of international leadership on the environment.

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    Houston as a Sustainable Development Disappointment

    In the lead-up to the Houston summit, there were few signs that the 1990 gathering of most of the world's most powerful leaders would maintain the exceptionally high profile for sustainable development issues that the Paris summit had achieved the year before.

    In the realm of development, the Paris summit had succeeded in reviving global attention to the plight of third world countries, the need for reducing their debt burden and the possibility of a new north-south dialogue that would include environmental issues. More importantly, for the first time in its fourteen year history, the economic summit was dominated by environmental issues. The comuniqué devoted a full one-third of its text to this subject, and identified a large number of environmental issues as appropriate subjects for international concern.

    From the start, those preparing the Houston agenda knew that publics, environmental groups, and the media, would expect Houston to maintain the high environmental profile that Paris had established. Yet they were slow to arrive at concrete ways in which to meet this objective, given the reluctance of the host United States to move on the central issues of the global atmosphere.

    From the verv start of the summit preparatory cycle, those within the US administration advocating a major focus on environmental subjects were consistently disappointed. An early effort by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to gain control of the US government's summit environmental agenda was turned back by the State Department. And although President Bush had brought EPA Administrator William Reilly to Paris the year before, and allowed him while there to brief the world's media on American environmental aspirations, there were no signs that his attendance at the hometown summit was wanted. Ultimately, while the President was to bring two cabinet-level officers to Houston, in addition to the foreign and finance ministers who routinely attend the summit, the call went not to Reilly but to Trade Representative Carla Hills and Agriculture Secretary Clayton Yeutter. The task of explaining to the world American positions, summit progress, and even scientific "facts" on the environment at Houston was left to President Bush's Chief of Staff John Sununu.

    Nor did the intergovernmental discussions in the leadup to Houston show any more signs of American environmental enthusiasm. The failure to achieve consensus at a White House sponsored ministerial conference on climate change in the spring of 1990, and the United States' retreat from an earlier commitment to provide funds for third world countries to reduce their use of ozone-destroying chloroflurocarbons brought progress on the summit's environmental agenda among the leader's personal representatives, or sherpas, to a virtual standstill. Although forceful interventions from foreign sherpa's such as Canada's Derek Burney, and representatioas from leaders such as Margaret Thatcher to President Bush directly succeeded in inducing the United States to restore its commitment to the ozone-substitution fund just prior to the summit, the retreat and reversal generated delay, frustration, and evidence of the formidable power of an environmentally skeptical John Sununu.

    Under Sununu's influence, the United States came to Houston with a position on the central atmospheric issues that put it in a minority of one against all its summit partners. From the standpoint of taking concrete cleanup action on the key global warning issue, an adamantly economically preoccupied United States confronted an environtnentally engaged Germany, France, Italy and European Community, with Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom in the middle.

    As the leaders' sherpas preparing the summit were dealing with this impasse in private, the environmental expectations on the leaders at Houston faded in public. With the United States trying to focus attention on the issue of multilateral trade and agricultural subsidies, with Germany in the final weeks before Houston promoting the idea of coordinated western aid to the Soviet Union and with Japan quietly trying to have the summit approve the resumption of aid to China, global environmental issues became a secondary preoccupation. Because each of the summit's three most powerful members, including Germany, had chosen or acquired other, more nationally critical causes to champion, the global environment went without a dedicated, powerful summit advocate.

    Nor did the media propel environmental issues into the first tier of summit-related public consciousness, either before, during, or after summit. Within Canada, the elite English-language newspaper of record, the Globe and Mail, devoted 34 newsitems to the summit in the two days before, three days of, and three days after the summit (July 7-14), but only one of these highlighted environmental issues, and only an additional 13 referred to them in passing. Canada's largest circulation english-language daily, the Toronto Star, in its 36 summit newsitems during the same period, focused six on environmental subjects, but all but one of these dealt with the Canada-US bilateral agreement on the eve of the summit to open negotiations on an acid rain accord. Canada's leading financial daily, The Financial Post, consistent with the pattern, focused only two, and devoted part of another six newsitems to the environment in its summit coverage.

