Cablegate: Ministerial Meeting On International Environmental
DE RUEHBR #1935/01 2831105
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101105Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0150
INFO RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 0932
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 5214
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 7204
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0220
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 0137
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0339
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 0064
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 5036
RUEHSJ/AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE 0659
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0324
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0275
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0334
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 0607
RUEHAB/AMEMBASSY ABIDJAN 0017
RUEHLI/AMEMBASSY LISBON 0427
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0940
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0323
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1223
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0329
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 3809
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 0183
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 0076
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 BRASILIA 001935
DEPT FOR G, OES/ETC, OES/ENV, L/OES, IO, IO/EDA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV KGHG UN KSCA BR
SUBJECT: MINISTERIAL MEETING ON INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL
GOVERNANCE, RIO DE JANEIRO, SEPTEMBER 3-4, 2007
1. (U) THIS CABLE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED AND NOT FOR
2. (SBU) SUMMARY. Brazil hosted the "Ministerial Meeting on
Environment and Sustainable Development: Challenges for
International Governance," in Rio de Janeiro, September 3 and 4,
2007. Participants from the United States, Europe, and key
developed and developing countries spoke of the need to try to
strengthen international environmental governance. The U.S.
delegation underscored its willingness to constructively participate
in the discussion and emphasized that it did not see a need for a
new international organization. The Europeans advocated for
converting the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) into the UN
Environmental Organization with normative powers; Brazil switched
from its previous opposition to creating a new organization, and
identified as an option the possibility of establishing an
"umbrella" organization on sustainable development. Most developing
countries called for more financial resources, technology transfers
and capacity building, and did not commit to any specific proposal
for restructuring international environmental governance. Several
developing countries did, however, oppose creation of a new
organization on the grounds that it would drain resources from
capacity building. Others opposed it because they believed the
Europeans would use it to impose environmental trade barriers. The
Co-chairs' summary (text below) incorporated key points of the
debate, and it will be fed into the ongoing UN discussion. END
PARTICIPANTS AND PURPOSE
3. (U) The Government of Brazil's (GOB) Foreign Minister (Celso
Amorim) and Environment Minister (Marina Silva) sponsored the
"Ministerial Meeting on Environment and Sustainable Development:
Challenges for International Governance," in Rio de Janeiro,
September 3 and 4, 2007. The GOB billed the meeting as an
opportunity for senior officials to discuss informally issues
related to international environmental governance in the context of
sustainable development. Ministers or senior representatives of the
following countries participated in the meeting: Antigua and
Barbuda, Argentina, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, France, Germany,
India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, Portugal,
Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Senegal, South Africa, United
States and Venezuela. Other participants included representatives
of the European Commission, the Executive-Director of the United
Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner, and a senior
representative of the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and
Social Affairs of the United Nations, as well as the Permanent
Representative of Switzerland (Claude Heller) to the United Nations
(UN), as one of the co-chairs of the informal consultative process
on the institutional framework for the UN' environmental
4. (U) State Department's Assistant Secretary for Oceans,
International Environmental, and Scientific (OES) Affairs Claudia
McMurray headed the U.S. delegation. The rest of the U.S.
delegation consisted of International Organizations Bureau Deputy
Assistant Secretary Gerry Anderson, OES/ENV Division Chief John
Matuszak, L/OES Attorney Mark Simonoff, and Embassy Brasilia's EST
Counselor Richard Driscoll.
HIGHLIGHTS OF DISCUSSION
5. (SBU) The GOB Co-Chairs commenced the meeting with an effort to
BRASILIA 00001935 002 OF 006
steer the ensuring discourse toward their view of a need to create
an "umbrella" organization to oversee international environmental
governance. They declared that the international system from
multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), to the UN
Environmental Programme (UNEP), to the Commission on Sustainable
Development (CSD) needed to be strengthened and that more funds,
with steady and predictable flows, were called for. Foreign
Minister Amorim emphasized the need to consider all three pillars of
sustainable development - environmental, social and economic - in
contrast with the French proposal for an international organization
or agency solely focused on the environment. Environment Minister
Silva lamented that the UN system was designed before the concept of
sustainable development had come to the fore. She stressed that the
world needed to find again the spirit of Rio 1992. Later, Foreign
Ministry Under Secretary Everton Vargas summarized the concept paper
the GOB had distributed prior to the meeting. He urged greater
coordination between UNEP, CSD, the MEAs secretariats, and the
Global Environmental Fund (GEF). Further, he called for greater
South-South and North-South-South collaboration. When asked why the
UN Development Program (UNDP) was not asked to the meeting, GOB's
Figueiredo Machado told us in a private conversation that UNDP was
not a problem that needed to be fixed or included in this effort.
