ENB:05:44 [Next] . [Previous] . [Contents]


The task managers, Peter Usher (UNEP) and Victor Boldirev (World Meteorological Organization (WMO)), introduced the Secretary-General's report, Protection of the atmosphere (E/CN.17/1996/22). The report reviews progress made in the implementation of four objectives in Chapter 9 of Agenda 21: addressing uncertainties; promoting sustainable development; preventing stratospheric ozone depletion; and transboundary atmospheric pollution.

WMO presented a report entitled "The Climate Agenda: An Integrated Framework for International Climate-Related Programmes." The report requests international organizations to: align their climate-related activities with the priorities of the Climate Agenda; provide a clear set of results and outputs for monitoring and review of projects; and establish the Inter-Agency Committee on the Climate Agenda as a formal inter-agency committee to identify priorities and resources. The report requests governments to: strengthen national climate programmes; build scientific and technical capacity in developing countries; and fund international coordination mechanisms.

The UN Committee on New and Renewable Sources of Energy and on Energy for Development (UNCNRSEED) presented the report of the 2nd session of UNCNRSEED (E/1996/E/C.13/1996) held 12-23 February 1996. The report distinguishes between the supply of energy for development, which affects about 2 billion people, and global environmental protection. Under the heading of Energy and Sustainable Development, the report describes four key areas: development of energy resources in developing countries; renewable sources of energy, with a special emphasis on biomass; efficient use of energy and materials; and energy and the protection of the atmosphere.

The CHAIR then opened the floor for general comments. The EU called for: increased energy efficiency in the industrial and transportation sectors; promoting use of renewable energy sources; and technology transfer and capacity building in developing countries. CANADA noted that POPs are an issue of urgent concern and called for more information on the Arctic and Antarctic environment. DENMARK noted that the Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests a discernable human influence on the global climate. He noted that the prerequisite for change is political will, and called for technology transfer.

ICELAND noted that: there is a growing illegal trade in chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs); some substitutes are greenhouse gases; and most countries have substantial untapped renewable energy sources. SWITZERLAND supported the integrated approach of the report.

CHINA stated that developing countries will achieve the goals of climate agreements faster if they have financial assistance. He also noted scientific efforts regarding transboundary atmospheric pollution, and stressed cooperation on a regional and international basis. HUNGARY stressed: strengthening the cross-sectoral dialogue between relevant international organizations; political support from the CSD for policy makers at all international levels; and CSD coordination of scientific inputs to various emission reduction agreements, among others.

SWEDEN called for more emphasis on transboundary air pollutants and suggested that the sectoral issues, especially the transportation sector, could have been further elaborated upon. The US stated it would be important for the CSD to enhance activities on transboundary POPs. He also: called on the CSD to focus on local air pollution; noted the importance of lead pollution; and proposed that the CSD condemn the trade of illicit CFCs. BRAZIL, referring to the addendum, stated that the reference to the reduced use of alcohol as fuel does not reflect reality.

The NETHERLANDS stressed that the transport and energy sectors should be more sustainable. MEXICO noted national activities to mitigate air pollution and stressed the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, which he believed was treated in an unbalanced fashion in the Secretary-General's report.

AUSTRALIA stated that the Secretary-General's report was well balanced. She supported voluntary arrangements to promote linkages between atmospheric issues, and did not support a new intergovernmental body. JAPAN stressed regional cooperation and assistance to developing countries. COLOMBIA called for attention to institutional capacity building and scientific and technical knowledge. He noted that the report's emphasis on measures that should be taken by developing countries reflected a change in attitude, and stressed increased financial assistance.

NORWAY highlighted the issue of long-range transboundary air pollution and noted Norwegian cooperation with Asian countries on this issue. FINLAND noted that atmospheric pollution allows harmful radiation to penetrate deeper into lakes. He called for an integrated and coordinated approach to atmospheric issues and for the use of the precautionary principle.

CHINA stressed: new and renewable resources of energy; enhanced energy efficiency; and enhanced funding measures. MOROCCO stated that developing countries are committed to protecting the atmosphere but lack resources. He noted that the Secretary-General's report stressed new and additional resources and technology transfer, and suggested recommending specific operational measures in this regard.

