Global greens, global governance
Foreword: Growing the Green Bureaucracy
The environmental slogan ‘think globally, act locally' has been turned on its headin the nineties. Irrespective of what environmentalists have been thinking, theironly notable successes have been international agreements. Environmental powerand influence is shifting inexorably up the political hierarchy. To most, thisdevelopment is seen as a thoroughly good thing, but there are good reasons to bewary of the environmental empire builders. The authors of the following workingpapers, Jeremy Rabkin and James Sheehan, demonstrate with devastating effect thenumerous unaccountable facets of global politics.
The Green Power Grab
Government signatories to the UN Climate Convention who met recently in BuenosAires claim they have taken a step toward saving the planet by setting limits oncarbon dioxide emissions. The fact that science does not yet, and may never,support their belief of greenhouse-gas induced harm does not deter the bureaucratsfrom their mission. But not only is the aim of the Convention probably groundless,its side-effects are turning out to be far worse than critics first feared. The emergingconcern is that UN-inspired international laws, such as the climate treaty, areundermining national sovereignty by handing power to interest groups andinternational bureaucrats.
How has this loss of sovereignty occurred with so few complaints? One theory
is political sleight of hand, where one ingrained anxiety (nuclear war) has beenskilfully substituted for another (environmental disaster).
It is far-fetched to suggest that some kind of supranational conspiracy planned
for the environmental agenda to step in when the Soviet Union imploded.
Although, as the joke goes, ‘throw a socialist out the window and anenvironmentalist will walk in through the door'. But the incentives of the ‘crisisentrepreneurs', the eco-pressure groups, the old defence bureaucracy and the newgreen bureaucracy, ensured that the void left by the Cold War was filled in thepublic mind. The scaremongering apparently worked, because the internationalcommunity sighed with collective relief when the UN climate secretariat wasestablished in the early nineties to tackle global warming.
In his 1982 book, ‘Progress and Privilege', William Tucker set out the
blueprint for bureaucratic expansion of power. Bureaucrats succeed he claimed, ‘byextending the rules of society to cover as many aspects of life as possible'. Bycontrolling emissions of carbon dioxide the climate treaty comes as close aspossible to controlling life itself. Carbon dioxide is, after all, essential for all life onthe planet, despite being considered a pollutant by the world's regulators. Nationalgovernments have handed the climate secretariat power to determine what must bedone and are glad to be rid of the moral responsibility. But internationalbureaucrats' best interests rarely coincide with those of the man in the street, oreven of his government.
Margaret Maxey, Professor of Bioethics at the University of Texas in Austin,
claims that the whole UN process of bureaucratisation could lead to dissolution ofindependence among sovereign nations. This may precipitate their eventualreplacement by a supranational realignment of power. By then, of course, it will betoo late to protest that this isn't what voters wanted.
Establishing a treaty is only the beginning of the loss of sovereignty. Uponratification, treaties become legally binding on nation states, yet they are typicallyaltered years later. Such changes are made at the discretion of the secretariat,which frequently appropriates greater powers to itself and successful pressuregroups. For example, under the auspices of the Montreal Protocol, ozone-depletingasthma inhalers are likely soon to be banned in Europe – a madness that wouldnever had been agreed by the initial signatories in 1987. But the bureaucrats whobanned the major CFC sources are now going after every last emission source. Theyuse the highly contentious claim that skin cancer will be increased as a result ofmarginal reductions in stratospheric ozone to ensure the ozone-CFC issue staysalive and they keep their jobs.
In ‘Global Greens', James Sheehan details other dangers of the expansion of
unaccountable supranational bureaucracies. Sheehan explains thatenvironmentalists and some corporations, who have restricted access to politiciansat home, have far greater freedom to lobby politicians and international bureaucratsat UN meetings. He claims environmentalists unduly influence many UNagreements such as the Basle Convention on hazardous waste, which seriouslyundermines trade in scrap metal, and even donations of used clothes destined forthe world's poor.
Many green groups that used to oppose UN and World Bank programmes
have now been drawn into the bureaucracy by UN money, claims Sheehan. Theresult of this UN largesse and green hypocrisy is that at the 1997 Kyoto climatemeeting there were 3,500 representatives from (predominantly European) pressuregroups and only 1,500 delegates from member governments. Not surprisingly,therefore, Sheehan cites examples of third world participants at the UN meetingsbeing repeatedly ignored in favour of alarmist ‘eco-imperialist' greens, whosepresence at the meeting was larger and more vocal.
Ironically, some green lobbying has led to regulations that will harm the
environment. For example, the Convention on Biological Diversity supplants USregulations on biotechnology products with unscientific and more burdensomeinternational regulations. Henry Miller, Senior Research Fellow at the HooverInstitution, says that such limits will significantly hamper research capable ofsupplying 'more plentiful and nutritious foods and biological alternatives tochemical pesticides and fertilisers'. The effect – more land goes under the plough,potentially reducing the area of important ecosystems.
Furthermore, the UN World Heritage Sites Convention, supposed to help third
world governments protect their natural sites, has wound up being used against
Europeans and Americans. For example, the WHS UN secretariat disallowed amining project 20 miles from Yellowstone Park because of concern (which wasgroundless) that the Park would be harmed. Montanan businessmen have been in alegal battle for years to begin mining because of the unnecessary UN involvement.
The US and EU delegates who recently jetted back from Buenos Aires
probably consider they have brokered a good climate deal. The interests lobbyingthem at the meeting also left well satisfied, but they will have further reducednational sovereignty in favour of an unaccountable bureaucratic elite of which theyare happy to be a part.
As Jeremy Rabkin explains in ‘Morgen Die Welt', Europe is becoming
increasingly bureaucratised and no constituency on this side of the Atlantic is likelyto oppose the UN power grab. In fact, according to Rabkin, European politicalsystems are the model for the UN. Worse still Rabkin explains how health treaties(devised by the World Health Organisation), may soon be tabled to mirror theirenvironmental counterparts.
There is little doubt that the process towards global governance has begun.
Rabkin concludes his paper by sketching three scenarios of where it may lead.
The IEA Environment Unit is delighted to present these two working papers.
Please note that unlike other IEA publications, Working Papers are not subject topeer review; if you have comments or criticisms, please email them to us at<[email protected]
>. As with all the Unit's publications, the views expressed arethose of the authors and not of the Institute (which has no corporate view), itsTrustees, Advisers or Directors.
Roger Bate, Co-Director, IEA Environment Unit
About the Authors
Professor Jeremy Rabkin has a PhD from Harvard and is tenured at the Departmentof Government at Cornell University where he teaches international law and thepolitics of regulation. His latest book, ‘Why Sovereignty Matters' was published bythe American Enterprise Institute, Washington DC in 1998.
James M. Sheehan directs international policy activities at the CompetitiveEnterprise Institute, a non-profit think tank in Washington DC, that promotes freemarket and private property-based solutions to public policy issues. At CEI,Sheehan specialises in policies concerning international environmental regulation,trade, finance and foreign aid. His latest book, ‘Global Greens: Inside theinternational environmental establishment' was published by the Capital ResearchCenter in Washington DC in 1998.
MORGEN DIE WELT
Snaring the World in the EU's Green Vision
The UN's 1992 Earth Summit was supposed to inaugurate a new era in worldaffairs. Held just after the dissolution of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of theSoviet Union, the conference sought to highlight new fields for internationalcooperation. It was, in fact, attended by more heads of state than any conference inthe history of the United Nations.
Officially titled the Conference on Environment and Development
, it sought
to bridge the environmental concerns of developed nations and the economicconcerns of less developed countries. Even siting the conference in the southernhemisphere – in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro, one of the burgeoning megacities of thedeveloping world – was a gesture to North-South harmony. The conferenceendorsed the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, a statement ofshared principles which offered matching affirmations, almost in alternatingparagraphs, of its two great aims – protecting the global environment andpromoting growth in poor countries. These goals were linked under theharmonising slogan of ‘sustainable development'.
The conference also featured a prominent role for non-governmental
organisations (NGOs), whose tens of thousands of representatives far outnumberedthe official delegates. This gesture to ‘global civil society' was touted by manyobservers as a harbinger of a better world, a world in which visionary activistscould transcend the narrow aims of their home states and prod nationalgovernments to address common concerns on a global basis.
Yet just beneath the surface, there were simmering conflicts. The rhetoric of
sustainable development did not, after all, succeed in papering over sharpdifferences in priorities and perspectives. European delegates succeeded in writinginto the Rio Declaration the so-called ‘precautionary principle' that 'lack of fullscientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effectivemeasures to prevent environmental degradation'. This principle, which seems to saythat environmental concerns should always take precedence over competing risksor concerns, had already been written into German law in the 1980s and endorsedby the EU in the early 1990s. It was, in effect, Europe's gift to environmentalpolicy – or at least, to policy rhetoric. But of the two great treaties, launched at Rioand supposed to embody this principle, the United States refused to make anycommitment to one of them – the Convention on Biological Diversity. The UnitedStates did agree to sign the other, the Framework Convention on Climate Change,but only after the treaty text had been stripped of any definite commitments foraction.
Meanwhile, tensions between developing and developed countries were even
greater. Governments of less developed countries repeatedly warned thatenvironmental protection should not come at the expense of their own economicdevelopment and, taking a more defiant stand than the American delegation,refused to consider climate change commitments of their own, even if postponed tosubsequent negotiations. According to one observer, 'the gulf between the biggestenvironmental NGOs [those from Europe or North America] and many SouthernNGOs in particular seemed almost as huge as that between their respectivegovernments .'1 There was, in fact, a constant undertone of mutterings againstwestern ‘eco-imperialism'.
In many ways, Rio did indeed help to launch a new era in world affairs. It is
an era in which programmes of international environmental regulation seem tohave increasing appeal to some western governments – most notably in Europe. Itis also an era in which these same programmes have proved to have much potentialfor exacerbating strains between the most affluent nations and those developingnations that used to be called ‘the Third World'.
As it happens, the international prospect mirrors, in some ways, a debate now
underway about the proper pace or intensity of integration within the EuropeanUnion. Enthusiasts of deeper integration insist that the process will end thepossibility of serious conflicts among the member states of the EU. Others warnthat an overly ambitious agenda for common policy will inevitably exacerbatetensions, fanning diplomatic conflict and popular resentments, creating moreopportunities for nationalist demagogues. Whichever side proves to be right withinEurope, developments since Rio suggest that the world needs a more serious debateabout the international counterpart to the European trend – the process, that is, bywhich western countries (and most particularly the EU countries) have beenextending their own environmental concerns to the world at large.
Part I of this paper will sketch the reasons why the European Union has
become a particularly persistent champion of international environmentalprogrammes. Part II will sketch the resulting pattern, highlighting the concerns ofless developed nations about the emerging direction of such ventures. Part III willoffer some speculations on where this trend may lead. It may lead into a future thatis far more dangerous and conflict-ridden than the hopeful affirmations at Riowould suggest.
1 Michael Grubb, Matthias Koch, et. al., The Earth Summit Agreements: A Guide and Assessment
(London: EarthscanPublications, 1993), p. 44. Some observers also note a differing emphasis, evident at the Rio Summit and more generally,between 'mainstream NGOs,' mostly U.S.-based and concerned to nurture practical solutions, versus more 'political' or'consciousness-raising' NGOs, drawing their support from European Greens. Matthias Finger and Thomas Princen,Environmental NGOs in World Politics: Linking the Local and the Global
(New York: Routledge, 1994) ('Introduction')
Part I: The European Difference
Why has the EU been such a consistent, determined champion of all recentventures in international environmental regulation? A simple answer is that themember states of the EU are among the most affluent countries in the world.
Environmental concern tends to be strongly correlated with wealth, both withincountries and between them. This makes obvious intuitive sense: the more one isfreed from preoccupation with food and shelter and security, the easier it is to valueaesthetic, recreational or more remote health concerns.
But affluence alone does not explain the emerging pattern. The United States
is certainly blessed with levels of economic success at least comparable to thoseachieved in Western Europe. But the United States has been a good deal moreskittish or ambivalent about the larger trend. The United States, for example, hasconsistently tried to restrain EU enthusiasm for ambitious ventures in ‘climatecontrol', involving targeted reductions in greenhouse gases. While the Clintonadministration did express support for the commitments spelled out in the 1997Kyoto Protocol, this treaty has not been ratified by the US Senate and indeed facesstrong opposition there. Nor has the Senate ratified the 1992 Convention onBiodiversity nor the 1989 Basle Convention on the shipment of hazardous wastes.
There are strong supporters of all these measures in the United States,
particularly among environmentalist advocacy groups. But there are also strong andeffective opposition forces in American politics. To a lesser but still notable extent,environmental advocates in Australia have also encountered strong politicalresistance, reflected in the much more cautious stance of the Australiangovernment at the Kyoto negotiations, at subsequent negotiations on a BiosafetyProtocol and in other international forums.
If affluence alone does not explain the strength of green advocacy in Europe,
what does? Differences in national culture seem to be part of the explanation.
Germany, the largest country in the EU, has enacted the world's most ambitiousrecycling laws and is home to the most politically successful Green Party.
Ambitious environmental measures and avowedly environmentalist parties havealso demonstrated strong appeal in the Netherlands and in Scandinavian countries,sharing similar cultural traditions. Polling data confirms the point. By very sizeablemajorities, people in these countries tell pollsters they support strongenvironmental measures, even at some direct cost to themselves. Polling in theUnited States and Canada finds much more resistance to costly environmentalmeasures. So, in a carefully constructed survey of 43 countries in the early 1990s,Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands scored at the top of the list with ‘high' support forenvironmental protection from over 60 per cent of respondents; the United Statesand Canada were below the median, with high support from only 40 and 42 percent respectively.2
2 Ronald Inglehart, 'Public Support for Environmental Protection: Objective Problems and Subjective Values in 43 Societies,'PS: Political Science & Politics
, March 1995, p. 61
What makes these differences particularly interesting is that they are related,
in turn, to other cultural differences. Ronald Inglehart, a co-founder of the Euro-Barometer surveys who subsequently helped organise the World Values surveys inthe early 1990s, has pored over survey results from dozens of countries on a wholerange of issues. He reports – as casual observation already suggests – that the'environmentalist cause is only one of many post-modern issues' favoured by thesame constituencies. High levels of environmental concern turn out to be stronglycorrelated with new views on the status of women and families, immigrants andethnic minorities, national symbols, religion and many other social issues. And 'theenvironmental cause has emerged as the symbolic centre of this broad culturalemancipation movement'.3 This larger trend in opinion is quite as evident in NorthAmerica as in northern Europe but it also confronts broader currents of oppositionor resistance in America, where religion and older patterns of family life remainstronger.
Yet for all their suggestiveness, these cultural variations cannot account for
the European difference in the international arena. For if there are importantdifferences across the developed world, there are also quite important differenceswithin the EU, itself. Green parties may be strong in northern Europe but they havelittle presence in southern Europe. Whatever the deep cultural inclinations of theNordic nations, they are not deeply ingrained in the cultural background of theLatin nations or the Greeks. Polling results show wide variations among EUcountries on levels of environmental concern. Inglehart finds Italy, France andBelgium – along with less affluent Spain, Portugal and Ireland – rank near thebottom of his 43 nation survey: in these six Catholic countries, fewer than half theproportion of respondents register high levels of support for environmentalprotection, compared with respondents in the Netherlands and Scandinavia.4 Thereare also interesting differences in the background of post-modern social attitudes towhich environmentalism is linked, as a political cause. Britain, for example, standsout in the polling data in its degree of popular endorsement for 'national pride' asIreland does on the importance of faith in God, while the US and Canada stand outin both respects. 5
So the question needs to be rephrased: what makes it possible for the EU, with
all its internal divisions, to take such a strong stand, while the United States ishobbled by conflicting currents of opinion? The short answer is that the EU has
3 Ronald Inglehart, Modernization and Postmodernization, Cultural, Economic and Political Change in 43 Societies
(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1997), p. 244 (suggesting the relative salience of specifically environmentalconcerns in this 'cultural liberation' outlook reflects the political reality that 'while many of the other Postmodern causes tendto be divisive, practically everyone likes clean air and green trees. Although these [political movements] reflect an entireworldview, environmental symbols capture the issue on which they have the widest potential appeal').
4 Inglehart, 'Public Support for Environmental Protection,' p. 615 Inglehart, Modernization and Postmodernization
, p. 86 (Results from the 'World Values' survey in the early 1990s: 55%of Britons tell pollsters they are 'very proud' of their nationality, compared with barely 20% in Germany and Netherlands,fewer than 40% in Italy, France, Belgium and Denmark – and 60% in Canada, 75% in the USA and 78% in Ireland. On thequestion whether God is 'very important' in their lives, 75% of Irish respondents say yes, compared with about 40% inGermany and Britain, 25% in France and fewer than 20% in Belgium, Sweden and Denmark – and 62% in Canada, 78% inthe USA).
been quite effective as a broker of conflicting or competing impulses amongmember states. At most international conferences, the EU comes to the table with acommon position, already settled among the member states in prior negotiationswithin the EU. At Kyoto, for example, Europeans pressed for an ambitiousprogramme of emission reductions based on a prior agreement to share the burdenwithin Europe. Under this scheme, EU countries prepared to make sharp cutbacksin greenhouse gas emissions would take some of the reduction burden from otherEU countries which could not (or would not) commit to such emission cutbacks.
But this answer simply pushes off the ultimate question: why are European
states able to cooperate in this way to reach a common EU position?
This requires a longer answer. It might be summed up in the claim that EU
nations find it much easier to cooperate on international environmental measures,because these measures already mirror the way the EU operates, internally. Or, toput the point a bit differently, European nations are more inclined to supportinternational programmes of environmental regulation because these programmesare, in many ways, an extension of the way the EU already does business at home.
This is so in regard to the institutional arrangements for these programmes and stillmore in regard to their substantive policies and associated political characteristics.
To start with the most obvious and important institutional factor: Ambitious
international programmes stir concerns in the United States and in many othercountries about threats to national sovereignty. But not in Europe. Most politiciansin Europe have become quite comfortable with the idea of ‘pooled sovereignty'. Tothe extent that international regulatory schemes commit national governments toongoing ventures, most of these ventures are, after all, rather modest compared tothe grand venture of European integration, itself.
The institutional characteristics of new environmental schemes are also quite
familiar to Europeans. The most ambitious ventures tend to start with a generalframework convention, which is then given successively more precision insubsequent agreements or protocols. It is more than a process of fitting details togeneral standards. It is rather a technique of articulating a political consensus andthen using this initial commitment to constrain subsequent bargaining. And this isjust how the EU handles its own environmental planning. The EuropeanCommission formulates five year ‘action plans'. These are then implemented insubsequent Commission directives that gain momentum and credibility from thenon-binding ‘plans'.
Even where international programmes rely on international administrative
authorities – rather than subsequent rounds of treaty negotiation – this is nothingnew for EU countries. The most striking feature of the EU polity is the extent towhich major policy initiatives are delegated to the European Commission, in asystem where the European Parliament has few formal powers to direct ordiscipline the bureaucrats.
But the institutional affinities are probably much less important than the
policy parallels. Within the EU, environmental policy is extremely attentive to
distributional effects on business. Business is a major constituency of EU level‘harmonisation' policies – in the environmental field, as elsewhere. Businesslobbying is certainly a standard feature of politics in all democratic countries. But itis central to the way the EU operates, because the project of European integration isso much more ambitious.
Free trade across state borders was guaranteed in the US Constitution in 1787.
In Europe, the reduction of trade barriers has been a highly contentious project ofrecent decades. High-wage countries have worried about the effect of opening theirmarkets to countries with lower average wages. So, too, countries with higherenvironmental or regulatory standards have worried about the effect of openingtheir markets to firms operating in countries with less demanding standards. Theenvironmental standards of the EU are, in part, a way of protecting the competitiveinterests of countries with more ambitious environmental norms. As one recentstudy observed, 'the European Union has become a vehicle for exporting theenvironmental standards of Europe's greener nations to the rest of the continent'.6
Thus, EU interest in environmental regulation really gained prominence only
with the advent of the Single European Act of 1987, which set out to eliminate allbarriers to cross-border trade with in Europe – and, to achieve this goal, promised asystematic harmonisation of standards on a wide range of domestic regulations.
The number of environmental directives in the period 1989-91 exceeded all thoseissued in the preceding 20 years. DG XI, the directorate of the EuropeanCommission with special responsibility for environmental regulation, expandedfrom 55 staff in 1986 to 450 in 1992.7 Summarising a number of more detailedstudies, a recent survey of EU policy making concludes that 'of the main influences,economic motives seem to provide the most important authority behind thedevelopment of European environmental policy'.8 Among other things, it is notablethat the Commission prefers to invoke treaty provisions which mandate uniformstandards, rather than those which would require states to reach a minimumstandard of environmental protection and then leave it to local authorities to domore, if they wish.
The point is not that European environmental regulation is simply a sham to
cover business protectionism. But it is clear, at least, that the EU is extremely alertto the commercial implications of particular environmental standards. In the NorthAmerican Free Trade Agreement, by contrast, there is no provision forharmonising environmental standards and no institutional machinery to securecommon standards. Instead, each of the three NAFTA countries is bound simply byvague commitments not to lower environmental standards or deliberately under-enforce its own existing laws for the sake of trade advantages against the others.
The EU, on the other hand, has worked, systematically and deliberately, to extend
6 David Vogel, Trading Up: Consumer and Environmental Regulation in a Global Economy
(Harvard University Press,1996), p. 977 Justin Greenwood, Representing Interests in the European Union
(London: Macmillan, 1997), p. 1818 Id at 183
the standards favoured by some EU states to all the others. It is very natural,therefore, for the EU to look to international environmental standards as a way ofextending its favoured policies still more broadly.
Apart from overriding attention to the commercial implications of
environmental regulation, the EU has also pioneered, in its own internal affairs,two other features of regulatory politics that play a prominent part in globalenvironmental negotiations. One is the special provision made for non-governmental advocacy groups. The EU has been a remarkably eager patron ofNGOs, in the environmental field, as elsewhere and it has special incentives tocultivate these groups.
The basic structure of the EU generates continual tensions between European
institutions and the governments of the EU's member states. Both the EuropeanParliament and the European Commission therefore seek to promote advocacygroups with a European outlook, groups which can then act as champions of EUpolicy within the member states. Nearly ten per cent of the EU budget now goes tothe funding of such groups. Environmental advocacy groups have been notablebeneficiaries of the larger pattern.9
Thus about one in five European-wide interest advocacy groups represents
non-profit ‘public interest' concerns and a 1996 survey found that these groupstend to have more permanent staff and higher budgets than the more numerousbusiness lobbying groups.10 The European Environmental Bureau, representing anetwork of national advocacy groups in Brussels, receives about half its fundingfrom direct EU grants. Of the six other large environmental advocacy groups withheadquarters in Brussels, all but Greenpeace acknowledge receiving sizeableportions of their operating budgets from the European Commission.11 WhileGreenpeace is quite reticent about revealing its funding sources, it doesacknowledge that the bulk of its revenue comes from Germany and Scandinavia,while it actually spends more in the United States than it collects there.12
The European Parliament, in which Greens achieved the status of the fourth
largest party in 1989, has been eager to tap into public support for environmental
9 In 1996, the EU channelled 9.25 per cent of its total budget to the non-profit, non-governmental sector, according to A.M.
Agraa, The European Union - History, Institutions, Economics and Policies
(London, Prentice Hall Europe, 1998), p. 319Most of the money goes to private groups offering services to the poor, the unemployed, the disabled, ethnic minorities, etc.
But environmental advocacy groups also take some share of this bounty. For example, the EU's 'Fourth Framework ResearchProgramme' (1994-1998) budgeted 11.6 billion ECU for this period, almost all of it for work by outside organizations orinstitutions: about 15 per cent of this funding went to organizations studying either 'environment' issues (8.3 per cent) or'cooperation' with non-EU countries and with international organizations (6.8 per cent). B. Harvey, Networking in Europe: AGuide to European Voluntary Organisations
, 2d ed. (London: NCVO Publications and Community DevelopmentFoundation, 1995) provides these and further breakdowns (Ch. 3).
10 Greenwood, p. 17911 Id, p. 186. DG XI (the EU Commission Directorate responsible for environmental policy) distributed grants totalling 7million ECU to non-governmental organizations; in 1995, EEB's share of this largesse reached 409,477 ECU, by which timeit had 'institutionalised its presence across a range of [EU] advisory committee structures'.
12 According to its 1996 Annual Report
, Greenpeace International received more than half of the revenue required for itsinternational operation, headquartered in Amsterdam, from sources (not further itemized) in Germany. It operates at a deficitin the U.S., as well as in France and Japan and less developed countries (including China). Surpluses to fund these deficitscome from UK, Canadian and Swedish sources, as well as (most massively) from Germany.
concerns by acting as a patron for environmental advocacy groups. The EuropeanCommission, anxious to diversify its sources of information and support, hasroutinely sought reports from non-governmental sources. Environmental advocacygroups now have an institutionalised role as suppliers of policy data and advice tothe Commission. And they have learned how to operate strategically in Brussels.
Even Greenpeace, better known elsewhere for staging sensational protest events,has learned to play by Brussels rules in the EU capital: it has, for example,commissioned research studies from local consulting firms, known to be suppliersof policy research to the European Commission.
The same advocacy groups have also taken an extremely prominent role in
international negotiations, where environmental conferences give them specialrights of participation. The 1992 Rio Summit was, by design, as much a forum forhighlighting the concerns of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as forfacilitating the efforts of official state representatives. A recent UN study notes thatthe pattern only gained momentum thereafter: 'In the interlinked global conferencesthat have followed the Rio meeting, NGOs continued to have a strong impact onboth the preparatory processes and the conferences. More and more, NGOs arehelping to set the public policy agenda – identifying and defining critical issues andproviding policymakers with advice and assistance'.13 What these groups also do, ofcourse, is to help mobilise public opinion, at least in the western countries wherethey have their greatest support.
A final feature of EU policy is the scheme of regional adjustments. Such
redistribution efforts have long been a feature of domestic politics in Germany andother countries. Still, it is notable that they were so readily adapted to planning andpolicy at the European level. With two centuries of history as a single nation, theUnited States does not even now have any programme avowedly aimed atequalising wealth among the states of the American union. But the EU has tried topush ambitious integration programmes very far, very fast. In fact, EUharmonisation policies are, in many ways, more ambitious than federal regulatorypolicy in the United States. In the US, as in other federal countries, representativesof states with differing policies often succeed in blocking proposed federal policiesthat would override local policy preferences. In Europe, payments from the EU'scohesion fund for depressed regions have been a way of building support forcommon policies. In particular, such massive transfer payments have easedopposition to ambitious environmental norms from the less affluent EU states,notably Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece (which qualify for sizeable grants froma special cohesion fund). By the mid-1990s, almost a third of the EU budget wasdevoted to ‘structural expenditures' on regional equalisation, with total outlays forthe period 1994-99 projected to reach 178 billion ECUs.14
13 Report of the Commission on Global Governance, Our Global Neighbourhood
(Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 255.
So, for example, the European Environment Bureau (EEB), an umbrella organization for dozens of smaller advocacy groups,was part of the official EU Commission delegation at the 1992 Rio Summit and at subsequent conferences on climate changeand biodiversity. (Greenwood, p. 186)14 Greenwood, p. 221
Just this sort of policy has been introduced into a number of international
environmental agreements – though on a much smaller scale – to buy support fromless developed countries. Beginning in the mid-1960s, LDCs have repeatedlysought to use UN forums to build support for large scale wealth transfers from therich nations of the ‘North' to the poor countries of the ‘South'. For more than twodecades, these efforts were continually rebuffed by western countries (most vocallyby the United States but in the end, just as decidedly by Western Europeancountries). Recent environmental conferences, however, have sought to tap intocontinuing eagerness among poor countries for sustained programmes ofinternational assistance. The Rio Conference was officially the UN Conference onEnvironment and Development
– with the last part of the name designed to attractinterest from developing countries. Individual treaties often do have some specialincentive or sweetener for LDC participation, including special assistance fundsand provisions for technology transfers. The scale is much smaller than in the EUbut the policy impulse is similar: if less affluent countries resist the preferredpolicies of the rich countries, the rich can offer financial inducements to getdissidents to go along.
To sum up, then: international environmental regulation mirrors EU internal
policies in some crucial institutional features – most notably, in the drive forcommon internal policies, prodded by ongoing conferences that sometimes featuremajority voting (rather than consensus) and delegation of authority to centralisedadministrative units. In policy and politics, the affinities are still closer, asinternational policies become entangled in the pursuit of commercial advantage forsome countries over others, while trying to mobilise broader support by subsidisingnon-profit advocacy groups and offering side-payments to dissident states. WhatGermany and a few other northern countries have done in the EU, the EU is nowdoing to the rest of the world: pressing to make its own policies the wider norm, soits own policy is less vulnerable to competition or local challenge.
We are still at an early stage in ‘globalising' the preferred environmental
policies of the EU, but it is already clear that this process is raising qualms in otherwestern countries – and much suspicion and resistance from less developedcountries.
Part II: Environmental Initiatives of the Past Decade
a) The Setting: WTO and the trade nexus
Before looking at particular environmental programmes, it is necessary to take noteof their setting. International negotiations on environmental issues try to emphasisecommon concerns, but divisions between different regions have not disappeared.
They have instead been channelled into new international fora.
Environmental issues did not emerge as a major topic of international
negotiation until the end of the 1980s. But tensions between the affluent West andthe impoverished South have a much longer history. Almost all the former coloniesof Europe emerged as independent states in the first two decades after World WarII. By the mid-1960s, non-western countries had attained a decisive majority in theUnited Nations. They accordingly sought to use the United Nations as a forum topursue their demands for greater economic assistance from the affluent nations ofthe developed West. In 1964, the UN established a permanent UN Conference onTrade and Development (UNCTAD). A broad coalition of developing countriesorganised themselves into the Group of 77 (G-77) to urge fundamental changes inthe terms of international trade. A decade later, the ambitions of UNCTAD and theG-77 coalesced into an elaborate programme, dubbed the New InternationalEconomic Order. Proponents envisioned a network of new international agreementswhich would assist developing countries with price supports for their basiccommodity exports and also provide for systematic transfers of technology andresources from affluent nations to the developing world.
Western countries rejected this vision, however. Instead, they pursued new
agreements to remove existing barriers to international trade, under the frameworkestablished by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1947. Bythe end of the 1980s, even most developing countries had come around to the viewthat trade liberalisation would serve their own interests, as the dramatic growth offree-trading states like Chile and Singapore showed what could be accomplished.
While UNCTAD floundered on the sidelines, most countries in the worldparticipated in negotiations in the early 1990s, aimed at replacing the GATTframework with a more formalised organisation, the World Trade Organisation. Bythe time it came into effect in 1995, the WTO had 128 members (compared withtwo dozen signatories of the original GATT rules of 1947).
By then, however, some western countries were having second thoughts about
the basic trading rules of the GATT system. In 1992, the European Parliament, forexample, called on the EU to establish protective duties against ‘environmentaldumping'15 – the sale of goods at lower prices, when they have been produced incountries with inadequate environmental safeguards (and therefore, presumably,lower production costs). Developing countries strongly protested this idea, insisting
15 Resolution A3-0329/92. A more modest proposal, authorizing special tariffs on goods produced in countries that did notconform to US air quality standards, was soundly defeated in the US Senate in 1990 (Sen. Amend. 1321).
it was no more than an excuse to protect European producers from outsidecompetition. And ‘eco-dumping' duties were certainly improper under the existingGATT rules, which allowed countries to exclude imports based on health or safetyconcerns about the products, themselves, but not on the basis of objections to theway the goods were produced in their home countries. The agreement establishingthe WTO ended up with rhetorical gestures to the goal of sustainable developmentbut no change in this traditional rule.