    At the end of the summit, there was much easily available evidence that Houston had been an environmental failure. Whereas the Paris comuniqué had devoted an unprecedentedly large one- third of its pages and paragraphs to environmental subjects, Houston allocated only 22% of its pages and 15% of its paragraphs to the topic. Moreover the central environmental initiative of the Houston summit - Germany's proposal for a summit acceptance or endorsement of its far reaching national plan for C02 emissions - died an early and decisive death. Media reports alleged that even before the summit opened, in a bilateral meeting between Chancellor Kohl and President Bush, the German's had traded off their push for a strong summit statement on C02 reduction in return for American acquiescence in Germany providing direct economic aid to the Soviet Union.

    Certainly the enviroamental NGO community, active at the summit site through the sponsorship of a concurrent "Ecosummit", were quick to brand the summit seven individually and collectively as ecological failures. Immediately prior to the summit, a coalition of environmental groups issued a "Green Report Card," which surveyed national performance on six (equally weighted) major environmental dimensions, and awarded all seven mediocre or failing grades. Germany ranked first followed by France, the United States and Britain. Canada, with 24 out of a possible 60 points, came fifth, tied with Japan and ahead of only Italy. Canada performed adequately on population (6/10) and ocean pollution (5/10), poorly on climate (4/10) and protection of critical ecosystems (4/10) and dismally on global environmental bargain (3/10) and Eastern Europe (2/10).

    Although critical colunuiists were quick to label the exercise "the intellectual equivalent of a toxic dump", and Canada's sherpa, Derek Burney, speaking on-the-record, declared the report "warped", it commanded widespread publicity. Indeed all the newsitems that the Globe, Star and Post focused on the environment in their summit coverage, apart from those dealing with the acid rain accord, dealt with the Green Report Card. Such coverage lent credence to the post-summit conclusion of the environmentalists that Houston was a waste of time, accomplishing nothing more than the leaders could have had they remained at home connected bv eight fax machines.

    Editorialists and columnists in their post-summit assessments tended to agree. The environmentally skeptical Globe and Mail noted (in a July 13 editorial) "the scientific questions surrounding the greenhouse effect may warrant the caution shown here," and described (in a July 13 column by Terence Corcoran) the passage on a global forestry convention as "Global Overblown Diplomatese." The environmentally supportive Toronto Star concluded (in a July 12 editorial) that the "third world got short shrift when Bush refused to support a $2..5 billion fund to help poor countries clean up their environment" and that the summit's "failure to act on development and the environment can be felt most keenly in the third world." It also (in a July 12 column by Richard Gwyn) declared President Bush successful in securing "slower progress on doing something about global warming." Only the Financial Post (in a July 16 editorial focused on the green report card) was indirectly approving of the summit's environmental conclusions, declaring that "Even global warming, not yet irrefutably proven, appears certain enough to justify action."

    Internationally the media consensus that Houston was an environmental disappointment was similarly overwhelming. The Wall Street Journal (in a July 13 editorial), singled out the National Wildlife Federation's judgement that "Bush's efforts at balance, compromise and consensus-building are killing the world," and declared it to be "the familiar voice of political extremism." The Financial Times of London (in an editorial) said the comuniqué "does not look particularly substantive" in dealing with the maior disagreement on the environment and that Houston thus resembled "an exercise in papering over the cracks." The Economist highlighted the fact that the comuniqué "made no mention of a commitment to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by a specific date."

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    Houston as Sustainable Development Progress

    While environmentalists and editorialists impatient for clear, concrete, far-reaching action viewed Houston as an environmental failure, those with a more developed understanding, plurilateral, summit diplomacy in general, and the seven-power summit in particular, should see such judgments as, at best, incomplete. It is certainly true that the seven-power summit can, very occasionally and usually in crisis situations, arrive at big package deals with detailed targets and timetables for reliable national implementation. It is also true that the media and other political critics are an essential part of the process of inspiring results-oriented summits from those seven leaders who claim their legitimacy from the fact that they represent the world's seven largest industrial democracies.