BRAZIL commented that the report largely failed to address developed countries, including the concept of shared responsibility, contrary to the Climate Change Convention. He deplored the absence of financial assistance and technology transfer in the report, and described Brazil's use of lead-free gasoline and the promotion of alcohol fuel. PAKISTAN stated that the contribution of greenhouse gases by developing countries is very small. He suggested including solar energy in the report.

FRANCE described the Marrakech seminar held 13-17 November 1995, which focused on decentralized schemes for rural electrification. He urged the Working Group to consider the report's 19 recommendations. UNDP noted that the consumption of commercial energy is closely linked to such social parameters as life span and infant mortality, and described UNDP's energy strategy that emphasizes efficient use and renewable sources.

The Chair then opened the floor for specific comments on the Programme areas. The EU tabled a comprehensive review of the Secretary-General's report.


Programme area A. Addressing the uncertainties: improving the scientific basis for decision-making: PAKISTAN noted the effects of POPs on human health, and called for language asking multinational corporations to voluntarily restrain the promotion of toxic chemicals. The EU review emphasized research and development of renewable energy.

BRAZIL stated that Programme area A should encourage scientific cooperation within existing regional economic integration processes. The US emphasized research on transboundary air pollution to augment the scientific basis for action. CANADA emphasized the importance of monitoring and estimating the impacts of climate change on Small Island Developing States (SIDS). MEXICO described a national registry of emissions and movement of air pollutants to coordinate regional monitoring efforts with the US.

Programme area B. Promoting sustainable development: BRAZIL inserted a reference to biomass, particularly alcohol fuels, in paragraph 12 on urban transportation. SWEDEN suggested that the paragraph calling for the application of market and non-market instruments to reduce air pollution focus on more than the end-use sector. CANADA called for consideration of costs and benefits in the use of these instruments. In the paragraph calling for a full internalization of environmental externalities and abolishing subsidies, SWEDEN, JAPAN and others noted that temporary subsidies can be appropriate to encourage use of environmentally friendly sources of energy. CANADA proposed a reference noting that voluntary agreements and other non-regulatory approaches have proven to be effective.

The EU review emphasized incorporating environmental cost-internalization into national energy policies. ICELAND called for promotion of research and technology to further the cost-effective use of renewable sources and suggested that multilateral financial institutions promote the use of clean technologies. The US noted that attention was not given to all forms of atmospheric pollution.

HUNGARY noted that the reference in paragraph 13, on the situation in developed, developing and countries with economies in transition, to efforts regarding end-use efficiency in industry and efforts to shift to cleaner production is country specific. He noted a number of common features of all countries with economies in transition, including higher per capita emissions compared to industrialized countries. BRAZIL noted the importance of biomass-derived ethanol as a substitute for lead in gasoline.

Programme area C. Stratospheric ozone depletion: GERMANY, the NETHERLANDS and CANADA supported the need for an integrated approach. GERMANY also noted that the appropriate technologies to reduce ozone depleting substances are available. In reference to a statement in paragraph 19 regarding the prospects for the involvement of developing countries in protection of stratospheric ozone, the US noted that the paragraph does not reflect States' obligations under international agreements or a forward looking attitude. The EU review called on the CSD to call for measures aimed at the illegal trade in ozone depleting substances.

Programme area D. Transboundary atmospheric pollution: SWEDEN related the major conclusions of a recent conference on acid deposition and noted that techniques are available to address these issues, but efforts are necessary to stimulate the application of these techniques.

In reference to paragraph 35 on addressing transboundary atmospheric pollution in developing countries, JAPAN suggested that frameworks for action on this issue should not be cast in the context of actions by developing vs. developed countries. They should be joint activities of all countries in specific regions.

The US noted that with regard to the reference to "common but differentiated responsibility" in paragraph 27 on policies to increase developing country actions, the type of pollution determines where the responsibility lies, especially in the case of transboundary pollution. The EU review welcomed the on-going negotiations on a Protocol on Heavy Metals and POPs and on a Second NOx Protocol within the ECE Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution.

BRAZIL added a reference to technology transfer in a paragraph stating that developing countries need further assistance to encourage atmospheric protection.

In paragraph 34 on national level actions, CANADA proposed adding indigenous groups to the list of stakeholders that need to be consulted. The US noted that transportation should be mentioned in relation to urban air pollution. AUSTRALIA suggested naming the "relevant conventions" in the paragraph calling on States to ratify agreements related to protection of the atmosphere.