Some western governments remained dissatisfied. At the signing ceremonies
for the WTO agreement in the spring of 1994, French President Chirac called onthe new organisation to find some way to allow countries with high environmentaland labour standards to protect themselves against 'unfair competition' fromcountries with deficient standards in these areas. The proposal was echoed by USVice-President Gore, at a time when American labour and environmental groupswere expressing sharp doubts about the WTO.
Meanwhile, many governments called attention to the awkward fact that a
number of recent environmental agreements were already in conflict with WTOrules, since these agreements contemplated trade restrictions or trade sanctionswhich were not permissible (or so it seemed) under WTO rules. A new WTOCommittee on Trade and Environment was established under the WTO and set out,as its first task, to resolve this immediate challenge.
Five years later, it has still not happened. Part of the reason is that the EU and
the US could not agree on a common approach to the problem. In the United States,many environmental advocacy groups demanded an approach that would leave theUS free to impose trade sanctions on its own authority – as it had done (and thenfound itself condemned by a GATT arbitration panel) in excluding tuna caught byocean drift nets shown to be inadvertently snaring prized dolphins. The EU hadengaged in such unilateral ventures of its own, most notably in trying to excludethe importation of fur when obtained from animals caught by leg traps (principallyin Canada and Russia). But EU trade negotiators were more concerned to restrainAmerican unilateralism than to protect EU prerogatives in this respect. So the EUpressed for a direct linkage between multi-lateral environmental agreements andtrade standards. Sir Leon Brittan, Trade Commissioner for the EU, issued a seriesof warnings against ‘green protectionism' if the WTO did not work out reasonablerules for a multilateral approach.16 The Clinton administration vacillated, tornbetween its concern to protect the trading system and its eagerness to conciliatedomestic environmentalists.
More important than American hesitation, however, was the unexpectedly
strong opposition from less developed countries. They had signed a series ofenvironmental agreements which, on their face, were in some tension with rules of
16 See, e.g., the report of Commissioner Brittan's remarks before a committee of the European Parliament in 'WTO rulesmust not thwart environmental agreements,' Europe Environment
, No. 524, June 9, 1998. The report also notes that someMEPs urged bans on 'cheap imports from countries enforcing lower animal welfare standards than the EU,' but 'Sir Leonsuggested there are limits to what other countries can be coerced into doing'.
the trading system. Now they insisted that the trade rules should not bereformulated to accommodate full enforcement or implementation of these sameagreements. Part of the reason was that LDCs feared that environmental standardswould be coupled or soon followed with labour standards and a series of othermeasures designed to protect the markets of Europe and North America from theirexports. So they insisted that trade rules should be kept quite separate from non-trade issues, but they has also developed a good deal more scepticism about the wayenvironmental agreements had come to work, in practice, when urged along by theagitational skills of western environmental advocacy groups and the strategiccalculation of western governments.
It is telling that as LDCs opposed mixing non-trade issues with trading rules,
they also opposed the demands of environmental NGOs for greater openness in theWTO and a more assured place for NGO participation. NGOs had sought and wona prominent role in environmental treaty negotiations. Most G-77 countries weredetermined to deny NGOs any similar status at the WTO. So far, NGOs haveindeed been kept at a distance and WTO rules have not been changed. Tradedisputes continue to be settled by arbitration panels whose proceedings – andparallel efforts at voluntary settlement – are conducted in secret (though panelrulings are made public).
The WTO recently organised a forum at which NGOs could discuss their
concerns about the operation of the trading system and its relation to environmentalconcerns. Most western states (and the EU) sent their trade ministers or topofficials; almost no country from the old G-77 did so.17 The experience of LDCswith international environmental agreements and international environmentaladvocacy groups goes far in explaining such chilly attitudes.
b) Direct Trade Restraints – CITES and the Basle Convention
The 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is theoldest of the modern ventures in international environmental regulation. At theoutset, it seemed to be relatively non-controversial. The treaty established amechanism to assist conservation efforts for endangered species. Where somesignatories sought help in suppressing the seizure of endangered species withintheir own borders, all other signatories could agree to suppress importation of suchspecies – and so, it was hoped, suppress the demand that drove illegal poaching orharvesting.
The most ambitious application of the system developed in the 1980s, when
western environmentalists began to emphasise the threat to African elephants. TheWorldwide Fund for Nature was so intent on protecting elephants, that it financedthe purchase of attack helicopters by local game wardens in Zimbabwe, resulting in
17 'WTO: First Ever Environmental Symposium Gets Underway,' Greenwire
(electronic service of the National Journal
ofWashington, D.C.), March 16, 1999, citing the observation of a journalist from India: 'The scepticism of the developingcountries shows in that only their Geneva-based ambassadors are attending the symposium,' while other countries sent highlevel officials.
the deaths of over fifty people thought to be engaged in poaching. Other westernorganisations helped African governments to hire British and South Africanmercenaries to train and lead anti-poacher hit squads, resulting in the deaths ofseveral dozen poachers in Kenya from a new ‘shoot on sight' policy.18 News ofthese practices provoked a chorus of denunciations, however – at least in Africa.
Western advocacy groups accordingly switched their attention to a new techniqueof control. The culminating effort, achieved in 1989, was a ban on the importationof ivory, which was supposed to rob poachers of their economic incentive to killelephants.
The scheme inspired great enthusiasm – and was a fund-raising success for
western environmentalists. But it never worked properly. On the one hand,smuggled ivory (for jewellery) and rhino horn (for Asian medicinal formulas)continued to find markets in Asian countries. On the other hand, the ban hobbledefforts to give local people a stake in protecting elephants – which can be verydestructive to agriculture – when they were hobbled in finding ways to assurecommercial value to the elephants. Countries in southern Africa repeatedlyrequested the CITES signatories to lift the ban during the course of the 1990s. Theywere able to show that programmes providing market-based incentives had enlistedmuch local cooperation and produced a considerable increase in elephant herds intheir territories, while conventional conservation efforts in Kenya had not halted acontinuing decline in elephant populations.
It took the better part of a decade, however, before the requisite two-thirds
majority of CITES signatories would go along with even a modest lifting of theban. Very few countries have elephants or face any direct burden from the ban, butdonors in western countries, where environmental advocacy groups do the bulk oftheir fund-raising, are easily moved by impassioned appeals to save the elephants.
Some environmental advocacy groups and animal-rights groups resisted to theend.19 So countries that wanted to pursue a better programme for saving their ownwildlife turned out to be hostage to an international regime they had notunderstood, when they signed up for it in the 1970s.
Meanwhile, western advocacy groups were also instrumental in getting
international support for a different system of constraints on trade – the 1989 BasleConvention on transboundary shipment of hazardous waste. In practice, CITES hasserved to limit exports from less-developed countries. Basle, in a kind of mirrorimage, was explicitly designed to limit shipments from developed countries in theother direction. Greenpeace was particularly active in highlighting the danger that
18 Raymond Bonner, At the Hand of Man
(New York: Knopf, 1993), pp. 126-27, 155-5719 Wendy Marston, 'The Misguided Ivory Ban and the Reality of Living with Elephants,' Washington Post,
June 8, 1997, p.
C2, reporting the continuing opposition of World Wildlife Fund to a lifting of the ban, even while WWF acknowledged thatelephants should no longer be listed as 'endangered'. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also opposed lifting theivory ban, for fear it would encourage hunting (which was, indeed, the intention of villagers in Zimbabwe and elsewhere,seeking revenue from selling hunting licenses to sportsmen). A wildlife consultant in South Africa protested that Europeanadvocacy groups respond to 'the generosity of donors who feel sentimental about elephants or rhinos, but often show nocompassion for people living in Africa'. Anton Ferreira, 'Africans See anti-ivory ban as foreign meddling,' Reuters WorldService, Nov. 6, 1994
western countries would use poor countries as dumping grounds for hazardouswaste. African countries indeed organised their own regional accord in 1991 (theBamaco Agreement), imposing stricter limits on the importation of hazardousmaterials.
But the Basle Convention was not simply a matter of altruism on the part of
western countries. If the concern was that receiving countries would not haveadequate facilities for the safe handling of hazardous materials, the obvioussolution was a system of export licenses, dependent on certification of suchfacilities at designated destinations. Instead, the parties to the Basle Conventionsoon organised a strict, two-tiered system, with a short list of western countries inone list and all other signatories in the other. Western countries then imposed strictprohibitions on the shipment of designated materials to other countries. Howstrictly this system could be enforced was shown in 1998, when the A-list countriesrejected applications from Israel and Monaco to receive shipments of the listedmaterials. In effect, the Convention has operated as a reprocessing cartel for asmall group of western countries.20
And there is much at stake. The waste removal industry earns $50 billion per
year. Germany and a few other EU countries have invested heavily in recycling.
Thus, some provincial governments within Germany have actually tried to restrictshipment of recyclables from one part of Germany to another, simply to ensure thatbusiness stays at local sites.21
Initial proposals would have included even scrap metal on the list of exports
required to stay in top-tier countries. It has not yet gone that far, but themechanisms are in place and they operate by majority vote – of the A-list countries.
Characteristically, the United States has so far remained aloof from the BasleConvention (because of opposition in the US Senate). So European countries, longthe most insistent promoters of this international control scheme, retain mostinfluence on its direction.
Since the GATT is supposed to place sharp limits on export controls as well
as import barriers, there is much question about whether Basle is consistent withWTO rules. Similar questions can be raised about ivory bans if they distinguishbetween ivory exports on the basis of their domestic conservation techniques. Nocomplaint has yet been brought to the WTO to test the legality of these treaties. Butgiven their experience, it is not surprising that LDCs have resisted a clarification ofWTO rules that would give explicit authorisation to enforcement of these treaties.
LDCs are not at all eager to give up the possibility, as a last resort, of lodging WTOcomplaints against western discrimination under these treaties.
20 'Parties to Basle Convention Adopt Two-List System for Waste Export,' BNA International Environment
, March 4, 1998,p. 185, noting that the decision was strongly supported by Greenpeace International, which took the same position as theEuropean governments.
21 Vogel, Trading Up
c) Protecting the atmosphere: Ozone and Climate Change
CITES and Basle raise special problems because they are explicitly about traderestraints. On the other hand, it can be argued that international agreements aremost appropriate when it comes to shipment of products across internationalboundaries. Neither CITES nor Basle tries to regulate what countries do withintheir own borders. The most ambitious environmental ventures have precisely thischaracteristic – they try to regulate what goes on within each country, on thepremise that what goes into the atmosphere cannot be confined within nationalborders.
The 1987 Montreal Protocol (expanding the Vienna Convention of 1985) on
Ozone Depleting Chemicals has become the new model. It was a response toscientific studies, beginning in the 1970s, which found that the ozone layer in theupper atmosphere was thinning over Antarctica, as ozone molecules were brokendown, probably by reactions with manmade chemicals. Chlorofluorocarbons(CFCs), commonly used in aerosol sprays and refrigerants, were thought to beparticular culprits. Environmental advocacy groups seized on initial scientificspeculations and trumpeted the warning that the erosion of the ozone layer in theatmosphere would allow much more ultra-violet light to reach the earth's surface,leading to increases in skin cancer around the world.
Such warnings were enough to prompt Western governments to organise a
coordinated response. So a framework treaty, the Vienna Convention on Substancesthat Deplete the Ozone Layer, was negotiated in 1985. This initial treaty proposedonly a general commitment to reduce reliance on the offending chemicals, withoutspecific reduction targets or deadlines. Even so, it had only twenty signatories – allfrom developed countries. More scare stories (which soon proved exaggerated)were given much publicity by environmental advocacy groups.22 Then a number ofchemical companies, in Europe and the United States, began to support strongercurbs, when they realised a faster phase-out of CFCs would create a new market forsubstitutes – produced by western companies.
Even so, Britain supported the US government's call for a phase-out of
‘inessential uses' of CFCs (as in aerosol sprays). Germany, with its large chemicalindustry and mobilised Green activists, demanded more comprehensive action. TheGermans soon managed to rally most other EU states to their view,23 however, lessdeveloped countries, led by India and China, remained sceptical.
The Montreal Protocol of 1987 responded to European demands for a definite
international commitment to ending the use of ozone depleting substances, while
22 Careful studies did not find that ozone depletion corresponded to ground-level increases in Ultraviolet B radiation, asalarmist forecasts had predicted. Joseph Scotto et. al., 'Biologically Effective Ultraviolet Radiation: Surface Measurements inthe United States, 1974 to 1985,' Science
, February 12, 1988 and the evidence linking seasonal ozone thinning to humanactivities was called into question by subsequent studies. S.F. Singer, 'Ozone Depletion Theory,' Science
, Aug. 17, 199323 Richard Elliot Benedick, Ozone Diplomacy, New Directions in Safeguarding the Planet
(Cambridge, Mass: HarvardUniversity Press, 1991), p. 39. The German Environment Minister at the time, Klaus Topfer, was subsequently rewarded forhis success in pushing through a more ambitious control scheme: in the early 1990s, he became head of the United NationsEnvironment Programme.
the less developed countries refused for a time to endorse this commitment. Thebreakthrough came in the 1990 London Amendments, under which (in addition totightening and speeding up commitments to stop the use of ozone depletingsubstances), western countries offered to create a fund to assist less developedcountries in making the transition to new refrigerants. It was the first time thatcompliance with an environmental norm had been linked explicitly withcompensating transfer payments – applying, in effect, the EU's internal approachto the world at large. Subsequent amendments to the Montreal Protocol, adopted inCopenhagen in 1992, also confirmed another sweetener for LDCs: tighteneddeadlines for the elimination of CFC use and production in developed countrieswould not apply to LDCs until 2010. For China, India and Mexico, the mainremaining producers of CFCs, this offered the prospects of considerable gains, asthe shutdown of production elsewhere worked a tripling of the price (and opened ablack-market for smuggling even into western countries where CFC use wassupposed to be ended by 1996).
The less developed countries have continued to protest – down to the latest
conference of the parties at the end of 1998 – that transition funds made availabledo not remotely cover the costs of shifting to new refrigerants.24 Refrigerants arenot a matter of marginal comfort in poor countries. Without proper refrigeration, itis difficult to preserve food. Concerns were also expressed about protectingantibiotics and other medicines requiring refrigeration. In countries with poortransportation systems and limited government resources, even small changes inrefrigeration capacity could have very alarming consequences.
Despite all this, most countries have felt obliged to ratify the Montreal
Protocol, because signatories are pledged to observe trade restrictions (on servicingequipment using CFCs and on receiving imported goods made with CFCs) in theirdealings with non-signatories. So even the truculent government of Myanmar(Burma) finally signed the Montreal Protocol in 1994, acknowledging that 'one ofthe major motivating factors' was 'the desire to avoid trade restrictions'.25
Meanwhile, the benefits of the undertaking are far from clear, especially for
poor countries. The thinning of the ozone layer occurred in the polar regions, so itwas feared was that effects would be felt by people in the higher latitudes of thenorthern and southern hemispheres. People living at lower latitudes (where almost
24 'Report of the Tenth Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol,' Cairo, 23-24 November 1998 (UNEP/OzL.Pro.10/9)Par. 43: 'Many representatives stated that existing levels of financial assistance to developing countries were insufficient toachieve the goals of the Protocol and said it was essential to ensure adequate and timely funding .'. Meanwhile, UNEPDirector Klaus Topfer 'urged donor countries to pay the balance of their contributions to the Multilateral Fund for 1998 andearlier years' (without reporting the extent of the shortfall). (Par. 9) A study by the World Bank estimated the cost ofeliminating ozone depleting substances in China alone would reach US$1.4 billion by 2010. Ian Rowlands, The politics ofglobal atmosphere change
(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995), p. 184. By the end of 1998, the MultilateralFund had authorized payments of some $220 million – for all countries eligible – while the World Bank had authorized anadditional $300-$400 million. (Tenth Meeting Minutes, Par. 33, 36) China itself has received only $30 million.
25 Rowlands, politics of global atmosphere
, p. 183. The Austrian delegate to the ozone negotiations summed up theultimatum presented to LDCs: 'Unless you join, you won't get those substances you need to meet your domestic needs .
[and because technology transfers are prohibited to non-Parties] countries not signing the Protocol will be unable to producetheir own'. (Rowlands, p. 170)
all LDCs are situated) have always been exposed to higher levels of UV radiation.
Ground-level exposure to ultra-violet radiation increases by about one per cent permile as one moves from the poles to the Equator. Even the worst case scenarioprojected by UN scientific advisory panels – a ten per cent increase in ultra-violetexposure, due to ozone depletion – would be equivalent to moving 60 miles closerto the Equator.26 So to ensure that populations in the affluent temperate zones didnot face marginal increases in ultra-violet exposure, countries in poor, tropicalregions, already facing more than that level of exposure, were asked to makedisproportionate sacrifices. Even the off-setting gains to the few CFC producersamong LDCs are scheduled to end by 2010.
Yet for all its dubious accomplishments, this scheme was touted, from the
beginning, as a model for coping with the next great menace – the threat of globalwarming from the build-up of ‘greenhouse gases'. The theory was that increasingconcentrations of such gases in the atmosphere would trap heat at the earth'ssurface, leading to a gradual warming of the planet. After water vapour, the maingreenhouse gas is carbon-dioxide, some of which is released by the burning of fossilfuels – that is, by the ordinary activities of life in industrial societies.27Environmentalists warned that as average temperatures rose, weather patternsmight alter, leading to drought in some regions and catastrophic hurricanes inother regions. Some scientists even warned that a warming trend could lead to themelting of polar ice, raising sea levels and flooding coastal regions throughout theworld.
To forestall such calamitous consequences, environmentalists urged a
dramatic cut-back in the use of fossil fuels, in order to reduce the build-up ofgreenhouse gases. Of course, this policy would have severe economic consequencesfor most countries, but for a few European countries, the policy would not be sodisturbing. By the early 1990s, a reunified Germany was busily dismantlinginefficient and highly polluting coal-powered plants in the former East Germany.
In Britain, the Thatcher government was consolidating its victory over the miners'union by privatising the coal industry and encouraging a nation-wide programmeof transition from coal to more efficient oil and natural gas. Both the German and26 On the eve of the negotiations leading to the Montreal Protocol, an official UK government report noted that even if theworst of 'the postulated ozone depletion did occur, it would result in increased exposure [to UV-B radiation] equivalent to aperson moving from northern to southern England'. The chief American negotiator, in his subsequently published account ofthese negotiations, reports this claim without disputing its truth. He instead responds that the UK argument 'missed thedistinction between a voluntary move made with no knowledge of radiation consequences and the involuntary subjection ofentire populations to known increases'. He does not speculate on how many Britons might be deterred from moving tosouthern England if the 'hazards' involved were better known. Benedick, Ozone Diplomacy
, p. 3827 Ironically, the ozone layer is also thought to contribute to the trapping of heat at lower levels of the atmosphere. To theextent that earlier international agreements are successful in protecting the ozone layer, they may exacerbate the problem ofglobal warming. This point is not denied but is rarely acknowledged by environmental advocates. Meanwhile, one of themain substitute chemicals for CFC – hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) – are now thought to be a greenhouse gas,independently contributing to global warming. Environmentalists have demanded a rapid phasing out of HCFC use to avertglobal warming, while still refusing to countenance a return to reliance on CFCs. Similarly, if burning of fossil fuels is amajor problem, the obvious alternative is to increase reliance on nuclear power, which does not produce greenhouseemissions. But environmental advocacy groups, long hostile to nuclear power, have not changed their position. If nothingelse, the refusal of environmental advocates to establish clear priorities reflects a refusal to think in terms of trade-offs andhard choices and a preference for all-embracing ideological or theological commitments.
British governments thus took up the call for a world-wide reduction of greenhousegas emissions below 1990 levels – with 1990 a particularly favourable benchmarkfor these two countries.
At the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, LDCs insisted that affluent nations ought
to bear the full burden of this undertaking, since affluent nations, after so manydecades of industrial development, were more responsible for existing build-ups ofgreenhouse gases and better able to bear the cost of reducing new emissions. TheLDCs held to this position right up to the 1997 conference in Kyoto which soughtto spell out specific national commitments for emission reductions.
By then, however, Britain and Germany had persuaded other EU countries to
accept a common stance, by which the EU as a whole would pledge to reduceemissions by as much as 15 per cent while individual EU states could have differenttargets consistent with this overall result. EU negotiators could not persuade othercountries to accept an undifferentiated national commitment to match the EUaggregate and LDCs remained unyielding in their opposition to any reductioncommitments. So it was agreed at Kyoto that only a select list of developedcountries would commit to specific reductions, varying somewhat from country tocountry (and all below the EU proposal for 15 per cent cutbacks). For the rest of theworld, the Kyoto conference simply agreed, in very vague terms, that the initialefforts of the developed countries would be an example for others to follow at alater period.
In the meantime, the Kyoto Protocol does offer an incentive for LDCs to
cooperate. It allows countries that are pledged to make reductions to satisfy someportion of their obligation with assistance programmes that reduce emissions inpoor countries (or increase the forest lands there that might act as ‘carbon sinks' todraw carbon-dioxide out of the atmosphere and into plants and soil). Sucharrangements may give incentives to poor countries to endorse the general doctrinethat global warming is a serious problem, requiring serious reductions in emissions.
But if it is a serious problem, projected growth in industrial development in LDCsis very likely to cancel any reductions achieved in the affluent countries. By 2010 or2015, LDCs will probably account for more than half of global emissions. At whichpoint, especially if affluent nations have made sacrifices in the meantime, there arelikely to be strong pressures for LDCs to ‘do their part'. The obvious way of forcingsuch cooperation – or penalising a refusal to cooperate – would be trade sanctions.
The supposed justification for such coercion, the underlying threat to the
global climate, now seems to have been much exaggerated by environmentaladvocates. Evidence from satellite monitoring over the past two decades finds littleevidence of warming. The UN's own expert panels have quietly scaled backwarming projections in each successive report over the past decade, and initial fearsof a sudden, catastrophic rise in sea levels from melting polar ice have now beenlargely discounted by climate scientists.28
28 The UN's own Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated a warming of 4.5 degrees (Fahrenheit) over the nextcentury could raise sea levels by as much as 1 to 3 feet by 2100 – which should not, in itself, be catastrophic, with a century
Even if there is a warming trend, on the other hand, the countries most able to
cope with it will be those with the most developed and diversified economies. Theleast developed countries – those with large populations dependent on subsistenceagriculture – would certainly be most exposed to peril, if a global warming trendalters accustomed weather patterns or increases the frequency and intensity ofhurricanes. But it hardly follows from this possibility that strict energy controlsshould now be enacted for the benefit of undeveloped countries. The more prudentresponse might well be to encourage poor countries to develop their economies asfast as they can right now – so they will be better equipped to deal with climatechallenges a century from now – rather than restricting their growth with controlson energy use while they are still desperately poor.29
While there may be serious problems down the road, it may still be true that
not enough countries can be induced to cooperate on a sufficiently large scale tomake any serious difference. Already, the United States Senate has insisted it willnot ratify the treaty unless all countries make some commitment to emissionsreductions. Getting a solid commitment from the United States will be much easierthan getting reliable commitments from China, India, Indonesia and other giants ofthe developing world.
Yet a new meeting of the parties in Buenos Aires, in November 1998, ended
without any new commitments from LDCs, neither was there anyacknowledgement that the programme was on the edge of collapse. On thecontrary, the Buenos Aires conference called for a new global environmentalauthority to supervise trading between countries in emission rights. The weakeningof the underlying science and policy rationales seems to have no effect on theforward momentum of this undertaking.
d) Into the Soil: Biosafety and POPS
Looking back at these experiences, one might think there was much reason fordiscouragement about the prospects for international environmental cooperation. Infact, other international agencies have been working to develop new programmeswith novel reach and high ambition. Like other programmes, these ventures centreon concerns of special interest to western environmentalists – and threaten unhappy
of lead time to prepare the necessary dikes and levees. But it is most uncertain that warming will lead to a rise in sea levels,since it may encourage precipitation in the polar regions, locking more water in snow and insulating polar ice. Some climateexperts accordingly predict that a general warming trend might even produce a slight drop in sea-levels. David Schneider,'The Rising Seas,' Scientific American
, March 1997, pp. 112-17. Even if a warming trend does have significant negativeeffects, it may also confer substantial off-setting benefits, from longer growing seasons, reduced heating costs and so on.
Thomas Gale Moore, Climate of Fear
(Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, 1998) offers a detailed and extensivelydocumented survey of the plausible economic gains from climate change along with reasons for doubting that climate change,on the scale now envisaged, would wreak terrible consequences.
29 This point is lucidly developed by Thomas C. Schelling, Costs and Benefits of Greenhouse Gas Reduction
(Washington,D.C.: AEI Press, 1998): 'Even for the grandchildren of those now in India, China, Indonesia and other developing countries,putting a lot of resources into slowing climate change and nothing into their own accelerated development may be the wrongway to go. If today we had foreign aid to divide between Bangladesh and Singapore, who would give any to Singapore? Butif many developing countries in fifty or seventy-five years will be close to Singapore's level of development now, then itseems backwards to avoid promoting economic development around the world today and focusing on slowing down climatechange because of the good it will do for future generations'. (p. 16)
consequences for less developed countries.
The Biodiversity Convention, launched at the 1992 Rio Summit, offers a very
broad, general framework for cooperation in protecting threatened eco-systems topreserve specialised flora and fauna. In return for unspecified measures ofcooperation, LDCs were promised unspecified forms of royalty payments forbiotechnology developed from species in their own territory. Whatever the generalbenefits, implementing efforts quickly shifted to a marginal aspect of the treaty ofspecial concern to Europeans – a proposed Biosafety Protocol.
The European Union views biosafety issues rather differently from other
western nations. Partly this reflects cultural differences – or the differing strengthand influence of environmental advocacy groups in Europe. But as in other fields,the EU's peculiar approach also reflects differing economic policies. In an era ofglobal trade, the EU remains very insistent on protecting small farmers in Europefrom overseas competition. Efforts to extend trade liberalisation into theagricultural sector were stymied in the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations(culminating in the 1994 trade agreements), due primarily to EU opposition, andthe EU's special view of agriculture has also been displayed in more specialisedregulatory disputes.
So, for example, the EU has imposed a ban on hormone treated beef, insisting
such treatments pose a genuine health risk for consumers of the resulting meat. Noadverse effects on human health have been observed in North America, Australia orArgentina, where cattle commonly receive hormone treatments to stimulate morerapid growth, but the ban fits neatly into larger EU policies designed to protectsmall farmers in Europe from overseas competition. A long-running dispute overthe EU's policy – pitting the EU against Canada, Australia, the United States andother beef exporters – has occupied the GATT (and then the WTO) for a decade,without reaching any resolution. Formal dispute resolution panels have ruledagainst the EU position, but EU authorities refuse to alter their policy.30
The proposed Biosafety Protocol has given a wider dimension to the conflict,
30 Vogel, Trading Up
, pp. 154-174 reviews the history of this dispute at considerable length. He notes that two extendedinquiries by the European Commission's own Scientific Working Group on this issue advised in the early 1980s that severalof the disputed hormone treatments were entirely 'harmless for consumers'; the EC responded by cancelling the WorkingGroup's meetings before it could issue a final report. (155). Vogel concludes that the ban was largely motivated by clamourfrom environmental groups, by determination to harmonize standards at the level favoured by states with the most stringentstandards and by one other consideration: 'The ban was also closely linked to another important [European] Communitypolicy, namely the Common Agricultural Programme. By eliminating hormone use, the EC reduced the productivity ofEuropean beef producers and thus the supply of beef. This in turn helped protect the economic interests of small, inefficientcattle producers by raising the price of beef and at the same time reduced the subsidies the Community was required toprovide them. The latter had, in fact, become quite substantial; the EC's subsidies to beef farmers had increased by more than56 per cent between 1980 and 1987. The EC's spending on beef rose almost 25 per cent between 1987 and 1988, just as theissue of hormone use was emerging. At the same time, EC beef exports were declining and imports were increasing'. (164)US Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat recently complained about the EU's refusal to settle this matter: 'After 10 yearsand two WTO rulings against it, the EU continues to search for the ‘right' scientific evidence to support a political prejudiceagainst beef raised with growth hormones. The EU claims to have 17 new studies under way, yet no one can say who isconducting these studies, how they are being run, what procedures they are following and whether there is any opportunity forpublic review and comment. It is unreasonable and unfair to have the EU endlessly use the excuse of just one more study thatmight, this time, find something to justify keeping its trade restrictions in place'. Eizenstat, 'Why we should welcomebiotechnology,' The Financial Times
(London), April 16, 1999, p. 16
projecting EU concerns and policies onto the rest of the world. Deliberate hybridbreeding of plants is as old as civilisation. Advances in genetic science have madeit possible to develop improved plant species in the laboratory. The United Statesand other western countries have begun to make extensive use of bioengineering.
By 1998, such genetically modified strains accounted for 25 per cent of the corncrop, 38 per cent of the soy bean crop and 45 per cent of the cotton crop in theUnited States. Experts predict that 95 per cent of US agriculture will rely ongenetically engineered strains by 2010. The technology has the potential to reducereliance on chemical pesticides while also making crops more resistant to drought,frost and other hazards. It also has much potential for securing majorbreakthroughs in pharmacology.
Nevertheless several European countries have already instituted blanket bans
on genetically engineered crops and the EU has introduced severe labellingrequirements on products made from ‘living modified organisms' (LMOs). Theproposals for a Biosafety Protocol took an extremely encompassing definition ofLMOs and threatened to impose very burdensome testing and notificationrequirements on international shipments of everything from cereals to cardboardboxes (often treated with corn-starch from genetically engineered corn). US biotechanalysts denounced the proposals as 'a trade agreement masquerading as anenvironmental agreement'.31
Most less developed countries rallied to the European position, however.
Some nations seemed to be influenced by dire predictions of biological catastrophe,should a Frankenstein strain of cereal run wild in their ecosystems. Others mayhave been moved by the prospect of international assistance – promised in vagueterms in the Protocol – for local testing services, but several LDCs were quiteexplicit in their protectionist concerns, openly articulating what Europeans did not.
Vanilla beans, long a chief export of Madagascar and the Comoros Islands, are now'being made in vats in California,' a representative of Ethiopia warned. What ifgenetic engineering should undermine the export value of Ethiopia's coffee?32 So anumber of countries insisted that bioengineering companies in the western worldshould be required to give notice to LDCs when their technical efforts threatenedcompetitive harm to local crops.
Despite the emerging EU-LDC alliance, the Biosafety Protocol ran into
trouble. A conference at Cartegena, Columbia, in February of 1999, which wassupposed to launch an agreed text, could not come to agreement. The United States,not having ratified the Biodiversity Convention, was relegated to observer status atthe conference. The opposition was mounted by Canada, Australia, New Zealand,Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, all with sizeable agricultural export trade thatalready makes considerable use of bioengineered species. Most observers predict
31 'Biosafety Protocol could impede biotech trade, analyst warns,' Pesticide & Toxic Chemical News
(newsletter of FoodChemical News), Nov. 12, 1998, quoting Adrianne Massey, a consultant for the (U.S.-based) Biotechnology IndustryOrganization.