    However where the summit as an institution is most necessary and effective is in the earlier stages of the long road to government programs and public acclaim. Its key role comes in identifying, priorizing, and defining the boundaries of items for international action (legitimation, agenda-setting, and parameter- setting), defining fora and deadlines for achieving results (process-setting), and arriving at interim, component agreements to help bring these processes to ultimate success (consensus-building). By these standards appropriate to the summit as a unique international institution - Houston was a substantial, if uneven, sustainable development success.

    A key function of the summit, accomplished before the meeting itself even begins, is to provide an action- forcing deadline that forces leaders and national bureaucracies to address often hitherto neglected issues, to arrive internally at positions that will be internationally negotiable or at least explicable, and to do so in the knowledge that the result will have to withstand the scrutiny of the several thousand journalists attending the event. Here the Houston summit, through its sherpa preparatory process and the politics of expectations management can be credited with two major achievements - the reversal of the US refusal to contribute to a third world CFC substitution fund, and the Canada-US agreement to open negotiations on an acid rain accord.

    It is possible that the CFC reversal would have taken place in the absence of the Houston summit, as part of American reluctance to make a commitment at Bergen stemmed from a desire to commit in a comprehensive, United Nations-mandated and focused forum where its pledge would inevitably be seen as a precedent for action on other global environmental issues. However well before the London conference, where the American reversal took place, those managing the US summit preparatory process in the National Security Council were confident that such a reversal would take place prior (but close) to the Houston summit, both to exempt Bush from foreign criticism and give him an easy success as an environmentalist. Internationally, the summit preparatory process, as described above, provided a channel for the most powerful foreign leaders, both directly and through the sherpa process, to personally bring pressure to bear on the President for a US contribution. And internally, to a President prone to the argument that the US should not give money to an India and Pakistan who would both benefit from CFC substitution and who were wasting money arming themselves to the teeth to war with each other over Kashmir, the summit provided a set of personal advisers (the sherpa and State Department team) apart from Sununu (who had automatic access), and a set of public pressures (the image of George Bush at the summit he was hosting in his own hometown), which brought additional and ultimately more potent considerations to bear.

    The second action-forcing achievement was the announcement by President Bush and Prime Minister Mulroney at their bilateral meeting in Houston the day before the summit opened to begin negotiations on an acid rain accord. Skeptics might well argue that such negotiations would have taken place in any event on the basis of US national legislation already agreed to with Congress, and that this agreement was part of Bush's stage management strategy to give him an early summit environmental accomplishment, and thus remove the incentive to move on more important issues. However the agreement did represent a change in the previous United States position that negotiations would not open until Congress had passed the agreed- upon revisions to the Clean Air Act. Moreover Senator Baucus, responsible for guiding the legislation through the Congress, said the agreement would give added incentive to Congress to pass the Clean Air Act. And the otherwise uninvolved William Reilly was thus able to fly to Ottawa the following week to begin the negotiations as soon as possible. To Prime Minister Mulroney, who had spent half a decade inching the US forward on the acid rain issue, any increase in the pace would have represented a meaningful achievement.

    At a second level, the sherpa preparatory process forced the personal representatives to take up the key issues of global warning and to search, however agonizingly, for areas of consensus. It also enabled them to lock in early areas of relatively easy but still substantial agreement. At the first sherpa meeting, held in early January 1990 in Key West, Florida, the sherpas identified the environment as one of the three big summit issues, on the grounds that domestic publics were still engaged in the issue, and that their heads' Paris performance had raised expectations. Moreover, they were aware that after the easy victories of Paris, which merely tasked international organizations to do things and committed summit countries to nothing, Houston's record would have to be more concrete to satisfy public demands. At the same time, it was clear that those worried about the economic impact of climate change action held the upper hand in the US administration, and that progress here would be slow.