In paragraph 36 on international level actions, CANADA supported better integration and coordination, but stated that there should be no new bureaucracy to manage these activities. With regard to a call for increased expenditures for atmospheric science, CANADA indicated that it would not oppose recommendations for voluntary contributions. She also stated that technology transfer would have to be consistent with national laws and capacity.

MEXICO suggested more discussion on the Climate Agenda before the initiative is supported, as proposed in paragraph 36. The Task Manager noted that the Climate Agenda is an attempt to coordinate the existing climate programmes of international agencies. It builds on available, on-going international climate related programmes and was prepared in response to a request by governments.

In the paragraph linking protection of the atmosphere to the sustainable management of ecosystems and natural resources, BRAZIL added a reference to compensatory measures for protecting ecosystems from atmosphere-related adverse effects. In the paragraph encouraging policies on air pollution to address resource management issues, BRAZIL added a reference noting that technology transfer and financial support are vital to developing countries for accomplishing this.


Delegates discussed the Chair's Draft Report during three sessions on Thursday and Friday. The group addressed portions of the three parts of the text (oceans, atmosphere, follow-up on the GPA on LBA), but did not have time to reach agreement on the entire text. Nevertheless, the Chair noted that the Working Group had provided a basis for CSD discussions. The text that the Working Group discussed will be so noted, and text that was not addressed will be identified as the Chair's summary. The following is a brief summary of the text and delegates' comments.


The introduction to the Chair's Draft Report notes that the report of the Ad Hoc Intersessional Working Group is not a negotiated text, although it was discussed during the meeting. The report focuses on the key issues and conclusions of the Working Group, and suggests possible recommendations for CSD consideration.


A. Major recommendations: This section highlights a number of recommendations in the oceans and atmosphere portions of the text. Delegates agreed to use language from the Washington Conference on LBA regarding: development of a legally-binding instrument for the reduction and/or elimination of emissions and discharges of POPs; and addressing serious public health problems and the degradation of coastal ecosystems that result from the disposal in coastal areas of inadequately treated waste water. The Chair's summary also includes references to: technology transfer; international community support for national efforts to mobilize financial resources; efficiency improvement in energy production, conversion and distribution; and action against the illegal trade of ozone depleting substances.

In reference to the recommendation on POPs, COLOMBIA, on behalf of several developing countries, suggested noting that "international action is needed" on the issue of POPs, rather than calling for Governments to "develop a global legally-binding instrument." He also suggested that reduction and/or elimination of use, emissions and recharges of POPs be taken, if necessary, on a step-by-step basis, and noted that sewage treatment, a critical issue to developing countries, was not included in the Chair's draft report. The US questioned the proposal for action on a "step-by-step" basis. AUSTRALIA wanted to ensure that POPs are dealt with through UNEP. The Chair suggested using language from the Washington Conference on LBA regarding POPs and drawing on text from that Conference to add a recommendation regarding sewage treatment.

B. Interlinkages: This section of the Chair's Draft Report notes that delegates identified a number of issues common to both Chapters 9 (atmosphere) and 17 (oceans), as well as to other Chapters of Agenda 21. An integrated approach to protective measures is called for to address the adverse impacts of human activity on oceans and the atmosphere.


A. General considerations: In this section, the Working Group re-affirmed the common aim of promoting the sustainable development and conservation of the marine environment. The text notes the considerable progress in recent intergovernmental negotiations, and agreed that activities relating to oceans, seas and coastal areas require greater priority in national, regional and international decision-making, noting the special characteristics and needs of developing countries in particular.

In the paragraph regarding the common aim of promoting the sustainable development and conservation of the marine environment, COLOMBIA proposed that an integrated approach take into account "the special requirements of the developing countries." He also suggested that "consideration" be given to the precautionary approach and that international arrangements for decision-making recognize the importance of "financial resources," "transfer of adequate technology," and "resource ownership and management." CANADA, supported by the US, stressed that an integrated approach should reflect the precautionary approach and related risks to people and resources. The NETHERLANDS and the EU proposed deleting the reference to "related risks to people and resources." JAPAN, PAPUA NEW GUINEA and the REPUBLIC of KOREA preferred retaining the reference to risks, and delegates agreed.