32 Frank Bajak, 'Genetic engineering talks mired in rich, poor nations debate,' Associated Press wire report from Bogata, Feb.
that further negotiations will eventually produce a Biosafety Protocol that does havewide acceptance. The only question is how much it will be slanted to thetechnophobic or protectionist concerns that have animated earlier efforts.
The stakes have been made still greater by a parallel development. At the very
time that international negotiations have threatened to choke off the developmentof new, pest-resistant plant species, Europe imposed a ban on the production ofmajor pesticides. In June 1988, a conference of European nations approved the‘Aarhus Protocols' (after the Danish city where the conference met), phasing outall production of 16 ‘persistent organic pollutants' (POPs) and imposing productioncontrols on the use of the heavy metals lead, mercury and cadmium. The new treatywas animated by concern that trace elements of these pollutants had been found todrift hundreds of miles from their source, where they might remain in the soil andultimately enter into plant or animal food sources, posing eventual health threats tohuman beings.
The Aarhus Protocols were framed as a supplement or implementing measure
under the 1979 European Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution(to which Canada and the United States are also parties, along with forty nations inEurope). No sooner had Europe decided to commit to this measure than it sought tobring the rest of the world along: a week after the Aarhus Protocols were signed,the United Nations Environment Programme convened a meeting of 92 nations toenact similar controls on a global basis.33 The implications for LDCs might bemore serious than expected as on the list of POPs slated for prohibition were sixfrequently used pesticides, including DDT. The Aarhus Protocols call for a ban onDDT 'within one year of a consensus that suitable alternatives are available forpublic health protection from diseases such as malaria and encephalitis'. Thisseems to leave the decision up to Europe – where malaria and encephalitis are notraging public health problems, and the Aarhus formula does not clearly reckonwith costs: ‘suitable alternatives' may be developed (and patented) by westernchemical manufacturers, but prove much more expensive to use.
The perspective may be different in the developing world. An intensive
campaign against pesticides by western environmentalists has already led todeclines in funding by western governments for DDT spraying. Under similarlobbying pressure, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation and its WorldHealth Organisation have been discouraging DDT use since the mid-1980s.34 A
33 Janet Raloff, 'Persistent pollutants face global band,' Science News
, July 4, 1998, p. 6, reporting UNEP conference inMontreal, with representatives of 92 nations, preparing to consider global controls on industrial chemicals and pesticides,including DDT.
34 Robert Paarlberg, 'Managing Pesticide Use in Developing Countries,' in Peter Haas, Robert O. Keohane and Marc Levy,Institutions for the Earth, Sources of Effective International Environmental Protection
(Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press,1994), pp. 316-18, attributes the new international policy stance largely to the 'mostly European based' advocacy organizationsassociated with the Pesticides Action Network – and also to the opportunities created by a collapse of world food prices inthe 1980s as a result of which 'images of global shortage were replaced (especially in the minds of rich country agenda-setters) by images of food surplus'. Paarlberg, himself, cautions that the 'serious harm' that can be done by misuse ofpesticides must be balanced against the 'good they have done': 'Tens of millions of human lives have been saved and hundredsof millions of citizens have enjoyed improved health, thanks to the use of chemical insecticides – including DDT – againstvector-borne diseases such as malaria. Pesticides have also become a valuable key to crop protection. Roughly 30 per cent of
recent medical study, noting alarming increases in malaria infection in SouthAmerica, demonstrates a close correlation between declining use of DDT andincreasing rates of malaria. All countries in the study show increasing malaria ratesalong with decreasing use of DDT, while Ecuador, which has maintainedpreventive spraying with DDT, has reported continual declines in malarialinfections. The study concludes: 'We are now facing the unprecedented event ofeliminating, without meaningful debate, the most cost-effective chemical we havefor the prevention of malaria. The health of hundreds of millions of persons inmalaria-endemic countries should be given greater consideration before proceedingwith the present course of action'.35
e) New Frontiers: WHO to WEO
It may be selfish for Europeans to worry more about speculative carcinogeniceffects of persistent organic pollutants in their own territory, than about massiveincreases in malaria in Third World countries. But there is at least some undeniablelogic in the concern that pollutants in one part of the world can drift into theterritories of other countries. What is striking is the degree to which internationalregulatory proposals have begun to move from targeting physical entities that domove across national boundaries, to shared agendas based on little more than themovement of ideas –or tastes. Here again, the policy inclinations of the EuropeanUnion have been projected onto the wider world.
A striking example is the World Health Organisation's effort, beginning in
the early 1990s, to mobilise opposition to tobacco use. The health hazards oftobacco use were certainly well known by then, but even those who worry about thedangers of second-hand smoke do not seriously contend that cigarette smoke fromone country can drift across the border and victimise unsuspecting citizens of aneighbouring country. The EU had already decided that coordinated action wasrequired, however and promulgated an EU directive imposing a total ban ontobacco advertising in all EU states. Soon after, the WHO began organising itsAction Plan for a Tobacco Free Europe.
This was deemed too modest an objective for a World
Since 1996, the organisation has been at work on an International FrameworkConvention on Tobacco Control. Following the pattern of environmental regulatorymeasures, the initial framework convention is projected to start with generalprinciples and then work its way to serious policy standards in subsequentprotocols. WHO has already announced that the initial convention will stake outjurisdiction over pricing and taxing policies to reduce incentives for smuggling of
the world's food supply is currently being lost due to pests, plant disease and rodents and an additional
30 percent might be
lost were it not for the use of chemical pesticides. In the tropical countries of the developing world, where pests that attack
plants are especially abundant and where hundreds of millions of poor rural citizens depend upon farming for employment as
well as for their food supply, crop protection by chemical pesticides is frequently a matter of life or death'.
35 Donald R. Roberts, Larry L. Laughlin, Paul Hsheih and Llewellyn J. Legters, Uniformed Services University of the Health
Sciences (Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.A.), 'DDT, Global Strategies and a Malaria Control Crisis in South America,' Emerging
Infectious Diseases 3(3)
, 1997 (US Centers for Disease Control)
cigarettes between countries with differing policies.
The framework convention may also assert international control over
advertising, since 'restrictions on tobacco advertising in one country can beundermined by advertising spillover from other countries'.36 Since illegal drugsmanage to find vast markets with no advertising at all, it is not obvious that‘advertising spillovers' are actually a major cause of smoking, but WHO isdetermined to take a strong stand. Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, the current Director-General of the WHO, recently explained that 'Smoking is a communicated disease.
The allure of smoking is communicated through advertising and peer pressure'.37 Itwill be interesting to see what international measures WHO can devise to counterthe influence of peer pressure.
In fact, the peer pressure of most interest to WHO appears to be that between
governments: 'In practice, only a few [WHO] member states have actuallyimplemented comprehensive tobacco control measures. The planning, schedulingand international information-sharing that would accompany the development ofan international convention would facilitate and encourage member states tostrengthen their own national tobacco control policies'.38 In other words, if nationalgovernments find it too risky to undertake controversial policies on their own, theymay be emboldened to do so in the context of an international programme.
If transnational peer pressure is enough to justify international control policies
for tobacco, a lot of other products and practices would seem to qualify for suchsharing among nations. Excessive alcohol use is also a major threat to health, alongwith excessive consumption of high fat foods and inadequate exercise – from suchindulgences as excessive reliance on automobiles in some countries. Should the UNpromote international regulatory standards to tame these problems, as well?
As a matter of fact, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, the current director of the
WHO, urged a much wider agenda of international controls in the earlier phases ofher career. In the early 1980s, when she was Prime Minister of Norway (and headof the Norwegian Labour Party), she headed a UN Commission on Environmentand Development. The 1987 report of this commission (known as the BrundtlandReport) stressed that the goal of ‘sustainable development' would require cut-backson consumption patterns that made 'unsustainable demands on the world's finiteresources'. It urged such measures as international taxes on the consumption ofluxury goods and restraints on energy use.39 The Brundtland Report (and DrBrundtland, herself) then played an important role in mobilising support for the1992 Rio Summit, at which the Framework Convention on Climate Change wasadopted.
The themes of the Brundtland Report have since been echoed by advocates of
stronger action on climate change. After all, if developing countries now seek to36 World Health Organisation (Geneva), Fact Sheet No. 160 (May 1998)37 Address to the Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, D.C., September 22, 199838 WHO Fact Sheet 16039 World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987),pp. 341-42
attain western standards of consumption for their vast populations, the resultingsurge of industrial activity will place impossible demands on the globalenvironment – at least as some environmental analysts see things. So, for example,on the eve of the Kyoto conference, the Executive Secretary to the Secretariat forthe climate change negotiations, observed that 'the present consumption patterns ofthe rich cannot be generalised globally without unimagined consequences forresource management and environmental security. So it is necessary to bring aboutsensible changes in those patterns, through education and incentives . technicalstandards and fiscal measures that stimulate . change in consumption habits'.40
For now, Brundtland's WHO is focusing on tobacco smoke rather than
greenhouse gases, but WHO insists that its efforts at tobacco control must lay theground for a wider system of controls: 'Tobacco use is a major public healthproblem, but most of the solutions are to be found outside the health sector, byaddressing issues of agriculture, trade, taxation, advertising, package labelling,personnel management and many others'. WHO is therefore cooperating with theUNCTAD and 'seeking the cooperation of other parts of the UN system in thedevelopment and operation of a framework convention'.41 WHO notes withapproval the assurance of World Bank President James Wolfensohn that the Bankis 'stepping up our activities on tobacco control – particularly concerning tobaccotaxation policies'.42
At the same time as it is stepping up to tobacco control, the World Bank has
been involving itself with climate change and other concerns. For the Bank, it isthe answer to a serious political problem. By the mid-1980s, the World Bank wascoming under sharp attack from environmentalists who warned that the Bank'sfunding of dams and other mega-projects posed a threat to the environment in lessdeveloped countries. The Bank responded by promising reforms to ensure that newprojects would be environmentally sound. It established new guidelines andinternal review procedures to monitor the environmental impact of Bank-fundedprojects or proposed projects. The Bank also began to make sizeable payments toenvironmental groups for assistance in such reviews.
Soon, however, governments in recipient countries began to protest
excessively intrusive conditions on World Bank funding. In the fall of 1989,German and French representatives to the World Bank proposed a response: aseparate Global Environmental Facility (GEF) to make special grants forenvironmental improvements in poor countries. The new institution was soonfunded from major donors of the World Bank. As with the Bank itself, the bylawsof the new GEF leave it under the control of the major donors – of which EUcountries are (together) the largest, followed by the US and Japan. So GEF followsthe priorities of western governments and responds, to some degree, to thepressures of western environmentalists. Most recently it has been giving emphasis
40 UN Climate Change Bulletin
, No. 14, 2d Qtr, 199741 WHO Fact Sheet 16042 reported on WHO 'Tobacco Free Initiative' website (http: www.who.int/toh/TFI/brundtland.htm)
to projects that promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – by converting fromcheaper local fuels (such as coal) to less smoky alternatives, often supplied bywestern energy companies. While the World Bank had poured over $11 billion intoenvironmental projects in less developed countries by 1997, it had carefully ladledover $300 million into programmes operated in partnership with westernenvironmental groups.43
Will the GEF continue to operate on its own agenda? Will it be formally
merged or at least directly coordinated with the new standard-setting agencyproposed at the Buenos Aires conference? That may be only the beginning. Therehave recently been proposals to establish a larger umbrella organisation, the WorldEnvironmental Organisation (WEO), which would take responsibility for all themultilateral environmental agreements that the WTO cannot accommodate.44 TheGEF would presumably operate in close collaboration with the WEO, too.
It is curious and revealing that proposals for new organisations continue to be
advanced, even though the United Nations has had a separate agency, supposed tohave generalised responsibility for the global environment. The UN EnvironmentProgramme (UNEP) was established after the first Earth Summit in Stockholm,Sweden in 1972 and, like most UN agencies, remains ultimately accountable to theUN General Assembly, where each UN member state has an equal vote. With itsheadquarters in remote Nairobi, Kenya and its limited funding from the UNgeneral budget, UNEP has proved to be a rather marginal and ineffectual player ininternational negotiations. It was a ‘contributor' in the negotiations on ozonedepletion and climate change and other ventures, but was never in a position todetermine the main lines of negotiation, having no real resources of its own todeploy.
What makes the GEF different is that it is controlled by the small group of
western countries that are its principal donors. What makes the WTO different isthat, though it nominally operates on a system of equal voting, the major tradingnations of the developed world have very disproportionate influence, because theycan always ignore the WTO and make their own agreements among themselves: formost countries, the prize in WTO negotiations is access to the markets of westernnations, not voting rights in the WTO, per se. So a World EnvironmentOrganisation, if it operates in parallel with the WTO and the GEF, will be
43 James M. Sheehan, Global Greens, Inside the International Environmental Establishment
(Washington, D.C.: CapitalResearch Center, 1998), p. 155 (breakdown of GEF grants) and pp. 143-54 on the political cross-currents leading to theestablishment of the GEF. The GEF has clearly succeeded in buying political support for the Bank among greenconstituencies: while environmentalists had loudly condemned the Bank for supporting environmentally-damaging projects,they rallied to the Bank's support in 1995, when congressional Republicans (then, newly in the majority) cited pastenvironmental criticism to justify their own (ultimately unsuccessful) effort to reduce US contributions to the Bank.
44 This proposal seems to have received its first important endorsement in a report by German Green MEP Wolfgang Kreissl-Doerfler, adopted by the European Parliament on November 12, 1996. ('Monitoring Multilateral Environmental Agreements,'Europe Environment
, No. 488, Nov. 19, 1996). Among other things, the European Parliament also urged that the neworganization monitor greenhouse emissions used in the production of goods, so that they could be subject to appropriatepunitive duties before being imported into Europe. The Parliament had earlier endorsed a similar proposal for a newinternational-level 'competition regime requiring international firms to conduct trade in an environmentally friendly manner'.
('European Parliament Adopts Report on Trade and Environment,' Europe Environment
, No. 478, May 31, 1996)
dominated by the rich nations of the developed world.
Whatever the ultimate organisational configurations, the trend does seem to
be toward greater centralisation of environmental programmes. The new powercentres are almost certain to give more leverage to the western governments thatare most supportive of these programmes and provide the resources and incentivesfor LDC cooperation with these programmes. EU countries have been the mostdedicated to this trend and probably have the strength to maintain its momentum,barring resolute opposition from the US (which seems unlikely). The question forthe future is how LDCs will respond to this gathering momentum.
Part III: Three Possible Futures
Trying to chart the future is always hazardous, most especially when one tries toextrapolate from relatively recent, amorphous trends, but given the number andscale of the ventures already underway, it is no longer sensible to think of them as aisolated, disconnected episodes. Clearly, they are different facets of a larger trend ininternational affairs. Enthusiasts of ‘global governance' see these different projectsas building blocks of a new world. What kind of world will it be?
In general terms, we can speculate about three different trajectories, with very
different consequences. One possibility is that, in looking back from the mid-21stCentury, we will see that the current trend ultimately amounted to little more than a'loud-sounding nothing,' as Castlereagh called Czar Alexander's Holy Alliance.
Later generations may observe a mix of idealism, cynicism and delusion that finallyled nowhere – like the Hague Peace conferences in the decade before the FirstWorld War. The second possibility is that these different trends will finally cometogether into some sort of ‘sustainable development'. The system that emerges maynot satisfy visionaries but might prove sufficiently supple and sufficientlyacceptable to governments to give substantial, enduring direction to nationalpolicies and practices. Yet a third possibility is that the current trend does indeeddevelop enough momentum to become a serious factor in world affairs– and proveto be a dangerously polarising or divisive force in the world, exacerbating tensionswhich the new schemes are quite unable to master. Each of these possibilitiesdeserves separate consideration.
The first possibility – a fading into irrelevance – is a well-charted path. We
now tend to forget the utopian hopes even quite sober people had for the UnitedNations in 1945. So, for example, the Charter of the United Nations madeprovision for a Military Staff Committee which would advise the Security Councilon the deployment of a pre-established UN air force, which would be available atany time for immediate UN action to combat aggression or threats to peace.45Today it reads like a fantasy out of H.G. Wells. The Charter has not been amended
45 Article 45 of the UN Charter: 'In order to enable the United Nations to take urgent military measures, Members shall holdimmediately available national air-force contingents for combined international enforcement action . by the Security Councilwith the assistance of the Military Staff Committee'. The Cold War prevented the establishment of a Military StaffCommittee in the early years of the UN, but even the ending of the Cold War was not sufficient to breath life into thisprovision in the 1990s.
but provisions of this sort have long been forgotten.
Perhaps the more instructive analogy is with UN human rights conventions.
The UN has sponsored nearly a dozen major human rights treaties over the pasthalf century. By now, almost all countries pay lip service to international humanrights agreements. Some advocacy groups enhance their own rhetorical leverage indomestic disputes by invoking useful phrases from UN human rights conventions.
Many governments do take some trouble to bring their policies into conformitywith standards prescribed in these conventions, but these are usually the samewestern states that were most active in the drafting of the conventions to beginwith.
The fact remains that there is no real penalty for non-compliance with UN
human rights conventions.46 Reports from UN monitors or committees cannot forceany government to do anything it does not want to do and other governments feelno obligation to see that particular provisions will really be respected by delinquentstates. Soon after China ratified the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, itbegan cracking down on dissidents who had the audacity to circulate its text.
Neither the UN Human Rights Commission nor any of the member states of the UNexpressed great concern.
We might very well see a similar pattern develop in relation to environmental
treaties. There is already much evidence to support this projection. China, forexample, having signed the Convention on International Trade in EndangeredSpecies in the early 1980s, was recently found to be using government funds tosubsidise local ventures aimed at gathering listed species for smuggling abroad.47Most LDCs have failed to keep abreast of their obligations to phase out CFCs underthe ozone agreements: CFC use has more than doubled in the developing worldsince the Montreal Protocol went into effect, while production has tripled in Chinaand climbed nearly 9-fold in India.48 If poor countries do sign onto commitments toreduce greenhouse gas emissions, they are not likely to be very careful aboutenforcing or complying with such commitments. It may turn out that, the more theglobal environmental agreements are shown to have little practical effect in poorcountries, the more they come to be viewed by affluent western countries, asmarginal or symbolic ventures, akin to past human rights accords. Environmental
46 The European Convention on Human Rights (which predates all UN conventions) has much stronger enforcementmechanisms. Rulings of the European Court of Human Rights are not treated dismissively by European governments. Andthey now have added force, because they can be invoked (as legal precedents) against EU states by the European Court ofJustice. But the precise question here is whether European experience can be readily extended to the rest of the world. In thefield of human rights, the answer (for now, at least) seems to be that it cannot.
47 Michael Oksenberg and Elizabeth Economy, China's Accession to and Implementation of International EnvironmentalAccords, 1978-95
(Stanford University: Asia/Pacific Research Center, 1998), pp. 12-13. In 1992, China submitted aproposal for GEF funding for CITES enforcement, with a 'bid for every province to have its own breeding facilities for tigersin order to generate bones for traditional medicine'. Meanwhile, the Chinese central government 'itself has participated inillegal trade in endangered species. In addition, the People's Liberation Army has been implicated in protecting thesmugglers of tiger bone and rhino horn. Compliance with CITES appears to have been hampered by the interest ofministries in the potential monetary rewards that could be realized both from overt non-compliance and abuse of foreignfunds'.
48 Sebastian Oberthur, Production and Consumption of Ozone Depleting Substances, 1986-1995 (Berlin: Ecologic Centre forInternational and Environmental Research, 1997), pp. 35, 30.
treaties will, in the same way, testify to the world's hopes and ideals but not greatlyconstrain its actual conduct.
This is a plausible scenario, but it may be the least likely of the three. That is
partly because western electorates do seem increasingly open to the view thatenvironmental policies in other continents can affect their own well-being, whereashuman suffering in Tibet or Rwanda is a remote abstraction. Most of the currentcrop of global environmental concerns may prove to be wildly exaggerated, evenneurotic, but there is already a well-developed infrastructure of advocacy groupseager to promote and direct these concerns, as certain doctors cater to wealthyhypochondriacs. More importantly, international environmental agreements canenlist powerful business constituencies, which see advantage in rules that protectparticular market niches, suppress certain forms of competition or otherwisechannel or distort market flows to their advantage. Recent experience suggests thatGreen activists have learned to work quite well with such business constituencies.
So the second trajectory may be more likely. Call it global projection of the
European Union. Like the EU, it will find ways to nurture its own non-governmental constituencies, which can advocate and dramatise new issues andconcerns, freed from the limitations of official bureaucracies or electedgovernments. Like the EU, it will find ways to link the calculations of businessexecutives and economic ministers with the enthusiasms of advocacy groups.
Similarly, it will find ways to provide side payments to recalcitrant, poorer states,to sweeten the prospect of submission to the standards most favoured by thewealthier states. All these elements are already in play and can be readily expandedand refined.
It is true, of course, that the European Union could not impose such policies if
other western countries were firmly opposed to them, but the United States hasmore often been hesitant and aloof, rather than firm in its opposition. Oftenenough, the US has been a ready collaborator with EU initiatives. There is asizeable environmental movement in the United States and business interests cansee their own advantage in certain kinds of agreements. Both NAFTA and theWTO have many critics in the US Congress and few politicians will committhemselves to a resolute defence of free trade, when appealing slogans like ‘globalenvironment' or ‘international cooperation' are set against it.
Moreover, foreign policy elites in the United States are accustomed to
thinking of America as a leader in international negotiations; they areuncomfortable when the US seems to retreat to the role of grumbling critic on theside-lines. Despite contrary advice from his top domestic advisers, for example,President Bush felt obliged to attend the Earth Summit at Rio to prove that theUnited States was taking its rightful place in the great new ventures being launchedthere. American leaders will always be tempted to think they have won a victory bygetting the EU to temper its ambitions, without forcing a fundamental change ofcourse. This is what happened, after all, in the ozone and climate changenegotiations.
If the United States joins in any great undertaking with the EU, smaller
western countries – like Canada and Australia – cannot be expected to block theirforward momentum. Smaller countries always fear standing outside the‘international consensus': such defiant postures risk offending allies and partnerswithout forcing any change in their policies. The incentives of such countries are toendorse the general programme and then try to bargain for particular concessionsto their own circumstances when it comes time to hammer out the details – asAustralia did at Kyoto.
The general point is clear enough: small countries do not want to be seen as
isolated or ‘outside'. Just this psychology has been very crucial to the forwardmomentum of European integration – on terms most acceptable to Germany andother dominant states: the more powerful the EU becomes, the more determined thesmaller countries are to hang on to their places within it, swallowing whateverpolicy doubts or conflicting interests they may have in the interest of greater unity.
Bringing less developed countries along may be much more difficult since
China, India, Brazil and Indonesia, for example, are not small countries. They maybe induced to cooperate with a wider range of environmental regulatory schemes,but it would certainly be much easier to secure such cooperation if all the differentglobal environmental initiatives were drawn together and linked with the WTO'strade rules. This may yet happen. The Director-General of the WTO, RenatoRuggiero, has recently proposed the creation of a World EnvironmentOrganisation, as a counterpart to the WTO.49 The idea has enthusiastic supportfrom some environmental advocates. Dr Ruggiero's notion seems to be that a WEOwould remove environmental issues from the WTO itself. Some environmentalistshope that a new umbrella organisation for environmental programmes could evolveinto a serious counterweight to the WTO, a vehicle for forcing the WTO to meshenvironmental standards – and provisions for trade sanctions – with the rules of thetrading system.
Bringing diverse programmes under the same organisational umbrella could
encourage log-rolling between programmes – as the successive rounds in tradenegotiations already proceed by horse trading between major trading nations (ortrading blocs) on different issues, with differing levels of interest or priority fordifferent participants. A more unified system might also strengthen the moral andmaterial incentives for states to go along with particular standards or proposals theydo not really like, lest they become isolated or marginalised in negotiations thatmatter more to them on other subjects – in a scheme where a significant range ofissues are pursued under the same umbrella organisation.
As the WTO now has a relatively formalised system for arbitrating trade
disputes, we may well see the development of more formalised mechanisms forarbitrating or assessing complaints of non-compliance with environmental norms.
49 Frances Williams, 'Washington Urges WTO to be More Responsive to Ecological Concerns,' The Financial Times
(London), March 16, 1999, p. 8, reporting that Director Ruggiero had 'repeated his call for a more powerful WorldEnvironment Organisation with which the WTO could deal on an equal basis'.
In any case, a more centralised system would likely develop the staffing andinstitutional resources (with its own network of scientific and economic advisers) tobecome a bureaucracy with its own agenda rather than a mere host for conferences.
In other words, we might see the advent of an international counterpart to theEuropean Commission, operating in a system that is far more loosely linked thanthe European Union but bears obvious family resemblance.
But if this vision is plausible and quite attractive to many advocacy groups, it
carries with it the seeds of the third possibility – an exacerbation of internationaltensions. The momentum of existing programmes and proposals is already effacingany clear distinction between international and domestic concerns – just as the EUhas broken down any clear principle or boundary between what is properly a matterfor European-wide policy and what must be left to national governments to resolvefor themselves. Less developed countries are eager for international assistance butalso jealous of international interference. The more ambitious internationalregulation becomes, in terms of carrying forward costly and intrusive programmes,the more it is likely to provoke fear and resentment. The details of any particularpolicy may be too eye-glazingly technical to engage the mass public on anyparticular dispute, but the image and symbolism of international coercion mayrankle at some level and be ready fodder for demagogic campaigns.
This has already been the experience with the IMF and the World Bank. In
many parts of the world, these Washington-based institutions now provoke the sortof paranoia and resentment once reserved for the CIA, even though the westerngovernments which largely control these international lending institutions do notinsist that troubled countries accept their assistance. Governments often disregardlocal political protests against disagreeable conditions attached to the loans,because they are desperately in need of new loans.
The calculus of costs and benefits may look rather different in relation to
cooperating with international environmental programmes. It is all too easy toimagine China or India or Brazil organising a broad coalition of states to resist theaims or efforts of a World Environmental Organisation. If existing trends continue,they may have considerable grounds to characterise the WEO (and with it, perhaps,the WTO) as a tool of the rich countries which does more harm than good to thedeveloping world.
To the extent that a WEO has worked out a system for meshing its standards
with WTO trading privileges, it is easy to imagine bitter disputes in one areaspilling over to disrupt or divide the trading system. Protectionist forces in westerncountries might well be pleased to find new opportunities for imposing tradesanctions. In a more divided and turbulent world, leaders of developing nationsmight also think it advantageous to harp on peripheral environmental disputes, as ameans of challenging irksome disciplines of the trading system.50 Such challenges
50 Governments of LDCs have not yet been very public about their grievances but NGOs from such countries are alreadypreparing local opinion for defiant stances. So, for example, the Harare Caucus of African NGOs, meeting in Isiolo, Kenya onNovember 5, 1998, issued the following warning: 'There is a shift from conservational to economic management of the
might prove self-destructive or self-defeating but many governments are tempted toplay a defiant or demagogic role, challenging accepted international norms evenwhen they have little hope of replacing them with better alternatives.
Some observers worry that the EU has become too ambitious in its reach to
preserve long-term harmony among the member states. Whether that is so or not,global programmes must encompass a much wider range of nations, most of whichhave far less obvious and immediate incentives to pull together in common efforts.
Piling new aims and new powers onto international institutions can as easily dividethe world as unite it. The more some of the world is drawn together in a greenvision, the more other countries may recoil and rebel. Trying to secure a greenerworld might prove, in the end, a recipe for a much more restless and embitteredworld.
It remains true, of course, that global trade in itself creates vast disruption and
dislocation, along with new opportunities for improved efficiency and enhancedgrowth. Compared to the resentments stirred by global trade, the extra burdens ofenvironmental controls may seem a relatively secondary matter, however trade-related disruptions are the result of impersonal market forces. It is not as easy tostir demagogic protests against impersonal market forces as against an identifiableinstitution.
Partly for this reason, economic liberalisation of domestic markets has often
proved to have a political tranquillising effect. There was, for example, less class-based strife in Britain by the late 1980s than there had been a decade earlier. Risingprosperity was part of the reason. Perhaps equally important, however, was a newpolitical reality: a government which had disclaimed broader responsibilities forassuring economic equity could not be so easily blamed for localised discontents.
Most countries of the European Union, however, have not liberalised labour
markets to the same extent as Britain. Governments in most European countriestherefore remain highly vulnerable to political protests regarding short-termeconomic trends and localised economic effects. A Europe that is sceptical ofliberal policy at home is naturally inclined to promote the idea that global marketsmust be supplemented by the guiding hand of international institutions.
This tendency raises the central danger in spreading the EU governing style to
the wider world. If prominent international institutions come to take responsibilityfor environment and development, poor countries will be tempted to place theblame for their developmental problems on these same international institutions.
Perhaps newly empowered global authorities will be nimble enough to cope withthe ensuing protests, but Europeans provoked a great deal of rage and resentmentin earlier times, when they tried to take responsibility for development in Africaand Asia. There is no obvious reason to trust that future ventures will have happier
environment evidenced by the trend toward environmental imperialism by the north, where the largest environmental culpritsare found. Environmental protection standards are used as nontariff barriers to southern products or as excuses to back out oflarge development projects in the south, while northern [corporations] remain untouched. This amounts to a cosmeticadoption of environmental protection standards by [international financial institutions], undermining indigenous peoples'movements for their own forms of environmental management'.
results, and more may be at stake than a series of ill-conceived environmentalprogrammes.
Inside the International Environmental Establishment
James M. Sheehan
Addressing a black tie dinner of the United Nations Association in September1997, media magnate Ted Turner shocked the world with the announcement thathe would contribute $1 billion to the United Nations. Turner's gift – roughly thesize of the UN's annual operating budget – will be used to fund normal activities ofthe international organisation. But it comes with politically correct strings attached.
The billionaire founder of CNN and vice-chairman of Time Warner is a stridentadvocate of environmentalist causes and he wants the UN to use his money topromote his agenda. 'I've wanted for some time to do something for the UnitedNations because I think it's the organisation with the greatest reach and potentialfor doing good in the post-Cold War world, for helping children and theenvironment and promoting peace,' he said.
Turner's backing is an enormous windfall for an organisation that is nearly
bankrupt. Because the UN has failed to undertake needed management reforms, theUS Congress cut voluntary US government contributions that were roughlyequivalent to the amount of the gift. Consequently, private philanthropy is relievingpressure on UN officials to make changes demanded by Congress. Turner insiststhat his money not be used for administrative expenses. But UN officials arepermitted to take funds from the programme agencies he is supporting and redirectthem to New York headquarters, site of the organisation's most entrenched andtop-heavy bureaucracy. They understand that money is fungible.
Turner's money will be funnelled through international agencies such as the
UN Population Fund, the World Health Organisation and the UN EnvironmentProgramme. But non-governmental organisations, or NGOs, will be central inplanning and implementing his agenda. Turner understands the crucial role theyplay and he has made sure that his UN Foundation guarantees their continuedpower and influence.
What are NGOs and why do they figure so prominently in the international
The NGO emerged in the early 1990s as a prominent new force in
international affairs. Before the Cold War's end, foreign policy was mainly thedomain of government officials. Western industrial powers concerned themselveswith international security and arms control negotiations and diplomacy washandled mainly through direct bilateral contacts. Environmental issues had littlestanding on the world stage and environmental groups focused almost exclusivelyon domestic issues and the actions of national and local governments.