    At the second sherpa meeting held in San Francisco, environmental issues took a back seat to questions of east-west relations. However at the third sherpa meeting, held in Paris in May, the impasse on the issue of climate change came to the fore. Although all agreed this was a major issue, they agreed on little else. America's colleagues left the meeting knowing the subject would be a major focus at the subsequent sherpa meeting, and a major challenge for the US as host. The Americans left knowing they were in a minority of one, that the summit would have to achieve a consensus view, and that to do so all would have to compromise, with the Americans as the odd man out compromising the most. In addition the Paris sherpa meeting made rapid progress on agreement to take action on tropical rainforests, an issue of particular concern to the Germans and Japanese. Subsequent sherpa meetings codified this progress, while leaving the central issue of climate change unresolved.

    At the summit itself, despite the competing claims of agricultural subsidies, aid to the Soviet Union and aid to China, environmental issues received extensive and serious discussion among the leaders and their sherpas. Environment issues commanded much of the leader's attention in their discussion in the Tuesday afternoon session. They took much of the sherpas' time during the ensuing night when they struggled to draft a communiqué their leaders could endorse the next morning. And the leaders took up the subject that final morning, as all items remaining unresolved ("square bracketed" in summit parlance) at dawn dealt with the environment.

    With the release of the final communiqué at noon on Wednesday, July 11, it was clear that the Houston summit had succeeded in securing significant attention for environmental issues, introducing new items onto the global environmental agenda setting priorities among them, defining processes to deal with them, forwarding consensus on key issues such as global warning, and agreeing to action on important questions such as the world's forests. Table A summarizes the treatment of environmental issues in the Economic Declaration of the Houston Summit.

    The three and a half pages and thirteen paragraphs devoted to environmental issues in the declaration made this subject the single largest concern of the communiqué. The environment thus came ahead of such traditional economic subjects as developing countries (ranked second with two and a half pages and 14 paragraphs), and trade (ranked third with two and a half pages and 12 paragraphs).

    For the second year in a row, the environment also appeared in the summit's introductory sections, which set the defining priorities and principles for the leaders' work. The summit's third paragraph recognized that "sustainable economic prosperity" depended, among other things, "on an environment safeguarded for future generations". Thus the core principles of sustainable development — the integration of environmental and economic considerations, and the acceptance of custodianship for future generations — were explicitly affirmed as fundamental to the summit's direction.

    Perhaps the most important feature of the Houston communiqué was the spread of explicit references from the separate environmental section to the economic sections of the document - a recognition that environmental considerations were relevant to previously self-contained economic subjects. Whereas none of the economic sections of the Paris communiqué had had such environmental recognitions or reminders, Houston had four.

    Of the four two dealt with Eastern and Central Europe. Paragraph 37 recognized that the countries in Eastern and Central Europe faced "major problems in cleaning their environment. It will be important to assist the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to develop the necessary policies and infrastructure to confront those environmental policies." Paragraph 38 stated: "We also welcome the recent initiatives in regional cooperation, e.g.- in transport and environment."

    The other two dealt with developing countries. Paragraph 48 noted: 'The IDA replenishment of ... last December ... marks the incorporation of environmental concerns into development lending..." Paragraph 57 stated, somewhat cautiously, '...the recent U. S. Enterprise for the Americas initiative to support investment reform and the environment in Latin America needs to be given careful consideration by Finance Ministers."

    Although the Paris communiqué represented a major advance in moving environmental considerations from their environmental ghetto and having them penetrate economic subjects, its progress on this front remained limited. All of the four references dealt not with existing policies but with new summit subjects, new program, or new monies. Moreover in the 12 paragraphs on the Intemational Trading System, and the two paragraphs on Direct Investment, as well as on other less environmentally related economic subjects, there was not a single reference to environmental concerns.

