oversight

International Environment: U.S. Actions to Fulfill Committments Under Five Key Agreements

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-01-29.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

               United States General Accounting Office

GAO            Report to the Ranking Minority
               Member, Committee on Environment
               and Public Works, and the Ranking
               Minority Member, Committee on
               Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate
January 2003
               INTERNATIONAL
               ENVIRONMENT
               U.S. Actions to Fulfill
               Commitments Under
               Five Key Agreements




GAO-03-249
                                               January 2003


                                               INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT

                                               U.S. Actions to Fulfill Its Commitments
  Highlights of GAO-03-249, a report to the
  Ranking Minority Members of the
                                               Under Five Key Agreements
  Committee on Environment and Public
  Works and Committee on Foreign
  Relations, United States Senate




 Environmental problems do not                 The United States is generally taking actions to meet its commitments under
 respect national boundaries. These            the five specified agreements. Federal agencies established domestic
 problems include (1) climate                  programs, reported periodically on progress, and provided funding to other
 change, (2) drought and the                   nations. For example, the United States committed to stop producing and
 expansion of degraded land, (3)               importing certain substances that deplete the earth’s ozone layer by 1996 and
 environmental cooperation among
 the countries of North America, (4)
                                               did so. Although the United States did not make a treaty commitment to
 illegal trade in endangered species,          reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the President set a goal in 1993 to reduce
 and (5) substances that deplete the           emissions to their 1990 level by 2000 and the United States spends over $1
 earth’s protective ozone layer. To            billion a year to do so. However, U.S. emissions in 2001 exceeded the 1990
 address such problems, the United             target level by about 12 percent. GAO also found that, while the United
 States and other nations have                 States provided $1.4 billion between fiscal years 1991 and 2002 to assist
 entered into numerous                         other countries in addressing their environmental problems related to three
 international environmental                   agreements, it provided less than it pledged relating to two agreements.
 agreements.                                   Specifically, the shortfall was 25 percent for the fund that finances climate
                                               change and other environmental projects and 6 percent for ozone depletion.
 In implementing these agreements,
 the parties typically commit to
 establish domestic programs and               U.S. Funding to Other Nations Related to Two Agreements
 report periodically on their
 progress. Developed nations like
 the United States may also pledge
 to provide funds to assist
 developing nations.

 GAO was asked to examine (1) U.S.
 actions to fulfill its commitments
 under five international agreements
 identified by the requesters, (2) the
 means used to track these actions,
 and (3) the results of others’
 evaluations of these actions for the
 selected agreements.




                                               Federal agencies generally use informal means, such as meetings and
www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-249          informal communications, to track their actions to fulfill commitments
                                               under the five agreements. Officials at the Department of State and other
To view the full report, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.      agencies said informal means are effective and cost less than establishing a
For more information, contact John B.          formal tracking system. The few studies that evaluated the effectiveness of
Stephenson at (202) 512-3841.                  U.S. actions concluded that the actions had positive effects on the
                                               environment. The agencies involved generally agreed with the facts
                                               presented in this report.
Contents


Letter                                                                                  1
           Results in Brief                                                             1
           Background                                                                   2
           The United States Is Taking Many Actions to Fulfill Its
             Commitments Under Five Agreements, but Has Not Provided All
             of Its Pledged Funds                                                      4
           Agencies Generally Use Informal Means to Track Actions                     16
           The Few Available Program Evaluations Deemed U.S. Actions
             Positive                                                                 18
           Scope and Methodology                                                      19
           Agency Comments                                                            19


Tables
           Table 1: Selected Information on the Five Agreements                         3
           Table 2: Federal Expenditures for Selected Climate Change
                    Programs Related to Framework Convention, Fiscal Years
                    1999-2003                                                           6
           Table 3: U.S. Contributions to Secretariats for Five Agreements,
                    Fiscal Years 1998-2002                                              7
           Table 4: U.S. Funding for Global Environment Facility, Fiscal Years
                    1994-2002                                                           9
           Table 5: U.S. Contributions Under the Desertification Convention,
                    by Region, Fiscal Year 2001                                       11
           Table 6: Timeliness of U.S. Reports for Each Agreement                     12


Figures
           Figure 1: U.S. Funding to Other Nations Related to Three
                    Agreements                                                          8
           Figure 2: U.S. Consumption of Chlorofluorocarbons, Related to
                    Montreal Protocol, 1986-99                                        14
           Figure 3: U.S. Emissions of Greenhouse Gases, Related to
                    Framework Convention, 1990-2001                                   15




           Page i                       GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
Abbreviations

AID       U.S. Agency for International Development
CITES     Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of
          Wild Fauna and Flora
EPA       Environmental Protection Agency




Page ii                      GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   January 29, 2003

