We, the Ministers of the leading industrially developed democratic countries and representatives of the European Union, met at Leeds Castle, Kent on 3 - 5 April to consider progress that has been made since we last met in Miami in 1997 and to discuss five key environmental issues that face the world today.
We recall the process engaged since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and the work programme for the Commission on Sustainable Development established by the UN General Assembly Special Session in June 1997. We firmly underline our commitment to sustainable development.
Climate Change remain the greatest global environmental threat to the worlds sustainable development, public health and future prosperity. We affirm that the adoption at Kyoto of a Protocol with legally binding targets was a historic turning point in our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is essential that we now translate the promise of Kyoto into reality. We confirm our intention to sign the Protocol within the next year and we resolve to make an urgent start on the further work that is necessary.
We are aware of our responsibility to take the lead in combatting climate change. Domestically our nations undertake to pursue immediately significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. We firmly believe that these reductions can be achieved cost effectively and can deliver present and future improvements in quality of life;, such as cleaner air, improved public health, more sustainable transport and more productive, energy efficient and cleaner technologies.
Internationally we must maintain the momentum by making progress at Buenos Aires on the outstanding issues left by Kyoto. Flexible mechanisms such as international emissions trading, joint implementation and the clean development mechanism shall be supplemental to domestic action. They can play an essential role in achieving our commitments cost effectively. Defining the relevant principles, modalities, rule and guidelines to ensure that these mechanisms provide real environmental benefits is a priority. It is important that these flexibilities, in particular trading, should help us to achieve greater overall abatement of greenhouse gases than would otherwise occur. The rules must ensure an enforceable, accountable, verifiable, open and transparent trading system. Work on the treatment of carbon sinks must also be set in hand.
We need strong efficient and effective compliance regime backing the legally binding commitments under the protocol. It is important that work to elaborate procedures and mechanisms entailing binding consequences for Parties in non-compliance with the Protocol is initiated by COP4.
Developing countries are amongst those most threatened by the impacts of climate change. We reaffirm commitments under the Convention to provide financial assistance and technology transfer t help those countries to tackle climate change and achieve sustainable development. The recent successful replenishment of the Global Environment Facility is essential to this. We must ensure that the policies and operations of the World Bank and other International Financial Institutions take full account of climate change. The clean development mechanism should enhance technology transfer and mobile financial resources and expertise to help developing countries increase their efforts in limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The international community must agree as soon as possible how to implement this new mechanism in a way that ensures genuine additional reductions in emissions.
As we move to the next century, greater effort will be needed by all countries to tackle climate change. This will involve increasing global participation over time in the process of establishing quantitative objectives to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We note the proposal that COP4 in Buenos Aires should consider voluntary adoption of legally binding targets for countries that do not already have them. We emphasis our willingness to discuss this and other options will all countries. We reaffirm that commitments must be based on objective criteria reflecting the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, and must take full account of the legitimate priorities of developing countries to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development.
Scientific analysis contributed to the success of Kyoto and should continue to be developed to underpin our policy decisions. We welcome the recommendations made the recent G8 Environment and Transport Futures Forum and support more work under G8 auspices on best practices in this and other sectors.
We undertake to keep in touch through our experts on domestic progress and the ongoing international negotiations. We will review progress at the G8 Environment Ministers meeting next year.
ENVIRONMENT AND EMPLOYMENT
We agreed that environmental policy not only delivers vital improvements in public health and quality of life, but also provides opportunities and challenges for job creation across the economy. We sent this message to Leaders in the run up to the Birmingham G8 Summit.
We have shared experiences, such as the re-use of land in cities and energy efficiency investments, where policies met both environmental and economic objectives. We identified relevant lessons. This valuable exchange will continue.
We highlighted that past neglect of some environmental problems has led to significant job losses. Vigorous action now can avoid similar future problems and can generate job opportunities.
Fundamentally, secure employment and living standards for our children will only be achieved if we address climate change and other central concerns of sustainable development. Successful economies will therefore be those which can best manage the transformation to cleaner and more efficient use of natural resources.
We undertook to work together, within government, and in parnership with industry, labour, and other organisations further to promote relevant education and training, investment and Research and Development so as to secure this necessary transformation. Global problems will require global co-operative solutions to improve standards and minimise competitive distortion, thereby securing benefits to jobs, public health and quality of life.