    A further significant feature of the Houston communiqué was its move from a "laundry list" to a "priorities" approach to the global environmental agenda. At Paris, the leaders had been late to realize the burgeoning public concern in their countries for environmental matters. They had thus looked to Canada, the country with the most summit experience in environmental matters, to draft a communiqué which noted, at considerable length but with no particular priority or integration the set of environmental issues most prominent in each of the summit countries. In preparing for Houston, Canada and other environmental activists had pushed strongly for a communiqué that was designed not for domestic political consumption but one that would define priorities for international action. They were largely successful. Paragraph 62, which opened the communiqué's environmental section, singled out "climate change, ozone depletion, deforestation, marine pollution, and loss of biological diversity" as the key issues requiring "closer and more effective international co-operation and concrete action."

    Most importantly, paragraph 62, in a major advance, defined a key principle or decision rule to guide such co-operation and action. It read: "We agree that, in the face of threats of irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty is no excuse to postpone actions which are justified in their own right." Although the final phrase represented substantial American-generated qualifier, the acceptance of the overwhelming magnitude of the threat and of the uncertainty principle as a basis for further decisionmaking and action was a major American concession and summit advance.

    Paragraph 63 noted that the issue of climate change was "of key importance" and committed the members to "common efforts to limit emissions of greenhouse gases; such as carbon dioxide." Although it did not specify targets and timetables for actual reductions (as Germany had wished), it did speak of "strategies and measures", of "stabilizing" as well as "limiting," greenhouse gas emissions, and of three deadlines for decision and action. The first was the "opportunity" provided by the Second World Climate Conference. The second was a 1992 date for the completion of a framework convention on climate change to be negotiated under UNEP and WMO auspices. And the third was a declaration that "Work on appropriate implementing protocols should be undertaken as expeditiously as possible and should consider all sources and sinks." While the latter phraseology was a concession to John Sununu, the absence of a demand that such work should "comprehensively" consider all such sources and sinks, and the injunction for immediate action, represented a major environmental success.

    Paragraph 64 applauded recent progress on the protection of the ozone layer. Paragraph 65, reflecting the perspectives of Japan's Science and Technology Agency even more than those of the United States, emphasized the need for international co-operation on science, new technologies and economic research.

    Paragraphs 66, 67 and parts of 68 dealt with forests. In an advance on Paris, these paragraphs included temperate as well as tropical forests as areas of concem and declared the summit Members ready for a new north-south dialogue on this subject, for a pilot project with Brazil to preserve tropical rainforests, and for the commencement of negotiations on a global forest convention or agreement to be completed by 1992.

    Paragraph 69, dealing with marine pollution, went beyond Paris to call for a comprehensive strategy to deal with land-based sources of pollution, to criticize "unregulated fishing practices", and to support the work of regional fisheries organizations in this respect. Paragraph 70 noted, in deference to French and Japanese interests in particular, that nuclear energy could "play a significant role in reducing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions."

    Paragraph 71 dealt with the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development. It began with a clear statement that "Co-operation between developed and developing countries is essential to the resolution of global environmental problems." Whereas the Paris communiqué had expected the 1992 UN Conference only to "give additional momentum to the protection of the global environment," the Houston Declaration identified it as "an important opportunity to develop widespread agreement on common action and coordinated plans." It further suggested it consider the conclusions of the Sienna Forum on the International Law of the Environment. Together with the use elsewhere in the communiqué of 1992 as the standard deadline for the completion of work, this paragraph did much to legitimize the 1992 conference as the central forum and action-forcing event for global environmental decisionmaking.

    Paragraph 72 discussed environmental assistance to developing countries. It called for the strengthening of multilateral development banks in the field of environmental protection, and declared "debt-for-nature swaps can play a useful role." It concluded vath the words "We will examine how the World Bank can provide a coordinating role for measures to promote environmental protection." "Through, for example, a proposed Global Environmental Facility," the words ensconced in square brackets that ended that senetence in the draft the sherpas delivered to their heads the final morning, were absent from the final version of the conimuniqué.

    Paragraph 73 dealt with environmental decisionmaking and information. It endorsed a series of pet national projects, notably an international network for atmospheric and earth data exchange, the importance of the private sector, the OECD work on environmental indications, an international conference on environmental information, and voluntary product labelling. Paragraph 74 ended the environmental section by the endorsing the Human Frontier Science program much beloved by the Japanese.