Since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the environmental credo
‘Think globally, act locally' has been permanently altered. Not only do greens actlocally, they're eager to act globally as well. Non-governmental advocacy groupsare involved in international efforts to plan global economic development, regulatescience and technology, restrict population growth and intervene in socialpolicymaking. Even in the traditional areas of foreign and defence policy,environmental groups push their issues to the forefront. An all-encompassing greenideology is now an integral part of the vocabulary of our policymakers.
NGOs have played a critical role in transforming the international political
agenda. They are both critics and advisers of governments. They have joinednational governments, central banks and international agencies as institutionsauthorised to define the world's problems and propose policy fixes. From thecalling of United Nations conferences to the negotiation of international treaties,NGOs today exert a profound influence on international affairs.
The United Nations defines an NGO as 'any non-profit, voluntary citizens'
group which is organised on a local, national or international level'.1 Thismonograph will examine some of the most politically influential NGOs that focuson international environmental questions. It will review the positions they take andit will describe their methods of lobbying governments and international agencies.
It is not easy to narrate the story of international environmental groups. The
range of issues they pursue is extensive, yet sources of information about them arefew and often self-serving. Still, if we want to understand current internationalenvironmental policies we must know more about how these organisations haveaffected them. This study describes the successes and failures of internationalenvironmental NGOs, concentrating on the past half-dozen years when they havebeen most active. I am hopeful that this chronicle of their activities will help thepublic and policymakers appreciate the scope of their goals and accomplishments.
Environmental groups are achieving their objectives gradually and largely
under a cloak of secrecy. Few people know that non-profit organisations, staffed byprofessionals, primarily Americans and financed by a mix of private and publicfunds, exercise real power in the conduct of diplomacy and the creation ofinternational policy. A global environmentalist movement is using internationallaw and the assistance of the United Nations and other international agencies toundermine national self-government, economic freedom and personal liberty. Thismonograph shines light on the behind-the-scenes efforts of this well-funded andideologically-driven political force.
1 United Nations Department of Public Information, DPI/1438/Rev.1-07508-October 1995.
1. The New World of the NGO
A giant Tyrannosaurus Rex constructed of junk metal towers over a conference hallin a mid-sized Japanese city. Inside, a small group is fanning out across thebuilding to cover every empty table, door and corridor with propaganda leaflets.
Four masked men, disguised as world leaders, play a game of soccer with a largeinflatable balloon of the planet. The game is being recorded by several videocameras. Out front, reporters are photographing another group of grim-facedindividuals who stand solemnly around three ice carvings of penguins. They arebegging the little creatures to forgive mankind for permitting the ‘global warming'that is now causing them to melt.
Is this is a theatre of the absurd? No. It is a United Nations conference in
Kyoto, Japan, where a very serious treaty to stop global warming is nearingcompletion. Lawyers and lobbyists employed by well-funded environmentalorganisations are huddling in a side room with diplomats and dignitaries, crafting alegal document to curtail energy use in industrialised countries. It is a familiarscene for Green activists, who are accredited by the UN to attend the conference asnon-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Welcome to the brave new world of the NGO, where full-time activists attend
international treaty-making proceedings as UN-accredited representatives of thepublic. The UN describes its conferences as sites for ‘democratic' internationalgovernance. But none of the thousands of individuals who participate in theseevents, save a handful of speech-makers, is elected to public office or authorised torepresent UN member governments. Yet by virtue of UN accreditation, members ofNGOs are privileged to scold, advise and mingle with the leaders of the world.
Besides participating in UN-sponsored treaty negotiations, NGOs are involved
in a wide range of related activities. They design and propose texts for internationaltreaties, conventions and other international law instruments. They monitorgovernments and private businesses to determine whether they are in compliancewith national and international rules. Their attorneys file suit in US and foreigncourts against public and private bodies they consider to be out of compliance withlaw. NGOs sponsor consumer boycotts and launch media campaigns againstpolicies, companies and governments they oppose. Indeed, the most enterprisingNGOs help governments enforce environmental legislation that their own lobbyistshave helped write in response to ‘public' protests their own activists organised!
NGOs assert proudly that they are independent of governments and private
industry. They claim to act in the public interest, free of outside pressure andinfluence and they purport to offer viewpoints that are more objective than theviews of private industry. The news media often treats NGOs as unbiased observers.
Yet NGOs usually have a radical political agenda. Most believe that the
private sector cannot solve environmental problems and that governments mustcontrol economic decision-making to protect the environment. This belief may bequite sincere, but it is also rooted in self-interest. Many NGOs depend ongovernments for jobs, money and power. They seek out grants and contracts from
national governments and international agencies. They also bask in the recognitionthey receive from public agencies, which adds authority to their pronouncementsand brings prestige to their leaders.
A New Kind of Organisation
An estimated 4,000 NGOs worldwide are active in environmental matters.2 Theyare not focused exclusively on environmental issues, but include women'sassociations, consumer groups, farmers cooperatives, human rights organisations,labour unions, private relief charities, policy analysis centres, think tanks andpolitical action groups.3 Despite this apparent diversity, many NGOs havediscovered that ‘environmentalism' is a winning concept around which they canmobilise support.
Most of the largest environmental NGOs have always had an international
focus and some have offices in several countries.4 Others have deliberatelytransformed themselves into international organisations. Friends of the EarthInternational, for example, is a decentralised confederation of over fifty affiliates.
Greenpeace, which is based in Amsterdam, has members in 20 different countries.
The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) boasts twenty-eight national affiliates.5The World Conservation Union-IUCN is an umbrella organisation of privategroups and government agencies that comprises approximately 450 members.6
NGOs have a variety of different missions. Some identify themselves as
grassroots organisations working in cities, villages, or rural areas in developingcountries. Many offer special or technical services to other NGOs by doing fieldwork, raising money, or handling litigation and other legal defence work.7 Policyresearch groups such as the World Resources Institute and the Worldwatch Institutepublish books and technical reports that identify problems and propose governmentpolicy solutions. And there are coalition-building organisations that assemble andrepresent other organisations to encourage the formation of still more ‘grassroots'groups.
2 Gareth Porter and Janet Welsh Brown, Global Environmental Politics
, 2d edition, (Boulder: WestviewPress, 1991, 1996) p. 50.
3 World Resources Institute, United Nations Environment Programme and United Nations DevelopmentProgramme, World Resources 1992-1993: A Guide to the Global Environment,
(New York: OxfordUniversity Press), p. 216.
4 All major US-based environmental groups pursue international activities. The oldest conservation organisations – the SierraClub, National Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation – were created at the turn of the century to addressdomestic concerns, but in recent years they have developed international departments with expanded agendas. TheEnvironmental Defence Fund and the Natural Resources Defence Council were founded in the 1970s to litigate in US courtsand influence executive branch enforcement of environmental regulations. Today, each is active on the international frontcovering such issues as global warming and ozone depletion. Even the animal rights-oriented Defenders of Wildlife andHumane Society of the United States have gone international. They attempt to influence overseas enforcement of such USpolicies as the Marine Mammal Protection Act and environmental standards for international trade. (Porter and Brown,p.53.)5 Porter and Brown, Global Environmental Politics
, 1996, p.51.
6 Thomas Princen and Matthias Finger, Environmental NGOs in World Politics
, (New York: Routledge,1994) p. 2.
By far the most important NGO activity is the written word. Books, papers,
press conferences and news releases fill the arsenal of many NGOs. Environmentalgroups have become adept at ‘spinning' stories to the news media to persuade thepublic that global government programmes are essential to its well-being.
Ironically, their effectiveness has been enhanced by something that also incitestheir deepest suspicion – modern technology. Advances in communications allowNGOs to communicate with allies and affiliates all over the world. Fax machines,the Internet, satellite television signals and cellular phones are the internationalenvironmental movement's weapons of choice.
A more traditional instrument for gaining attention is what environmentalists
call ‘direct action' – visible public protests, demonstrations and dramatic stunts.
This type of activism can range from peaceful picketing and sit-ins by grassrootsactivists to the well-timed announcement of boycotts and the filing of lawsuits byorganisations sensitive to newspaper deadlines. More extreme forms of directaction involve the provocation of violence. Greenpeace is notorious for pilotingsmall boats into the path of massive warships carrying nuclear weapons. SeaShepherd, a militant group founded by a radical former member of Greenpeace,specialises in sinking or destroying whaling vessels. Earth First! pioneered thepractice of eco-sabotage or ‘monkey-wrenching' against forestry and mining sites.8Yet even these groups claim a place at the table when public policy is debated.
The role of NGO coalitions deserves particular notice. Acting as front groups,
they can sometimes make support for a cause appear stronger than it really is bytemporarily gathering disparate groups together under the banner of a commonpurpose. NGO coalitions also lay claim to legitimacy by unifying around issues thatcross international boundaries. For example, the Climate Action Network (CAN)comprises NGOs from twenty-two countries that have allied to lobby for restrictionson energy emissions.9
In recent years NGOs have successfully gained official status as participant-
observers at international environmental conventions, conferences andnegotiations. While they continue to proclaim their outsider status, NGOs now havethe political experience and technical expertise of insiders. With official observerstatus, they participate in the periodic follow-up meetings to environmentalconventions that are known as ‘conferences of the parties,' or COPs. COPs areextended negotiations that build on the basic framework created by the initialconvention. NGOs help set the agenda of these conferences by making detailedpolicy proposals or calling for specific actions. They often use COPS asopportunities to promote the revision or amendment of existing treaty obligations.
Particular NGOs have become experts over time on particular sets of
negotiations. Greenpeace, for instance, has expertise in the international regulationof hazardous waste. It has dominated the agenda of the Basle Convention on trade
8 Philip Shabecoff, A New Name for Peace: International Environmentalism, Sustainable Development and Democracy
,(Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1996) p. 73.
9 Porter and Brown, p.53.
in hazardous waste since the beginning of negotiations in the late 1980s byemploying a unique brand of conference participation, report-writing and lobbying.
Greenpeace has managed successfully to impose treaty obligations on the countriesof the world that are much tougher than many would have preferred. Its politicaland organisational skills can only be admired.
The NGO community is a vast resource. NGOs have accumulated deep
reservoirs of scientific and technical expertise, but they can also muster largegroups of demonstrators and issue a blizzard of press releases to give politicians theprotective cover of apparent public support. And they can assemble impressivebehind-the-scenes lobbying forces. Officials in national and internationalenvironment ministries, who are often very sympathetic to their positions, developclose relations with many NGOs. They rely on the strengths of NGO organisationsand help them obscure their weaknesses.
Working with the United Nations
Nearly 1,500 organisations are registered with the United Nations Department ofPublic Information. The Department says it 'helps those NGOs gain access to anddisseminate information concerning the spectrum of United Nations priority issues,to enable the public better to understand the aims and objectives of the worldOrganisation'.10 Such bland language masks the extraordinary political activismNGOs can take on the UN's behalf. According to UN guidelines, accredited NGOsare expected to use their information programmes to promote public awareness ofUN principles and activities. In practice, this means that NGOs engage in intensivelobbying of governments to support UN environmental policies, while fiercelyattacking UN critics.
UN officials have come to recognise the importance of NGOs. Former UN
Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has called NGO participation in theinternational organisation 'a guarantee of the latter's political legitimacy'.11 Theresult is a system of mutual support: NGOs promote a policy, the UN enacts it andboth benefit. In Rio de Janeiro, NGOs galvanised support for a new global policy of‘sustainable development'; in Cairo they clamoured for worldwide controls overpopulation growth. NGOs publicise these and other activities, boost citizenparticipation in them and promote favourable reviews of their outcomes. Thislegitimising role cannot be underestimated. The UN enhances this process byensuring that NGOs seeking UN accreditation (which is necessary for participationin UN conferences) fulfil a stringent set of criteria; they must:12
• Share the ideals of the United Nations;
• Operate solely on a not-for-profit basis;
• Have a demonstrated interest in United Nations issues and proven ability to
10 United Nations Department of Public Information, DPI/1438/Rev.1-07508-October 1995.
reach large or specialised audiences, such as educators, media representatives,policy makers and the business community;
• Have the commitment and means to conduct effective information programmes
about United Nations activities through publication of newsletters, bulletins,backgrounders and pamphlets; organisation of conferences, seminars andround tables; and enlisting the cooperation of print and broadcast media.
Most NGOs have consultative status with the UN Economic and Social
Council, which is responsible for calling international conferences and preparingdraft treaties. As such, NGOs may send observers to public meetings of the Counciland its subsidiaries and they are encouraged to submit written comments andproposals pertaining to the Council's work.13 Subsequent chapters of this study willdescribe in detail NGO activity in some of the most significant UN conferences inrecent years.
NGO Attacks on Business
The environmental activist who helps a friendly government bureaucrat may alsothreaten the hostile corporate executive. NGOs have honed their political attackskills by targeting multinational corporations with overseas investments andmanufacturing operations. One survey of 51 large European corporations foundthat 90 per cent expected pressure groups to maintain or increase the intensity oftheir campaigns over the next five years.14
This is perhaps not surprising when one considers the objectives of these
groups. Greenpeace, for example, makes no secret of its desire to shut downnuclear, oil and whaling companies, as well as to eliminate all synthetic chlorinecompounds from the world. According to Greenpeace UK, environmental activismis not meant to analyse problems and propose solutions, but to 'connect the problemto those who are responsible for it and … hunt them down and eliminateproblems'.15 The following controversies demonstrate the brazenness and ingenuityof NGO demands.
The Campaign against Royal Dutch Shell
In 1995 Greenpeace mounted two successful campaigns against Royal Dutch Shell,which resulted in the company's almost total capitulation to the demands of theseenvironmental extremists.
The first campaign focused on the proposed disposal of an off-shore oil
platform, the Brent Spar, in the North Sea. Shell had decided to sink the platform;an option that was cost-effective, would have little environmental impact and hadreceived the backing of the British government. In spite of this, Greenpeace flewactivists to the platform, videotaping the assault and sharing its images with the13 UN brochure, 'Basic Facts About the United Nations,' #E.95.I.31; Press Release ORG/1211/Rev.1.
14 Control Risks Group Limited, No Hiding Place: Business and the Politics of Pressure
, July 1997.
15 Greenpeace Business
, London, February/March 1996, as quoted in No Hiding Place: Business and the Politics ofPressure
, p. 12.
media. Their justifications for this action included the baseless claim that theplatform contained 5000 tonnes of toxic materials.
While television viewers saw a small band of activists confronting a
multinational corporation, the reality was quite different. Greenpeace spent well inexcess of $2 million on a sophisticated public relations strategy to coordinateactions to influence public opinion. Militants on Brent Spar used cellular phonesand computers to contact other Greenpeace activists, who initiated protests at Shellgas stations across Europe. Shell's scientific and legal arguments defending itsdecision proved to be no match for the dramatic incident that Greenpeace staged.16
The second campaign focused on Shell's activities in Ogoniland, Nigeria.
Greenpeace alleged that Shell was responsible for the Nigerian government'sexecution of political activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, leader of the Ogonis and self-proclaimed environmentalist who was charged with and convicted of incitingmurder (the charges were denied by environmental and human rights NGOs).
Greenpeace accused Shell of failing to use its influence to curb government abusesand also alleged that the company damaged tribal lands by allowing its pipelines toleak oil.
Shell pointed out that it could hardly intervene in a civil conflict between rival
political factions and that any effort to do so would invite attacks on its operations.
It had already withdrawn from Saro-Wiwa's home region, Ogoniland, where civilstrife created major security problems (amongst other things, militant Ogonis hadbeen damaging Shell's pipelines and then claiming compensation for damage totheir land). Shell officials said no private company could be held responsible for theabuses of a foreign power.
In response to these campaigns, Shell has revised its business plans to take
into consideration the likely threat of future environmentalist actions. Amongstother things, this has meant spending several million dollars on the consultationprocess relating to the disposal of the Brent Spar – which will now be convertedinto a harbour at a cost of around $35million – probably a less environmentallysound option than the initial $7.5million proposed sea disposal.
The Campaign Against Freeport McMoRan
Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc. operates the Grasberg mine located inIndonesia's easternmost province of Irian Jaya on the island of New Guinea. It isthe largest gold mine in the world. Environmentalists accuse Freeport of violatingthe human rights of the indigenous people and of degrading the area's rivers andrainforests with its mine waste. They say the New Orleans-based company abetsIndonesia's military suppression of a separatist tribal movement in Irian Jaya.
Three organisations waged a campaign against Freeport: 1) the Indonesian
Forum for the Environment, also known as Walhi, which is an affiliate of the US-based Friends of the Earth; 2) the Berkeley, California-based International RiversNetwork; and 3) Partisans, a single-issue group which opposes Rio Tinto, a16 No Hiding Place: Business and the Politics of Pressure
, p. 21.
London-based mining company with a substantial investment in Freeport.17
The US Agency for International Development gave Walhi more than $1.3
million for the campaign against Freeport McMoRan.18 Walhi used its resources tolobby the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a federal agencythat provides US foreign investments with subsidised risk insurance. In June 1995,International Rivers Network lawyer Lori Udall organised a coalition of NGOs tohelp Walhi pressurise OPIC into suspending its risk insurance for Freeport'sIndonesian investments.19 The coalition demanded that independent NGO panelsbe set up to settle land rights disputes and other issues involving Freeport. Itaccused the company of moral responsibility for the killing of rebels by Indonesia'smilitary.20 And it organised a picket of the New Orleans home of Freeport'schairman, Jim Bob Moffett; pickets carried placards saying 'Jim-Bob Moffett Killsfor Profit'.21
Freeport responded by asserting that it had complied with all applicable
environmental laws and that an audit by the Dames & Moore consulting firmcommended the company's $25 million mine waste management programme. Thecompany also noted that Indonesia's Roman Catholic bishop had cleared it of anymoral responsibility for incidents between government troops and rebel factions.
Furthermore, the company warned that the proposed NGO panels amounted to aWalhi shadow government that 'would be regarded in Indonesia as a usurpation ofprovincial and national government authority and responsibility'.22
Freeport failed to stem the international uproar created by Walhi and its
American allies. OPIC cancelled Freeport's $100 million insurance contract whichprotected the company's $2.8 billion investments in Irian Jaya against thepossibility of expropriation. This was the first time in OPIC's 25-year history that ithad withdrawn coverage because of environmentalist objections. Freeport reactedby offering to give $15 million annually to Indonesian NGOs. This was in additionto the $22 million per year it spent on agriculture and land improvement, schoolsand hospitals, infrastructure spending on a seaport and airport and wages for 7,000local employees who earned almost twice the average national income. Afterseveral months of arbitration OPIC eventually reversed its decision, but only afterFreeport had pledged to place another $100 million in a trust fund for Irian Jayaenvironmental initiatives.23
17 'Moving from Problem Exposing to Problem Solving,' Walhi's Concept Paper to Build the Foundation to Achieve Solutionfor Environmental and Social Problems of Amungme People Caused by Freeport Mining Operation in Timika, FakfakDistrict, Irian Jaya, Indonesia, submitted by Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (Indonesian Forum for Environment).
18 Brigid McMenamin, 'Environmental Imperialism,' Forbes
, May 20, 1996.
19 The NGO coalition included the Centre for International Environmental Law, Friends of the Earth, Bank InformationCentre, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Environmental Defence Fund and Natural Resources Defence Council.
20 Letter to James R. Moffett from Lori Udall of International Rivers Network and David Hunter of Centre for InternationalEnvironmental Law, November 28, 1995.
21 Alan Gersten, 'Moffett Confronts Strife in Indonesia,' Journal of Commerce
, June 21, 1996; McMenamin, 'EnvironmentalImperialism.'22 Letter to Lori Udall from Thomas J. Egan, Senior Vice President, Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold, Inc., December8, 1995.
23 Alan Gersten, 'Coverage Reinstated for Freeport Mine,' Journal of Commerce
, April 23, 1996.
The Campaign Against Mitsubishi
In 1990, the aggressive direct-action group Rainforest Action Network (RAN)began a campaign against Japan's giant Mitsubishi Corporation, accusing it ofdegrading tropical rainforests. Eight years later, Mitsubishi Motor Sales andMitsubishi Electric America agreed to alter their production practices. In a‘Memorandum of Understanding,' the Mitsubishi firms agreed to conductenvironmental reviews of their operations and pledged to use more alternativefibres, to phase out tree-based paper and packaging products by 2002 and to usetimber only from sources certified as ‘sustainable' by organisations such the ForestStewardship Council.24
Mitsubishi also signed a ‘Statement of Global Ecological Crisis,' which
condemned human activities that harm nature and it promised to fund mediaadvertisements in collaboration with RAN to trumpet the importance of society'stransition to ‘an ecological economy'. The firms further agreed to fund a ‘ForestCommunity Support Programme' administered by organisations acceptable toRAN, such as Friends of the Earth.
One Mitsubishi pledge signalled something new. The sub-divisions promised
to incorporate ‘Natural Step' training programmes into their operations. NaturalStep, an environmental organisation founded in Sweden in 1989, believes thatorganisations should adhere to the following principles:
• Substances from the Earth's crust can not systematically increase in the
• Substances produced by society can not systematically increase in the
• The physical basis for the productivity and diversity of nature must not be
• In order to meet the previous three system conditions, there must be a fair and
efficient use of resources to meet human needs.
If a company were actually to abide by these bizarre principles, it could not extractfossil fuels, metals or minerals from the earth's crust 'at a rate faster than their re-deposit'. Synthetic substances would be phased out; land use and consumptionwould be reduced to levels that nature could sustain without human intervention.
What did Mitsubishi get in return for its pledge? For its part, RAN agreed to
end its consumer boycott and promised to end its disruptive protest actions at
24 The Forestry Stewardship Council, set up by the WWF is a scheme that certifies ‘sustainably produced' timber.
Mitsubishi auto shows, car dealerships and electronics stores.26
The Shifting Fortunes of International Environmentalism
The history of international environmentalism is a history of ideologicalcommitment and political confrontation. The environmental movement is anoutgrowth of America's 1960s counterculture and the radical anti-war movement.
It drew inspiration from Rachel Carson's best-selling 1962 work, Silent Spring
andother works which decry the products and by-products of modern industrial society:chemicals, pesticides, radiation and toxic waste. Many environmental activists arerepulsed by modern society and in seeking alternatives to it, they often seem to findin nature forms of spirituality that give their politics the appearance of a pagancult.27
Many environmental groups, such as Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action
Network, relish direct confrontation with corporations. But the maturing of themovement in the 1980s and 90s led other groups to prefer the leverage ofgovernment regulation. The leaders of environmental groups have become weightyplayers in international public affairs.
The process began in 1972 with the UN Conference on the Human
Environment held in Stockholm, Sweden and chaired by Maurice Strong, a wealthyCanadian industrialist and diplomat, which brought the environmental movementto the attention of the world's policymakers. Indeed, the commitments made atStockholm prompted 114 governments to create national environmental ministries.
Stockholm also produced the UN's own environmental agency, the UNEnvironment Programme (UNEP), which would be responsible for coordinatinginternational environmental protection. UNEP subsequently convened threeenvironmental conventions: on the international trade in endangered species, onwhaling and on ocean dumping.28
UNEP's first executive director, Maurice Strong, was in no small measure
responsible for the environmentalists' first international success. At Stockholm,environmental advocacy groups held a side conference to supplement the officialUN proceeding. Known as the ‘Hog Farm,' it served as a forum for activistspeeches, protest demonstrations and the issuance of demands on officialconference delegates. (This subsequently became standard practice at UNconferences.) When Hog Farm participants insisted that governments impose aninternational ban on whaling to ‘Save the Whale,' Maurice Strong acted quickly.
Following the Stockholm conference, he flew to London to a meeting of theInternational Whaling Convention (IWC) and prevailed on delegates to give theactivists what they wanted. To this day, Strong credits the IWC decision to the
26 Rainforest Action Network, 'Landmark Settlement Reached in Long-Running Environmental Boycott of Two MitsubishiCompanies,' press release, www.ran.org/ran/ran_campaigns/mitsubishi/QT/release.html.
27 See Jonathan H. Adler, Environmentalism at the Crossroads
, (Washington, DC: Capital Research Centre, 1996).
28 William K. Stevens, 'Earth Summit Finds the Years of Optimism a Fading Memory,' New York Times
,June 9, 1992, p. C4.
heavy outside pressure exerted by the NGOs in Stockholm.29
But the governments of developing countries did not welcome
environmentalist victories of this kind. They planned to utilise their naturalresources to try and strengthen their economies and raise living standards and wereafraid that the international environmental lobby would stymie their efforts. Theyresented what they regarded as patronising and colonial environmentalist demands.
Over time this attitude hardened and at later UN conferences it would pose asignificant challenge to Green ideology.
Third World governments had their own ideology. In 1974, the UN General
Assembly passed a resolution calling for a New International Economic Order(NIEO). It envisioned international commodity agreements, projects for North-South wealth redistribution and other global schemes. NIEO was inspired by theideas of radical Marxist intellectuals and supported by anti-Western politicians whowere attracted to theories of centralised economic planning that promised toincrease their power.
Many Western political leaders understood that NIEO was an economic
disaster for the Third World and a political weapon for the Soviets. But someenvironmental activists believed they could use it to enact UN environmentalpolicies. For example, the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea, a massiveundertaking to establish an international legal regime for the world's oceans,declared the mineral resources under the sea to be the 'common heritage ofmankind' and proposed that they be put under UN control and management tocreate a 'just and equitable economic order'.
Perhaps the most important strand in environmentalist thinking has been that
associated with the belief that we are running out of resources. This view owesmuch to Robert Malthus, whose 1798 ‘Essay on the Principle of Population'postulated that in the absence of certain checks, such as war, famine and disease,human numbers would increase at a rate faster than the means of supporting them.
The modern-day equivalent of Malthus is Paul Ehrlich, who claimed in a 1968book, ‘The Population Bomb,' that as a result of over-population the world wouldsoon exceed its carrying capacity and that by the 1980s millions of people in thedeveloped world would be starving.30 This neo-Malthusian tract heralded the‘limits to growth' philosophy popularised in the 1970s by such influential groups asthe Club of Rome, which called for government control over economic growth,resource use and energy consumption.31 In 1980 the outgoing Carteradministration's Global 2000 Report to the President
took a similar position.32
The predictions of Ehrlich, the Club of Rome and Global 2000 have been
annihilated by reality but they were also refuted by the late Julian Simon and
29 Shabecoff, p. 39.
30 Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb
, (New York: Sierra Club/Ballantine, 1968).
31 Donella H. Meadows, et al, The Limits to Growth
, (New York: Universe Books, 1972).
32 Global 2000 Report to the President
(Washington, DC: Council on Environmental Quality andDepartment of State, 1980).
Herman Kahn, who explained that the earth's most important resource is humaningenuity. Mankind has used technology and trade to overcome every scarcity innatural resources and there is no reason to believe that it should not continue to doso.33
In spite of this empirical and theoretical refutation, the environmental
movement persists today. During the 1980s approximately 250 internationalenvironmental treaties and conventions were enacted. These initiatives have notfully consolidated the movement's power over environmental policymaking. ButNGO familiarity with the elaborate framework of policymaking instruments now inplace is helping the movement maintain and expand its influence. EnvironmentalNGOs have learned important lessons from their successes and failures in theinternational arena. Not the least is that rhetoric and public relations are essentialingredients of public policy. Words matter.
‘Sustainable Development': New Spin on an Old Argument
Environmentalists have become adept at altering their presentation to suit politicaland social changes, but they rarely change their arguments. In the 1970s theyscared us with global cooling, which was supposedly caused by the sulphateaerosols emitted as a by-product of fossil fuel use. The answer: limit the use offossil fuels. By the summer of 1988, it had become evident that the next ice age wasa few thousand years off, so the environmentalists realigned themselves to promoteglobal warming – an easier sell in the heat of July. Global warming was supposedlydue to carbon dioxide, another by-product of the burning of fossil fuels, so theanswer again was to limit the use of fossil fuels. How stupid or blind does one haveto be to fail to see the irony in this? The objective of the environmentalistsobviously has little to do with controlling the climate, which is as impossible ascontrolling the tides and everything to do with controlling use of energy andredistributing wealth.
The 1980s saw another change in the way in which environmentalists sold
their arguments for limiting human endeavours. The intellectual opposition to the‘limits to growth' philosophy and the patent failure of the Club of Rome'spredictions led to a shift towards an apparently more moderate ideology:‘sustainable development'. This idea was developed by the International Union forthe Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as part of a 1980 consultation paper entitledWorld Conservation Strategy: Living Resource Conservation for SustainableDevelopment,
which had been prepared for the United Nations EnvironmentProgramme (UNEP), WWF, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) andUNESCO.
A year later, the concept received wider notice when a number of US
environmental advocacy groups formed the Global Tomorrow Coalition, who stated
33 Julian L. Simon and Herman Kahn, eds., The Resourceful Earth
(Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984).
34 World Conservation Strategy: Living Resource Conservation for Sustainable Development,
(Gland:International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, 1980).
that their goal was to work for 'a more sustainable, equitable global tomorrow'.35Sustainable development gave green activists an attractive new vocabulary, eventhough its political implications were little different from the limits-to-growthphilosophy. Like the 1972 Club of Rome treatise, the 1980 IUCN Strategy
propounds a theory of resource limitation: 'the planet's capacity to support people isbeing irreversibly reduced'. The Strategy
blames an 'affluent minority' forconsuming most of the world's resources. It demands heightened conservationawareness and more government regulation and it calls for population controlmeasures to keep the alleged problem of resource consumption from worsening.
While sustainable development is not unlike limits-to-growth, it is noteworthy
that nowhere does World Conservation Strategy
explicitly call for a halt toeconomic growth.36 The IUCN volume concedes the harshness of earlierenvironmentalist positions. 'Conservation is positive,' it asserts; it is 'for people'.37The Strategy
also avoids blaming economic growth for environmental problemsand it seldom predicts impending doom. Instead, sustainable development promisesto solve problems by managing economic growth intelligently and democratically.
What is most distinctive about sustainable development is the way it combines
the goals of environmentalism with those of economic development. Its supportersdescribe a political system in which conservation measures are integrated into allaspects of centralised government economic planning. Indeed, IUCN says aprosperous economy requires conservation controls: 'For development to besustainable it must take into account social and ecological factors'.38
Sustainable development also requires large wealth transfers from industrial
to developing nations. This merges the two forces that drove the UN agenda in the1970s – the environmentalism of the Stockholm conference with the Third World'scall for global wealth redistribution. The report warns: 'Humanity's relationshipwith the biosphere…will continue to deteriorate until a new international economicorder is achieved'.39
The Brundtland Report
‘Sustainable development' was just what the international environmental lobbyneeded. In 1982 UNEP held a conference to review its progress in the ten yearssince Stockholm. The delegates – a mix of government representatives, UNfunctionaries and IUCN participants – recommended the establishment of yetanother elite body: a World Commission on Environment and Development. Thefollowing year the UN adopted Resolution 38/16 to create it and UN SecretaryGeneral Kurt Waldheim appointed its chairwoman, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland,
35 The Coalition included the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, Environmental Defence Fund, Humane Society of theUnited States, Natural Resources Defence Council, Wilderness Society and Worldwatch Institute.