                                   The Honorable James M. Jeffords
                                   Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Environment
                                   and Public Works
                                   United States Senate

                                   The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
                                   Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Foreign Relations
                                   United States Senate

                                   Because environmental problems do not respect national boundaries, the
                                   United States and other nations have entered into numerous international
                                   environmental agreements to address the causes and consequences of
                                   such problems as climate change, ozone depletion, and trade in
                                   endangered species. These agreements typically provide that the parties
                                   will undertake various actions to improve the environment. Some
                                   provisions are specific and measurable (such as having the parties
                                   establish domestic programs, for example, to reduce greenhouse gas
                                   emissions, or having them periodically report their progress). Others are
                                   more general and therefore difficult to measure (such as having the parties
                                   coordinate with each other).

                                   As you requested, we examined the United States’ actions to fulfill its
                                   commitments under five key international environmental agreements.
                                   These agreements, which were selected for review by your offices, relate
                                   to climate change (Framework Convention), desertification
                                   (Desertification Convention), the earth’s ozone layer (Montreal Protocol),
                                   endangered species (CITES), and North American environmental
                                   cooperation (North American Agreement). We examined (1) U.S. actions
                                   to fulfill specific commitments, (2) the processes and methods that federal
                                   agencies use to track these actions, and (3) the results of independent
                                   evaluations of these actions for each of the selected agreements.


                                   Generally, the United States is taking actions to meet its commitments
Results in Brief                   under the five agreements. For example, under the Montreal Protocol, the
                                   United States committed to stop producing and importing certain
                                   substances that deplete the earth’s ozone layer by 1996 and did so.
                                   However, the United States fell short of its pledge to provide financial
                                   assistance to other nations related to two agreements. Specifically,


                                   Page 1                        GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
             although the United States has provided over $1.4 billion in such
             assistance since 1991 related to three agreements, it provided 25 percent
             less than it pledged for a fund that finances climate change and other
             environmental projects, and 6 percent less than it pledged for the Montreal
             Protocol. No pledge was required for the Desertification Convention.
             Moreover, while the United States did not make a treaty commitment, the
             President set a goal in 1993 to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to
             their 1990 level by 2000 and the United States spent over $1 billion a year
             to do so. Nevertheless, U.S. estimated emissions in 2001 were about
             12 percent above the 1990 level.

             Agencies generally use informal means, such as meetings and informal
             communications, to track their actions to fulfill commitments under the
             five agreements. According to officials at the Department of State and
             other responsible agencies, such informal means are sufficient and there is
             no need to establish formal tracking systems. We found no instance in
             which the United States lost track of a commitment because it lacked a
             formal tracking system.

             Of the nine studies that we identified that evaluated the effectiveness of
             U.S. actions, all generally concluded that the actions examined had some
             positive effects. For example, four studies of Environmental Protection
             Agency (EPA) activities pursuant to the Framework Convention
             concluded that they helped to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


             Just as nations have established international agreements to address trade,
Background   weapons, and other issues, the United States and other nations have joined
             together to respond to transboundary environmental problems. Like other
             international agreements, environmental agreements are legal instruments
             that are negotiated, signed, and adopted by two or more countries.
             Developing such agreements involves achieving voluntary commitments
             among nations with various levels of industrial development, technical
             capability, resources, and concerns about particular environmental
             problems. Worldwide, hundreds of international legal instruments are
             aimed at environmental protection. The Department of State’s Bureau of
             Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, which is
             primarily responsible for environmental and related matters, is involved in
             more than 100 bilateral and multilateral agreements in which the United
             States is a party or has an interest.

             International agreements are intended to accomplish broad goals, such as
             controlling the trade in certain endangered or at-risk species and


             Page 2                        GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
                                           eliminating the production of certain ozone-depleting chemicals. However,
                                           they do not always provide that the parties must achieve specific
                                           objectives within certain time frames. Furthermore, agreements do not
                                           always include mechanisms for monitoring parties’ fulfillment of
                                           commitments or for enforcing compliance.1 To some extent, this lack of
                                           specifics reflects the belief that strict compliance and enforcement
                                           mechanisms would discourage nations from participating in a treaty.
                                           Therefore, the extent of a nation’s compliance with international
                                           agreements generally depends on peer or public pressure.