Delegates engaged in considerable discussion on the wording of a paragraph referring to the "need for Governments to sign, ratify and implement" a list of legally-binding and non-binding agreements relating to oceans. AUSTRALIA pointed out that the use of "sign and ratify" singles out those agreements that are legally binding, but since the list includes non-legally-binding agreements, it was best to focus on "implementation." NORWAY, supported by the EU and JAPAN, strongly emphasized signing and ratification, which emphasizes both participation and implementation. Delegates adopted text noting "the need now for Governments concerned to participate in and implement these agreements" followed by "Implementation is important at all levels."

The US proposed language referring to Part XI of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which addresses deep seabed mining. A proposal by the EU noting that UNCLOS "provides the framework for the protection of the marine environment" was accepted. Language referring to the need for greater priority for actions relating to "oceans and seas" was amended to "oceans, seas and coastal areas" by COLOMBIA.

Programme Area A. Integrated management of coastal areas (ICAM): This section notes examples of successful regional programmes, stresses the need for increased support for training, and notes the need to address all critical habitats in the coastal zone. The Working Group recommends that the CSD call on States to adopt measures consistent with ICAM plans and landlocked States to consider impacts of freshwater management systems on coastal seas. The section also recognizes the importance of coral reefs and related ecosystems.

COLOMBIA added the Northwest Pacific Action Plan (NOPAP) and the Conference of African States Bordering the Atlantic Ocean to the list of regional programmes, as well as a reference to capacity building. The EU added the Mediterranean Action Plan.

COLOMBIA deleted a call for promotion of "scientific" programmes and added a reference to control of pollution in river systems caused by mining industries. The EU added text requesting the World Bank and regional development banks to continue their work to develop implementation means that fit together with UNEP programmes. NORWAY added a paragraph calling for States to consult with representatives of relevant sectors and communities involved with issues of coastal management.

COLOMBIA added text welcoming the 1997 International Year of the Reefs and requested that UN agencies contribute to public education through this and other mechanisms. The EU proposed redrafting the paragraph on coral reefs to focus on marine and coastal areas, and included a reference to the decision by the Second Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity regarding marine and coastal biodiversity. Delegates did not agree to focus the paragraph on marine and coastal issues, but did add a reference to the biological diversity of coastal and marine areas.

Programme Area B. Marine environmental protection: This section welcomes the outcome of the Washington Conference on LBA and recommends that governments develop a legally-binding instrument regarding POPs. The Working Group recommends that UNEP revise its proposed work plan on the GPA, and takes note of the International Maritime Organization's conclusion that harmonized environmental regulations on off-shore oil and gas activities under discussion are proving productive.

MEXICO stated for the record that his country abides by the agreements of the GPA, but noted that Appendix I of the Chair's Draft Report contains elements regarding the GPA and added that he needed time to review the Washington agreements.

The EU proposed language calling on the CSD to invite other regions to follow the example of the ECE, which is starting negotiations to control POPs under the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution. AUSTRALIA objected.

CANADA, supported by the US, added a recommendation that UNEP revise its proposed work plan on implementation of the GPA. COLOMBIA added that the revised work plan should be based on comments provided by the Working Group and take into account the proposed elements of the draft GA resolution.

Delegates discussed deleting a paragraph referring to the adverse impact of POPs, ozone depletion and, potentially, climate change on Arctic and Antarctic environments. CANADA, supported by several Nordic countries, suggested text in the section on atmosphere noting the meeting of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy, scheduled for March 1996.

Delegates adopted text that resulted from consultations coordinated by the Netherlands regarding off-shore oil and gas activities. It states that the Working Group takes note of developing harmonized environmental regulations within regional programmes, recognizes the expertise of the International Maritime Organization, UNEP and the UN Office of the Law of the Sea in promoting regional regulation, and takes note of a workshop to be hosted by the Netherlands on this subject, as well as an upcoming meeting of the Western Hemisphere Oil and Gas Environmental Forum in Rio de Janeiro.

A paragraph calling on Governments to implement a precautionary approach regarding operational pollution from off-shore oil and gas and POPs was deleted. AUSTRALIA, supported by BRAZIL, deleted the paragraph calling for a reduction in harmful pesticides, stating that the issue will be considered under a legally-binding instrument on Prior Informed Consent, currently under negotiation.

