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Keeping Sustainable Development Commitments:
The Recent G7 Record

Ella Kokotsis

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Naples Summit, 1994


The Naples communique made considerably fewer and less tangible commitments with regards to environment and development issues. Apart from the leader's endorsement of the continuation of the CSD and the replenishment of the GEF, the communique dealt with the Convention on Desertification. On October 14, Canada joined its G7 members - along with 80 other countries - in signing the UN Convention on Desertification in Paris. Canada pledged to contribute CDN$100 million over the next five years towards the global effort to fight desertification. (Canadian News Facts, October 1-15, 1994)

One might question why this convention was eventually agreed to in October, and why the G7 seemed to place such little importance on this issue in the past. One reason could be the increased awareness on the part of the seven industrial countries that the issue of desertification was not strictly a regional problem, but a global one. According to the IDRC, drylands exist in all continents, comprising a total of 41% of the total global land area. Moreover, one third of the land in North America is dryland, comprising 12% of the world's total. One third of this dryland has already lost 25% of its productive potential. With respect to Canada, approximately 80% of the Prairies fall under the definition of "dryland". The economic impact is estimated to cost between CDN$102-257 million annually. Canada' Green Plan currently contains provisions with regards to desertification, and will continue to provide the framework for further action geared towards the prevention of further soil degradation. (IDRC, Sept. 1994, 11-12)

The Naples communique also stated the leaders' determination to speed up the implementation of national plans for the Rio Climate Treaty. Following Rio, the G7 promised to decrease greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. However, a report issued in September 1994 by the secretariat for the Framework Convention on Climate Change stated that carbon dioxide emissions by Japan and the United States in 2000 would be higher by 2.3% and 3.0% respectively, over 1990 levels if current trends continue. Moreover, emissions by Canada are expected to increase by 10.6% over the 1990 levels by the year 2000. According to the report, Germany's emissions in 2000 are expected to decrease by 5.0% from 1990 levels. The United Kingdom's emissions are also expected to decrease to 1990 levels. (NIKKEI, Dec. 16, 1994)

Further to the communique's objective of encouraging additional progress on the Rio conventions, Canadian finance and energy ministers met in Bathurst, New Brunswick on November 8, 1994, to outline over 80 options from which a national action program for stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions would be assembled. The program outlined options for economic development, technical innovation and alternative energy sources that would provide a framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. Provincial ministers indicated, however, that they could not approve the plan unless they had cabinet approval and unless they assessed the plan's economic impact. Most, but not all ministers felt that regulatory options were required as well as voluntary ones. The ministers directed their officials to complete an economic analysis of the available options and recommended that the plan be released by February 1995. Thus, Canada expects to table the plan at a first signatories' conference on the Framework Convention on Climate Change scheduled for Berlin in March 1995. (Envirogram, Dec., 1994) By preparing the National Action Plan for March, Canada will have fulfilled the summit commitment urging the G7 to report on what they have achieved by the Halifax summit.

With respect to other G7 members, neither France nor Italy have provided National Action Plans to date. Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom have provided such plans and are expecting to table them at the Halifax summit. (Interview, Environment Canada, Dec. 16, 1994)

The Naples communique stressed that the G7 would work towards the implementation of the Biodiversity Convention. In response to this commitment, the first session of the Biodiversity Conference was held Nassau in December 1994. Although no written reports or new protocols were tabled, conference members were able to establish a permanent secretariat and agree on dates for future meetings. According to an Environment Canada official, the conference provided "a successful first step for the implementation of the convention". (Interview, Environment Canada, Dec. 16, 1994)

The Naples communique also welcomed the restructuring and the replenishment of the GEF, and supported its choice as the permanent financial mechanism of the Rio conventions. Following the Earth Summit, UN officials had hoped that US$8 billion would be pledged initially to the GEF for sustainable development. At the most recent GEF meeting in Cartagena, however, donors - including all G7 countries - agreed to commit US$2 billion to the fund - one third less than expected. The Canadian contribution to the GEF for 1994 was CDN$8.1 million, with CDN$5 million sourced from ODA and CDN$3.1 million from the Green Plan. Not only was there substantially less money provided to the GEF than anticipated by the UN, but there was also disagreement on how to supervise the money. Major industrial countries, such as Canada, for example, called for their control of the GEF's governing body, which determines where and how the money is to be allocated. Developing countries, on the other hand, argued that they should be apportioned a greater voice in how the funds are to be dispersed. (Dept. of Finance Estimates, ODA, 1994-95; 28)

The G7 stated at Naples that the environment remained "a top priority for international cooperation". Only six months have transpired since Naples, and thus firm conclusions with respect to these initiatives can not yet be accurately assessed. Based on available evidence to date, however, the record appears to be mixed. Progress has been made on the implementation of national action plans for climate change, as well as with the conventions on biodiversity and desertification. The G7 have partially fulfilled their commitment to replenish the GEF, although disbursements to the fund are much below expected levels. Although the heads have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000, early indicators suggest that not all G7 countries will be able to meet this target.

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