                                           The five agreements we reviewed are summarized below, in chronological
                                           order:

Table 1: Selected Information on the Five Agreements

                                                Number                                                              Date of entry
 Agreement                                     of parties Purpose                                                      into force
 Convention on International Trade in                160 Control the international trade in specified types of               1975
 Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and                     animals and plants
 Flora (CITES)
 Montreal Protocol on Substances that                181 Reduce the production and import of certain                        1989
 Deplete the Ozone Layer (Montreal                       chemicals that deplete the earth’s stratospheric
 Protocol)                                               ozone layer
 United Nations Framework Convention on              185 Stabilize concentrations of carbon dioxide and                     1994
 Climate Change (Framework Convention)                   certain other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere
                                                         at a level that would prevent dangerous human
                                                         interference with the climate system
 North American Agreement on                           3 Establish a framework for better protecting the                    1994
 Environmental Cooperation (North                        continent’s environment through cooperation and
 American Agreement)                                     enforcement of national laws
 United Nations Convention to Combat                 184 Mitigate desertification and drought through                       1996
 Desertification in Those Countries                      improved land use practices, increased local
 Experiencing Serious Drought and/or                     participation in land use planning, and mobilization
 Desertification, Particularly in Africa                 and coordination of funding assistance
 (Desertification Convention)
Source: GAO.




                                           1
                                            U.S. General Accounting Office, International Environment: Literature on the
                                           Effectiveness of International Environmental Agreements, GAO/RCED-99-148
                                           (Washington, D.C.: May 1999).




                                           Page 3                               GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
                        Like many other multilateral treaties, each of these five agreements
                        created an institution, called a secretariat, to administer the agreement.
                        The secretariats are responsible for such tasks as compiling reports based
                        on submissions from the parties, administering requests for technical
                        assistance, and arranging the logistics for meetings of the parties.

                        Within the U.S. government, a variety of agencies have a role in negotiating
                        and implementing international agreements. The Department of State
                        normally takes the lead in international negotiations, and other agencies
                        are involved in domestic implementation. For example, for CITES, the
                        Department of the Interior is the lead implementing agency; for the
                        Framework Convention, the Department of Energy and EPA; and for the
                        Montreal Protocol, EPA. For the Desertification Convention, the
                        Department of State takes the lead in coordinating U.S. policy approaches,
                        and the Agency for International Development (AID) provides the majority
                        of U.S. funding and other assistance to nations in support of the
                        Convention. For the North American Agreement, according to an
                        Executive Order, EPA represents the United States on the agreement’s
                        governing body; consequently the agency has a major role in developing
                        policy, as well as the primary role in domestic implementation.


                        The United States is generally acting to fulfill its commitments under the
The United States Is    five agreements. However, while the United States provided substantial
Taking Many Actions     funding to other nations, in two cases it did not provide all that it pledged.
                        Some commitments—such as establishing domestic programs, providing
to Fulfill Its          funds to secretariats and other nations, and reporting—are found in two or
Commitments Under       more of the agreements. Other commitments—such as reducing the
                        production and import of ozone-depleting substances—are found in only
Five Agreements, but    one agreement. This section discusses U.S. actions according to the types
Has Not Provided All    of commitments in the five agreements.
of Its Pledged Funds

Establishing Domestic   Three of the five agreements—CITES, the Framework Convention, and the
Programs                Montreal Protocol—require the United States to establish domestic
                        programs to help fulfill its commitments. The Desertification Convention
                        and the North American Agreement required no new programs. Under
                        CITES, for example, the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife
                        Service created a permit program to review the import, export, and
                        re-export of parts and products of species listed as threatened with
                        extinction. It issues about 4,500 such permits annually. Additionally, in


                        Page 4                         GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
conjunction with the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service and Treasury’s Customs Service, the Fish and Wildlife
Service monitors U.S. ports for illegal shipments of listed species’ parts
and products.

Under the Framework Convention, the United States has developed a wide
array of domestic programs directly related to reducing greenhouse gas
emissions. As shown in table 2, according to a July 2002 report by the
Office of Management and Budget, the United States anticipated spending
an estimated $1.2 billion for such programs in fiscal year 2002.2 This
amount primarily funds efforts by the Department of Energy and EPA to
research, develop, and deploy renewable energy technologies and energy-
efficient products that help reduce the use of fossil fuels, as well as U.S.
greenhouse gas emissions.




2
 U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Federal Climate Change Expenditures: Report to
Congress (Washington, D.C.: July 9, 2002).




Page 5                            GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
Table 2: Federal Expenditures for Selected Climate Change Programs Related to
                                               a
Framework Convention, Fiscal Years 1999-2003

    Dollars in millions
                                                 1999     2000     2001      2002     2003
                                                actual   actual   actual estimate proposed
    Department of Energy
    Energy supply
     Solar and renewable energy                   $332    $310      $370        $386          $408
     research and development
     Nuclear energy                                  0       5         5           7             0
    Energy conservation research and               518     577       619         640           588
    development
    Fossil energy research and                      24      52        18           32              54
    development
    Science                                         13      33        35           35              35
    Energy Information Administration                3       3         3            3               3
    Environmental Protection Agency
    Environmental programs and                      72      76        96           89              91
    management
    Science and technology                          37     27     27              26           17
    Agriculture                                      0      0      3               0            6
    Totalb                                        $999 $1,083 $1,176          $1,218       $1,202
Source: Office of Management and Budget.
a
 Includes spending on programs directly related to climate change through technology research,
development, and deployment. Excludes tax credits, spending to improve scientific understanding,
international assistance, and spending on programs indirectly related to climate change.
b
Numbers may not add up due to rounding.