36 World Conservation Strategy,
37 World Conservation Strategy
, Section 1.4-1.5.
39 World Conservation Strategy
, Section 1.2.
Prime Minister of Norway and head of the Norwegian Labour Party.40
For three years the commission held meetings which produced Our Common
, a 350-page manifesto commonly known as the Brundtland Report.41 Withinput from NGOs such as the WWF and IUCN,42 the report sang the praises of‘sustainable development,' which it defined as:
Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of futuregenerations to meet their own needs. The concept of sustainable developmentdoes imply limits – not absolute limits but limitations imposed by the presentstate of technology and social organisation on environmental resources andby the ability of the biosphere to absorb the effects of human activities.43
The Brundtland report is based on a model of ‘market failure.' It argues that
the market system is reaching its ecological limit: further reliance on markets toallocate resources will endanger the well-being of the world's populations. Instead,governments should make future management decisions about using the world's‘finite' resources by consulting a menu of policy options. These options range fromenvironmental taxes to mandating an upper limit on consumption. Populationgrowth also should be restricted by a series of increasingly coercive incentives.44
To achieve international ‘equity,' the Commission proposed global taxes to
transfer financial aid from the industrial West to less developed countries. Some ofits suggested taxes are rather imaginative:
• taxes on revenues from the use of the ‘international commons' (e.g. ocean
fishing, seabed mining, transportation on the high seas and use of Antarcticresources) and from parking charges for geostationary communicationssatellites in space.
• taxes on international trade (e.g. a general trade tax; taxes on specific
commodities, on ‘invisible exports,' on balance of trade surpluses and on theconsumption of luxury goods).45
The Commission asserted that 'sustainable global development requires that
those who are more affluent adopt life-styles within the planet's ecological means –in their use of energy for example'.46 This definition of ‘development' essentiallyreverses its meaning.
The World Commission on Environment and Development was officially
40 Matthias Finger, 'Environmental NGOs in the UNCED Process,' in Princen and Finger, EnvironmentalNGOs in World Politics
, 1994, p. 187.
41 World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future
, (Oxford: Oxford UniversityPress, 1987).
42 Finger, p. 188.
43 Our Common Future
44 Our Common Future
; Porter and Brown, Global Environmental Politics
, 1996, pp. 26-27.
45 Our Common Future
, pp. 341-2.
46 Our Common Future
dissolved after the Brundtland report was published in 1987. However, a year laterits members then formed the Centre for Our Common Future.47 With headquartersin Geneva, this organisation worked with key environmental groups48 to promotethe next landmark international conference – the UN Conference on Environmentand Development (UNCED) – which was scheduled for 1992. The Centre alsoestablished alliances with 160 organisations in 70 countries to promote distributionand discussion of the Brundtland Report, which in effect became an internationallobby. Their first opportunity to do what lobbies do – exert pressure by makingtheir presence felt – was in Rio.
The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (June 1992)
The UN Convention on Environment and Development (UNCED) was a very highprofile conference. On June 1-12, 1992, dozens of world leaders and thousands ofofficial and unofficial delegates and journalists gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The Secretary General of UNCED was the ubiquitous Maurice Strong, whoreprised his role in Stockholm of twenty years earlier. Known as the ‘EarthSummit,' UNCED was the international version of Earth Day 1970 – an event toraise global awareness of environmental problems.
This massive undertaking broke new ground for NGOs. It was the largest
gathering of such organisations at a UN-sponsored event – over 1400 officiallyaccredited NGOs were present. More importantly, for the first time at a conferenceof this sort, the organisers officially involved NGOs in the lengthy, arduous andextremely important process of preparing the conference agenda.49 Maurice Strongplayed a crucial role here in overcoming opposition from representatives ofdeveloping countries, who recognised that letting NGOs into the process threatenedtheir own goals and interests.50
The UNCED process began in 1990 with a series of four Preparatory
Committees – ‘PrepComs' in UN-speak – that preceded the conference. At thesemeetings NGOs were able to work with officials in the UN bureaucracy and withdelegations from UN member governments, drafting the negotiating text forconsideration by the conference delegates. Some even served on governmentdelegations.51 Many governments also provided financial support so that activistgroups could attend the meetings.52
At Rio itself, the NGOs sponsored a separate conference to parallel the official
one. The ‘Global Forum', which attracted 25 000 people from 167 countries, wasintended to remind the official delegates that 1400 NGO official observers werewatching their actions. Activists were on hand to stage protests, hold press
47 Finger, p. 189.
48 These included: the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, NRDC, National Audubon Society, the WildernessSociety, the Nature Conservancy, WWF, IUCN and the World Resources Institute (Finger, p. 191).
49 World Resources Institute, et al, World Resources 1992-1993: A Guide to the Global Environment
, p. 219.
50 Shabecoff, p.133.
51 Porter and Brown, p.58.
52 Shabecoff, p.149; Porter and Brown, p.58.
conferences and distribute press releases should their agenda be endangered.53More often, however, the participants tried to create the appearance of popularsupport for official Earth Summit initiatives. UN officials generally regarded themless as a threat than a validation of their work.54
At Rio the world's leaders signed several very important documents:
• The Rio Declaration
: A broad statement of principles, which affirms
‘sustainable development' as the foundation of international environmentalpolicy.
• Agenda 21
: A detailed 800-page blueprint, which outlines proposed
government actions to implement sustainable development.
• Framework Convention on Climate Change
: A treaty, signed by officials of
150 nations, the objective of which is to prevent global warming by curbing theemissions of carbon dioxide and other ‘greenhouse gases.'
• Convention on Biological Diversity
: A treaty, signed by officials of 98 nations,
the objective of which is to protect the habitats of all living species, to manageecosystems and to protect genetic resources by regulating scientific researchand use of biotechnology.
Importantly, Agenda 21
asserted that NGOs should play a permanent role inpolicymaking. All the NGOs present at Rio were invited to the follow-up activities.
There was a number of important and immediate consequences of UNCED:
• The UN created a Commission on Sustainable Development and gave NGOs a
prominent role in its deliberations.
• The World Bank created a Global Environment Facility (GEF), a $2 billion
slush fund for Third World environment projects.
• The Clinton administration named James Gustave Speth to be head of the
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and to refocus theProgramme on sustainable development.55
• The UN scheduled conferences on topics such as Human Rights (Vienna,
1993), Small Island States (Barbados 1994), Population (Cairo, 1994), SocialDevelopment (Copenhagen, 1995), Women (Beijing, 1995) and HumanSettlements (Istanbul, 1996).
53 Of course, each group wanted to leave a lasting imprint on the proceedings. From vegetarianism and New Age philosophyto animal rights and women's rights, each NGO claimed the mantle of saving the planet. Youth groups organiseddemonstrations inside conference rooms to demand equal speaking time. Rock bands performed live concerts to supportnegotiations on biological diversity. Angry dissenters hung a large banner on Sugarloaf Mountain overlooking the city,denouncing the summit's slow progress. Throngs of people lined the beaches day and night to dance and chant for theirfavoured cause. The result was global cacophony. (Yolanda Kakabadse N., with Sarah Burns, 'Movers and Shapers: NGOs inInternational Affairs,' May 1994.)54 Peter M. Haas, Marc A. Levy and Edward A. Parson, 'Appraising the Earth Summit,' Environment
, October 1992. See alsoYolanda Kakabadse N., with Sarah Burns, 'Movers and Shapers: NGOs in International Affairs,' May 1994.
55 Speth, then president of the World Resources Institute, had been chairman of President Carter's Council on EnvironmentalQuality and he had helped write its Global 2000
• National and local governments around the world created bureaucracies to
advise on how to implement Agenda 21.
Eco-imperialism: The Priorities of Global Governance
The governments of developing countries soon discovered that they did not sharethe policy priorities of developed governments and NGOs. It seemed to them thatthe rich countries of the North wanted to impose green rules on the poor countriesof the South. It became clear to them that NGOs have a narrow view ofenvironmental protection, which fails to account for the wide variation incircumstances that pertains across the globe. They suspected that the ideology ofenvironmentalism was little more than ‘eco-imperialism,' designed to protect therich countries from the competitive advantages of poor countries. The sovereignstates of Africa, Asia and Latin America resented this new form of colonialism.
The North-South rift was evident in the negotiations over a global forestry
treaty. Developing countries, led by Malaysia, the Philippines and India rebuffed allUS and European proposals to limit their use of tropical forests, calling theproposals a violation of their sovereignty. They said negotiations unfairly focusedon restricting tropical forest harvest while excluding North American andEuropean forests.
The call for global population control policies also generated fierce
controversy. The Vatican, along with governments of Latin American and Islamicstates lobbied successfully against Agenda 21
policy recommendations calling forreductions in Third World population growth. They also forced debate on themorality of abortion and the sterilisation of women.
One Indonesian writer complained that 'an imperialistic attitude between First
and Third World NGOs' led Northern environmental groups to be more concernedwith their 'projects and campaigns than with the actual needs of Third WorldNGOs and communities'.56 The ironic result was that UN conferences in the 1990swere strangely removed from the real concerns of the world's poor people. Theyfocused on issues Northern NGOs wanted to discuss instead of on the interests ofpeople in less developed countries, which, after all, are the majority of thoserepresented by the UN.
While the environmental lobby has supported more Western aid to lessen
world poverty, its promises cannot placate developing countries that fear being leftbehind in global competition. During the Earth Summit negotiations, therepresentatives of these countries tried with little success to underline theimportance of their economic aspirations. Said one official from Ghana:
The development assistance which comes to us arrives with paternalistic andhumiliating conditions…Basic development technology arrives with price tagsthat deepen not only our poverty but extends our condition of peonage to ourso-called benefactors…It cannot be expected that, because of the present
56 Hira Jhamtani, 'The Imperialism of Northern NGOs,' Earth Island Jnl
, Summer 1992, p.5, cited in Shabecoff, p. 74.
perverse economic order, those who earn $200 per capita…are the ones tomake sacrifices so that those who – by dint of the massive advantages oftechnology and an exploitative international economic regime – earn $10,000per capita can breathe cleaner air or escape the tormenting discomforts thatglobal warming may bring in its wake.
The Green Attack on National Sovereignty
The sustainable development agenda is essentially an attack on nationalsovereignty. Sustainable development implicitly requires a comprehensive body ofenforceable international law promulgated by multilateral institutions (such as theUN) and international treaty secretariats. Green advocates argue that this system oflaw will comprise a system of ‘global governance.' Although global governanceremains largely an idea, it can be and has been used to thwart private rights, localself-rule and the ordinary give-and-take of domestic national politics.
The concept of global governance was developed by the private Commission
on Global Governance (CGG), a successor to the Brundtland Commission. The CGGis a group of twenty-eight world notables co-chaired by Ingvar Carlsson, former PrimeMinister of Sweden and head of its Social Democratic Party and Shridath Ramphal,former Secretary-General of Guyana and former president of the World ConservationUnion-IUCN. Maurice Strong is also a member of the Commission. It is funded by avariety of foundations and governments.58
In 1995 the CGG released Our Global Neighbourhood,
a 410 page successor
volume to the Brundtland report, Our Common Future.
59 Following two years ofmeetings, the Commission members outlined how the United Nations shouldundertake world economic planning. They proposed a vastly expanded role for anarray of global political institutions. The CGG grandiosely proclaims that it willexamine 'what the world community may set down as the limits of permissiblebehaviour in a range of areas and consider mechanisms…to encourage and ifnecessary enforce compliance with these norms'.60 Environmental writer RonaldBailey, writing in National Review
, more simply calls CGG a 'creeping UN powergrab'61
'Global governance is not global government,' writes the Commission, but it is
hard to tell the difference. The Commission suggests that UN agencies shouldexercise authority that currently rests with national governments. It would add five
58 In 1993 the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation of Chicago gave $500,000 to the CGG. It should be nosurprise, then, that one of the American members is Adele Simmons, president of the MacArthur Foundation. The other USmember is former World Bank president Barber Conable. Besides MacArthur, the Commission's other funders (amountsundisclosed) include the Ford and Carnegie foundations and the governments of the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Canada,Denmark, India, Indonesia, Switzerland, Japan and the European Commission. (Our Global Neighbourhood
, p. 376 andCliff Kincaid, 'Making Americans Pay: The MacArthur Foundation's Plan for a Global I.R.S.,' Foundation Watch
(CapitalResearch Centre), September, 1996.)59 Commission on Global Governance, Our Global Neighbourhood
, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995) pp. 135-151.
60 Our Global Neighbourhood
, p. 369.
61 Ronald Bailey, 'Who is Maurice Strong?' National Review
, September 1, 1997.
new permanent members to the UN Security Council and eliminate the veto powercurrently held by the permanent Council members. NGOs, or what the Commissioncalls ‘Civil Society Organisations,' would have a direct advisory role in the UNGeneral Assembly.
The Commission recommends that the UN be funded by global taxes rather
than depend on voluntary member-state contributions. One proposal, by YaleUniversity economist James Tobin, would impose taxes on international currencytransactions, which are 'of no intrinsic benefit in terms of economic efficiency'.
Other tax ideas include special ‘user fees' on airline tickets, ocean shipping,
fishing, satellites and the electromagnetic spectrum. 62
Commission supporters say too many world problems – climate change, ozone
layer thinning, world trade – transcend national borders. Because nationalgovernments can no longer control the flow of capital, trade andtelecommunications, they say a new source of political authority must be created.
Jessica Tuchman Mathews, currently president of the Carnegie Endowment forInternational Peace, makes this point indirectly: 'The United Nations charter maystill forbid outside interference in the domestic affairs of member states, butunequivocally ‘domestic' concerns are becoming an endangered species'.63 Lesscircumspect is Daniel C. Esty, a senior fellow at the Institute for InternationalEconomics. He says, 'In dealing with global environmental problems, it is only bysurrendering a bit of national sovereignty and by participating in an internationalregime that we can ensure our freedom from environmental harms and protectionof our own natural resources'.64
We are today some way from comprehensive global governance but there
should be no doubt that supporters of the sustainable development agenda have it astheir goal. Writing in 1992 as a vice president of the World Resources Institute,Mathews applauded the global warming treaty 'because it is so potentially invasiveof domestic sovereignty'. She praised the climate treaty as a way of 'forcinggovernments to change domestic policies to a much greater degree than any otherinternational treaty,' and hinted that it might jar Western governments as theHelsinki Accords had once destabilised the Eastern Bloc.65 Mathews earlier likenedthe Rio Earth Summit to Allied preparations for a post-World War II economicsystem, 'in the same light we now see Bretton Woods, as one of the places wherethe rules of a new order were born'.66
Green groups praise sovereignty-robbing treaties because they have calculated
that they stand to benefit. Organisations such as the World Resources Institute arealready well-funded by large foundations (it was set up with a $15 million grant
62 Our Global Neighbourhood
, pp. 219-221.
63 Mathews, 'Chantilly Crossroads,' Washington Post
, February 10, 1991.
64 Daniel C. Esty, Greening the GATT: Trade, Environment and the Future
, Washington, DC, Institute for International Economics,July 1994, p. 93.
65 Jessica Tuchman Mathews, speech to the Atlantic Forum, Federal News Service, May 18, 1992.
66 Jessica Tuchman Mathews, 'Chantilly Crossroads.'
from the MacArthur Foundation in 1982); any action that empowers the UnitedNations is likely to empower them. Far from taking ‘non-governmental' roles, theyaspire to be extensions of a global governance system they have helped create.
When they imagine a world of global governance, NGOs are aiming for
political control more than global environmental protection. But until their visioncan be realised, they will continue to operate through the nation-state, urging it toshare authority or act as a partner with international agencies and non-profits.
Green visionaries Nazli Choucri and Robert C. North admit as much: ‘We do notknow how to manage and regulate the activities of individuals in the absence ofinstitutional requisites of ‘sovereign' states.'67
Elaine Dewar, a Canadian journalist who writes about the connections
between environmental groups, government and big business, suspects thatenvironmental issues have been used as a scare tactic:
How do you persuade [citizens in democracies] to give up sovereign nationalpowers to govern themselves? How do you make them hand over power tosupranational institutions they cannot affect, control, or remove? You make itseem as if this will serve their best interests. You terrify them with the gravedangers national governments cannot protect them from.
Indeed, if all environmental threats are ‘global,' then the environment may
become for us what national security was during the Cold War. Jim MacNeill,Secretary-General of the (Brundtland) World Commission on Environment andDevelopment echoes Dewar: 'The fears of nuclear conflict that once exercisedenormous power over people's minds and translated into political support fortoday's massive defence establishments are declining. But certain environmentalthreats could come to have the same power over people's minds'.69
McNeill describes how a climate of fear over threats to the environment can
be politically useful. But his thinking has moved well beyond that. McNeill wasStrong's deputy at the Earth Summit and he understands that the politicalimportance of UN environmental conferences is the process
of organising them:
Part of what we are trying to achieve here is the process; we are trying to getcountries to act internationally. The goals of sustainable development involvemajor compromises of sovereignty. There is no commitment yet to dilutingnational sovereignty. Before that happens we must have a credible system ofinternational governance. But our job is not to do just what will happen inour lifetime. This process is an important step toward global governance, inwhich governments will have confidence and will surrender sovereignty.70
67 Nazli Choucri and Robert C. North, 'Global Accord: Imperative for the Twenty-First Century,' in Nazli Choucri, GlobalAccord
, (Cambridge, MIT Press, 1993), p.492.
68 Elaine Dewar, Cloak of Green
. (Toronto: James Lorimer & Co.) p. 251.
69 Jim MacNeill, Pieter Winsemius, Taizo Yakushiji, Beyond Interdependence: The Meshing of the World's Economy and theEarth's Ecology
, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991) p. 69.
70 Quoted in Shabecoff, p.157.
2. Global warming: The Politics of Pressure
During the first ten days of December 1997, international negotiators met in Kyoto,Japan to complete a global warming treaty. Officially, environmental groups andtheir allies in the UN were putting in place the capstone to a decade-long effort toprevent dangerous fluctuations in the earth's climate. But their real agenda was tocontrol the world's use of energy and thereby to redistribute wealth. The end of thecold war and the fall of communism had discredited overt socialism, but here was away to bring it in through the back door.
The environmental lobby's crusade against energy use began in the 1970s
when the OPEC oil embargoes dominated the news. The Greens warned that theUS would run out of fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – unless the governmentdiscouraged Americans from using them. But political pressures for controls onenergy subsided when the oil shortages of the 1970s became the gluts of the 1980s.
Market forces gave firms an incentive to locate new fuel sources, cut prices andundercut activist demands for government intervention.
However, energy abundance did not deter the Green establishment for long. It
found a new reason to restrict energy use: the spectre of changes in the earth'sclimate. In the 1970s environmentalists raised an alarm over ‘global cooling,' ahypothesis derived from evidence that climate temperatures since about 1940appeared to be in gradual decline. Some alarmists even predicted a coming IceAge.71 Environmentalists claimed that this situation as being exacerbated by theuse of fossil fuels, which were causing a build-up of sulphate aerosols that wereblocking out the sun. The policy prescription: burn less fossil fuel. But by the mid-1970s the cooling trend had petered out. The scare talk, however, did not.
Environmentalists now turned their attention to refurbishing a climate theory of‘global warming.' By the late 1980s, all the major environmental organisationswere espousing the theory and they demanded government action to restrict use offossil fuel, its purported cause.
Organisations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Worldwatch
Institute were in the forefront urging action to combat the ‘greenhouse effect.'Their public relations campaign capitalised on the audacious predictions of someenvironmentalists inside government. NASA scientist Robert Watson had predictedin 1986 that the earth would warm by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit by 1996.72 Theprediction proved false, but its assertion reinforced Green claims that a change inthe weather meant changes to our way of life. 'We face the prospect of substantialeconomic loss and social disruption,' said Worldwatch Institute officials.73
Sensational predictions by academics also raised public fears that were used to
thwart private sector energy use. Sherwood Rowland, professor of chemistry at theUniversity of California at Irvine, warned: 'If you have the greenhouse effect going
71 Douglas Colligan, 'Brace Yourself for Another Ice Age,' Science Digest
, February 1973.
72 John N. Maclean, 'Scientists Predict Catastrophes on Growing Global Heat Wave,' Chicago Tribune
, June 11, 1986.
73 Linda Werfelman, 'Study: Adjusting to Global Warming Will Cost Billions,'United Press International
, July 19, 1986.
on indefinitely, then you have a temperature rise that will bring about theextinction of human life in 500 to 1,000 years'.74 Such statements were exploited togreat effect. The use of computer forecasts generated even more publicity. In 1987,the World Resources Institute programmed climate variables into a computer anddevised a model that predicted global warming would raise sea levels by four feet.75
Hell on Earth
Environmentalists denounce modern civilisation as planet earth's greatest enemy.
They scold us for driving, flying, manufacturing and consuming goods, growingfood and for heating and cooling our homes. They do this in the name of limitingour use of fossil fuels, which they say cause climate change. These activities, it istrue, cause gases to be emitted into the atmosphere, but what happens after that isunclear. There is, in fact, a natural greenhouse effect that does warm theatmosphere: it is what makes possible life on earth. Water vapour causes about 98per cent of this warming. Carbon dioxide and other ‘greenhouse gases' areresponsible for a fraction of the remaining two per cent.
The environmental lobby claims that man's emissions of greenhouse gases
will cause catastrophic global warming, resulting in the melting of the polar icecaps, rising seas, submerged islands and flooded coastal plains.76 They say that thedeserts will expand, reducing arable land and the productivity of agriculture; worldfood supplies will dwindle, causing widespread starvation; and there will beplagues of biblical magnitude.77 Global warming, they claim, will prompt thespread of malaria, dengue fever and eastern equine encephalitis.78
The Eco-friendly Solution
To prevent this putative eco-catastrophe, the global warming lobby proposes drasticgovernment policy changes. Worldwatch analyst Christopher Flavin says even themost modest proposals 'would mark a dramatic shift in direction and requirewholesale changes in energy policy and land use planning around the world'.79 Butworkers and consumers will be big losers if their homes, offices and factories,
74 Stanley N. Wellborn 'The Skeptics Retreat: Earth's Temperature is Indeed Rising – and With it the Sea; Facing Life in aGreenhouse,' US News & World Report
, September 29, 1986.
75 Timothy Aeppel, 'Greenhouse Effect; Group Uses Computer Models to Forecast Global Climate,' Christian ScienceMonitor
, April 13, 1987.
76 The Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) predicts 'current rates of sea-level rise are expected to increase by 2 to 5times due to both the thermal expansion of the oceans and the partial melting of mountain glaciers and polar ice caps.'(http://www.nrdc.org/bkgrd/gwcons.html) 'Sea level is projected to rise by six inches to as much as three feet' by the year2100, predicts the EDF. (Dr. Janine Bloomfield and Sherry Showell, 'Global Warming: Our Nation's Capital at Risk,'Environmental Defence Fund, May 1997)77 . The Sierra Club warns that 'there are two main ways in which global warming will affect human health – extreme weatherevents (including heat waves) and infectious disease.'(Comments by Dan Becker, Sierra Club, in 'The Great Global WarmingDebate,' Pace Energy Project, Pace University School of Law, 'Global Warming Central' web site,http://www.law.pace.edu/env/energy/globalwarming.html.)78 The Environmental Defence Fund (EDF) describes in stark terms how encephalitis can strike horses and humans: 'Earlysymptoms include fever, headache, drowsiness and muscle pain, followed by disorientation, weakness, seizures and coma.'(Dr. Janine Bloomfield and Sherry Showell, 'Global Warming: Our Nation's Capital at Risk,' Environmental Defence Fund,May 1997, http://www.edf.org/pubs/Reports/WashingtonGW.)79 Christopher Flavin, State of the World 1990
(New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1990), p. 20.
appliances and vehicles are governed by the regulations that environmental groupsdemand. Frances Smith, executive director of Consumer Alert, warns that,'consumers are direct users of oil, natural gas and electricity in their homes and fortransportation. They are the end users of products – food, home building materials,appliances, furniture, cleaning and personal care products – whose manufactureand transport require energy'.80 Living standards will decline if governmentregulations make energy more expensive and less abundant.
These concerns matter not to green groups, whose demands have grown
increasingly strident. Greenpeace insists that the governments of industrialcountries impose regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions twenty per centbelow 1990 levels by the year 2005.81 Other groups say this action, draconian as itmay sound, will not avert impending catastrophe. 'To stabilise carbon dioxideconcentrations in the atmosphere at their current levels,' writes Ozone Action,'would require an immediate reduction of emissions by 50-70%, with furtherreductions later'.82
Reductions of this magnitude would require governments around the world to
eliminate almost all carbon-based fuel use. What will replace the burning of coal,oil and natural gas, which comprise 90 per cent of the world's energy supply?Environmental lobby groups favour solar energy and they would phase out theautomobile, replacing it with railways and other forms of mass transportation.
Greenpeace exclaims, 'a future without fossil fuels is essential to preserve theenvironment from the serious risk of climate change'.83 The drastic changes itproposes will cripple national economies, radicalise individual lifestyles anddramatically increase government regulation of producers and consumers. Themore industrial – and prosperous – a country is, the harder it will be hit. Accordingto MIT economist Richard Schmalensee, the global warming rules would be likeexperiencing the 'energy price hikes of the 1970s with a massive hangover'.84
Global Regulation for a Global Climate
Environmental lobbyists made their demands for a binding international treaty toregulate fossil fuel use in a highly deliberative and numbingly methodical waybecause they knew that if they were ever to obtain such a treaty, they would need toput in place a foundation of procedures and focused proposals.85 First, they had tocreate a vague and open-ended framework treaty. In 1990, the UN established theaptly-named Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a FrameworkConvention on Climate Change (INC/FCCC). Administered by UNEP and theWorld Meteorological Organisation, the same groups that nurtured the ozone treaty80 Frances B. Smith, The Global Warming Treaty: For US Consumers – All Pain, No Gain
, (Dallas: National Centre forPolicy Analysis, Brief Analysis No. 238, August 20, 1997).
81 'The Climate Time Bomb,' Greenpeace International Climate Campaign, http://www.greenpeace.org/ climate/82 'What would it take to stop climate change,' Ozone Action web site, www.essential.org/orgs/Ozone_Action/stopcc.html.
84 Richard Schmalensee, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, speech to American Council on Capital Formation Programon Climate Change Policy, Risk Prioritization and U. S. Economic Growth. Washington, DC, Sept. 11, 1996.
85 Peter H. Sand, 'Innovations in International Environmental Governance,' Environment
, November 1990, p. 19.
to fruition, the INC held a series of meetings to develop a treaty in time for the June1992 Rio Earth Summit.
At Rio, the Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed by the
representatives of more than 150 governments. but the real policymakers were theUN functionaries who worked on the draft text with environmental NGO activistsover the course of two years of ‘pre-negotiations.' The wording of the document isinnocuous enough. All countries are exhorted to reduce their carbon dioxideemissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. However, these restrictions are notbinding; parties to the convention are obliged only to submit national reports to theconvention secretariat. The Framework Convention lived up to its name, setting atimetable for subsequent regular meetings at which its interim commitments couldbe further interpreted and elaborated. Each meeting, called a ‘Conference of theParties' (COP), gives environmental lobbyists a chance to add something onto anearlier proposal and to build new expectations. At every meeting NGOs can eithera) declare a small victory for the planet, or b) attack national governments forfailing to save the planet. In any event, the framework convention process sets thestage for progressively manipulating soft treaty promises into more bindinginternational obligations.
How the Climate Treaty Was Shaped
In March 1995, the first COP took place in Berlin with the primary objective of theorganisers being to extend the requirements of the climate treaty, but lack ofconsensus and weak US support derailed these plans.86 Instead of a strengthenedtreaty, the 1995 conference produced the ‘Berlin Mandate,' a statement that merelydeclared the Rio convention inadequate and exhorted industrial countries to takeaction. Even worse, the developing countries took advantage of the listlessproceedings to exempt themselves from future emissions targets. Any later bindingprotocol to the climate treaty would apply only to the industrial powers.
The issue of global warming could easily have lost all focus in Berlin were it
not for the persistence of environmental groups. Roughly 1,000 NGOs attended theBerlin Summit and from the outset they lobbied hard to expand their rights ofaccess to the proceedings.87 Amongst other things they drafted the ‘Green Paper.'This document, produced with the cooperation of sympathetic governments,adumbrated principles that formed the basis of the Berlin Mandate,88 which in turncommitted governments to meet in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997 to negotiatetargets and timetables to reduce carbon emissions.
While the conference was in session, the pressure groups also influenced the
proceedings by publishing daily newsletters. Eco
, produced by the Climate ActionNetwork and Earth Negotiations Bulletin
, from the Canada-based International
86 The 1994 elections had brought a Republican majority to Congress, forcing the Clinton administration to pull back fromthe issue of global warming.
87 Earth Negotiations Bulletin
, Vol. 12, No. 12, (Winnipeg: International Institute for Sustainable Development, March 28,1995).
88 Earth Negotiations Bulletin
, Vol. 12, No. 21, (April 10, 1995).
Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), were diary-like journals that madeeditorial comments on the proceedings, targeted matters that activists cared aboutand proposed compromises for deadlocked issues.89 Bombarding the negotiatorswith daily tips and admonitions, these and other newsletters provided the rhetoricand ideological tone that gave credence to radical ideas that delegates might nototherwise have considered. They also helped document the status of the issuesbeing discussed and they reminded delegates that their positions were beingmonitored.
Despite their name, NGOs are not always ‘non-governmental.' In fact,
environmental pressure groups work hand in glove with governments thatappreciate their work. This is apparent in the funding of the NGO newsletters. TheEnvironment Ministries of Germany and the Netherlands contributed anundisclosed amount to the Climate Action Network to publish Eco
. In her bookCloak of Green
, Canadian journalist Elaine Dewar reveals that the publisher ofEarth Negotiations Bulletin
'is almost entirely dependent on governments for itsexistence'. During the year-long period ending in March 1994, the IISD spent$530,000 to publish Earth Negotiations Bulletin.
Over half that amount came outof the pockets of Canadian taxpayers.90
Clearly, international environmental groups do not represent grassroots
citizens. They are well-connected and well-compensated advocates for increasingthe regulatory powers of government bureaucracies. Global warming lobbyistsshower delegates with constant written and personal attention and this usually hasits intended effect in international treaty negotiations. Delegates begin to think thatradical proposals have strong public support. Eco
explains, 'NGOs contribute to thesuccess of these regimes at every level by developing the science, informing thepublic, marshalling political support, prodding recalcitrant negotiators andproviding front line troops to implement and monitor these regimes'.91
To prepare for Kyoto, NGOs cemented their relationships with national andinternational environmental agencies. Of particular importance was the UNIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was funded andcontrolled by environmental agencies and they were not afraid to use their power.
In early 1996, the IPCC published a report on the science of climate change. Whenthe scientists who were the actual authors of the report failed to link variations inclimate temperature to human activity, the lead author, who favoured the view thatman was causing global warming, simply re-wrote the parts with which hedisagreed. Frederick Seitz, the former president of the National Academy ofSciences, called the incident the most 'disturbing corruption of the peer review
has been funded by the Environment Ministries of Germany and the Netherlands.