Programme areas C and D. Living marine resources: An informal group discussed this section, but it was not taken up by the Working Group. The text refers to the social and economic contribution of sustainable fisheries, and recommends that States: strengthen research; establish/strengthen subregional and regional fishery management organizations and increase consultation at the local level; apply the precautionary approach; and minimize wastes and discards. It also recommends: addressing the overcapacity of fishing fleets; monitoring and enforcing conservation and management measures; conducting international trade in fish and fishery products in accordance with the World Trade Organization Agreement; increasing efforts to ban destructive fishing techniques and to reduce bycatch; and abolishing measures leading to overfishing. Governments should, where appropriate, promote sustainable aquaculture while minimizing potential adverse environmental impacts, and the FAO should be invited to prepare a report to the CSD on the foregoing actions.

Programme area E. Critical Uncertainties: Delegates adopted the single paragraph in this section, stressing the development of research capacity and information systems in developing countries and SIDS, and supporting the Global Ocean Observing System.

Programme area F. International cooperation and coordination: An informal group discussed this section, but it was not taken up by the Working Group. The Chair's Draft Report states that the Working Group recommends improving coordination between intergovernmental agencies, and asks the June 1997 special session of the GA to provide recommendations on the future role of the CSD as the focal point for strategies and priorities for action on global marine environmental issues. It recommends that the CSD invite the Secretary-General to review the working of the ACC Subcommittee on Oceans and Coastal Areas, as well as the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environment Protection, and to link the latter group to UNEP's Regional Seas Programme. The text also: notes that some countries have not agreed to apply the user-pay principle (i.e. generating local resources through user fees and taxes); recognizes the GEF as a key funding mechanism but notes its limitations; and recommends that the CSD encourage private sector efforts.


A. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS: The Chair's Draft Report stresses measures at all levels to reduce air pollution, combat climate change and prevent ozone layer depletion. It notes the importance of integrated solutions and applying a precautionary approach, mentions the adverse impacts on human health of local air pollution, and discusses the responsibility of developed versus developing countries in addressing these problems.

The EU, supported by JAPAN, amended a paragraph regarding integrated solutions to atmospheric pollution to apply the precautionary approach and to apply environmental cost internalization as a working principle. The former amendment was adopted, but COLOMBIA objected to the latter.

COLOMBIA expressed concern with a paragraph emphasizing urban air pollution, but there was insufficient time to fully discuss the text. Delegates agreed to merge three paragraphs on common but differentiated responsibility for global emissions, resources, technology transfer and capacity building into a single paragraph. The full Working Group did not have sufficient time to consider text drafted by an informal group, which produced two versions of the paragraph, the first stressing broad international action emphasizing common but differentiated responsibility of all countries as outlined in the Rio Declaration. The second version emphasized the leading role of developed countries in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and ozone depleting substances, and acknowledged technology transfer and institution and capacity building as a priority issue for the CSD.

AUSTRALIA proposed deleting text encouraging governments and organizations to cooperate in the implementation of relevant policy instruments aimed at minimizing adverse effects of international competitiveness. FINLAND, SWITZERLAND and NORWAY objected and a compromise was reached, with the addition of "as appropriate."

Text encouraging ECE member countries that have not done so to ratify the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution and its Protocols was deleted. In a paragraph calling on States to draw on the broad spectrum of policy instruments, COLOMBIA suggested deleting references to specific policy instruments, including tradeable permits. The EU preferred retaining the specific references, and proposed adding "environmentally damaging subsidies," but delegates agreed to delete the specific policy references.

COLOMBIA proposed deleting a reference calling for the successful conclusion of the Berlin Mandate negotiations. The EU objected, and delegates agreed to keep the text, but deleted "successful" at BENIN's request.

B. RECOMMENDATIONS ON PROGRAMME AREAS: Programme area A. Addressing the uncertainties: improving the scientific basis for decision making: This section notes the importance of a sound scientific base upon which responses to atmospheric degradation can be formulated. It recognizes the second assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as the most important and reliable assessment of climate change, and supports an integrated approach to the protection of the atmosphere through consultative arrangements among relevant conventions. CSD support for enhanced research is recommended.