Under the Montreal Protocol, EPA promulgated regulations for the 16
companies that produced or imported certain ozone-depleting substances.
It established a schedule for them to phase out their production and net
import of these substances, granting them an initial allowance to produce
or import such substances and reducing the allowance gradually. In
addition, EPA established programs to ensure that certain substances used
in refrigerators and halon fire extinguishers were properly recycled and to
develop safe and effective alternatives to ozone-depleting substances.

Also, EPA and other federal agencies undertook efforts to enforce
compliance with these regulations. As of March 2002, 114 individuals had
been convicted of illegal schemes to import ozone-depleting substances
and $67 million in fines and restitution had been imposed.




Page 6                                     GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
Providing Funds to   The United States agreed to contribute funds to the secretariats of the five
Secretariats         agreements. Voluntary contributions to the organizations are generally
                     used for administrative purposes including day to day activities and
                     arranging meetings of the parties to the agreements. In the case of the
                     North American Agreement, some of the funds are also used to carry out
                     cooperative environmental projects related to air pollution, chemical and
                     hazardous waste management, and other areas in the three nations. From
                     fiscal year 1998 through fiscal year 2002, the United States contributed
                     about $49.3 million to the international organizations for the five
                     agreements. The largest amount was $22.2 million for the Framework
                     Convention, as shown in table 3.

                     Table 3: U.S. Contributions to Secretariats for Five Agreements, Fiscal Years 1998-
                     2002

                         Dollars in thousands
                                                                                                     North
                         Fiscal                                        Framework Montreal        American
                         year        CITES          Desertificationa   Convention Protocol      Agreement         Total
                         1998        $1,000                     $50        $3,900     $600          $3,000       $8,550
                         1999         1,500                     100         3,800    1,100           3,000        9,500
                         2000         1,250                     125         4,900      450           3,000        9,725
                         2001         1,000                   1,100         4,900      450           3,000       10,450
                         2002         1,250                   1,700         4,700      450           3,000       11,100
                         Total       $6,000                  $3,075       $22,200   $3,050         $15,000      $49,325
                     Source: Department of State.
                     a
                      Even before the United States became a party to the Desertification Convention in 2001, it made
                     voluntary contributions to the Secretariat.




                     Page 7                                       GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
Providing Financial   The United States pledged to provide financial assistance to other nations
Assistance to Other   related to three of the five agreements. In two cases—the funding
Nations               mechanism for the Framework Convention and other environmental
                      problems and the Montreal Protocol—the United States pledged to
                      provide specific amounts of funds, and in both cases it provided less than
                      it pledged. In the third case—the Desertification Convention—it did not
                      pledge to provide a specific amount, but it did provide funds. In total, the
                      United States provided more than $1.4 billion relating to these three areas
                      The amounts pledged and provided are shown in figure 1 below.

                      Figure 1: U.S. Funding to Other Nations Related to Three Agreements




                      Note: GAO analysis of AID, EPA, and Treasury data.
                      a
                          The United States did not pledge a specific amount under the Desertification Convention.
                      b
                          Amounts related to support for the Global Environment Facility.
                      c
                          Represents U.S. contributions to the Montreal Protocol Multilateral Fund.


                      Under the Framework Convention, the United States committed to
                      provide an unspecified amount of funds. Separately, the United States


                      Page 8                                      GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
later pledged to provide specific amounts to the Global Environment
Facility—a trust fund established to help developing countries address
biodiversity, climate change, and other environmental problems.3 The
United States pledged to provide $860 million to the facility for fiscal years
1995 through 2002. However, through 2002, the Congress had appropriated
$649 million (25 percent) less than the amount pledged.4 This shortfall
resulted from the Congress not appropriating sufficient funding to meet
the pledge. (See table 4.)

Table 4: U.S. Funding for Global Environment Facility, Fiscal Years 1994-2002

    Dollars in millions
                                     Amount                  Amount              Amounted
    Fiscal year                      pledged               requested           appropriated
    1994                                    0                  $30.8                  $30.0
    1995                               $107.5                  100.0                   90.0
    1996                                107.5                  110.0                   35.0
    1997                                107.5                  100.0                   35.0
    1998                                107.5                  100.0                   47.5
    1999                                107.5                  300.0                  167.5
    2000                                107.5                  143.3                   35.8
    2001                                107.5                  175.6                  107.8
    2002                                107.5                  107.5                  100.5
Source: Treasury.