    Outside of the summit's Economic Declaration, in its main political declaration environmental values also received a major boost in the summit's consensus on how to deal with the divisive issue of resuming loans to, and other normal relations with, China, one vear after the Tienanmen massacre. Apart from giving the Japanese the green light to resume bilateral lending if they wished, the summit agreed that World Bank lending would be resumed only for projects which met basic human needs (an old criteria), or which enhanced the environment (a new standard). At a conceptual level, the summit leaders thus placed environmental protection on the same high level as basic human needs as a priority international value. The practical effect of this change, however, remained in some doubt, particularly as the World Bank President subsequently vowed that summit decisions would have no effect on the Bank's decisions, which remained the prerogative of its members.

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    Houston as a Surprising Canadian Success

    Apart from its substantial value in forwarding international agreement and action on sustainable development, the Houston communiqué represented, somewhat surprisingly, a significant success for the advancement of Canada's particular environmental concerns. At the outset of the summit preparatory process, Canada approached the environmental area, in which it had traditionally exercised summit leadership with the burden of a Prime Minister preoccupied with the process of domestic constitutional reform, without a national plan for the environment, and without his Environment Minister assured of the funding for major initiatives in the field.

    Nonetheless, by May 1990 Canada had identified several inexpensive but not unimportant summit environmental objectives. These were: the move from a laundry list to a priorities approach; recognition for the centrality of climate change; the specification of processes and principles to move the debate on it forward; securing a summit consensus that followed Canada (at that time) in not setting timetables and targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions; adding language on the land-based marine pollution that was threatening Canada's long coastline; and obtaining a consensus on overfishing that would allow it to renew its campaign to curb the devastation European countries were visiting on the Atlantic, and in particular Newfoundland, fishery.

    In its pre-summit package of materials prepared for the international media, Canada defined its basic summit position as promoting the "adoption of sustainable development approaches, as recommended by the World Commission on Environment and Development." It identified four key tenets: improved environmental information for decisionmakers (as in the Paris Summit's environmental indicators initiative); improved environmental education (internationally through UNEP); "enhanced international partnerships, multilateral or bilateral, with particular attention to the environmental relations between developed and developing countries;" and enhanced participation in international scientific efforts.

    Canada's twenty major environmental positions, as identified in the pre-summit package, are worth noting in detail. They can be summarized as follows:

    1. "concerted international action is required to address global environmental challenges"
    2. "the international community must be prepared to take decisions and actions, even in the face of scientific uncertainty"
    3. "long term solutions to global environmental problems will require the transfer of additional resources and technologies from developed to developing countries"
    4. "Climate change is the most important environmental issue facing humanity today"
    5. "a first step must be the stabilization, by the year 2000 and at present levels, of emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases."
    6. "Canada is committed to producing a national strategy, including targets and schedules ... no later than the start of negotiations of a framework convention."
    7. The Second World Climate Conference (Geneva, October 27-November 7, 1990) will provide a forum for discussing, at the ministerial level, targets, schedules and national action plans...(and) ... will set the stage for the launch of negotiations on a global climate change convention."
    8. "The conclusion of a framework convention on climate change by the 1992 UN Conference ... along with supporting protocols outlining how the convention's principles are to be implemented, is a high priority."
    9. "Canada supports phasing out by the year 2000 the use of chloroflurocarbons ... and other substances that deplete the ozone layer."
    10. "Canada is actively participating in other global environmental initiatives.. the development of global conventions on biological diversity ... and oil spills, as well as regional agreements relating to air quality, environmental impact assessment, transboundary water problems, and of course acid rain."
    11. "environmental considerations must be integrated into all aspects of domestic and international decisionmaking"
    12. "Canada has been supportive of efforts to introduce environmental considerations into the project and program activities of multilateral lending institutions such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Bank."
    13. The work of the OECD on environmental indicators "will be presented at the January 1991 OECD Ministerial"
    14. "Canada will also host an international conference in 1991 on the development and communication of environmental information, including that on environmental indicators ... so as to make a significant contribution to the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development."
    15. "...further work is needed to assess fully the merits of using economic instruments."
    16. "Canada has two key concerns in the marine environment area: the negative effect of marine pollution (particularly in coastal areas) on fishing, tourism, biodiversity and human health; and the adverse impact of overfishing and indiscriminate fishing practices on living resources of the high seas."
    17. "Canada strongly supports the efforts of the International Maritime Organization to build upon the achievements of the London Dumping Convention in order to improve controls on the disposal of wastes into the sea, and to conclude a Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response (scheduled for signing in November 1990)."
    18. "Canada is a leading proponent of establishing, through the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, more effective programs for monitoring the world's oceans"
    19. "Canada supports enhanced international cooperation to protect and conserve living marine resources and to promote sustainable fisheries practices"
    20. "Canada supports the strengthening of regional fisheries organizations, the principal proponents of the sustainable development of living marine resources."