COLOMBIA added text recognizing that special conditions and needs of different groups and countries must be taken into account and noting that the level of scientific and technical expertise required by the developing countries needs the support of the international community.

BENIN proposed deleting the conclusion that "the establishment of new intergovernmental bodies could not be justified" for atmosphere protection issues. The US preferred retaining the text. Delegates did not have time to complete their consultations on this issue.

The EU proposed deleting a paragraph noting the importance of research on strategies to adapt to the impacts of changes in the atmospheric composition and climate. BENIN objected. Delegates did not have time to complete their consultations on this paragraph.

Programme area B. Promoting Sustainable Development: This section addresses the issues of: energy development, efficiency and consumption; transportation; industrial development; and terrestrial and marine resource development and land use. Delegates only discussed the text regarding energy development, efficiency and consumption. It is recommended that the CSD: urge governments to give priority to renewable energy sources and enhance research; encourage policies that incorporate measures for better air quality; encourage industry to use environmentally sound technologies in their investment strategies; and encourage Parties to the Convention to Combat Desertification to coordinate activities with those undertaken under other international agreements.

COLOMBIA proposed deleting a reference noting that the production and use of energy is the main source of greenhouse gas emissions. AUSTRALIA, DENMARK and others objected.

COLOMBIA proposed adding a paragraph noting the importance of strengthening the commitments of the Parties listed in Annex I to the Convention on Climate Change through the adoption of a Protocol or another legal instrument, and emphasizing the need for a clear commitment for changing consumption and production patterns by the developed countries. The CHAIR, AUSTRALIA, the US and others suggested deleting the text. The second half of the text, regarding consumption and production patterns, was agreed to once it specified "energy" patterns, particularly in developed countries. COLOMBIA added text calling for action as recommended by the Convention on Desertification.

BENIN proposed noting that energy is one of the requirements for "sustained" economic growth. The NETHERLANDS proposed "economic development," but delegates agreed to keep the original text, "economic growth." CANADA proposed text calling for atmospheric monitoring systems to support understanding and predictions of human impacts on climate change.

PAKISTAN added a reference to passive solar architectural design. Delegates retained text regarding environmental cost internalization, but deleted a call for it to be "an integral part of policy."

Programme area C. Stratospheric ozone depletion: This section of the Chair's Draft Report states that delegates noted the success in addressing the problem of ozone layer depletion under the auspices of the Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol. The CSD was requested to urge governments to: take action against the illegal trade in ozone depleting substances (ODS); provide support to developing countries to enable them to phase out ODS; make efforts to limit production and consumption of alternatives to ODS with high global warming potential; and take account of the potential cost saving related to human health as a consequence of action.

Programme area D. Transboundary air pollution: This section of the Chair's Draft Report notes the growing threat of transboundary air pollution and the need for cooperation to overcome this problem. Recommended actions for the CSD include: reaffirming the need for effective transboundary air pollution agreements; urging governments and organizations to take measures to reduce emissions of acidifying substances; encouraging developed countries to enhance programmes that share expertise with developing countries; and taking note of the pollution affecting the Arctic and Antarctic environments.

GUIDELINES FOR A DRAFT RESOLUTION ON IMPLEMENTATION OF THE GPA (ANNEX I): The suggested elements for a resolution on "Institutional arrangements for the implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities" include endorsement of the Washington Declaration and GPA and a call for States to take measures to implement the GPA. NGOs and financial donors and institutions are called on to give priority to GPA-related projects. UNEP is called on to establish the clearinghouse mechanism referred to in the GPA, and States are called to take action in the governing bodies of relevant international organizations related to the establishment of the clearinghouse mechanism.

ICELAND noted that the drafting group did not have sufficient time to complete consideration of the final paragraph, regarding determination of the specific arrangements for integrating the outcomes of periodic intergovernmental reviews at the 1997 Special Session of the General Assembly to review the implementation of Agenda 21 .

COLOMBIA, on behalf of a number of developing countries, proposed several amendments. He suggested that the paragraph "endorsing" the Washington Declaration and the GPA "take note of" the texts. He deleted the call for States to take action to secure formal endorsement by international organizations, replacing it with a call for the organizations to support the GPA. He also deleted a specification that aid be directed especially to the least developed countries, countries with economies in transition and small island developing States.