In addition to providing funds to developing countries through the Global
Environmental Facility, the United States supports developing and other
countries’ efforts to address climate change through AID. In fiscal year
2002, the agency provided an estimated $167 million to promote
development that minimizes emissions of greenhouse gases and reduces
vulnerability to climate change.


3
 The facility was established on a pilot basis in 1991 and was restructured in 1994. It is
funded by the United States and other countries, and its projects are implemented and
overseen by the United Nations Development Program, United Nations Environmental
Program, and World Bank. See International Environment: Information on Global
Environment Facility’s Funding and Projects (GAO/RCED-99-149, June 15, 1999).
According to the Treasury Department, most of the facility’s projects related to biodiversity
(42 percent) and climate change (38 percent). The other projects related to cleaning up
international waters and protecting fisheries (15 percent) and phasing out ozone-depleting
chemicals (5 percent). According to a Treasury official, U.S. contributions to the facility are
not earmarked according to purpose.
4
  This amount includes $30 million appropriated in fiscal year 1994 that was applied to
fiscal year 1995.




Page 9                                GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
Under the Montreal Protocol, the United States pledged to provide $363.6
million between 1991 and 2001 for technical assistance and investment
projects aimed at phasing out ozone-depleting chemicals in developing
nations. However, it provided $21.7 million (6 percent) less than its pledge
during that period. According to EPA officials, the shortfall occurred
primarily for two reasons. First, the United States withheld about half the
shortfall amount ($11.5 million) because of a prohibition on U.S. foreign
assistance to Iraq, North Korea, and certain other nations.5 Second, in
some years the Congress appropriated less than the amount requested or
imposed an across-the-board rescission to EPA’s appropriation accounts.

Finally, under the Desertification Convention, the United States committed
to provide an unspecified level of financial assistance to developing
countries. When the United States became a party to the Convention in
2001, it was already providing financial assistance to countries
experiencing desertification and drought.6 In fiscal year 2001, the first year
of U.S. participation, AID provided $93.8 million in assistance to other
nations. Most of this amount ($85.1 million) was provided to particular
regions of the world, with the largest amount going to the Convention’s
primary focus, the African nations. (See table 5.) These amounts include
bilateral and multilateral assistance designed to mitigate desertification
and drought by improving the capacity of communities and local
institutions to use new technologies to better manage natural resources
and agricultural lands. For example, AID’s assistance to the Upper Niger
River Valley Program in Mali helped 33,000 agricultural producers adopt
practices that improved and diversified their livelihoods while decreasing
degradation of the land. In addition, $8.7 million was provided for
agricultural management that is conducted on an international basis in
various regions.




5
 Federal law prohibits the use of U.S. foreign assistance to international organizations for
programs in Burma, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and Syria, as well as to the
Palestine Liberation Organization under 22 U.S.C. §2227(a)(2000). The United States
withheld the share of its funds that would have gone to those entities.
6
 Furthermore, the President’s letter transmitting the agreement to the Senate for its advice
and consent stated that the United States’ obligations under the Convention would be met
under existing law and ongoing assistance programs.




Page 10                              GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
            Table 5: U.S. Contributions Under the Desertification Convention, by Region, Fiscal
            Year 2001

                Dollars in millions
                Region
                Africa                                                                        $53.8
                Asia and Near East                                                             14.4
                Europe and Eurasia                                                              4.2
                Latin America and Caribbean                                                    12.7
                Total                                                                         $85.1
            Source: AID.




Reporting   From the beginning of 1997 through the end of calendar year 2002, the
            United States agreed to submit 23 reports on implementation and related
            issues for the 5 agreements: CITES, 8 (6 annual and 2 biennial); the
            Desertification Convention, 1; the Framework Convention, 2; the Montreal
            Protocol, 6; and the North American Agreement, 6. We reviewed recent
            reports submitted under the five agreements and found that they
            contained the information required. However, we also found that the
            United States did not promptly submit about 43 percent of the reports it
            had agreed to submit. Many other parties were also late in submitting their
            reports, and according to State Department and other agency officials the
            U.S. tardiness generally had no significant effect on the agreements’
            secretariats or on other parties.

