Informal Meeting of the G7 Environment Ministers

Florence, March 12-13, 1994

Chairman's Notes

Florence hosted on March 12 and 13 a meeting of Environment Ministers of the seven most industrialized Countries (G7) and the Commission of the European Union, to exchange views in an informal setting on some crucial environmental questions. The meeting was opened by Prime Minister of Italy Carlo Azeglio CIAMPI, who welcomed the initiative and highlighted the relevance of this informal encounter for the oncoming Summit of the G7 in Naples.

The following personalities responded favourably to the invitation of the Italian Minister for Environment, Valdo SPINI:

CANADA: Mrs. Sheila COPPS, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Environment.
FRANCE: Mr. Michel BARNIER, Minister of Environment.
GERMANY: Mr. Klaus TOEPFER, Minister of Environment.
JAPAN: Mrs. Wakako HIRONAKA, Minister of Environment.
UNITED KINGDOM: Mr. John GUMMER, Minister of Environment.
UNITED STATES: Mr. Robert SUSSMAN, EPA Deputy Administrator.
Sen. Tim WIRTH, Undersecretary of the State Department.
EUROPEAN UNION: Mr. Yannis PALEOKRASSAS, Commissioner for the Environment.

During the meeting delegations addressed in detail a number of relevant issues.

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Global Environment

General concern was expressed on the increasing deterioration of the global environment, as regards global warming, ozone layer depletion, desertification, fresh water depletion, biodiversity loss and deforestation. On the other hand, a growing confidence on the benefits of the newly established international instruments was recorded.

1. The entry into force of the Conventions on Climate Change and Biodiversity will provide new impetus to the programmes of mitigation of the greenhouse gas emissions and spur the international community to counter the alarming loss of the Earth's genetic patrimony. With respect to the Climate Convention, a converging view emerged on the potential of joint-implementation schemes for transferring energy-saving technologies to non-OECD countries; however, joint implementation should be used as a mechanism for further reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, not as a resort to help stabilize emissions by the year 2000 at their 1990 levels.

2. The negotiating process for a Convention to fight the scourge of desertification in the most threatened areas of the Earth (such as Africa, including the Mediterranean Southern rim) must be accelerated. Financing the implementation of the future Convention is a matter of concern; also GEF's funds might be used, so long as projects show a clear link with the protection of one of the global commons already covered by the GEF.

3. The lack of binding instrument for the conservation and good management of the world forests was deplored. The establishment of an intergovernmental Task Force on Forests, to include both boreal and tropical forests, is a first and urgent step for further negotiations aimed at a Global Forestry Convention: a broad support emerged on this Malaysian-Canadian initiative which has the merit among others, to take into full account the sovereignty rights of the holding countries.

4. The increasing depletion of freshwater resources, especially in areas of the world where water problems can lead to regional tensions, must be tackled through greater international and sub-regional cooperation.

5. Putting science and technology at the service of global environment is a common priority, to be pursued through the strengthening of the technological cooperation. Developed as well as developing countries should encourage the launching of well-defined programmes of technology partnership. In this context, more permanent and stable support for existing multilateral research initiatives is necessary.

6. The role of the Global Environment Facility is essential to the sustainable management of the global commons . The success of the ongoing negotiation on the GEF restructuring and replenishment is crucial to this aim.

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Demographic Pressure on the Environment

The need to face the demographic challenge to the carrying capacity of the Earth by integrating demographic considerations and environmental policies is a priority.

Successful efforts to reduce rapid population growth and wasteful consumption patterns are essential to achieve sustainable development. The critical loads of the planet should be assessed, particularly for sensitive areas like the Mediterranean ecosystem.

Industrial countries were asked to earmark more resources for financing programs of family planning, infants and women protection in the developing countries. Multilateral development banks and institutions were asked for more commitment and transparency to this aim.

The forthcoming World Conference on Population and Development to be held in Cairo next September, should also address all relevant environmental implications.

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Environment, Economic Growth and Job Creation

International cooperation on the environment, far from hindering the economic development, can enhance employment and welfare.

Employment and growth opportunities are associated with investments in environmental infrastructure, energy efficiency improvements, innovative communication and transportation networks, clean-up of polluted areas.

Finally, there is an advantage for environment and employment from embodying into prices of goods and services the value of environmental resources. This double advantage (or double dividend ) can be achieved by tax reforms, which shift fractions of the tax burden from labour to natural resources. Anyhow, the aim to incorporate environmental costs into prices of goods and services should not be associated with punitive effects: hence, the importance to mix taxes with incentives and to take into preeminent account the differences in national situations.

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Financing Sustainable Development

Views are converging on the need to partially substitute merely financial commitments with a mix of policies that integrate environmental objectives.

The implementation of Agenda 21 could be therefore pursued more effectively:

As regards the management of existing aid policies, an environmental orientation and a strengthening of multilateral agencies were advocated. Indeed, the lending programmes of the multilateral development banks are critical to achieving the sustainable development objectives of the developing countries.

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Trade and the Environment

Sound environmental and trade policies can be mutually supportive.

Environment regulation is not harmful to trade. In fact, environmental regulation that internalizes environmental costs into the price structure is essential if gains from trade liberalization are to be assured.

On the other hand, expanded trade is not intrinsically harmful to the environment insofar as using environmental resources more efficiently is the key to pollution prevention.

A broad support emerged to the establishment of a permanent Committee on Trade and Environment in the new structure of the World Trade Organization, which will be born from GATT next April at the ministerial Conference of Marrakesh. This Committee should be mandated with a well-defined work programme.

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Environmental Risks from Nuclear Reactors in Central and Eastern Europe

Nuclear reactor safety in Central and Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union is a wide-spread concern: both health and environment are at risk pending this situation.

The G7 Countries have a primary responsibility in increasing technological and financial assistance to recipient countries: the activity of the working group on nuclear safety operating within the G7 context is to be further encouraged.

Confidence was expressed that the G7 Summit give the utmost attention to this alarming matter.

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Hazardous Wastes Export

Transboundary movement of wastes, particularly hazardous wastes must be generally discouraged.

Export of hazardous wastes from industrial countries to non-OECD countries must be virtually banned. Well-defined exceptions to this principle should be allowed only for wastes to be recycled under strict safety conditions.

The oncoming session of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention is a juncture not to be missed for strengthening the international discipline to this aim.

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