6. (SBU) Claude Heller offered his perspective on the problems and
their possible solutions with current international environmental
governance (IEG). He reviewed the findings in the paper he and his
Mexican co-chair had prepared, including the lack of reliable
funding, the need to strengthen scientific assessment, and the
importance of "mainstreaming" environment. He called for the UN
General Assembly (UNGA) to adopt a resolution this year setting the
terms of reference for transforming IEG.
7. (SBU) UNEP Director Steiner described the current system as
"increasingly dysfunctional" with inadequate resources and mandate
to respond to environmental needs. He referred to GEF as an
"insignificant" funding mechanism and lamented how little UNEP
received compared to other UN agencies such as the Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO). In short, he concluded that the
situation was going "badly wrong." He saw a need for dramatic steps
for the UN system to improve IEG.
8. (SBU) Portugal, which had the European Union (EU) presidency,
and France spoke in favor of the French proposal to transform UNEP
into the "UN Environmental Organization" (or UNEO). Portugal said
that the MEAs couldn't lose their autonomy in this reform process.
Interestingly, South Africa objected saying that Europe was seeking
to create UNEO for an ulterior purpose, namely to undermine the
World Trade Organization (WTO). Germany wanted to give UNEP agency
status now; it also saw a need to create scientific assessment and
early warning capacity within UNEP. The Europeans wanted a
normative body. Italy thought the current discussion was polarized
and so called for a step-by-step process to strengthen IEG,
beginning with strengthening UNEP as suggested by Steiner.
9. (SBU) Various developing countries emphasized the need for more
resources, more technology transfers, and more capacity building,
including China, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Indonesia and
10. (SBU) China, India, Egypt, Indonesia, Argentina and Kenya did
not endorse the French UNEO proposal or the Brazilian "umbrella"
organization concept. However, they spoke in terms of strengthening
the system and making structural changes where needed. China wanted
BRASILIA 00001935 003 OF 006
to also bring in to the picture ECOSOC and UNDP because it
considered environment at heart to be an "economic development
issue". Pakistan (which is the chair of the G-77) underscored the
principle of common, but differentiated responsibilities, and it was
open to redefining UNEP. India emphasized that it did not want to
see the creation of a new normative organization. It too stressed
that environment should be viewed in light of economic and social
considerations. They all expressed their openness to discussing
concrete proposals on IEG. Russia and Venezuela expressly disagreed
with the idea of creating a UNEO. Costa Rica highlighted its
determination to act now, regardless of common but differentiated
responsibilities; it said it hoped to be carbon neutral by 2021.
Argentina noted that we have other options than UNEO. Japan
acknowledged its willingness to consider a new structure or new
organization, however, it called for a "bottom up" approach in
setting the terms of reference for the negotiations.
12. (SBU) South Africa stated that there was not enough political
support for the European proposal of a UNEO. What is needed now is
a process to strengthen UNEP and to deal with the "mistrust" that
surrounds this debate. South Africa proposed creating a small
working group to advance the international dialogue on IEG. The
United Kingdom and France concurred that a small group - under GOB
leadership - should develop a paper to feed into the ongoing UN
process. Antigua and Barbuda (as the next UNGA president) adamantly
opposed South Africa's proposal for a small working group. It did
not want to suspend or delay work on Heller's proposal in the UN and
strongly opposed any process that had limited participation.
Pakistan (as leader of the G-77) echoed Antigua and Barbuda's
opposition to a limited participation process.
13. (SBU) The United States highlighted where there was common
ground: (1) strengthening UNEP and (2) greater inclusion of
sustainable development within the international agenda.
Nonetheless, the USG opposed creating a new organization or agency.
A/S McMurray noted that there were many points in the co-chairs'
paper presented by Heller that we can agree on, and that the United
States is prepared to discuss points of common ground on the
building blocks contained in section 3 of the co-chairs' paper in
connection with the UN process in New York. However, it is premature
to launch into a negotiation of terms of reference for discussion of
any proposals for a new organization, as suggested in section 4 of
the co-chairs' paper. She also stated that the USG does support
the Bali Strategy for Technical Cooperation and commends the UN's
"Delivering as One" project. Further, the MEAs must not lose their
autonomy, which corresponds to what Portugal had stated. A/S
McMurray said that the "mistrust" mentioned by others could be
dispelled by looking at specific implications of ideas rather than
talking about general concepts. She explained that more information
on resource needs is called for before any decisions can be made.
GOB CO-CHAIRS' SUMMARY
14. (U) The GOB Co-Chairs prepared their summary of the debate,
which they plan to insert into the ongoing debate at the UN. The
summary was released on September 24, and it was not opened for
review or revision by the participants. In brief, the summary
concludes that there is a need for improving IEG and for more
resources. It includes the Brazilian concept of a new "umbrella"
organization along side the French proposal for a UNEO and also the
idea of strengthening UNEP. The summary does not speak of consensus
or that the participants agreed to the text. The summary did not
endorse or reject the idea of further work in small groups or in an
BRASILIA 00001935 004 OF 006
informal process, but stressed that any such work would complement -
and not substitute for - ongoing work in the UN. The full text of
the summary is provided below.