            We reviewed recent reports under each agreement for completeness and
            found that they contained the information required. For example, under
            CITES the United States met its commitment to provide an annual report
            on, among other things, the number and type of permits and certificates it
            granted related to trade in listed wildlife species, the nations with which
            such trade occurred, and the numbers or quantities and types of
            specimens. Similarly, under the Framework Convention, the United States
            met its commitment to publish reports that contained, among other things,
            detailed information on its policies and measures to mitigate climate
            change and its projected human-caused emissions for the period 1990 to
            2000. The Convention also required each party to report on these two
            matters “with the aim of returning individually or jointly to their 1990
            levels these anthropogenic [human-caused] emissions of carbon dioxide
            and other greenhouse gases.”7 The 1997 report addressed this issue, stating


            7
                U.S. reporting on greenhouse gas emissions is discussed on page 14.




            Page 11                               GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
that “the measures listed in this report are not expected to reduce U.S.
emissions below 1990 levels by the year 2000.” The 2002 report did not
address this issue.8 Under the Montreal Protocol the United States met its
commitment to provide the Secretariat with statistical data on annual
production, imports, and exports of each of the controlled substances.

Of these 23 reports that the United States was required to submit under
the five agreements, 13 were submitted on time; 9 were submitted up to 8
months late; and 1 was never submitted at all, as shown in table 6. Under
each of the five agreements, at least one report was submitted late or not
at all.

Table 6: Timeliness of U.S. Reports for Each Agreement

                                            Submitted       Submitted late          Never
                                                      a
    Agreement                                 on time          or overdue        submitted         Total
    CITES                                            7                   0               1             8
    Desertification Convention                       0                   1               0             1
    Framework Convention                             0                   2               0             2
    Montreal Protocol                                5                   1               0             6
                               b
    North American Agreement                         1                   5               0             6
    Total                                           13                   9               1           23
Source: GAO.
a
 Submitted within 30 days of the original target date or the date of an extension granted by the
secretariat.
b
 Although the agreement itself does not require parties to provide such reports, the parties decided to
submit country reports in order to inform each other and the public.


For example, although the United States promptly submitted all six annual
reports and one biennial report under CITES, it did not submit one
biennial report on implementation. According to Fish and Wildlife Service
officials, the annual statistical reports and other periodic reports
submitted to the Secretariat provided much of the information called for in
that biennial report. Under the Framework Convention, both reports were
submitted late—the first by 3 months and the second by 6 months.

The late submission of reports under the various agreements has had no
significant effect on the agreements’ secretariats or other parties,


8
 According to a Department of State official, the 2002 report did not address this issue
because the “aim” set out in the Convention refers only to the year 2000 and does not
address emissions levels in later years.




Page 12                                  GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
                            according to agency officials. However, the Secretary of the North
                            American Agreement’s governing council said that the late submission of
                            reports by the United States and other parties delayed the publication of
                            the council’s reports and the reports were less useful when the
                            information was outdated. According to EPA officials, the Secretariat and
                            the parties are working to streamline the process of country reporting in
                            an effort to make the reports more readable and timely.


Actions to Fulfill Unique   The United States committed to achieving specific goals and timetables
Provisions                  under the Montreal Protocol. The Protocol established a series of
                            deadlines—extending from 1989 through 2030—for phasing out the
                            production and import of dozens of chemicals that deplete the ozone
                            layer. According to EPA data, the United States virtually eliminated the
                            production and import of nearly all of these chemical compounds by the
                            end of 1995, including chlorofluorocarbons, scheduled for phaseout in the
                            United States by 1996. Chlorofluorocarbons were the most extensive
                            compound, used for aerosols, air conditioning, refrigeration, and solvents.9
                            (See fig. 2.)




                            9
                             The production and import of two other chemicals is to be eliminated in future years—
                            methyl bromide by 2005 and hydrochlorofluorocarbons by 2030.




                            Page 13                            GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
Figure 2: U.S. Consumption of Chlorofluorocarbons, Related to Montreal Protocol,
1986-99




Note: Because different chemicals have different capacities to deplete the ozone layer, “ozone
depleting potential” provides a consistent means of measurement among the various chemicals.


Under the Framework Convention, the United States did not commit to
achieving a specific goal but did commit to reporting “with the aim” of
reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the 1990 level by 2000. In addition,
in 1993—the year before entry into force for the Framework Convention—
the President established a domestic goal of reducing greenhouse
emissions to their 1990 level by 2000. However, in 1997 the United States
reported that it did not expect to reduce U.S. emissions below the 1990
level by the year 2000. According to data from the Energy Information
Administration, the 2001 level was about 12 percent above the 1990 level.
(See fig. 3.) The other three agreements did not specify measurable goals.




Page 14                                GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
Figure 3: U.S. Emissions of Greenhouse Gases, Related to Framework Convention,
1990-2001




Note: GAO analysis of Energy Information Administration data.