The US, supported by CANADA and the EU, noted that the call to "endorse" the GPA had been agreed to by 112 delegations at the Washington Conference, and preferred the original text. MOROCCO, supported by BRAZIL and the REPUBLIC of KOREA, proposed replacing "endorse" with "welcomes," but the US objected.

An immediate informal consultation took place, but was unable to reach consensus. The small group agreed to replace the introductory note that the text was transmitted for CSD "consideration" with a note that the text was transmitted "for further negotiations." The amendments suggested by Colombia were listed at the end of the Annex.


During his opening address, Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary- General for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, noted that the Working Group would address two of the most difficult issues discussed in Rio — oceans and atmosphere. These two issues have received a great deal of attention during the post-UNCED process. The Working Group concentrated on how to coordinate follow-up to the variety of existing international agreements (especially with regard to oceans) and what the CSD response should be to issues not yet addressed by the international community (especially with regard to atmosphere).

One of the major debates during the session was what the role of the CSD should be on oceans issues. This is one of the areas where a great deal of progress has been achieved since UNCED, and many questioned which forum would best coordinate all of these activities. Some delegates proposed designating the CSD as the coordinating forum, a meeting where the results from other fora would be amalgamated. This proposal was opposed by others who felt that the CSD was not the best forum because it is too political, it is not substantive enough, and it has a limited mandate of five years. Some felt that the issues would get more attention if they were addressed by the General Assembly. Last year, the Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks was removed from the Second Committee and included with Law of the Sea issues in the General Assembly Plenary. Some believed that fisheries issues thus received more attention and better coverage, and thought that other oceans issues should be brought within the framework of the General Assembly.

Delegates to the CSD Intersessional Working Group privately debated questions regarding this decision, such as whether the General Assembly is prepared to give prominence to oceans issues and whether it is realistic to put aside an entire week for those issues. A week is considered by some to be the minimum time necessary to review all oceans issues, including fisheries, drift nets, Law of the Sea, Land-Based Activities, and marine and coastal biodiversity. The Chair's Draft Report suggests that the CSD "play the focal point for formulating the consensus of States on strategies and on priorities for action" on global marine issues, but the Working Group did not have time to discuss the text and it will be taken up again at the CSD.

A significant North-South difference emerged during discussion of the Secretary-General's text on atmosphere. Throughout the meeting there was no unified Group of 77 position, although Colombia organized and spoke on behalf of several developing countries. Several developing country delegates commented on the commitments and goals of industrialized countries in reducing atmospheric pollution, which they believed were insufficiently emphasized in the text. Privately, developing country delegates expressed a desire to see the Chair's text reflect a more explicit linkage between Agenda 21 Chapter 9, especially the sections on greenhouse gases and transboundary pollution, Chapter 17, and Chapter 4 (Changing Consumption Patterns). Language linking Chapters 9 and 4 (specifically "energy" production and consumption patterns, particularly in developed countries) was added to Programme area B of the atmosphere text.

NGOs were not present in great numbers and focused almost exclusively on marine issues (those following atmosphere issues were presumably in Geneva), but several of those attending felt that their ability to have an impact on the process at the intersessional meeting was greater than it will be at the CSD. Perennial problems of document access and exclusion from small group consultations frustrated some, but NGOs were able to take the floor during the session and some of their suggestions were included in the Chair's summary.

When asked about the "expert" nature of the intersessionals, some suggested that, once again, the goal of convening a meeting of experts was not realized. Many delegations did include experts on the sectoral issues, although there were fewer on atmospheric issues because of the concurrent climate change meeting in Geneva. While some of the negotiators from the Washington Conference on marine pollution from land-based activities attended, some States relied solely on their Second Committee members. Many interventions focused on political aspects of oceans and atmosphere issues, although seasoned observers noted that the Working Group discussions were still more substantive than the CSD is expected to be.

Some expect the recommendations of the Working Group will be re-written at the CSD with a focus on political issues, and questioned the benefit of this intersessional meeting. The redundancy and repetition of decisions taken here and at other UN activities, such as a previous week's meeting on renewable energy and the concurrent discussions on climate change, also caused some to question the usefulness of the intersessional meeting, especially given the current scarcity of resources within the UN system.

[Return to start of article]