We recognise that the effects of environmental policy on some industries and the most vulnerable in society must be taken into account, and transitional assistance may well be essential in these situations. But set against this, we must take full account of the prospects for employment creation in a number of sectors, including in environmental technology industries. Improving the environment will also offer social benefits thereby helping social cohesion. For example, poor air and water quality disproportionately affect the most vulnerable groups, including children and the least well off.
PROTECTION OF MARINE BIODIVERSITY
Marine biodiversity is a vital and integral part of global biodiversity. Without concerted international action, it will remain under threat.
In this International Year of the Oceans, we need to create greater public awareness of this vital role of the seas. The Oceans Charter, developed by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, sums up the understanding of the importance of the marine environment and the threats to it. Promoting sustainable tourism will help to spread this understanding and, at the same time, to provide means to help developing countries to protect their marine environments.
Because of the wide differences in circumstances between regional seas, action on the marine environmental need to be focused particularly at the regional revel, where it can be most effective. We shall therefore take initiatives to develop consistent and coherent programmes oc action, bringing together all aspects of human impact on the marine environment, in the regions in which we are involved. This is particularly important for enclosed and semi-enclosed seas and the Arctic which are especially vulnerable to land-based activities: our countries are riparian to many of these seas. We aim to share experience both amongst ourselves and with other regions.
At the global level, we shall take initiatives to identify what needs to be done to improve the way in which the marine environment is managed, so that CSD in 1999 can reach conclusions on how to draw together the work in the UN Agencies and other international bodies and to foster regional action. We encourage the Bratislava Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Divisirty to adopt a programme wor work, with clearly defined priorities, to be carried out under the Jakarta Mandate, and to consider the links between this and sustainable tourism.
We welcome the intention of the United Kingdom to organise a Second London Oceans Workshop in December 1998, which can offer a focus for the preparation for CSD.
We commit ourselves to renewed and coordinated efforts to promote international initiatives and agreements to reverse the decline of marine ecosystems, to promote the sutainable use and conservation of marine biodiversity and to develop management systems based upon an ecosystem approach. Within the general framework of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, these include: the Regional Seas Programme of UNEP; global and regional agreements on the managements and sustainable use of living marine resources, including the UN agreement on straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks and the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries; the Global Programme of Action to Protect the Marine Environment from Land-Based activities; and the International Coral Reefs Initiative.
ENFORCEMENT OF MULTILATERAL ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENTS
We recognise the vital role of international environmental agreements in delivering sustainable development at the global scale. However, these agreements will have no effect unless they are effectively enforced. We therefore express grave concerns about the ever-growing evidence of violations of international environmental agreements, and particularly the involvement of international organised crime. This harms not only the global environment, but also the health and livelihoods of people in developed and developing countries alike.
We believe that our Governments must act now to protect exisiting agreements, and must insist on strong rules and enforcement procedures for international emissions trading under the Kyoto Protocol, recognising that we must guard against fraudulent activity.
Recognising both the serious environmental effects of violations of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and the need to combat organised crime in this area, we will:
We support the work carried out by the consultation of environmental enforcement officials in Washington DC in January 1998. In this context we will:
We will review progress when we meet again next year.
Our countries have made progress in co-ordinating action will al relevant international organisations to combat international crime, and we call the attention of our Leaders to the need to adopt similar approaches in tackling environmental violations.
CHILDRENS ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
We remain concerned about the significant threats that children face from an array of environmental hazards. We renew our commitment to take action to reduce these threats. Since our meeting many of our countries have implemented the proposals we set forward. In addition we note the welcome efforts by the World Health Organisation, the Pan American Health Organisation and the OECD to improve the protection of childrens environmental health.
We call upon the Chairman to forwardthis report to the Leaders gathered for the Summit in Birmingham. We achieved important new understandings for further action on climate change, environment and employment, marine biodiversity, and childrens environmental health. We made commitments to action to reduce violations of the exisiting MEAs. We commit ourselves to pursue these important issues through the relevant multilateral fora and through bilateral channels.
Source: United Kingdom. Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
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