90 All told, the IISD received $23 million in taxpayer dollars over a five year period; in some years it had no other source ofrevenue. Moreover, it did not hurt IISD that its board of directors included Maurice Strong. (Elaine Dewar, Cloak of Green:Business, Government and the Environmental Movement
, (Toronto: James Lorimer & Co., 1995) pp. 387-394.)91 Eco
NGO Newsletter, Bonn, Climate Action Network, March 4, 1997.
process' he had ever witnessed. He warned that the effect of the re-write was 'todeceive policy makers and the public into believing that the scientific evidenceshows human activities are causing global warming'.92
The re-written report approved a politically distorted interpretation of science
that benefited the UN's global regulatory aspirations and that could be used to steerthe Kyoto climate treaty negotiations. It asserted that human activities have a'discernible' influence on climate. The environmental pressure groups used the leadauthor's editorial revision to distort the report's meaning. They announced thatscience had ‘proved' the need for drastic energy policy changes and they smearedas dishonest industry propagandists any climate scientist who disagreed with anofficial UN finding. Environmental NGOs immediately picked up on theimplications of this: 'The IPCC report serves a clear warning: Humans have begunto influence earth's climate and the outcome could be disastrous for many peopleand natural places,' said Michael Oppenheimer of the Environmental Defence Fund(EDF).93
Patience and determination was paying off for the global warming lobby. In
1996 the planets of international policy and domestic US politics came into
As the UN report was being drafted, the Clinton administration was
searching for issues that could be advanced without congressional interference and
that would help mobilise the Democratic Party's base of environmental supporters.
Global warming lobbyists were energised by the knowledge that the Administration
would go to Kyoto if it was re-elected. A tightly coordinated coalition of activists
began preparing a multi-million dollar two-year lobbying campaign on global
Under the aegis of the Climate Action Network, pressure groups such as EDF,
Natural Resources Defence Council, Sierra Club and Environmental InformationCentre sprang into action. They scheduled a series of ‘town meetings' in Austin,
Boston, Miami, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.
The meetings featured
Clinton administration scientists and environmental officials and their purpose wasto generate scare stories in the media about how global warming would devastatelocal economies and the lifestyles of area residents. This gave rise to many absurdand frightening stories about how global warming would destroy local tourism,
fishing, skiing, real estate and forestry.
As the public campaign for Kyoto was underway, environmental groups
privately offered the Administration their advice. On September 15, 1997,President Clinton, Vice President Gore and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt metwith leaders of fourteen environmental lobby groups to finalise plans for a pre-
92 Frederick Seitz, 'A Major Deception on ‘Global Warming,'' Wall Street Journal
, June 12, 1996.
93 'EDF Lauds IPCC Report,' Environmental Defence Fund news release, December 15, 1995.
94 Peter H. Stone, 'The Heat's On,' National Journal
, July 26, 1997.
95 'Climate Change Town Meeting in CA Ponders Local Risks,' Greenwire
, October 15, 1996.
Kyoto White House conference on global warming.
Clinton and Gore would sell
the treaty to the press. The environmental lobbyists advised them to take a hardanti-industry line.
Carnival in Kyoto (December 1997)
From 1 to 10 December 1997 an estimated 10,000 people gathered in Kyoto, Japan,in order to witness or participate in the international negotiations that would lead tothe signing of a treaty to limit the emission of greenhouse gases. While the world'sgovernments sent delegates to negotiate a serious agreement, the world's non-governmental organisations assembled to stir the pot of activism. Over 3,500people attended the Kyoto conference as NGO lobbyists, more than double the1,500 official delegates. About twenty American environmental organisations wererepresented and each had pockets deep enough to pay for several participants. Butthe American activists were easily outnumbered by Greens from Europe and Asia.
A Japanese NGO confederation, the Kiko Forum, alone deployed 385 participants.
The global environmental lobby was determined to demonstrate in the most
graphic ways possible the significance of the climate change treaty. For instance,activists demanded that conference organisers impose ‘climate discipline' on thenegotiations. This led to the distribution of a notice informing delegates that theywould have to tolerate a cooler indoor climate in order to reduce greenhouse gasemissions. Said one flyer, 'it will be required that we accept a new lifestyle,including wearing warmer clothes, which enables us to live comfortably in spite oflower temperature in winter'.
NGOs convinced the Kyoto International Conference Hall to set the
temperature of heating equipment 'at no higher than 20 degrees Centigrade [68degrees F]'.97 However, they failed to take into account the conference hall'sinadequate insulation, which lowered temperatures in many parts of the buildingand forced the ten thousand shivering conference-goers to don coats and scarves.
Conference staff distributed 100 shawls to women delegates; they featured thewords ‘Smart Life with Energy Saving.'
Outside, the Korean Federation of Environmental Movements arranged
attention-getting props. Its members covered trees and shrubbery with signsreading, 'Cool the Earth, Save Us,' 'Please: Gas Masks!' 'No Nukes, No Fossil Fuelsfor Us,' 'Silent but Angry,' and 'Reduce GHGs [greenhouse gases] 20%'.98 It did notseem to have occurred to the demonstrators that the growth of their economy – oneof the most remarkable success stories of the latter part of the twentieth century –could not have occurred without increased use of fossil fuels; that they owed theirwealth and possibly even their lives to this economic growth; and that to reduceconsumption of fossil fuels would certainly slow this growth and possibly reverse it
96 'Clinton Meets with Environmentalists in Advance of White House Conference,' Bureau of National Affairs, BNA DailyEnvironmental Report
, September 16, 1997.
97 Flyer from the Energy Conservation Centre, Japan, distributed to all Kyoto conference participants.
98 S. Fred Singer, 'The Week That Was,' December 7-13, 1997, http://www.sepp.org/weekwas/dec7_13.html.
– throwing millions of Koreans back into the poverty whence they had come.
In front of the entrance to the conference hall activists placed three ice statues
carved in the shape of penguins. The statues were supposed to melt during the day,dramatising before television cameras the ‘warming' of the earth's climate.
However, Mother Nature would not cooperate and the sculptures remainedstanding. When a warmer day did arrive, activists held a prayer meeting around themelting penguins and prayed for forgiveness. (Greenpeace's solar-powered coffeemaker was just as luckless. Rainy and overcast days thwarted the alternative fuelssolar cell panel in the Greenpeace $20,000 ‘kitchen of tomorrow' display. Thoseseeking free solar-brewed coffee were turned away when the sun failed to shine forthree days.99)
A massive Tyrannosaurus Rex constructed of scrap metal stood at the back
door to the conference hall – a symbol of the obsolescent wastefulness of modernsociety. Yet the conference itself generated three tons of waste paper in its first fourdays.100 NGOs covered every table in the conference hall with so many fliers andpamphlets that journalists in the press centre complained.
Some green antics were foolish but funny, while others revealed the fanatic's
self-righteousness. Most NGO representatives from North America and Europetravelled to Kyoto by plane, while some believed the claim that one plane passengercaused as much global warming as eight persons travelling by train. This led threedozen purists to travel for three weeks on board the ‘Climate Train' from westernEurope across Siberia, then by ferry over the Sea of Japan and on to Kyoto onbicycle.101 'We felt it important to travel to this conference in a way that has as littleimpact on the climate as possible,' said Richard Scrace, a director of Great Britain'sGreen Party. Climate Train passengers criticised their Japanese hosts for notestablishing bicycle lanes to make their pedalling easier.102
While silliness is perhaps inevitable in all large public gatherings, civility was
also a casualty of the global warming policy debate. Activists wearing masks ofprominent politicians ridiculed the world's leaders; someone defaced a NuclearEnergy Institute display; and about thirty activists stormed an Esso gas station indowntown Kyoto. While chanting protests against Exxon, Esso's corporate parent,they stopped station employees from approaching gas pumps and raised a bannerdenouncing gasoline.103 Jeremy Leggett, a Greenpeace activist and solar poweradvocate, characterised opposition to the climate treaty as 'a new form of crimeagainst humanity'.104 A Leggett seminar open to 'accredited press and invitedNGOs only' was entitled ‘History of the Fossil Fuel Disinformation Campaign at
99 S. Fred Singer, 'The Week That Was,' December 7-13, 1997, http://www.sepp.org/weekwas/dec7_13.html.
100 Kahori Sakane, 'Kyoto Climate Conference Disposes of Tons of Paper,' Daily Yomiuri
, December 6, 1997.
101 Joseph Coleman, 'Global Climate Meeting Attracts Passionate and Powerful With Global Warming,' Associated Press
,December 4, 1997.
102 Akiko Shiozaki, 'Group Makes 3-Week Journey to Bring Message,' Asahi News Service
, December 2, 1997.
103 'Thirty Conference Participants Stage Protest at Esso Filling Station in Kyoto,' Kyoto News Service
, December 4, 1997;Willis Witter, 'Activists Demonstrate at Kyoto Conference,' Washington Times
, December 6, 1997.
104 Leyla Boulton, 'Japan Attacked as Climate Deal Nears,' Financial Times
, December 5, 1997.
the Climate Talks.'
UN officials and representatives of the American government abetted the
activists' sense of self-importance. Members of the US delegation, many of themformer environmental activists, had close working relationships with the Greens.105Every day, the US delegation briefed NGOs on the state of the negotiations, butthey made a point of hosting separate ninety-minute meetings for environmentalNGOs and industry NGOs. There were many more environmental NGOs thanindustry groups.
When US Vice President Al Gore arrived in Kyoto on December 8, the eighth
day of the conference, he left no doubt where he stood. In a five-minutepresentation to a small, hand-picked group of US delegates and reporters, Gorepublicly instructed American negotiators 'to show increased negotiating flexibility'on the treaty, 'one with realistic targets and timetables, market mechanisms and themeaningful participation of key developing countries'.106 'The most vulnerable partof the Earth's environment is the very thin layer of air clinging near the surface ofthe planet,' Gore intoned. 'We are altering the relationship between the Earth andthe Sun'. Changing mankind's behaviour would require 'humility because thespiritual roots of our crisis are pride'. Gore urged his NGO compatriots to bepatient. 'This is the step-by-step approach we took in Montreal ten years ago toaddress the problem of ozone depletion. And it is working'.
S. Fred Singer, an atmospheric physicist and founder of the Science and
Environmental Policy Project, described the spectacle of press coveragesurrounding Gore's long-awaited ‘16,000 miles for five minutes' address. Onlyfifty hand-picked reporters were allowed inside the conference hall, while the restwere dispatched to watch the Vice President on large screen televisions:
As Gore's giant image appeared on screen, hordes of reporters crowdedaround each video projector, taking photographs of the TV, pressing theirmicrophones up to the speakers and straining to catch every word emanatingfrom this New Age Big Brother.
At a news conference immediately after Gore's remarks, the environmental
NGOs attempted to characterise for reporters the meaning of his cryptic, emotionalspeech. But their ‘spin' was mixed. Some lashed Gore with the catcalls normallyreserved for political enemies, while other welcomed him as a passionate partisanfor the planet.
European Greens were unanimous in denouncing Gore as a traitor and lackey
of Big Oil. Greenpeace International said 'the speech was strong on rhetoric butbasically full of hot air'.108 WWF attacked Gore as 'unwilling to commit to a
105 One member of the US delegation, the State Department's Rodrigo Prudencio, was a former activist employed by theNational Wildlife Federation.
106 Bonner R. Cohen, 'Gore: US Must Show Increased Flexibility in Kyoto,' Earth Times
, December 9, 1997.
107 S. Fred Singer, 'The Week That Was,' December 7-13, 1997, http://www.sepp.org/weekwas/dec7_13.html.
108 Shoichi Nasu, 'Critics Divided on Gore Speech,' Daily Yomuiri
, December 9, 1997.
meaningful target for reductions in line with the other industrialised nations'.109Friends of the Earth International reverently read aloud excerpts of Gore's 1992book, Earth in the Balance
and challenged the vice president to re-read the bookhimself.110 The group distributed leaflets that depicted Clinton and Gore as woodendummies sitting on the lap of a wealthy Texas oil man in a cowboy hat. 'The WhiteHouse must now make a choice between protecting people from climate disaster orletting a few big companies make massive profits at our – and our children's –expense'.111
US-based NGOs were more loyal to their champion. The National
Environmental Trust gently nudged Gore, reminding him of his own 1992 remarkscriticising President Bush's trip to the Rio Earth Summit. '[This issue] is about farmore than hopping on a plane for a quick photo opportunity . and then flying backwith a meaningless treaty that has no commitments in it'. The Union of ConcernedScientists praised Gore for demonstrating the 'significant leadership we are lookingfor'.112 Fred Krupp, director of the Environmental Defence Fund, commented thatGore 'has significantly raised the environmental expectations of the conference andprovided the key to unlocking the global gridlock which has paralysed thenegotiating process'.113
The Politics of Green Imperialism
Environmental activists were united in their demand that the world's mostadvanced economies undertake major reductions in the emission of greenhousegases. The most drastic demand came from a Korean activist group, which carrieda sign with the threat: 'Delegates, we will make you Rowing Boats Slaves in theWater World if you fail to stop global warming'. The Sierra Club called for a 20 percent cut in emissions from 1990 levels beginning no later than 2005. Otherorganisations liked the idea of starting with the European Union proposal of a 15per cent reduction by 2010 – and ending with zero emissions.
But here's the rub. If the United States, the European Union and Japan
restricted their economies' use of energy, then competitors from less-developedcountries would have an advantage in international markets. American labourunions, in particular, feared US industries would have every incentive to relocatetheir operations to Third World countries not covered by the treaty's mandates.
Clinton, ever-sensitive to such domestic political considerations, also found
himself bound by the reality that the Republican-led Senate would have the finalsay over whether to ratify any agreement struck at Kyoto. In July 1997, the Senatevoted on the Byrd-Hagel resolution, which specified that any climate protocolshould not damage the US economy and should not exempt developing countriesfrom emission reduction requirements. The resolution passed by 95-0. The Clinton
109 'Gore: US Must Show Increased Flexibility in Kyoto,' Earth Times
, December 9, 1997.
110 'Friends of the Earth Calls on Gore: Read Your Book Al!' press release, December 8, 1997.
111 Friends of the Earth, 'Greenhouse Effect, Whitehouse Defect.'112 'Critics Divided on Gore Speech,' Daily Yomuiri
, December 9, 1997.
113 'Gore: US Must Show Increased Flexibility in Kyoto' Earth Times
, December 9, 1997.
administration reacted by asking Third World countries to accept bindingemissions reductions on their own economies. It pledged to secure the ‘meaningfulparticipation' of major Third World economies in emissions reduction.
This, however, would be no easy task. Led by China and India, Third World
countries adamantly opposed actions that would slow their economic progress tosolve what they perceived as the West's environmental problems. Currencydevaluation, capital flight and economic collapse were threatening Thailand,Indonesia and South Korea. Other countries could succumb to the ‘Asian flu'unless the region's economic problems were addressed.
The Chinese government's position was particularly strong. It rejected any
limits on its own emissions and it opposed any reference in the treaty to voluntaryrestrictions.114 All other developing countries supported the Chinese. Third Worldnegotiators even deleted a proposed treaty provision that would have alloweddeveloping countries to undertake emissions cuts at a later date.
Although the Kyoto talks were classified as a negotiation on the environment,
delegates were actually hammering out an accord over energy, the life-blood of aglobal economy. Whether people can heat or cool their homes, cook meals anddrive vehicles to productive jobs depends on the availability and cost of energy.
This was well-understood by UN officials, who affirmed, 'The key is to put intoplace effective national policies to influence the behaviour of the industry andconsumers.'115
After eleven days of private negotiations, the conference settled on a final
treaty. It looked very different from what the Clinton administration had firstproposed. The original Administration proposal would have cut carbon emissionsto 1990 levels by 2010, a 34 per cent reduction from what they otherwise would bein that year. But this position was contingent on getting Third World countries toagree to cut their emissions too. The treaty that was agreed to by 167 countriescontained these major provisions:116
• Six ‘greenhouse gases' were targeted for emissions reduction.
• The US, Japan, the EU and other industrialised countries agreed to cut
aggregate emissions of greenhouse gases by 5 per cent below 1990 levels by2012.
• Developing Countries would not cut emissions at all.
• A framework would be established to permit the US, Canada, Japan, Russia,
Australia and New Zealand to trade emissions credits. This ‘umbrella' conceptallows countries to buy and sell credits from each other in order to reduce theoverall cost of meeting the emission reduction targets.
• A ‘Clean Development Mechanism' would be created, which would allow
114 Thomas Gale Moore, 'The Yellow Brick Road from Kyoto,' World Climate Report
, Vol. 3 No. 10, February 2, 1998.
115 Ramesh Jaura, 'Global Warming: NGOs Concerned About Fate of Kyoto Treaty,' Inter Press Service
, December 11,1997.
116 Bonner R. Cohen, 'Battle over Kyoto Protocol Already Under Way,' Earth Times,
December 13, 1997.
industrial countries to earn emission reduction credits when they gave energyefficient technologies to Third World countries.
The US Senate's reaction to this was unambiguous. The Kyoto Protocol did
not meet the requirements of the Byrd-Hagel resolution, so Senators Chuck Hageland Trent Lott, the Majority Leader, declared it ‘dead on arrival.'117 The ClintonAdministration conceded that the treaty had failed to garner the meaningfulparticipation of developing countries and it elected to withhold the treaty fromSenate consideration until at least late 1998. However, the failure to securedeveloping country agreement at the Fourth COP in Buenos Aires has led to thisbeing put off once more.
The NGO Strategy: Good Cop, Bad Cop
In order to understand the influence of NGOs on the outcome of Kyoto and itsaftermath, it is helpful to understand how the different NGOs positionedthemselves. Although many NGOs share broadly similar goals (limiting energy usein developed countries and redistributing resources to the developing world), theirdifferences often added strength to their arguments. Each NGO acted out adifferent role, some praising government for their bold actions, others criticisingthem for the same actions. This good-cop bad-cop routine worked well at Kyotoand was continued afterwards.
The WWF had proposed that industrial countries cut their emissions by at
least five per cent below 1990 levels by 2007.118 The Kyoto Protocol comesremarkably close in calling for a five per cent cut by 2012. Nevertheless, a WWFstatement issued immediately after the agreement was finally reached read: 'Thetreaty will fail to properly reduce the threat of climate change because key players –in particular the US and Japan – have refused to set realistic targets for emissionreductions'.119
Greenpeace attacked the Kyoto Protocol as 'a tragedy and a farce' with too
many 'loopholes'. 'This deal provides absolutely no protection from the increasingenvironmental and economic damage that the burning of coal and oil will continueto unleash on the world'. Friends of the Earth said that a five per cent emissionsreduction is 'far below the 15 per cent reduction proposed by the EuropeanUnion'.120
Some organisations played an intermediate role; the Sierra Club's Daniel F.
Becker managed to say two things at once. He applauded the treaty as cause forcelebration because it helped alter lifestyles in the industrialised world. But he alsoobserved that the Kyoto Protocol was 'too weak and the loopholes too large, toprotect our families'.121
117 Statement by US Senator Chuck Hagel, press release, December 10, 1997.
118 Shoichi Nasu, 'NGOs Blast Latest Gas Cut Proposal,' Daily Yomuiri
, December 9, 1997.
119 'Non-governmental Organisations Not Satisfied with Protocol,' Kyodo News Service, Tokyo, December 11, 1997.
120 'NGOs Criticise Kyoto Agreement,' Daily Yomuiri
, December 12, 1997.
121 Jaura, 'Global Warming: NGOs Concerned About Fate of Kyoto Treaty.'
Perhaps the most vocal of the ‘good cops' was the National Environmental
Trust (NET), whose president Philip Clapp proclaimed, 'This is more than theenvironmental community has done on any single issue in 10 years'.122 NETexecutive vice president Tom Wathen crowed, 'We believe the environmentalcommunity scored a monumental victory'.123
NET seems to have been instrumental in engineering US media support for
Kyoto. NET executive vice president Tom Wathen prepared a particularly revealingmemorandum on 11 December 1997, ‘Climate Change Victories at Kyoto', fordistribution to the organisation's supporters, which explains the communicationsstrategy NET used to push the global warming agenda into the mass media. Thememo notes that NET coordinated daily conference calls with as many as fiftyreporters from national media outlets. It placed opinion-editorials on globalwarming for Enron Corporation chairman Kenneth Lay in the Houston Chronicle,Austin American Statesman, Salt Lake Tribune
and Omaha World Herald
and forformer British Environment Minister John Gummer in the Washington Post
, Tampa Tribune
, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Milwaukee JournalSentinel.
124 NET conducted eight ‘town meetings' around the US, which generatedmuch television, radio and print coverage. Wathen also claims NET mailings andbriefings with editorial boards generated over 100 favourable editorials in majornewspapers across the country. He says they helped change the tone of mediastories which 'no longer presented global warming as just a theory over whichreasonable scientists could differ'.
Concerned that television news producers were forced to rely on stock footage
of parched fields to show the effect of global warming, NET designed specialcomputer animations that television news programmes could use. They depictedhow global warming would cause the flooding of fifteen American cities! ABC,NBC, CBS and CNN used this animation and it also was routed to local stations viasatellite.
NET also took credit for temporarily suspending its opponents' television
advertising campaign on the Cable News Network (CNN). On 2 October 1997CNN announced that it would not show television commercials prepared by theGlobal Climate Information Project (GCIP) that criticised the Clintonadministration position on the proposed treaty. GCIP is a coalition of car makers,farmers, steel mills, petroleum refiners, electricity producers and coal miningunions. It argued that treaty proposals unfairly hurt the American economy byraising US energy costs while exempting developing countries from compliance.
The industry group's pithy slogan was: ‘It's not global and it won't work.'
CNN is a division of media conglomerate Time-Warner, Inc. and the creation
122 'Intense Lobbying Against Global Warming Treaty,' New York Times
, December 7, 1997.
123 However, many environmentalists think NET is a front organisation preparing for the Gore for President campaign in2000. Indeed, Philip Clapp was a top aide to former Senator Tim Wirth and his political resume includes Environmentalistsfor Clinton-Gore. (Mark Boal, 'Gore's Greens,' Village Voice
, January 20, 1998.)124 Memorandum of Tom Wathen, executive vice president, National Environmental Trust, 'Climate Change Victories atKyoto,' Washington, DC, December 11, 1997.
of Ted Turner, a major donor to environmental groups. CNN explained that theEnvironmental Information Centre (NET's name at the time) had demonstrated toits satisfaction that the commercials were inaccurate and misleading.125 Thisdecision provoked an outcry from treaty opponents who suspected Turner'sinvolvement. Senator Chuck Hagel called for a congressional inquiry,126 and, in afull-page Wall Street Journal
ad, GCIP warned Time Warner chairman and CEOGerald Levin against actions that would make it 'a party to censorship.'127 Indeed,the decision coincided with Turner's announcement that he would donate $1 billionto the United Nations. (CNN eventually reversed its decision, but the disruptionupset the strategy of those opposed to an international climate control treaty.)
Of course, one can be somewhat sceptical of a memo that congratulates itself
on the genius of its own communications strategy. But the NET memo reveals theenergy and cleverness that goes into good public relations. And the memo revealssomething more. It makes clear that environmental pressure groups have developedan effective dual strategy of reward and punishment.
NET takes credit for orchestrating a lobbying campaign that it says enabled
President Clinton to select 'the most ambitious proposal' from a range of options.
NET's Wathen claims that the President did so, 'in part because of the substantialamount of national and local media, grassroots activity and polling information onclimate change generated by NET and its campaign partners'.
At the same time Wathen describes how NET delivered a letter to the White
House 'expressing outrage with the weakness of the Clinton-Gore proposal'. A NET‘rapid response team' funnelled inside information on the climate talks from Kyotoback to environmental activists in the US, who then sent hundreds of letters to theVice President making specific demands. Ultimately, NET credits this strategy withbreaking a deadlock by getting Gore to intervene and instruct the State Departmentto toughen its negotiating position. Initially calling for cutting emissions to 1990levels by 2010, the Administration agreed to a seven per cent reduction below 1990levels by 2012.
The result of these mixed responses from the environmental community is
that politicians are made to feel somewhat pleased with themselves for havingachieved anything at all, whilst being acutely aware that they will face continuedpressure to agree to more and more onerous restrictions in the future.
125 David Bauder, 'CNN Pulls Ads on Global Warming,' Associated Press
, October 2, 1997.
126 Ken Foskett, 'Treaty Opponents Object as CNN Pulls Global Warming Ads,' Atlanta Journal
, October 4, 1997.
127 Phil Kloer, 'CNN Changes Tune, Will Air Banned Ads,' Atlanta Journal and Constitution
, October 10, 1997, p. 4H;David Bauder, 'CNN Reverses Stance on Disputed Ads,' Associated Press
, October 9, 1997.
3. Trade and Environmentalism
Environmental pressure groups that promote the idea of protecting the environmentby regulating trade have made themselves major players in policy and politicalbattles over international trade agreements.128 The environmental lobby has seizedthe initiative by arguing that the ‘global environment' is affected by trade and bydemanding a role in trade negotiations. Green groups have lobbied tenaciously forlimits on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the WorldTrade Organisation, demonstrating that even in inhospitable territory they caninfluence policy and the wealth of nations.
Environmental organisations are joined in this battle by other lobbyists whose
concerns are often more explicitly protectionist. For example, labour organisationsare primarily concerned to keep jobs in the particular sectors they represent. Theconsequence is inevitably a reduction in the efficiency of resource allocation and areduction in the international competitiveness of the firms that are ‘protected'. Thelong-term consequences of such protection is often devastating for the industriesthat are protected, because foreign companies become so much more efficient thatthey are able to out-compete the protected firms in every market but that which isprotected. This is precisely what happened to America's car manufacturers in the1970s and 1980s – and it has taken twenty years for them to regain theircompetitiveness.
Tuna and Trade
In 1991 a GATT tribunal highlighted the trade and environment issue by rulingagainst a US trade embargo of Mexican tuna imports. Environmental groups earlierhad filed suit to force the Bush administration to move against Mexico for failing toprotect dolphins entrapped by the tuna nets of Mexican fishing vessels.129 Citingthe 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Earth Island Institute claimed thatUS trade sanctions should be imposed against Mexico for failing to enact dolphinprotection measures. The GATT tribunal, however, found that a US embargo onMexican tuna violated GATT rules, which prohibited enforcement of a nation'senvironmental regulations outside its own jurisdiction.
The ‘tuna-dolphin case' infuriated environmental groups and they spent
$50,000 on full-page ads in major newspapers across the country to assail theGATT. Environmental, labour and liberal farm organisations opposed to free tradecoalesced under the Citizens Trade Campaign, which spent $400,000. Thecoalition included Ralph Nader's Public Citizen (a ‘consumer' watchdog), Friendsof the Earth, Greenpeace, National Farmers Union, National Family FarmCoalition, the International Union of Electricians, the Amalgamated Clothing andTextile Workers Union and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.
Public Citizen plastered Washington, DC sidewalks with posters of ‘GATTzilla,' a
128 Robert Costanza, John Audley, Richard Borden, Paul Elkins, Carl Folke, Silvio O. Funtowicz and Jonathan Harris,'Sustainable Trade: A New Paradigm for World Welfare,' Environment
, June 1995.
129 Porter and Brown, Global Environmental Politics
, p. 131.
Godzilla-like monster with the earth in its jaws, crushing a dolphin in one hand,pouring out a barrel of DDT with the other and kicking over the US Capitolbuilding. 'GATT is Coming,' the signs warned, 'What You Don't Know Will HurtYou'.
Environmental groups lobbied delegates to put restrictions on the GATT at
the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. Green groups, however, discovered that developingcountries at the Rio conference were distrustful of their ideas. India and SouthKorea, in particular, worried that developed countries would cite environmentalfailings to justify protectionist trade barriers against their exports.
NAFTA: Environment, Trade and ProtectionThe trade-environment nexus became firmly established during the 1992-93
debate over ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The United States, Canada and Mexico had agreed to form a trade bloc like theEuropean Community. Green groups wanted to change the treaty and they did theirhomework. After the 1992 election, they lobbied the new Clinton administration toadd environmental restraints to the NAFTA agreement that the Bushadministration had already negotiated.
The Kyoto strategy of good cop-bad cop was prefigured during the NAFTA
negotiations. Some groups, such as the National Wildlife Federation andEnvironmental Defence Fund, said that they had no fundamental objections totrade. They were prepared to accept NAFTA now and pursue environmentalrestrictions later, while some groups, such as Public Citizen and the Sierra Club,said they would have been happy to see NAFTA defeated. They threatened to workwith labour unions to defeat the agreement unless heavy environmental restrictionswere added. The bad cops pressed Congress to reject NAFTA, while the good copsused the threat of opposition as leverage to obtain a seat at the NAFTA negotiatingtable.
During congressional testimony,
US trade representative Mickey Kantor
revealed that the purpose of NAFTA harmonisation was more than environmentalprotection: it was trade protection.130 Trade regulations could restrict market accessto foreign products under the guise of environmental, health and worker safetyconcerns. For Kantor, the environmental side agreements were a way to preventcertain kinds of import competition from Mexico:
I think the question for us in looking at the NAFTA and these supplementalagreements is this: can we harmonise standards upwards to lessen Mexico'strade advantages as well as to help the environment and workerstandards…in order to ensure that we don't adversely affect US workers andUS visitors to the extent they're being affected now.
In August 1993, Mexico, Canada and the US agreed to an environmental
130 US Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, 'Side Agreements to the North American Free Trade Agreement,' SenateEnvironment and Public Works Committee hearing, Reuters Transcript Report, March 16, 1993.
accord that was incorporated into NAFTA. A report from the US TradeRepresentative indicated that the Administration had followed many of theenvironmental lobby's recommendations.131 The treaty established a Commissionon Environmental Cooperation that was authorised to implement NAFTAprovisions on the environment, monitor compliance and promote harmonisation ofenvironment regulations among the NAFTA parties. It also created a separateNorth American Development Bank (NADBANK), NAFTA's version of the WorldBank, to finance roughly $8 billion in public works projects and environmentalspending in the border region, an area the environmentalists said was particularlydegraded by trade.
At a September 1993 press conference, the leaders of six environmental
pressure groups – flanked by Vice President Al Gore and EPA administrator CarolBrowner – publicly endorsed NAFTA. Jay Hair (National Wildlife Federation),Peter Berle (National Audubon Society), Kathryn Fuller (WWF), Fred Krupp(EDF), Russell Mittermeier (Conservation International) and John Adams (NRDC)called on Congress to ratify the treaty and the side agreements.132
The ‘good cop' groups defended NAFTA, whose environment provisions they
had helped develop in collaboration with Clinton officials, many of them formercolleagues. To a treaty that was supposed to promote free trade, they had managedto add Green protectionism, supranational government agencies and US foreign aidspending.
The ‘bad cop' environmental groups continued to oppose NAFTA. They had
not participated in the hundreds of meetings at which NAFTA's environmentalprovisions were drafted. Unmoved by the side agreements, the Sierra Club, Friendsof the Earth and Greenpeace denounced the accord, saying it would only enrichgiant corporations at the environment's expense. They joined the emerging animalrights movement, labour unions and ‘public interest' groups founded by RalphNader to lobby against NAFTA.
To Green the GATT
In 1993, parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) begannegotiating a new treaty. When it was founded in 1948, GATT was meant to be anon-binding, interim arrangement. The new treaty was supposed to replace theGATT with a permanent World Trade Organisation (WTO), which together withthe International Monetary Fund and the World Bank would manage world trade,monetary and employment matters.133
Despite their differences, the environmental groups recognised that
NAFTA had helped them make inroads in international economic policymaking.
