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Keeping Sustainable Development Commitments:
The Recent G7 Record

Ella Kokotsis

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Munich Summit, 1992


As the Munich commitments indicate, (see Appendix B) a new era in environmental diplomacy began with the conclusion of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in June of that year. Meeting in Munich one month later, the G7 leaders stressed the importance and urgency of carrying forward the momentum of UNCED. In fact, the final communique emphasized a number of immediate measures to follow up the agreements and conventions reached at Rio.

With respect to global warming, the Munich communique committed all G7 members to ratifying the Climate Change Convention by the end of 1993. The Convention - a legally binding treaty that recommends curbing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming - was signed by 154 countries (including all G7 members) during the Earth Summit. Canada signed the Climate Change Convention at Rio and was the first of the G7 to ratify the Convention, on December 4, 1992. Although the Munich communique did not make the same commitment regarding the Biodiversity Convention - due to American reservations about the treaty - Canada signed and ratified the Biodiversity Convention on December 4, 1992, and urged other countries to sign and ratify the convention as promptly as possible. (Reporting Telex, Final Canadian Reports, 1992)

The Munich communique also called on all countries to prepare and publish national action plans for the environment and sustainable development by the end of 1993. This objective was in fact achieved by Canada in 1990, with the government's launch of the Green Plan - Canada's national blueprint for implementing environment and sustainable development initiatives. It was anticipated that Canada's Green Plan would assist developing countries in drafting their own national sustainable development strategies in an effort to assist the process of implementing the Rio conventions. (Reporting Telex, Final Canadian Reports, 1992) Since 1991, however, the Green Plan "has suffered a series of financial setbacks as a result of government fiscal restraint". In an effort to reduce costs, the government indicated it would stretch the Green Plan's CDN$3 billion budget over a period of six years, rather than the anticipated 5 year term, thereby saving CDN$600 million. Moreover, in December 1992, Finance Minister Don Mazankowski announced that funding for the Plan would be further reduced by 10 percent. Such measures began to signify that the Green Plan could "be prevented from developing into a full-fledged implementation of sustainable development". (Jeffrey, 1994; 32-34)

The Munich communique also confirmed the G7's goal of establishing the Global Environment Facility (GEF) as a permanent funding mechanism . This would require addressing the issue of financing a GEF replenishment - "a prospect raised explicitly by Major, Kohl and Mitterand" at the summit. (Reporting Telex, Final Canadian Reports, 1992) Canada endorsed the establishment of the GEF in 1991, and in 1992, Canada fulfilled its summit commitment by contributing CDN$25 million to the fund. Canada sponsored the GEF's first meeting in October 1992, and in addition, pledged to contribute more financial resources in an effort to establish the facility as a permanent funding institution.

The Munich communique further called for the establishment by the 1992 United Nations General Assembly of the Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), which would play a pivotal role in monitoring the implementation of Agenda 21. Recognizing that unless such a Commission were established, many pledges made at Rio would fall victim to "displaced priorities", the Canadian government "gave the strongest possible endorsement to proposals for the establishment of the Sustainable Development Commission". (Buxton, 1992; 794) In compliance with the Munich communique, the CSD was established at the autumn 1992 session of the United Nations General Assembly and met for the first time from June 14 to 25, 1993 at UN headquarters in New York. (Global Agenda, Spring 1993)

The Munich communique also called for an international review process for the forest principles, and an early dialogue with developing countries over their implementation. Although there was no institutional framework for such a review process at the time of the Munich summit, Canada announced the allocation of CDN$10 million following the Earth Summit for the establishment of three projects intended to "demonstrate sustainable forest management techniques". (Buxton, 1992; 787) Moreover, Canada worked successfully in writing "an endorsement of the formulation of internationally agreed methodologies and criteria to be used in drawing up national guidelines for sustainable forest development". In addition, Canada contributed CDN$16.6 million in 1992 to the Rain Forest Pilot Project - a project initiated by the G7 and Brazil designed to promote conservation of the Brazilian Amazon Rain Forest; Japanese and German contributions to the Project following the Munich Summit were US$773 and $US300 million respectively. Finally, Canada announced a pledge of CDN$115 million following the Earth Summit in assistance to developing countries for forest management initiatives. (Ibid., 792)

With respect to other G7 countries, Germany was considered the Earth Summit's leading power. In Rio, Bonn boasted that "it had resolved to implement the tightest programme on the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions", promising to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by the year 2000. Although the Munich communique urged all G7 members to "draw up and publish national action plans, as foreseen at UNCED, by the end of 1993", Germany had fulfilled this commitment by producing its National Report on Environmental Protection in Germany in June, 1992. Japanese Prime Minister Miyazawa also stated that he would attempt to reduce Japanese carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000, and further stated that by 1996, Japan would terminate the use of CFCs.

With respect to the more substantive environmental commitments made in the Munich communique - i.e. those that can be measured with reasonable precision - the summit members scored relatively well. Two of the most pressing issues on the agenda - the creation of the Commission on Sustainable Development and the extension of the Global Environment Facility - were both promptly adopted by the members following the Munich summit. Although not all members ratified the Climate Change Convention immediately following the summit, Canada became the first of the G7 to ratify the Convention in December, 1992.

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