    Most of these preferences (with the notable exception of the fifth, specifying targets and timetables for greenhouse gas emission reduction) were successfully infused into the summit process and survived intact. Indeed, even when one takes into account the fact that these statement of preferences were written at a time when Canadian officials knew the contents of a draft summit communiqué, there is a remarkably high correspondence between these articulated Canadian positions and the content of the environmental sections of the final Houston declaration (summarized in the previous section above).

    At the end of the summit, when Prime Minister Mulroney briefed the media on Canada's achievements at Houston, he singled out eight items of success. A full five of these dealt with the environment, meaning that this issue area was once again (following Paris) to bear the burden of proving that Canada was an equal power with something distinctive to contribute to and gain from its summit membership. The five environmental successes on the Prime Minister's list were: the acid rain negotiations agreement concluded with President Bush on the eve of the summit; the reference to land-based coastal pollution; the emphasis on fisheries conservation; the approval of the work on environmental indicators; and the endorsement of Canada's environmental information conference.

    Nor did the Prime Minister lack confirmation of his summit environmental successes from other sources. Host President Bush in his post-summit news conference singled out Prime Minister Mulroney with the words: "I benefited from his commitment on the environment and from his advice." One of his top aides described to the media his interventions at the summit table with the words; "He tells them what overfishing is doing to the people of Newfoundland." And while the Canadian media noted that Bush's nice words might be an expression of gratitude for staging the earlier acid rain agreement, or political support for a friend in deep domestic political trouble, they widely reported the remark and tended to accept at face value Mulroney's environmental claims. Indeed, the Financial Post gave credence to the accolade when it provided the details (in a July 16 column by Hy Solomon) that Bush picked up Mulroney 's advice on global warming by accepting a summit endorsement for the 1992 framework negotiation on climate change being organized by the United Nations Environmental Program, as a way of overcoming the deep divisions around the summit table on the issue.

    As with Canada's summit seven environmental diplomacy generally, this was an achievement of process rather than substance, an agreement on a deadline and a forum rather than on targets, programs and costs. But such accomplishments are both an appropriate specialty for a country of Canada's relative size around the summit table, and of considerable value in the complex world of international policy co-ordination on subjects as novel, open-ended, and fundamental as sustainable development.

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    Table A: Environmental References in the Houston Summit Economic Declaration


    p. 3 General commitment

    Economic Sections

    p. 37 Central and Eastern European problems
    p. 38 Eastern European regional cooperation
    p. 48 IDA environmental criteria
    p. 57 Enterprise for the Americas

    Environmental Section

    p. 62 Priorities and uncertainties
    p. 63 Climate change
    p. 64 Ozone
    p. 65 New technologies
    p. 66 Tropical forests
    p. 67 Global forest convention
    p. 68 Ecologically sensitive areas
    p. 69 Marine Pollution
    p. 70 Nuclear energy and alternatives
    p. 71 1992 United Nations conference
    p. 72 Multilateral development banks and North–South cooperation
    p. 73 Integrated decision making and information
    p. 74 Human Frontier Science Program

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