Chair's Summary

Environment Leaders' Summit of the Eight, Miami, Florida, May 5-6, 1997

Climate Change

The Environment Leaders stressed the overwhelming scientific evidence that links the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to changes in the global climate system, and the likelihood that these climate changes will lead to unacceptable impacts on human health and the environment in all nations. They noted the conclusion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that: "Climate change is likely to have wide-ranging and mostly adverse impacts on human health, with significant loss of life". Major threats to human health and safety include the potential for more severe heat waves, more intense air pollution, the spread of infectious diseases, and more extreme storms and droughts. Safe drinking water may be compromised by rising sea level and salt water intrusion, by warmer temperatures that promote growth of disease organisms, and by changes in rainfall patterns that affect water quantity and quality. Changes in regional weather patterns are likely to lead to loss of forests, wetlands, and other natural ecosystems, with significant adverse effects on wildlife and biodiversity. The relationship of these ecosystem changes to human health could be significant. The Leaders agreed to work together to enhance international efforts to further develop global systems for monitoring climate change and other environmental trends in order to continue strengthening scientific support for international action.

The Environment Leaders stressed their commitment to achieving a strong agreement for controlling greenhouse gases at the Third Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Kyoto. They agreed that developed nations need to take the lead and show their seriousness of purpose by adopting quantified legally binding emissions targets that provide for emissions limitations and significant and realistic emissions reductions within specified time frames. They supported an agreement that allows the Parties flexibility in meeting those targets so that the most efficient and cost-effective policies and measures are used. They stressed the importance of setting up an appropriate mechanisms for monitoring and ensuring compliance among the Parties. The Leaders recognized that in order to meet the ultimate objective of the Convention actions by developed countries alone will not be sufficient. They agreed to work in partnership with developing countries to assist them in taking concrete steps to help address this problem. An agreement in Kyoto that reflects these approaches will be an important next step on the right long-term path toward ultimately stabilizing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at an acceptable level.

Environmental Enforcement and Compliance

The Environment Leaders discussed the fundamental importance of compliance with domestic environmental law. They agreed that effective enforcement of environmental law is essential to punish and deter environmental violations, ensure fairness for those who pay the costs associated with environmental compliance, and to provide a basis and give incentives for voluntary efforts to improve the integration of environmental enforcement with traditional law enforcement institutions and other agencies.

The Environment Leaders committed themselves to support and enhance the emerging international cooperative efforts among their governments and international bodies. They noted the value of compliance mechanisms under international environmental agreements and the importance of individuals and groups having access to environmental information and effective administrative and judicial mechanisms. They agreed to enhance a collective focus on trade which is illegal under international environmental law, including shipments originating in our countries and those that have adverse impacts on developing countries. They also agreed to further consultation under existing mechanism to implement these cooperative efforts.

United Nations General Assembly Special Session

The Environment Leaders agreed that the United Nations General Assembly Special Session provides a unique opportunity for world leaders to reaffirm their commitment to sustainable development. They highlighted the importance of moving toward pragmatic, results-orientated implementation of the outcomes of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development. As part of this effort, they stressed that there is a need for continued integration of environmental, economic, and social issues, rapid progress in the eradication of poverty, and recognition that good governance, protection of human rights, and democracy are essential elements of sustainable development.

It was agreed that the Special Session should embrace a frank assessment of successes since Rio as well as the shortcomings that have been experienced. Against this background, it was stressed that the Special Session would identify central priorities for future action in key areas:

Forests: Given the continued loss and degradation of forests in many regions, there is a critical need for immediate action to implement the proposals agreed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, and for a long-term commitment to a holistic, balanced and integrated approach to the sustainable development of all types of forests. The Environment Leaders agreed to continue to work together to that end.

Freshwater: The Special Session should launch a process of the development of a global program of action on freshwater in the CSD, with the ultimate goal of making safe drinking water and sanitation available to all the world's population.

Energy: The Special Session should initiate a process coordinated in the CSD for promoting sustainable energy use, focusing on energy efficiency and the use of renewables, while addressing the needs of people without access to energy services.

The Environment Leaders stressed that progress cannot be made without strong international institutions for environment and sustainable development. They strongly endorsed the recent decisions to restructure and reform the UN Environment Program, recognizing its role as the leading global environmental authority, as confirmed in the Nairobi Declaration. They called for an early first meeting of the UNEP High Level Committee of Ministers to advance the future work of UNEP.

The Leaders reaffirmed the CSD as the strategic forum for sustainable development issues. The successful reform of UNEP governance and the emerging consensus on the work of the CSD will enable more attention to be focused in the future on the substantive agenda for the environment and sustainable development.

They further agreed that the CSD should focus in the next five years on freshwater and energy to pursue the initiatives outlined above. In addition, they agreed that it should address oceans issues, including combating marine pollution and promoting the sustainable management of marine resources and integrated coastal zone management, and improving coordination among relevant international institutions. They also called on the CSD to deal with the issues of trade and investment, tourism and transport, including by promoting the phase out of leaded gasoline as soon as possible and considering initiatives to improve sustainability in air transport.

In addition to these priorities for future action, the Environment Leaders stressed that the Special Session should send strong messages to ongoing multilateral environmental negotiations on climate change, the Montreal Protocol, biosafety, prior informed consent and persistent organic pollutants, as well as to the first conference of parties to the convention on desertification.

The Environment Leaders highlighted the need for further action in the Special Session on a number of key cross-cutting issues of sustainable development. They agreed on the need to make progress in moving toward sustainable production and consumption patterns and significantly improved eco- efficiency. They agreed on the need to facilitate the transfer of environmentally sound technologies to developing countries, to increased efforts to mobilize both public and private sector financing, including ODA, and to ensure an adequate replenishment of the Global Environment Facility. They also reaffirmed the principles on trade and environment from their last meeting in Cabourg, and agreed on the need of progress in making trade and environment mutually supportive in favour of sustainable development.

Looking ahead to the holding of a "Rio plus 10" conference in 2002, the Environmental Leaders called on the Special Session to consider inviting eminent experts to assess the challenges of sustainable development at the start of the 21st century.

Source: Canada, Department of the Environment.