Ministerial Meeting on Environment and Sustainable Development:
Challenges for International Governance Palacio Itamaraty - Rio de
Janeiro, 3 & 4 of September, 2007
1. The Co-chairs identified three groups or areas of reflection.
The first summarizes the points of general convergence; the second
group is composed by themes that were deemed important, but that
require further reflection, because they have not reached the
necessary level of convergence. Finally, the third group could be
defined as possible paths for future action.
2. International environmental governance must be viewed in and
implemented taking into account the balance between the three
pillars of sustainable development. Environment is an essential
part of the development process.
3. The paradigm of sustainable development lacks effective
implementation. The considerable expansion of multilateral
environmental agreements has rendered the implementation deficit
4. The current situation regarding international environmental
governance must be improved. The status quo is not an option.
5. The United Nations must be the locus for dealing with the issue
of international governance. In this context, the improvement of
governance must progress gradually (step by step).
6. UNEP is the United Nations' central pillar for the environment.
The importance of its headquarters in Africa was stressed.
7. There is an urgent need for coordination and system-wide
coherence. However, the resources of the multilateral system appear
to be insufficient for this coordination and for effectively
implementing UNEP's mandate and multilateral environmental
8. The institutional structure of international environmental
governance will only be effective once a clear mandate, appropriate,
foreseeable and stable financial resources, and political authority
are achieved. The system is overburdened (excessive agreements and
commitments) - dispersion, fragmentation, competition for resources
and overlapping mandates.
9. The autonomy of the multilateral environmental agreements that
have already been negotiated must be maintained.
10. Transparency in the decision-making process is a necessary
condition for the improvement of the process. Civil society's
contribution was underscored.
11. To strengthen environmental governance there must be a
strengthening of national and regional acting capacities.
Furthermore, there is a need for strengthening the instruments and
mechanisms of capacity-building and technology transfer, such as the
BRASILIA 00001935 005 OF 006
Bali Strategic Plan.
12. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities
must be a constant reference in the process of international
environmental governance. Poverty alleviation must also continue to
be a central element of this debate.
13. There is an interest in developing a new paradigm for
cooperation (North-South-South) that can help making international
environmental action more effective and penetrating. However,
innovative mechanisms of cooperation -South-South and
North-South-South (triangular)- must be complementary and not
substitutes to North-South cooperation.
14. The GEF is an insufficient financing source; access to its
financing is slow and complex, and its decision-making structure is
deemed as excessively complex. The GEF must remain, however, a
central element of any future solution for international
15. There will not be any progress in this discussion without a
constant exercise of mutual confidence building.
B. Areas where there is no convergence and where, therefore,
further discussion is required:
16. The meeting identified the following options for the
16.1. UNEP's transformation into a new institution (organization or
agency), with the attributions of coordinating all actors of the
environmental fields, with an emphasis on resource mobilization, on
the strengthening of institutional capacities, on technology
transfer and on the dissemination of scientific knowledge.
16.2. Creation of an umbrella institution (organization or agency),
which would articulate environment and sustainable development, in
the normative, cooperation and financing dimensions, in
implementation aspects, such as technology transfer and the
dissemination of scientific knowledge, as well as in
capacity-building for complying with multilaterally agreed
objectives. The institution would integrate the existing
international structure (UNEP, GEF and the Secretariats of the
Conventions). In this context, the role of the CSD must be
16.3. Maintaining UNEP in its present format, while strengthening
the Program. There is a need for decentralizing its structure as
well as for increasing decision-making and implementing power of its
16.4. The possibility of improving the system through
strengthening/improving ECOSOC, through an enhanced coordination
between the Council and its thematic commissions and other agencies
was also mentioned.
17. Many statements were made in relation to the need for
innovative sources of financing, but the importance of counting with
new and additional resources, and with the leadership of the
developed countries was equally emphasized. The importance of
complying with the commitments of official development assistance
was also highlighted.
BRASILIA 00001935 006 OF 006
C. Next steps we can take collectively:
18. The universal treatment of this issue must be strengthened
within the United Nations. Informal processes are not meant to
substitute a wide and universal discussion, but rather to complement
19. Means and modalities must be identified for the progress of
this dialogue, aiming at maturing ideas and at searching for
20. Identifying core functions or priorities of the governance
system and its potential resources may be a difficult task, but it
would indicate a possible convergence on essential elements.
21. The discussion on environmental governance in the context of
sustainable development would benefit from setting a long term
objective, or several short and medium term objectives, which may be
associated to the area of institutional structure or to a strategy
for strengthening and improving the system.
22. Once the objectives are established, there would be the need
for considering a timeframe with short, medium and long term