The five agreements contain other unique provisions. For example, under
the Desertification Convention, parties are required to submit nominations
to the Secretariat for inclusion on a roster of independent experts in
disciplines relevant to combating desertification and mitigating the effects
of drought. Maintained by the Secretariat, the roster is used as a central
source of experts for technical assistance and other purposes. The United
States established a Web site to receive applications for membership on
the roster. Applications are received by the Department of State, subjected
to an interagency review process, and then transmitted to the Secretariat.
In addition, parties to the Framework Convention commit to collect data
on emissions of certain greenhouse gases. EPA regularly collects and
publishes these data.




Page 15                                GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
                     Officials at the Department of State and other agencies told us that they
Agencies Generally   generally use informal means to track U.S. actions to fulfill its many
Use Informal Means   commitments. Officials said their interagency coordination begins while
                     an agreement is being negotiated. Furthermore, the agencies frequently
to Track Actions     work together after ratification when preparing for periodic meetings of
                     the parties. Actions taken under all five agreements are tracked mainly
                     through periodic meetings of officials from the various implementing
                     agencies and other communications among these officials. The officials
                     noted that they may also consider the views of interest groups and other
                     parties to these agreements to help determine how well U.S. actions are
                     fulfilling commitments. Although the United States has made many
                     commitments under the five agreements and taken numerous actions to
                     fulfill them, we did not find any policy that would require formal tracking
                     of all such commitments and actions. The issue of formally tracking
                     international agreements was raised by the Senate Committee on Finance
                     more than a decade ago.

                     Officials expressed three reasons why informally tracking U.S. actions is
                     preferable to formally tracking them. First, the current system is effective
                     in helping to ensure that the United States acts to meet its commitments.
                     They added that they were unaware of any instance in which the United
                     States had failed to meet a commitment because it lacked a formal
                     tracking system and we did not find any such instance among the five
                     agreements we reviewed. Second, developing and maintaining a formal
                     tracking system—such as compiling a comprehensive database that
                     captures information on all commitments and actions to fulfill those
                     commitments or requiring periodic progress reports on these matters—
                     would require substantial staff and other costs, which would likely exceed
                     the potential benefits of having such a system. Finally, they noted that
                     most provisions in these international agreements are fairly broad and—
                     even where the provisions are specific—there are generally few
                     mechanisms to penalize a nation for not fulfilling a commitment.

                     Although three of the five agreements have mechanisms to penalize a
                     nation for not fulfilling certain commitments, they are rarely used and no
                     penalties have been imposed against the United States. Under CITES,
                     parties can disallow imports of CITES-listed species parts and products
                     from countries that are not properly implementing CITES, thus restricting
                     or preventing trade in such items. Under the Montreal Protocol,
                     noncompliance with the treaty can lead to suspension of rights under the
                     treaty, such as technology transfer. Under the North American Agreement,
                     monetary penalties may be levied if a party is found to have a persistent
                     pattern of failing to effectively enforce its environmental laws. However,


                     Page 16                       GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
according to the Secretariat’s director of programs, these sanctions have
never been applied. Actions have never been taken against the United
States, but they have been applied to other nations under CITES,
according to State Department officials. Warnings have been given to
some nations but not the United States under the Montreal Protocol. No
penalties have been imposed against any nation under the North American
Agreement, according to the Secretariat’s director of programs.

However, the North American Agreement also includes a mechanism for
any person or nongovernment organization in the United States, Mexico,
or Canada to submit an assertion to the Secretariat that one of the parties
is failing to enforce its environmental laws. Assertions have been made
involving all three governments. According to EPA officials, the purpose of
this provision is to create a public record.

In addition to the informal tracking means and as discussed above in the
section on reporting, under the North American Agreement, the United
States (like the other parties) submits an annual report on its actions to
fulfill the agreement’s provisions. According to an EPA official, the
detailed reporting format (which lists actions provision by provision)
makes the parties’ actions transparent and accessible to each other and to
the general public.

The issue of tracking international environmental agreements was raised
more than a decade ago by the Senate Committee on Finance. The
Committee Chairman said many agreements relied on trade restrictions to
achieve their goals, but there was no comprehensive and systematic
source of information to identify the agreements or their implementation
mechanisms. He asked the U.S. International Trade Commission to
consider, among other things, a methodology for conducting periodic
evaluations of environmental treaties. In response, the Commission
conducted a study and reported in 1991 that there was no single source of
information on the subject of international environmental agreements and
the extent of their effectiveness.10 The Commission suggested that an
“environmental practices report” could be compiled periodically and that
such a report could serve to facilitate congressional oversight activities
and to indicate the need for appropriate domestic or international



10
  U.S. International Trade Commission, International Agreements to Protect the
Environment and Wildlife, U.S. International Trade Commission Publication 2351
(Washington, D.C.: Jan. 1991).