131 Office of the US Trade Representative, 'The NAFTA: Report on Environmental Issues,' North American Free TradeAgreement Supplemental Agreements and Additional Documents
, (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office,November 1993) p. 14.
132 Peter Behr, 'For Environmental Groups, Biggest NAFTA Fight is Intramural,' Washington Post
, September 16, 1993, p.
133 William Drozdiak, 'Poor Nations Resist Tougher Trade Rules,' Washington Post
, April 14, 1994.
Environmental organisations such as the National Wildlife Federation, Greenpeaceand WWF to announce their opposition to the GATT talks, but at the same timethey lobbied the Administration to negotiate treaty revisions they could support.134Environmental groups demanded the following reforms.135
• Allow countries to set environmental standards higher than GATT-approved
standards, without violating GATT;
• Authorise environmental groups as NGOs to participate in trade disputes: let
them file amicus-like briefs and include them as expert consultants to GATTdispute settlement panels;
• Establish an environmental mandate for the GATT: make preparations for a
‘Green Round' of global trade negotiations where more elaborateenvironmental standards could be developed.
Green Audacity Yields Results
The lobbying produced several victories. According to The GATT Uruguay RoundAgreements: A Report on Environmental Issues
, prepared by the US TradeRepresentative, the Administration acknowledged the influence of green groupsand did press for revisions to the negotiating text.136 When the negotiations werecompleted on December 15, 1993, the final treaty text showed many signs of theirinfluence:
• Breaking with the existing GATT, the treaty preamble established ‘sustainable
development' as an objective of the world trade treaty.
• New language tightening environmental standards was inserted. Under the old
GATT, such rules had to be ‘least trade-restrictive,' meaning they had tohinder trade as little as possible. Under a new World Trade Organisation(WTO), this no longer pertained.
• National governments would have the right to share summaries of trade
disputes with NGOs and to provide them with the full text of all governmentsubmissions to the new WTO.
• Governments would have the right to provide subsidies to private industry if
they promoted environmentalist goals.
• A Committee on Trade and the Environment (CTE) was created in the WTO
as a forum to consider additional environmental rules.
Some environmental groups welcomed the WTO, which they anticipated could
134 Timothy Noah, 'Environmental Groups Say Deal Poses Threats,' Wall Street Journal
, December 16, 1993.
135 'Split Among Environmentalists on NAFTA Healed in United Support for GATT Reforms,' BNA InternationalEnvironment Daily
, December 7, 1993.
136 US Trade Representative, The GATT Uruguay Round Agreements: Report on Environmental Issues
, August 1994, pp.
ES-2, 35-40. This report was prepared with the assistance of several cabinet-level agencies participating in the interagencyEnvironmental and Natural Resources Subcommittee of the Trade Policy Staff Committee, the Environmental ProtectionAgency and the Council on Environmental Quality. The final phase of Uruguay Round negotiations began in late 1992.
become the forum for more environmental regulation of a new system of worldtrade.
The Developing World Fights Back
The environmental groups issued their Green protectionist demands with thesinking feeling that the WTO would never accept them. Green protectionism was alost cause at the WTO because the developing countries were on red alert to stop it.
Third World leaders were keenly aware that the Green agenda would prevent poorcountries from using world trade to expand their economies. Indian Prime MinisterP. V. Narasimha Rao rallied the Group of 15 (G-15), a consultative forum fordeveloping countries, against what he called 'attempts to introduce newprotectionist agendas'.137 Rao warned developing countries to 'guard against newtrade-restricting tendencies in the developed countries using the pretext of socialand environmental concerns'.138 The G-15 – which included Brazil, Egypt, India,Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria and Chile – drafted a common strategy opposingtrade-restrictive amendments to the WTO.
'We should not countenance any moves to put social and environmental
concerns on the trade agenda, with thinly veiled intentions to nullify thecomparative advantage of developing countries,' Rao said in a subsequent UNmeeting.139 Hong Kong, South Korea, Bangladesh and China echoed hisposition.140 Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that rich-countrytrade curbs were designed to deprive the Third World of its only trade advantages –raw materials and lower labour costs. Almost the entire Third World opposedattempts to add an environmental component to the WTO. A G-15 communiquédenounced the Clinton administration's environmental proposals as 'the veryantithesis of the principles of free markets and comparative advantage;' it said theywould 'create further distortion and inefficiency and undermine growth'.141
Still, the US pushed Green protectionism hard. At the April 1994 Marrakech
signing ceremony, US Vice President Al Gore lectured Third World delegates thatworkers' rights and the environment had to be top priorities for the trading system.
But representatives of the developing world were just as adamant in opposing theUS agenda. Charging that international environmental rules would curtail tradeand growth opportunities, their speeches openly attacked NGO-sponsored efforts.
India, Brazil and Singapore accused the West of using the vocabulary ofenvironmentalism to disguise trade protectionism, shelter uncompetitive jobs androb poorer nations of legitimate trading opportunities.142 The G-15 declined toaccept an ambitious Green agenda for the WTO's Committee on Trade and theEnvironment.
137 N. Vasuki Rao, 'G-15 Leaders Blast Non-Economic Trade Curbs in West,' Journal of Commerce
, March 29, 1994.
138 N. Vasuki Rao, 'Developing States to Map Opposition to Trade Curbs,' Journal of Commerce
, March 31, 1994.
139 Neelam Jain, 'ESCAP meet in India to discuss GATT,' United Press International
, April 5, 1994.
140 'Fears of US Trade Protectionism Dominating UN Meeting,' Agence France Presse
, April 7, 1994.
141 Rao, 'Developing States to Map Opposition to Trade Curbs.'142 William Drozdiak, 'Poor Nations Resist Tougher Trade Rules,' Washington Post
, April 14, 1994.
4. Food Fight: NGO Conflicts over Population Control and
On November 13-17, 1996 the UN's World Food Summit convened in Rome, Italyto plan national and international food policies for the next century. Sponsored bythe UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the summit was supposed toimprove the prospects of 840 million people thought to be suffering from chronicmalnutrition. A ‘Declaration on World Food Security' and ‘Plan of Action' pledgedto reduce by half the number of world's hungry by the year 2015.
The conference dealt with many questions that delegates from around the
world considered crucial to global ‘food security' – agriculture, food marketing anddistribution, foreign aid, humanitarian assistance and world trade. But NGOrepresentatives wanted the conference to be organised around the concept ofsustainable development. The newspaper headlines might emphasise the distress ofthe world's hungry, but environment and population control advocacy groups werethinking instead about how to control resource production and consumption. Ratherthan reduce the number of the world's hungry, their bottom line was controlling theworld's population. Mankind's survival was apparently threatened most by lifeitself – the threat of ‘overpopulation.'
The United Nations estimates that by the year 2030 the world's population
will increase by three billion people and it frets that there is no way for foodproduction to keep pace. The neo-Malthusians who lobbied delegates to the WorldFood Summit demanded international action. Regrettably, the FAO sided withthem. Officials of the UN agency, which conducts agricultural monitoring andresearch, forecast that world food production must rise 75 per cent by 2030 just tokeep up with the expected increase in population.
The Rome Declaration on Food Security states, 'the problems of hunger and
food insecurity have global dimensions and are likely to persist and even increasedramatically in some regions, unless urgent, determined and concerted action istaken, given the anticipated increase in the world's population and the stress onnatural resources'.143 Without the ability to control birth rates, the FAO claimedthat governments could not increase agricultural productivity sufficiently to handlethe expanding hunger crisis. Representatives of the Worldwatch Institute, anenvironmental NGO participating in the conference, even went so far as to questionthe relevance of parts of the Summit Plan of Action if they were not directly linkedto population control measures.144
Market-based solutions to the problem of hunger were given short shrift. UN
Development Programme (UNDP) administrator James Gustave Speth argued thateconomic liberalisation and private initiative could not deal with the crisis. Speth, aformer president of the World Resources Institute and one-time head of President
143 Rome Declaration on Food Security, World Food Summit, 13-17 November, 1996.
144 Paul Holmes, 'FAO Chief Defends Food Summit as Critics Weigh In,' Reuters North American Wire
, November 12,1996.
Carter's Council on Environmental Quality, was responsible for re-orienting UNDPtowards sustainable development. He argued that the crisis in food and populationrequired more foreign aid from industrial nations. Said Speth: 'The idea that theprivate sector can replace development cooperation is a myth'.145 But for Speth, themost important form of development assistance was preventing Third World peoplefrom having children. ‘Population stabilisation,' reducing the rate of humanpopulation increase, would be the developed world's greatest gift to developingcountries.
As at most UN conferences, bold statements by conference organisers
disguised widely divergent agendas. The conference's final ‘Declaration on WorldFood Security' affirmed a 'fundamental human right to be free from hunger andmalnutrition'.146 Its ‘Plan of Action' – crafted in language purporting to offer theconference's strategic vision – defined food security as access to sufficient amountsof basic food, 'based on healthy and culturally adequate food habits'.147 This curiousdefinition accommodated a wide range of nutrition concerns. For instance, the USnational food security plan identified high-fat diets, lack of exercise and obesity assignificant food problems.148 The plan was developed by the US Department ofAgriculture several weeks prior to the conference and it devoted several paragraphsto the problem of over-eating – a strange use of bureaucratic energy for a hungerconference.
Or perhaps, not so strange. The Summit's Plan of Action made clear that food
security was simply another aspect of sustainable development. Hence it was relatedto the special needs of women (the principal issue at the Beijing conference) andpopulation stabilisation (Cairo). It could also relate to the issue of over-consumption by the rich, which sustainable development wants to end. The Plan ofAction made it clear that food – whether too little or too much – was tied more toan ideology of resource limitation than to actual pangs of hunger.
Setting the Stage: The 1994 Cairo Conference
The World Food Summit can only be understood in the context of other UN effortsto limit population. The groundwork for the 1996 Rome conference had been laidby the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo,Egypt. One hundred and eighty countries attended that UN summit, which wasdedicated to holding world population, then 5.67 billion people, under a target levelof 7.27 billion by 2015. Governments were supposed to control their populations byspending $17 billion annually on foreign aid and other programmes.
The Cairo conference was dominated less by environmental NGOs than by
population control advocates like the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
Some environmentalists even complained that the conference was hijacked by the
145 Mahesh Uniyal, 'Food Summit: Pay Up Or Else.' Inter Press Service
, November 13, 1996.
146 Rome Declaration on World Food Security, World Food Summit, 13-17 November 1996.
147 World Food Summit Plan of Action, 13-17 November 1996.
148 'The US Contribution to World Food Security: The US Position Paper Prepared for the World Food Summit,' USDepartment of Agriculture, July 1996.
women's empowerment agenda.149 The Cairo conference highlighted issues thatwere considered important in the struggle against overpopulation: women's rights,sex education, reproductive health measures and abortion.
Despite their different emphases, the NGO environmental and population
control factions agreed that the world should direct its international agencies andpolitical processes to curtailing childbirths. The environmental movement reasonedthat slowing population growth would cut resource use. The Commission on GlobalGovernance, an independent UN advisory group linked to Maurice Strong, doubted'the capacity of the earth to withstand the impact of human consumption asnumbers multiply if present trends of rising economic activity and risingconsumption continue unchanged'.150 Human beings affect the environment interms of 'what people use and waste,' the Commission asserted. 'Not onlypopulation but also consumption has to be reduced if sustainability is to beachieved'. The Commission's report, Our Global Neighbourhood
, estimated that'some 80 per cent of what is thought of as prosperity' was actually bad for theplanet.151 Despite what those enjoying it might think, the pleasure of prosperity wasecologically unsustainable.
The Cairo conference on population was defined as a conference on
population control and population control was defined in terms of governmentsupport for family planning and abortion. This set the stage for internationalconflict over the foundations of morality. NGO population control proposals –including one proposal to make abortion a basic human right – met fierceresistance in Cairo, not least from Islamic countries. Muslims, who feared theimpact of Western immorality on their societies, demonstrated against theconference and urged their leaders to boycott it. The governments of several Islamiccountries – Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Sudan and Niger – were so offended that theydid just that.152
The Vatican, joined by delegations from predominantly Roman Catholic
countries, also opposed many conference proposals. Pope John Paul II condemnedwhat he called the 'culture of death' permeating the policies of many nationalgovernment programmes and UN agencies. That the Vatican entered a de factocoalition with Muslim authorities demonstrated the extent of their commonopposition to rising divorce rates, family decline and deteriorating public mores.
Other organisations of religious and social conservatives, some of whom attendedthe conference, also voiced opposition to its population control measures.153
The right to abortion and its role in population control was a key theme at
149 Philip Shabecoff, A New Name for Peace
, (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1996) p. 181.
150 Commission on Global Governance, Our Global Neighbourhood
, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995) pp . 27-28.
151 Our Global Neighbourhood
, p. 145.
152 Eileen Alt Powell, 'Singing, Canvassing and Lobbying for Family Planning,' AP Worldstream
, September 2, 1994.
153 These included Focus on the Family, National Association of Evangelicals, Family Research Council, the RockfordInstitute, Catholic Campaign for America, Family of the Americas Foundation, Population Research Institute and HumanLife International (Cliff Kincaid, Global Bondage
, (Lafayette, LA: Huntington House Publishers, 1995) p.99).
Cairo. The United Nations Population Fund, International Planned ParenthoodFederation (IPPF), Women's Environment and Development Organisation(WEDO) and allied pro-abortion activists tightly controlled many conferenceevents. The UN attempted to portray the Cairo Conference as the culmination of anopen process welcome to NGOs of many backgrounds. A number of NGOs –including the IPPF, the Centre for Reproductive Law and Policy and Catholics for aFree Choice – mounted an unsuccessful effort to strip the Vatican of its UNobserver status.154 Waller also describes an incident in which a journalist wasremoved from a conference event and almost deported by armed UN police after amember of the National Organisation for Women accused him of being an anti-abortion activist.155
Planned Parenthood, an organisation that promotes the universal legalisation
of abortion and is supported by corporate manufacturers of contraceptive devicesand drugs, such as Norplant, exercised considerable influence over at least 26delegations from poor countries such as Peru and Bolivia. It offered to pay for IPPFstaff and UN employees to represent countries too poor to send delegates to Cairo.
IPPF itself had over 200 organisers and lobbyists in Cairo. The US Agency forInternational Development sent a contingent of 122. The leader of the USdelegation, former Colorado senator Tim Wirth, the Under Secretary of State forGlobal Affairs, was supportive of Planned Parenthood goals; he was once on theboard of directors of a Colorado Planned Parenthood affiliate.
By contrast, the Vatican sent a delegation of only seventeen.156 It tried to
counter IPPF tactics in Latin America by asking governments there to put anti-abortion NGOs on their delegations. But of 1,200 NGOs in Cairo, only two dozenwere from Catholic and anti-abortion organisations.157
Some NGOs from developing countries resented the claim that large families
were responsible for poverty. 'The countries of the South reject the mainassumption prevailing throughout the Cairo document that population growth inthe South is the reason behind poverty and underdevelopment,' their statement said.
'We argue the opposite…The poor will continue to have more children as long theyhave high infant mortality, lack education, social and health security and needchildren for labour to support the family'. Instead of government aid for birthcontrol, the group urged that aid be re-directed to combat poverty.158 (The evidencesuggests that wealth and access to financial instruments (such as pensions) is a farmore significant factor in determining the number of children a woman has thanavailability of birth-control measures.)
Other groups from developing countries argued that population control
demands were racist. Elida Solorzano, head of the Nicaraguan delegation, said
154 Thalif Deen, 'Population-Religion: NGOs Set Sights on Holy See's UN Status,' Inter Press Service
, September 6, 1994.
155 John Michael Waller, 'Bella's Babies, American Spectator
, April 1995.
157 George Moffett, 'UN Population Conference Meets Religious Resistance,' Christian Science Monitor
, September 6,1994.
158 Agence France Presse
, 'It's Poverty that Causes Population Boom, Not Other Way Round: NGOs,' September 12, 1994.
Western population controllers 'don't want any more dark people multiplying, weknow that'. Third World community workers complained that UN-supplied healthcentres in their countries lacked antibiotics, but were plentiful in condoms, pillsand intra-uterine devices. Kenyan paediatrician Margaret Ologa explained, 'We arerunning out of vaccine. We have no syringes, no needles, no sulpha drugs, nopenicillin. Yet our Family Welfare Centres never lack birth-control supplies'.159Health workers from the Philippines and Tanzania said they were not warned thatsome contraceptives can have dangerous side-effects, such as haemorrhaging,permanent sterility and other injuries.160
The 1994 Cairo conference gave population controllers the conference
document they wanted – the ‘Plan of Action.' Rumours had circulated among ThirdWorld country delegations that US State Department officials were threatening tocut off foreign aid funding unless they voted for the Plan of Action.161 The Vaticanand Islamic countries were forced to accept watered-down language on‘reproductive rights,' which could be interpreted to suit the UN and its IPPF allies.
NGOs Call the Shots
The 1996 World Food Summit gave population and environment NGOs
another chance to organise their forces. The Clinton administration worked closelywith them, as State Department Under-secretary Wirth and his deputy MelindaKimble made sure that even the radical fringe of the movement was intimatelyinvolved in crafting US policy. The Administration relied heavily on the opinionsof Dianne Dillon-Ridgley, president of Zero Population Growth (ZPG) andappointed her to the US delegation to Rome.162 It also took its signals from LesterBrown, founder of the Worldwatch Institute and another prominent Administrationadviser. Wirth publicly commended Brown for helping craft the federalgovernment's policy positions.163 (In late 1997 Wirth left State to manage mediamogul Ted Turner's $1 billion foundation, which will fund UN environment andpopulation initiatives.)
The NGO outlook figured prominently in the US Position Paper that the
Agriculture Department prepared for the World Food Summit. This lengthydocument surveys recent scholarly projections of future world food supply anddemand. Yet it takes seriously the predictions contained in the Worldwatch volumeFull House: Reassessing the Earth's Population Carrying Capacity
(1994) byBrown and Hal Kane. Brown and Kane say that in the food sector, 'humandemands are colliding with some of the earth's limits'. Ecological constraints arestarting to slow the growth of food production, such that 'food security will replace
159 Waller, 'Bella's Babies.'160 Inter Press Service
, 'Population-Contraceptives: Problems of the Poor and Uninformed,' September 12, 1994.
161 Eileen Alt Powell, 'Singing, Canvassing and Lobbying for Family Planning,' AP Worldstream
, September 2, 1994.
162 Other NGO representatives included C. Payne Lucas, President, Africare; Charles MacCormack, President & CEO, Savethe Children; Leland Swenson, President, National Farmers Union. Private Sector Advisors to the US Delegation to theWorld Food Summit as of 10/15/96.
163 World Food Summit public briefing, US Department of Agriculture, October 17, 1996 (attended by author).
military security as the principal preoccupation of national governments'. They alsorepeat earlier predictions of doom that never materialised: 'Over the next 40 years, theworld will face massive grain deficits in Africa, the Indian subcontinent and China'.164 TheUS government position paper side-steps the truth of the statements and credits theauthors by advising that 'regardless of their validity.Brown's analyses offer animportant warning against becoming complacent about the future food situation'.165
While official delegates to the Summit were meeting, NGO representatives
conducted a separate forum courtesy of the Italian Foreign Affairs Ministry, whichprovided $320,000 in funding.166 This gave the over 1,500 NGO participantssomewhat less power than they enjoyed at the Habitat II conference in Istanbul,where NGO delegates directly participated in official negotiations. Yet it affordedparticipants an opportunity 'to do some strategic planning for campaigns we areworking on,' in the words of Susan Davis, executive director of WEDO.167
The Path to Rome
Direct NGO involvement in World Food Summit deliberations was limited to inputprovided at five earlier regional conferences. Held in Morocco, Burkina Faso,Israel, Thailand and Paraguay and sponsored by the FAO, these allowed NGOssuch as Oxfam, Christian Aid and Action Aid to inject their views into the processthat would produce the final text of the Summit's key documents, the RomeDeclaration and Plan of Action. They insisted on more foreign assistance forpopulation control – and offered themselves as administrative conduits to give ventto their passions.168
Just before the Summit, the FAO invited more than 200 NGOs to Rome on
September 19-21, 1996 for yet another ‘consultation session.' This meeting becamea rallying point for proponents of ‘sustainable agriculture,' representatives ofpeasants and indigenous peoples, advocates for consumers, the urban poor,children's rights and fair trade and feminists and AIDS activists.169 The NGOsused the session as a platform to criticise the market system on the grounds that it'generates exclusion and poverty and is not conducive to attaining equitable andsustainable development, social justice and gender equality'.170 Needless to say theydid not support this contention with any reliable evidence.
NGO and Government Paths Diverge
The NGOs present at the earlier consultation session were in no mood to
164 Lester Brown and Hal Kane, Full House: Reassessing the Earth's Population Carrying Capacity
, (New York: Norton,1994).
165 'The US Contribution to World Food Security: The US Position Paper Prepared for the World Food Summit,' USDepartment of Agriculture, July 1996.
167 C. Gerald Fraser, 'NGOs: Using the Summit to Organise Campaigns,' Earth Times
, November 16-30, 1996.
168 Regional conference reports available at http://www.fao.org/wfs/resource/resource.htm.
169 Committee on World Food Security, Twenty-second Session Rome, 23 – 27 September 1996, FAO/NGO Consultationon the World Food Summit, (19-21 September 1996): Key Points of the Consultation.
170 FAO/NGO Consultation on the World Food Summit, (19-21 September 1996).
procrastinate when they arrived at the Food Summit. Delegates said a draft of thePlan of Action did not go far enough. The Plan implied that hunger was a fault ofgovernments' unwillingness to guarantee human rights, but it carefully declined toendorse an explicit ‘right to food,' not wanting to impose a legal obligation ongovernments.
Fearing such a new right would give US citizens legal standing to sue the
federal government, the US delegation filed a reservation so that ‘right to food'claims could not be legally binding. The US delegation announced that it acceptedthe Rome Declaration but noted that it would not lead to 'any change in the currentstate of conventional or customary international law'.171 Administration officialscarefully explained that no right to food was in the US Constitution and they tookexception to the UN proposal that Western governments target 0.7 per cent of theirnational wealth for foreign aid. They did promise that the US would strive toguarantee freedom from hunger through ‘empowerment' programmes.
The NGOs were displeased. More than 1,200 agrarian and development aid
groups from 80 countries complained that the Rome Plan of Action was inadequate.
Their list of alternatives included demands for higher subsidies to small farmersand the promotion of ecological farming practices.172 On the last day of theSummit, NGO protesters shouted ‘farce' and heckled the UN's FAO director-general Jacques Diouf of Senegal.173
Clash over Population Control
If the United States was the most powerful and outspoken government advocate forpopulation control, its primary opponent was the Roman Catholic Church. As atCairo, the Vatican refuted claims that overpopulation was the major cause of worldhunger. In an address to the conference, Pope John Paul II declared, 'Populationson their own don't imply food shortages and we must do away with the sophistrythat if we are numerous then we are condemned to be poor'. The Pontiff appealed tothe delegates: 'Arbitrary stabilisation, or even reduction, of population will notsolve the problem of hunger'.174 Eleven Islamic countries joined the Vatican infiling reservations to the Summit Plan of Action. (A country declares provisionsnon-binding when it files a reservation.) They objected to language on sexual andreproductive rights and family planning, terms they regarded as favourable toabortion.
The NGOs rejected these countries' message and left little doubt about
their own agenda. 'Although scientifically, there is no proof that we cannot feed allthe people in the world, in reality it just will not happen,' said Ingar Brueggemann,
171 Michael Adler, 'World Food Summit Left Key Issues Unresolved,' Agence France Presse
, November 18, 1996.
172 Deutsche Presse-Agentur, November 17, 1996173 Paul Holmes, 'UN Food Summit Ends Under Shadow of Disagreements,' Reuters North American Wire
, November 17,1996.
174 Dipankar De Sarkar, 'Food Summit: Pope Declares Overpopulation Not the Problem,' Inter Press Service
, November 13,1996.
Secretary General of the International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF).175The pro-abortion NGOs fell back on the mantra-like assertion: countries must not‘re-open' questions that were settled in Cairo. The 1994 population conferencedocuments are virtually etched in stone and countries ought not to upset thecontinuity of subsequent UN summits.
In a report on the Summit, the anti-abortion group Human Life International
(HLI) accused IPPF and the UN Fund for Population Activities of 'spreading miserythroughout the world, especially in unsuspecting developing nations in the guise of‘family planning''.176 HLI, Concerned Women for America and other anti-abortionorganisations were shut out of the UN proceedings even though they had obtained‘NGO status,' which ought to have afforded them access to the plenary session andenabled them to speak with delegates. The UN revoked their NGO privileges at thelast minute and eleven women from anti-abortion groups in six nations protestedthis exclusion at a press conference.177
Despite their massive presence in Rome, the NGOs were troubled by the directionof the Food Summit. The agenda sometimes seemed outside their control and theysuspected that multinational corporations had hijacked it. Official summit delegatesappeared not to focus solely on population and gender equality, but also discussedthe Uruguay Round trade agreement in favourable terms. WEDO's Davisconcluded, 'This summit became a food trade summit rather than a food securitysummit as the trade negotiators were almost all the same people who were going toSingapore [for the World Trade Organisation meeting in December]'.178
The NGOs feared that Third World agriculture was vulnerable to the logic of
the marketplace. They insisted that poverty is caused by the unequal distribution ofwealth, inequitable trade between developed and developing countries and flawedmacroeconomic policies. They urged developed countries to meet the UN foreignaid goal of 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).179 They called for‘sustainable agriculture,' the term for farming without the chemicals, pesticidesand fertilisers that enable increased crop yields on fewer acres.180 They denouncedany expression of interest in biotechnology and accused Western corporations ofexploiting and polluting the genetic resources of developing countries.
Corporations that tried to increase agricultural productivity by manipulating plantgenes stood accused of tampering with nature for profit.181 Instead, the NGOschampioned ‘farmers' rights' and supported subsidies and other benefits forecologically sound farming by members of local indigenous communities.
175 Dipankar De Sarkar, 'Population: NGO Slams Pope's Food Summit Message,' Inter Press Service
, December 2, 1996.
176 De Sarkar, 'Population: NGO Slams Pope's Food Summit Message.'177 'Pro-Family Group Silenced at FAO Summit,' press release, Concerned Women for America, November 15, 1996.
De Sarkar, 'Population: NGO Slams Pope's Food Summit Message.'179 Jorge Pina, 'Development: Foreign Debt Question Divides North and South,' Inter Press Service
, September 28, 1996.
180 Dave Juday, 'The UN's Food Fight,' The Weekly Standard
, November 25, 1996, p. 20.
181 Dipankar De Sarkar, 'Agriculture: Rich-Poor Clash Looms at FAO Conference,' Inter Press Service
, June 17, 1996.
In Rome five protesters – including three naked women with anti-American
slogans painted across their bodies – disrupted a news conference by USAgriculture Secretary Dan Glickman to publicise their opposition to biotechnology.
They accused US agribusiness of importing genetically modified (GM) seedhybrids, undercutting local producers in Europe and threatening the viability ifEuropean agriculture.182 The protesters claimed that GM seed hybrids aredangerous, despite the fact that following stringent tests government agencies inthe US and Europe had declared them safe.
The Campaign Against Biotechnology
The Green attacks on GM crops have accelerated since the World Food Summit.
Jeremy Rifkin, founder of Earth First! (a group that advocates eco-terrorism) andthe guru of the anti-technology movement, frets that biotechnology will produce 'aform of annihilation every bit as deadly as nuclear holocaust'.183
The issue has become particularly volatile in Europe, where Greenpeace is at
the forefront of a campaign against GM foods.184 Switzerland's Ciba-Geigy, forinstance, has developed a new variety of corn that is resistant to a pest known asthe corn borer. But environmental groups ignore these benefits and focusexclusively on various improbable impacts.
Monsanto has been attacked for engineering a soybean that resists one of its
own herbicides (Roundup), an innovation that results in lower herbicide use andhigher productivity. But in November 1996 five Greenpeace protesters werearrested in Louisiana for disrupting a Cargill grain-loading terminal whereMonsanto soybeans were being transported by ship. Using inflatable rafts, theGreenpeace activists posted yellow signs on two ships that read ‘X-GeneticExperiment.' Other Greenpeace protesters, wearing white hats and blue overallslabelled ‘Genetic Experiment,' chained themselves to gates and grain barges at theArcher Daniels Midland grain terminal in Louisiana, protesting exports ofgenetically modified soybeans.185 Greenpeace also blockaded ports in Antwerp and
Ghent, Belgium that were receiving soybean imports from Cargill 186 as well astargeting food companies, including Unilever, Danone and Nestlé, in nineEuropean countries to prevent the sale of foods enhanced by biotechnology.
The business community recognises the seriousness of the activist anti-biotech
campaign, fearing it will mislead the public. 'The commercial interests in thebusiness, particularly in Germany, are nervous about the effects Greenpeace andtheir small band of activists can have on the oilseed markets,' reports Jim Hersheyof the American Soybean Association.187
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which was negotiated at the
182 Philip Pullella, 'Food Summit Opens with Appeal for Zaire,' Washington Times
, (Reuters), November 14, 1996.
183 Quoted in Henry I. Miller, 'Techno-bashers Distortions Are Hurting Earth Day,' Houston Chronicle
, April 22, 1997.
184 Control Risks Group Ltd., No Hiding Place: Business and the Politics of Pressure
, July 1997, pp.23 -26.
185 Reuters North American Wire
, 'Greenpeace Activists Arrested for Blocking Grain Terminal,' November 14, 1996.
186 Reuters European Community Report
, ‘US Greenpeace Activists Arrested in Biotech Soy Protest,' November 21, 1996.
187 Reuters Financial Report
, 'ASA, Monsanto Take Greenpeace Protests Seriously,' September 20, 1996.
1992 Rio summit, is one device that the environmental movement intends to use toexploit fears of biotechnology. The CBD contains a Biosafety Protocol thatproposes the development of international biotechnology regulations under which,'No one anywhere would be allowed to grow and test a biotechnology derived cropor garden plant – even on a plot as small as one-tenth of an acre – without priorapproval from the UN bio-police'.188
The biotech scares are false. Advances in biotechnology promise a new ‘Green
Revolution' in agricultural production, delivering even more benefits in high-yielding crop varieties, pest-resistant hybrids and other genetic innovations. In theThird World, six million square miles of cropland today feed twice as many peopleas was possible in 1960. Because of agricultural productivity there are no signs ofimminent world famine, despite environmentalist predictions. Where famine doesoccur, the cause is not a failure in productivity, but one of political will andjudgement.189
Unfortunately, international environmental organisations hostility to new
technology has had consequences for developing nations. ‘Extremistenvironmentalists' opposed to chemical fertilisers, pesticides and GM crops nowthreaten Africa's ability to grow more food. That is the recent warning of Dr.
