UN holds environmental `jam session'. Commission hopes to have forceful impact on nations' policies
``An environmental jam session.'' That's what Gro Harlem Brundtland, the new prime minister of Norway, calls the World Commission on Environment and Development that she chairs.
It's a jam session the United States has chosen not to help finance. Although interest in the environment has been growing in much of the world, it has received less attention in the US under the Reagan administration.
The US State Department considered the environmental commission just another UN study and not worth a US contribution. (The commission was created as a result of a UN General Assembly resolution in 1983.) And Congress, faced with a budget squeeze, went along, not providing the $1.5 million requested by the 23-person commission.
That's why the commission has held meetings in Switzerland, Norway, Indonesia, Brazil, and, during two recent weeks, Canada. But, as the commission notes in its press releases, it will not be going to the US. The commission will visit Africa, the Soviet Union, and Japan before presenting its report to the UN next year.
Mrs. Brundtland says that the world community has not solved environmental problems. ``The opposite is the case,'' she says. One of the tasks of the commission, Brundtland says, is to restore the ``needed sense of urgency'' regarding environmental issues.
She is anxious that the commission's recommendations actually have an impact on the policy of governments, that its report not just be filed away and ignored, as has happend with the output of so many previous commissions on various topics.
The one American on the commission, William Ruckelshaus, former administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency and now an attorney in Seattle, figures one way for the commission to reach out beyond the world's committed environmentalists (the ``greens'') to government officials and the public in general is to write its report in understandable language and include as little accusation as possible.
In an effort to attract attention, the commission holds public hearings at its stops, taking testimony largely from environmental groups or government agencies.
Several representatives of US non-governmental organizations flew here recently to testify, joining dozens of others, mostly Canadians.
Their testimony embraced typical environmental concerns and recommendations. The Global Tomorrow Coalition, representing such bodies as the National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, called for changes in institutions and values needed to assure that this generation does not leave ``a denuded, polluted planet for generations to come.''
Appearing before the commission in a handsome conference room in the Lester B. Pearson Building, the home of Canada's foreign ministry, coalition spokesman Thomas Stoel Jr. listed such recommendations as:
Promote decentralized, small-scale, community-based development, involving close consultation with local people and adapted to environmental conditions.
Control population growth.
Curb consumption of scarce resources and goods whose production causes environemntal harm.
Protect global commons by managing the oceans, stopping acid rain, safeguarding Antarctica, halting ozone depletion, and preventing carbon dioxide buildup.
Enter into an international convention under which wealthier nations help poorer nations pay the costs of managing wildlife and establishing and maintaining protected areas for their ``genetic resources.''
Forgive the official debts of the poorest countries, possibly tying such action to protection of the environment and the natural resource base.
Redirect some arms expenditures to development and protection of the environment.