Page 17                           GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
                      initiatives. However, the Commission did not address the costs of
                      implementing such a reporting system. When we spoke with the study’s
                      project manager last year, he told us that he was unaware of any action
                      taken as a result of the study. Similarly, we found no efforts to implement
                      the concept.


                      Reviews of U.S. actions to fulfill international environmental agreements
The Few Available     concur that these actions have had positive effects. We found two
Program Evaluations   evaluations for CITES, four for the Framework Convention, three for the
                      Montreal Protocol, and none for the other two agreements. Specifically:
Deemed U.S. Actions
Positive              •    The two CITES studies, both conducted by academicians, concluded
                           that the United States had generally fulfilled its obligations by
                           establishing a sophisticated program for implementing CITES.
                           Nevertheless, according to one study, the United States has not been
                           able to prevent all illegal trade in endangered and at-risk species.11

                      •    The four Framework Convention studies, performed primarily by EPA
                           contractors, concluded that EPA’s programs helped reduce greenhouse
                           gas emissions by spurring the introduction of energy-efficient lighting
                           technology and encouraging producers to include energy-efficiency
                           features in computers and other office equipment.12

                      •    The three Montreal Protocol studies presented varied results. Two
                           studies—the one issued in 1998 by EPA’s Office of Inspector General
                           and the other published in the same year by two academicians—found
                           that production bans under U.S. law had led to decreases in ozone-
                           depleting chemicals.13 The third study, issued in 2000 by the Ozone


                      11
                         Michael J. Glennon and Alison L. Stewart, “The United States: Taking Environmental
                      Treaties Seriously,” and Harold K. Jacobson and Edith Brown Weiss, “Assessing the Record
                      and Designing Strategies to Engage Countries,” in Engaging Countries: Strengthening
                      Compliance with International Environmental Accords, edited by Edith Brown Weiss and
                      Harold K. Jacobson (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1998).
                      12
                        Richard Duke and Daniel M. Kammen, “The Economics of Energy Market Transformation
                      Programs,” The Energy Journal, Vol. 20, No. 4 (1999); Marvin J. Horowitz, “Economic
                      Indicators of Market Transformation: Energy Efficient Lighting and EPA’s Green Lights,”
                      The Energy Journal, Vol. 22, No. 4 (2001); Gartner Consulting, Energy Star Consumer
                      Campaign and Product Labeling, Marketing, and Communications: Effectiveness
                      Evaluation (Dec. 12, 2001); and Carrie A. Webber et al., Savings Estimates for the Energy
                      Star Voluntary Labeling Program—2001 Status Report, Feb. 15, 2002.
                      13
                        EPA, Office of Inspector General, The Effectiveness and Efficiency of EPA’s Air
                      Program, Feb. 27, 1998; and Jacobson and Weiss, op. cit.



                      Page 18                            GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
                        Secretariat of the United Nations Environment Program, noted the
                        growth of illegal trade in ozone-depleting substances in the United
                        States.14 The report also noted that U.S. authorities responded to such
                        trade by arresting and sentencing many individuals on counts of
                        smuggling the substances.

                  We identified the studies by conducting a search of online information
                  retrieval systems, asking officials from the lead implementing agencies and
                  State Department for references, and contacting selected secretariats. We
                  did not independently verify the methods used in these studies.


                  To answer all three questions, we reviewed documents prepared by, and
Scope and         held discussions with officials of, the Department of State and other
Methodology       implementing agencies. These included AID, EPA, Interior, and Treasury.
                  We performed our work from November 2001 through January 2003 in
                  accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.


                  We provided a copy of this draft to the Administrator, AID; Administrator,
Agency Comments   EPA; Secretary of the Interior; Secretary of State; and Secretary of the
                  Treasury for review and comment. The agencies provided written or oral
                  clarifying comments, which we incorporated where appropriate.


                  As arranged with your offices, we plan no further distribution of this
                  report until 10 days after the date of this letter unless you publicly
                  announce its contents earlier. At that time, we will send copies to
                  appropriate congressional committees; the Administrator, AID;
                  Administrator, EPA; Secretary of the Interior; Secretary of State; and
                  Secretary of the Treasury. We will also make copies available to others
                  upon request. In addition, copies are available at no cost from our Web
                  site, www.gao.gov. Should you or your staff need further information,




                  14
                       United Nations Environment Program, Ozone Secretariat, Actions on Ozone, June 2000.




                  Page 19                              GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
           please contact me or David Marwick on (202) 512-3841. Key contributors
           to this report include Chase M. Huntley, Karen Keegan, Jonathan
           McMurray, and Daniel J. Semick.




           John B. Stephenson
           Director, Natural Resources
           and Environment




(360153)
           Page 20                       GAO-03-249 International Environmental Agreements
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