Norman Borlaug, winner of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for the pioneeringscientific work that made possible the ‘Green Revolution' in Third Worldagriculture. Borlaug warns that opponents of biotechnology actually increase thelikelihood of environmental degradation. By preventing the use of fertilisers,pesticides and GM crops to increase crop yield, they will force farmers to convert
forest and mountain lands to cropland of marginal productivity. 190
Borlaug speaks from experience: when he tried to bring the latest agricultural
technologies to Africa in the 1980s, the environmental movement pressed theWorld Bank and the Ford Foundation to refuse funding for high-yield farmingmethods, claiming that these techniques would destroy the environment andarguing that more food would merely stimulate population growth, which they seeas evil in itself.191
Despite the influence of the Malthusian environmental lobby, most Third
World countries appear to be rejecting their gloom and doom message. Comparedwith earlier UN conferences, the NGOs participating in the Rome World FoodSummit lost ground. The official delegates focused their attention on a wider rangeof issues than grim warnings about sustainability. Perhaps that's because ThirdWorld governments know that their economic futures depend on freer trade andmodern agriculture, not cultural isolation and ecologically restricted farming. Theimportant role of religion in the developing world also suggests that governmentswill hesitate to impose population and farming restrictions on their people.
188 Henry I. Miller, 'Harming the Environment,' Journal of Commerce
, July 31, 1997.
189 Juday, 'The UN's Food Fight.'190 Gene Kramer, Associated Press
, 'Nobel Laureate Favours Fertiliser,' August 4, 1997.
191 Gregg Easterbrook, 'Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity: Agronomist Norman Borlaug,' Atlantic Monthly
, January 1997.
6. Seeing green at the World Bank
The World Bank is an international lending institution that finances economicdevelopment projects in the Third World. Founded in 1944, it disbursed $20 billionto 241 projects in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa in 1997. The USgovernment provides roughly one-fifth of the World Bank's funding. OtherWestern governments and Japan contribute the rest. Environmental advocacygroups are well aware that these funds give the World Bank an enormous influenceover the economies of borrower nations. They rightly conclude that it is often moreeffective for them to lobby the World Bank than to lobby foreign governments.
At one time environmental pressure groups organised picket lines outside the
World Bank's Washington, DC headquarters. They were eager to denounce Banklending projects because they considered them environmentally dangerous, but overthe past decade environmental lobbyists have adopted a new role. They havebecome counsellors to the World Bank and conduits for its lending. NGOs remaincritical of many World Bank loans, but as they become distributors andbeneficiaries of Bank grant-making, they have grown more prudent in theircriticisms and more understanding of the Bank's problems.
In the past decade NGO-World Bank collaboration has increased and become
institutionalised. In 1997, NGOs participated in nearly 50 per cent of all Bankprojects.192 Often these were so-called ‘development NGOs' that provide directservices with World Bank funds – private voluntary organisations such as RedCross societies and refugee relief organisations such as Oxfam and Save theChildren Fund. They were involved in 81 per cent of the Bank's agricultureprojects, 60 per cent of its health and population programmes and 69 per cent ofother social sector projects.
Environmental advocacy groups are also major participants in Bank projects.
Indeed, environmental pressure groups have won an extraordinary influence overBank lending policies in a short time. Environmental NGOs were active in thetwelve Bank environmental sector projects undertaken in 1997. Although only fiveper cent of its projects are in the environmental sector, the Bank's record of lendingis impressive. By 1997, the World Bank had extended $11.6 billion in cumulativeloans for environmental projects, up from $1.9 billion in 1990.193 It is possiblethat the transformation of NGOs from fierce Bank critics into sympatheticcollaborators may be related to their appreciation of the Bank's capacity forgenerous spending.194
The World Bank's History of Failed Reform
In the early 1980s environmental groups were valuable critics of World Bankoperations. Even as Third World governments eagerly lined up for Bank funding,
192 World Bank Annual Report 1997
, p. 16.
193 World Bank Annual Report 1997,
194 In 1997, the World Bank spent $832.6 million on its staff, $119.5 million on consultants and $126 million on travel.
(World Bank Annual Report 1997
, Washington DC: World Bank, 1997, p. 159.)
NGOs argued that its loans were too often spent on large and poorly-conceivedprojects. Often these were massive construction projects that forced the resettlementof tens of thousands of people, destroyed local communities and violated humanrights. The NGOs pointed out that Bank financing for economic development wasactually perpetuating poverty and environmental despoliation.
NGOs often cite Brazil's Polonoroeste project in regional development and
agricultural colonisation as a demonstration of how World Bank financingproduces ruin. This colossal example of central planning envisioned bringing a vastarea of the Amazon rainforest into agricultural cultivation. It also proposed anextensive road building programme to connect the project to populated areas of thenation.195 NGOs charged that $443 million in World Bank loans producedcatastrophic effects by introducing slash-and-burn agricultural practices, the loanssubsidising the rapid deforestation of the Amazon basin. The project even helpedspread malaria from the Amazon region to more populous parts of Brazil.
The director of Canada's Probe International, an environmental group,
documented the Bank's role in a 1991 book, Odious Debts. Patricia Adamscondemned the impact of Polonoroeste: 'Indian lands are systematically seized,generally without compensation and Indian economies destroyed,' she wrote. 'Thelivelihoods of non-Indian dwellers – mainly rubber tappers who for generations hadcollected rubber, Brazil nuts and rainforest products – are also threatened'.196
Bruce Rich, a programme officer at the Environmental Defence Fund (EDF),
agreed. His book Mortgaging the Earth describes Polonoroeste as 'an unprecedentedecological and human calamity'.197 Rich also described other unfortunate Bankloans. One $770 million development loan to Indonesia was intended to createenough economic opportunities to prompt two and one-half million impoverishedpeople to migrate to more remote parts of the nation. But the project failed,producing more deforestation than jobs and generating only more human misery.
Confronting reports of abuses such as these, groups such as EDF, the Natural
Resources Defence Council, the Environmental Policy Institute, National WildlifeFederation and the Sierra Club petitioned Congress for relief. In 1983,environmental groups and Indian tribes testified before a congressional committeeagainst the Bank, which answered with a forty-eight page memo attempting torefute their charges. The Bank assured Congress that it would not repeat itsmistakes and warned that the environmentalist testimony 'may create themisleading impression that past trends continue'.198
The World Bank worked hard to neutralise environmental critics. Bank
president A.W. Clausen, a former head of Bank of America, met with
195 Patricia Adams, Odious Debts: Loose Lending, Corruption and the Third World's Environmental Legacy
, (London:Earthscan 1991) pp. 28-31.
196 Adams, p. 30.
197 Bruce Rich, Mortgaging the Earth: The World Bank, Environmental Impoverishment and the Crisis of Development
,(Boston: Beacon Press, 1994) p. 27.
198 World Bank, 'Response to Statements of Environmental Organisations, Sent by the US Executive Director'
(Washington, DC, World Bank, unpublished, January 11, 1984), p.1, cited in Rich, Mortgaging the Earth
, p. 337 at note 26.
environmental leaders and asked them not to lobby against Bank funding. He saidthe Bank was amending its operations manual and would no longer finance projectsthat degraded the environment or forced human resettlement. The Greensacquiesced and merely lobbied Congress to require the Bank to increase itsenvironmental staff, share information with NGOs and support smaller, lessdestructive projects.
Environmentalist fortunes further improved in 1986 when New York's Barber
Conable, a senior Republican member of the House of Representatives, succeededClausen. With the world press reporting on the failure of many loan projects,Conable's mission was to restore the Bank's credibility and convince his formercolleagues that the institution deserved continued taxpayer support. Shortly aftertaking office, Conable launched an aggressive Bank reorganisation and begansoliciting the views of environmental NGOs. Groups such as the World ResourcesInstitute submitted lists of complaints and an agenda of reforms.
The Conable reforms did not markedly improve Bank performance. A 1992
internal review determined that 37 per cent of the Bank's 1991 projects wereunsatisfactory. According to the Bank's own criteria, they were failing to producebenefits. The review, conducted by then-Bank vice president Willi Wapenhans,attributed deterioration of the loan portfolio to the Bank's deep-rooted financialproblems, including a 'systematic and growing bias towards excessive optimisticrate of return expectations at appraisal'. Wapenhans described borrower nations'failure to comply with financial loan covenants as 'gross and overwhelming'.199 TheConable reforms had no real impact.
Environmentalist frustrations and criticisms mounted. By 1992 the left-wing
Friends of the Earth and the NGO Development Group for Alternative Policies(Development GAP) had organised ‘Fifty Years is Enough.' This referred to theupcoming fiftieth anniversary of Bretton Woods, the conference that created theWorld Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the General Agreementon Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the modern institutions of the world economic order.
Convinced that the Bank was too eager to lend money for ‘development' at theexpense of the environment, a campaign spokesman flatly declared, 'The Bank hasdone more damage than good'.200
Anti-Bank NGOs then announced their opposition to continued US funding
for the International Development Association (IDA). This was the World Bank'ssizeable ‘soft loan window,' which provides low-interest subsidised loans for poorcountries. The Environmental Defence Fund, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace andthe Sierra Club announced that the ‘tenth replenishment' of IDA – the tenthsuccessive appropriation of US tax dollars for the Association – would furtherdegrade the world's environment without alleviating world poverty. Said Lori
199 Portfolio Management Task Force, 'Effective Implementation: Key to Development Impact,' Report No. 92-195, WorldBank, Washington, DC, November 3, 1992.
199 Clay Chandler, 'The Growing Urge to break the Bank,' Washington Post
, June 19, 1994.
200 Clay Chandler, 'The Growing Urge to break the Bank,' Washington Post
, June 19, 1994.
Udall, an attorney with the Environmental Defence Fund, 'At this point in time wedon't believe the World Bank can be trusted to use taxpayers' money in aresponsible manner which helps the poor and the environment in developingcountries. Along with our counterparts in borrower and donor countries, we arelaunching a worldwide campaign to reduce funding to the World Bank'.201
The NGO mobilisation against ‘IDA-10' was made more urgent by the drama
of the Narmada Dam, a World Bank-financed project in India. Environmental anddevelopment organisations and human rights activists joined forces against themassive water project. They claimed the dam, also known as the Sardar Sarovarproject, would cause the involuntary resettlement of 200,000 people. They alsopublicised human rights abuses alleged by local villagers protesting the project andWorld Bank involvement. By 1993, anti-Narmada forces had generated so muchunfavourable publicity that the government of India cancelled the project. Jubilantenvironmentalists saw Narmada as a model for future campaigns and lookedforward to a chain reaction of World Bank loan cancellations. 'Clearly the WorldBank is not an institution that can be trusted to use American taxpayers' moneywisely in developing countries,' said EDF.202
More than fifty organisations, including Oxfam and Greenpeace, joined ‘Fifty
Years is Enough.' In 1994, the campaign staged a sit-in at an official pressconference in Madrid, Spain for the Bretton Woods fiftieth anniversary celebration.
Other protest activities followed. The campaign, said one commentator, caused theBank and the IMF to suffer 'the worst loss of reputation in their history'.203
This steady drumbeat of NGO pressure yielded further World Bank reform
efforts. But US-based NGOs contended that the World Bank was incapable ofreforming itself. Despite years of lobbying and the promise of reforms initiated byConable and his successor, Lewis Preston, environmental groups concluded that theBank's decision-making was driven by an internal bureaucratic imperative to loanbillions of dollars.
For more than a decade, citizens' groups in the United States, incollaboration with partner organisations in the Third World and EasternEurope, have lobbied the IMF and the World Bank, as well as the USgovernment, for reforms in their operations and policies. Despite these effortsand the growing chorus of criticism from the US Congress, governments andUN agencies, the IMF and World Bank continue to resist fundamental andmeaningful change.
Lori Udall in 1994 congressional testimony204
201 Environmental Defence Fund, 'EDF Calls For US Funding to World Bank to be Cut Dramatically,' EDF News Release
,October 26, 1992.
202 Environmental Defence Fund, 'World Bank To Cancel Loan To Narmada Dam In India: EDF Calls World BankEnvironmental And Social Record Dismal,' EDF News Release
, March 30, 1993.
203 Cleary, p. 89.
204 Testimony of Lori Udall, Director, International Rivers Network on behalf of the Fifty Years is Enough Campaign,
Writer John Thibodeau of Canada's Probe International pronounced the Bank
reforms 'resounding failures'. His study, ‘The World Bank's Persisting Failure toReform', excoriated management failings over a ten-year period. It claimed theBank was intent on burying its critics in paper, 'adding new policies and practices,producing new handbooks and guidelines for staff and undertaking review afterreview, all intended to address the ill-effects of its lending'.205 The Probe reportwondered whether the Bank could be reformed at all. Probe urged donorgovernments to 'halt future appropriations of their constituents' scarce tax dollarsto this flawed institution'.
In 1995 a new president took charge of the World Bank. James Wolfensohn was aprominent Wall Street investment banker and a protégé of Maurice Strong, theUN's top advisor on reform. A champion of wildlife and habitat, Wolfensohnquickly became an outspoken critic of Bank projects that he considered dangerousto the natural environment. Early in his tenure, he cancelled the Arun dam, a major$175 million construction project in Nepal.
Wolfensohn's sheer activism also helped ease NGO pressures on the Bank.
He met frequently with local NGOs on his travels to World Bank borrower nationsin Eastern Europe and the Third World. At the World Bank's 1995 annualmeeting, Wolfensohn held a joint press conference with three development NGOs –Forum of African Voluntary Development Organisations, Oxfam International andInterAction – where he urged the US to increase its Bank funding.206
In 1997 the Bank began making the first in a series of loans to implement
the anticipated Kyoto global warming treaty. Intended to promote developmentwhile protecting the environment, the loans are meant to be a model for futureWorld Bank lending. 'My reading is that the Bank is clearly moving in the rightdirection,' says Robert Watson, director of the World Bank's environmentdepartment.207 Watson is himself a token of environmental concern; he is anatmospheric scientist who has worked for years in the federal governmentpromoting the ozone hole and global warming scares.
Yet James Wolfensohn's promises and actions only repeat the tactics of
A.W. Clausen, Barber Conable and Lewis Preston. An April 1997 internal Bankreview of 150 projects concluded that his reforms were not going well. The Bank'sinternal culture of rapid loan approval had not been slowed, nor was there anyspeed-up in the cancellation of non-performing loans.208
The Bank cannot trim its staff while initiating the far-reaching social and
environmental reviews demanded by the NGOs. Caught between political
Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, May 17,1994.
206 FY96 Progress Report
, p. 22.
207 Jeremy Peolfsky, 'It's a Small Lender, After All: World Bank Shifts Focus to Leaner, More Ecologically Sound Projects,'Bloomberg News, The Gazette
(Montreal), September 11, 1997, Pg. D5.
208 Bruce Stokes, 'Wolfensohn's World,' National Journal,
Vol. 29, No. 38, September 20, 1997 p. 1846.
crosscurrents, the quality of Bank projects continues to languish. 'It's fair to saythat the bank has launched some new environmental initiatives,' comments AndreaDurbin, director of international programmes at Friends of the Earth. However, 'theimplementation has been slow and sometimes doesn't happen, (and) the over-allportfolio hasn't shifted significantly'.209
In 1997, a Centre for Strategic and International Studies task force
concluded that the Bank had failed to reform its lending processes, overhaul itsbureaucratic structure and achieve transparency and accountability to outsidereview. The report described the Bank as 'adept at keeping outsiders fromdifferentiating between public relations pronouncements and real changes in bankactivities'.260
The Money Tree
Will the NGOs now follow through on their severe criticisms? Will they forcereform by lobbying to de-fund multilateral lenders? A few groups such as Canada'sProbe International will go that far, but most will not. Development NGOs inEurope and the Third World are particularly reluctant to sanction cuts in USfunding. Their food aid and disaster relief programmes depend on US governmentsubsidies. But many environmental lobby groups also have a diminishing interest infighting the World Bank. In 1996, World Bank direct grants to NGOs totalled$36.8 million. The Bank's annual report, however, shows that it made $105.3million in direct contributions to the Special Grants Programme.210 These grantshave given the environmental lobby and other NGOs an enormous incentive tokeep quiet whenever it is time for Congress to approve the World Bank budget.
The World Bank provides no public accounting of how much of its
lending actually benefits NGOs. Some grant money goes directly to NGOs forstudies and consultations. Typically, however, a foreign government will requestBank funding for a project. But the grant is usually administered by one or moreNGOs acting on the government's behalf.211 In theory, the NGOs are paidconsultants or contractors to the government receiving the loan. In practice, theyoften run the show.
In Latin America and Africa, the Bank has apportioned over $1 billioncumulatively to some 30 ‘social funds' that it has established to pay for particularprojects involving NGOs. For instance, the World Bank gave $2.3 million to thePlanned Parenthood Association of Ghana to pay for programmes to preventchildbearing and population growth.212 The Bolivian Emergency Social Fund paid
209 Peolfsky, Ibid.
260 Abid Aslam 'Finance: Development Banks Seen lagging on Reform, Inter Press Service, September 19, 1997.
210 World Bank Annual Report 1997
, p. 159.
211 World Bank, Operations Policy Department, Working with NGOs; A Practical Guide to Operational CollaborationBetween The World Bank and Non-governmental Organisations
, March 1995, p. 47.
212 Working with NGOs
, p. 48.
NGOs for what it termed ‘long term development activities.'213 Clearly, NGOs facegreat temptation to engage in self-dealing. When NGO representatives sit on WorldBank social fund boards that decide how monies are distributed; when they serveon social fund committees that design, select and evaluate projects; and when theyhelp borrower governments administer social funds, there will be manyopportunities to enhance the NGO role.214
Special Grants Programme
This World Bank programme typically gives NGOs between $200,000 to $2million per grant. The unclear purpose of this programme is to help NGOsparticipate in the ‘development process.' Funds from the programme have beenused to cover travel expenses for NGO representatives to attend such UN meetingsas the Population Conference in Cairo, the World Summit on Social Developmentin Copenhagen and the Women's Conference in Beijing.265 By subsidising NGOtravel, the World Bank gives UN conferences the appearance of broad publicsupport. In fact, the NGOs receiving travel benefits are selected because theyendorse UN objectives. In 1996, NGOs received a total of $5.34 million throughthis programme.
In 1996, NGOs also received $800,000 through the Safe Motherhood Special
Grants Programme for ‘maternal health advocacy research and interventions,'266and $850,000 through the Population NGOs Special Grants Programme to promote‘demand creation' for abortion, contraception and sterilisation.267 Grantsprogrammes also supported NGO conferences, seminars and networking activities(e.g., a women's leadership seminar in India, a small business workshop in thePhilippines, a conference on environmental problems in the Black Sea).215Another $10 million was budgeted in 1997 for the Project in Support of NGOs inWest Bank/Gaza.216
Small Grants Programme
In 1996, the Bank gave out $600,000 in small grants of between $10,000 and$15,000 to 'promote dialogue and dissemination of information about internationaldevelopment'. In 1997, $700,000 went to 60 organisations. Programme grantssupport 'conferences, seminars, publications, networking activities and otherinformation-related activities'.217 The programme gave $15,000 to a Honduran
213 World Bank, Participation and NGO Group, Poverty and Social Policy Department, The World Bank's Partnership withNon-governmental Organisations
, (Washington DC: World Bank, May 1996) The World Bank's Partnership with Non-governmental Organisations,
214 World Bank, NGO Group, Social Development Department, 'Cooperation Between the World Bank and NGOs,' FY96Progress Report
, August 1997, p. 14.
265 The World Bank's Partnership with Non-governmental Organisations, p. 10.
266 Working with NGOs
, p. 49.
267 FY96 Progress Report,
215 The World Bank's Partnership with Non-governmental Organisations
216 FY96 Progress Report,
217 FY96 Progress Report,
NGO for a conference to discuss the initial results of a Green Manure TechnologyKit. It provided $9,000 to Conservation Asia, an NGO in Nepal, to facilitate'networking on environmental issues'. The Lorma Community DevelopmentFoundation received $13,000 for NGO caucuses to lobby the Philippinegovernment.218 Another $15,000 went to a Brazilian NGO to participate in theJune 1997 Rio+5 conference on the results of the 1992 Earth Summit. Theprogramme is a slush fund for NGO planning.219
Global Environment Facility
Many World Bank subsidies to NGOs are delivered through programmes such asthe Global Environment Facility. The GEF is a lending agency to support the goalsof the Climate Change and Biodiversity conventions, among others. The WorldBank and the United Nations jointly run it. By 1994, NGOs had received acumulative total of $10 million from the GEF to promote the UN's global warmingagenda as well as to implement land use controls in the Third World.220 The USgovernment funds GEF activities even though the US Senate has not ratified theBiodiversity convention.
What Do NGOs Want?
When environmental NGOs opposed World Bank lending, they helped stymie thefinancial and environmental mismanagement of borrower governments, theproximate cause of decades of Third World stagnation. NGO lobbying also reducedthe foreign aid burden of American taxpayers.
But environmental NGOs now refuse to take the final step. They oppose
attempts in Congress to reduce or end US funding of the World Bank. EDF's BruceRich, who literally ‘wrote the book' on the World Bank's environmentaldevastation, has gone strangely soft. 'Cuts in funding will be the greatest spur toreform,' he wrote in 1994. 'It is the only external pressure that World Bankmanagement appears to take really seriously'.271 Yet one year later, Rich's tone wasradically different: 'There is clearly a role for such an institution, but the Bank mustfocus on quality rather than quantity in its lending'. Rich deemed the Bank'sreform efforts credible and criticised as 'irresponsible' proposals to zero out federalappropriations.272 Says Doug Hellinger, executive director of Development Gap,'Wolfensohn is still our last, best hope to bring about change'. The group thatorganised the ‘Fifty Years is Enough' campaign now acts as a Bank consultant273
What's going on here? It is clear that environmental NGOs understand
that only one aspect of the World Bank's power is the billions of dollars it lends.
218 'The Small Grants Program,' World Bank, 1997.
219 'Small Grants Program,' Final Statement of Grant Requests Approved – FY 1997, June 30, 1997.
220 Working with NGOs
, p. 50.
271 Rich, Mortgaging the Earth
, p. 315.
272 'World Bank Too Important To Be Left on Auto-Pilot, Says EDF; EDF Calls on Congress and Treasury Department ToStrengthen Oversight on World Bank,' EDF News Release
, March 27, 1995.
273 Bruce Stokes, 'Wolfensohn's World,' National Journal,
Vol. 29, No. 38, September 20, 1997 p. 1846.
The Bank is also an enforcer of international economic policy advice. By attachingconditions to its loans, it imposes its recommendations on borrower countries.
Despite badly flawed structural adjustment policies that worsen poverty, NGOs donot want to give up the Bank's power to control the trade, industrial and fiscalpolicies of borrower countries274Seduced by World Bank grants, they seemdetermined to imagine the Bank as the instrument of their own purposes. Sadly, asthey become influential insiders, the environmental NGOs lose interest inreforming a failed institution.
274 Doug Bandow and Ian Vasquez, Perpetuating Poverty,
(Washington: Cato Institute, 1995).
7. Prospects for the Future
Slowly but surely, the international environmental establishment is expanding. Aglobal ‘sustainable development' agenda is being implemented gradually atinternational conferences, treaty negotiations and follow-up meetings. Internationallaw is increasingly being shaped by what Green activists sometimes refer to as ‘theprocess,' in which government officials and non-governmental organisationscollaborate to produce mutually beneficial outcomes. International conferencesproduce timetables for the strengthening of government bureaucracies at the globallevel. The Clinton-Gore administration, the European Union, environmental grant-making foundations and the UN bureaucracy have each played vital roles in theprocess of forging international environmental law.
At the UN, millionaire Canadian diplomat and power broker Maurice Strong
is once again important in environmental policymaking. For almost three decades,Strong has been a central figure in the international environmental movement. Helaunched the 1972 Stockholm conference and directed the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
Most recently, in January 1997, he was appointed special adviser to UN SecretaryGeneral Kofi Annan, charged with coordinating the world body's reform andrestructuring efforts. He has also assumed a position on the board of Turner's UNFoundation.
Mounting NGO Frustration
All the pieces are seemingly in place for ‘global governance' based on theenvironmentalist principles set forth at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Yet the legacyof the Earth Summit to date is a far cry from what its architects originally dreamed.
The hoped-for burst of Western financial aid for sustainable developmentsafeguards in poor countries did not materialise. Support for the UN is dwindling,both in financial and political terms.
In 1996, two irate NGOs issued harsh reports scolding the world's
governments for not acting quickly enough. The Worldwatch Institute and theCosta Rica-based Earth Council, chaired by Maurice Strong, excoriated the US andother developed countries for failing to carry out Agenda 21
. They took the US totask for failing to ratify the biodiversity treaty and for not providing enough foreignaid. The Earth Council lamented, 'It seems that nothing has changed for the bettersince 1992'.221
NGOs are seemingly annoyed at political leaders for breaching their
commitments, but governments can only go so far without popular support. Theunpleasant reality for many Green activists is that the global sustainabledevelopment plan is just not popular with the masses. Maurice Strong admitted asmuch when complained: 'Far too few countries, companies, institutions,communities and citizens have made the choices and changes needed to advance
221 Maricel Sequeira, 'NGOs to Evaluate Earth Summit,' Inter Press Service
, January 16, 1997.
the goals of sustainable development'.222
In March 1997, five hundred delegates and NGO representatives gathered in
Rio to set the tone for a special June 1997 ‘Rio + 5' conference at the UN and toreview the progress made on implementing the Agenda 21
agreement.223 Strongexplained that the second Earth Summit was 'designed to regenerate some of themomentum, which, to some degree has faltered'.224 To do so, Rio + 5 organisersfocused not only on government commitments, but on people's 'value systems'. Aneffective environmental agenda 'is unlikely to be the result of a single top-downplan,' commented Worldwatch Institute's Christopher Flavin.225
Despite the rhetoric, the urge for top-down planning remains. An elitist force,
the international environmental establishment will not wait for a dramatic shift inpublic attitudes to take place. Most proponents of global environmentalism feel thattheir cause is too important to wait for public opinion. Without ever obtaining theconsent of the people, the global Greens already have what they really want –power. Green activists, writes Philip Shabecoff, 'have forced their way into thepreviously closed rooms of international diplomacy'. The persistent pressure groupsare 'placing their position papers on the table and speaking out, not just in thecorridors but in the once sacrosanct plenary halls and in the small, out-of the-waychambers where deals a1re hammered out in secret meetings'.226
What should we anticipate
The Green ‘sustainable development' agenda is firmly entrenched in internationalcircles. UN officials, diplomats and NGO lobbyists will do their best to make sure itcontinues its relentless march forward. But, as the Rio + 5 meetings demonstrated,the global environment lobby's job is not nearly complete. Several follow-upactions can be expected from government agencies, the UN and environmentalpressure groups.
The centre stage international environmental issue is global warming. The
Kyoto Protocol agreed to in December 1997 seeks to bring the fluctuating globalclimate under control, using energy restrictions to cool the entire planet by severaldegrees. Secretary of State Albright announced 'a diplomatic full-court press toencourage meaningful developing country participation in the effort to combatglobal climate change'.227 Such an effort is necessary because developing countries
222 'Little Progress Since Rio, Says Earth Council,' Europe Environment
, January 14, 1997; David Briscoe,'Worldwatch: World in Bad Shape,' Associated Press
, January 12, 1997.
223 Daniel J. Shephard, 'Ambitious Plans Mark Fifth Anniversary of Rio Parley,' Earth Times
, December 22,1996.
224 Colin Macilwain, 'Rio Review to Rejuvenate Green Initiatives,' Nature
Vol. 385, January 16, 1997, p.
225 Vicki Allen, 'Earth's Symptoms Worsen Since Rio Summit,' Reuters European Community Report
,January 12, 1997.
226 Philip Shabecoff, A New Name for Peace: International Environmentalism, Sustainable Development andDemocracy
, (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1996) p. 76.
227 Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Remarks on Earth Day 1998 at the National Museum of Natural History, April21, 1998.
have rejected economy-wrecking energy restrictions that would hamper their effortsto escape poverty. The US Senate will not ratify a global warming treaty thatimposes economic hardship only on industrialised countries.
The international environmental establishment sought to forge some kind of
compromise with the likes of India and China. At the 1998 Fourth Conference ofthe Parties in Buenos Aires, that compromise did not occur. Undeveloped nationsrefused even to consider shackling themselves to binding greenhouse gas emissionslimitations. On the very first day of the meeting, the Group of 77 developingcountries and China voted overwhelmingly to remove this item from the discussionagenda. No amount of cajoling could budge them from their steadfast positions,even promises of special consideration for foreign aid projects.
In other areas, the international environmental establishment will continue its
push to undermine the sovereignty of nation states. The following internationaltreaties have recently been concluded but remain to be ratified by certain signatorystates (including the US):
Ø The Biodiversity Convention
. Under the pretext of species protection,
this treaty authorises increased government control of private landuse. Plans already exist to extend its restrictions to biotechnologyinnovation, via a Biosafety Protocol.
Ø The Basle Convention
. By defining various metals as ‘hazardous,' this
treaty controls trade in waste, scrap and recyclable materials.
Greenpeace is using the treaty to organise a total embargo on tradewith developing countries, excluding them from global scrap metalmarkets.
Ø The Convention to Combat Desertification.
This treaty aims to
prevent land degradation by giving $30 billion of foreign aid toAfrican governments for 'anti-desertification' purposes. In the past,such aid has perpetuated land mismanagement by promoting centrallyplanned irrigation projects, subsidised farming and water usage andinept agro-forestry policies.228
Ø The POPs Treaty.
As a result of pressure by environmental groups,
governments of more than 150 countries are negotiating a bindingglobal treaty to ban ‘persistent organic pollutants,' defined aspesticides, industrial chemicals and their by-products. Certainpesticides crucial to the eradication of disease-carrying mosquitoes inthe Third World, such as DDT, could be banned under the treaty.
Last but not least, the international environmental establishment has an
228 See Julian Morris, The Political Economy of Land Degradation: Pressure Groups, Foreign Aid and the Myth of Man-Made Deserts
, (London: Institute of Economic Affairs, 1995).
almost insatiable appetite for tax money. To finance burgeoning globalbureaucracies, implement expanding treaty commitments and entice Third Worldregimes, the global Greens need significant amounts of cash. Government officialsin developed countries, UN officials and their pressure group allies will lobby forincreased appropriations to agencies such as the World Bank, the GlobalEnvironment Facility and national bilateral development agencies. They will alsocontinue to advocate strengthening the United Nations system across the board byincreasing funding of the world body.
Their success is not inevitable, however. Environmental pressure groups
have bet heavily on mastering the bureaucratic processes and timetables ofinternational conferences and agencies. Global greens have put their faith in the‘process.' They have achieved success even when their ideas have been discredited.
What is needed now is the vigilance to detect their manoeuvrings and the skill toovercome them.
Krank durch Nebenwirkungen Magengeschwüre, Demenz, Erektionsprobleme und vieles mehr – Medikamente kön-nen neben ihrer Heilwirkung schwerwiegende Nebenwirkungen haben. Nach Exper-tenschätzung sterben jährlich sogar viermal mehr Deutsche an unerwünschten Arznei-mittelwirkungen als im Straßenverkehr. Wo liegt die Grenze zwischen gesundheitli-chem Nutzen und Gesundheitsgefahr? Die Deutschen schlucken so viele Arzneien
Allergology International. 2007;56:37-43DOI: 10.2332! Awarded Article, Annual Meeting of JSA The Relationship between ExhaledNitric Oxide Measured with an Off-lineMethod and Airway ReversibleObstruction in Japanese Adults withAsthmaTakahiro Tsuburai1, Naomi Tsurikisawa1, Masami Taniguchi1, Sonoko Morita1, Emiko Ono1,Chiyako Oshikata1, Mamoru Ohtomo1, Yuji Maeda1, Kunihiko Ikehara2 and Kazuo Akiyama1