MARCH 29-30, 2001

Ministerial Communiqué

1. We, the Ministers of the Environment and Heads of delegations from the 34 democratically elected governments of the Americas, met in Montreal, on March 29-30, 2001, to share our visions and priorities, and discuss how we can meet the most pressing environmental challenges of the hemisphere. In view of the Third Summit of the Americas, which will take place in Quebec City, on April 20-22, 2001, we bring the following environmental issues to the attention of our leaders.

2. We recognize the different levels and patterns of development of countries, their cultural diversity, and the diversity of ecosystems within the hemisphere. We are aware of the relationship between the environment and socio-economic factors such as poverty, unsustainable production and consumption patterns, inequity in distribution of wealth and the debt burden. We therefore resolve to work together with the aim of ensuring that economic, social and environmental policies are mutually supportive and contribute to sustainable development. We know there are many existing initiatives undertaken by relevant regional and international organizations on which to build.

3. We thank Canada for hosting the first meeting of Environment Ministers in support of the Summit of the Americas which is a useful opportunity to advance our environmental agenda. We will take advantage of other international fora, as appropriate, to meet again.

International Environment and Sustainable Development Issues

4. Since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, the countries of the hemisphere have taken important strides in defining the international sustainable development agenda and have taken some initial but important steps toward implementation. The time has come to make this the decade of action. We undertake to actively participate in the preparatory process for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg and to work to ensure its success. We will also ask the OAS through its General Secretariat, in coordination with other agencies, to organize a meeting at the ministerial level before the end of 2001, to be held in Bolivia to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Santa Cruz Summit of 1996, and present contributions to the Rio + 10 Summit in 2002, recognizing that by its nature, sustainable development has long term goals that require the countries of the Hemisphere to act in concert in this area.

5. To achieve sustainable development, we recognize that policy coherence begins at home and must be further improved at the international level. We welcome UNEP Governing Council’s recent decision 21/21 for governments to undertake a comprehensive policy-oriented assessment of options to strengthen and promote a more effective system of international environmental institutions and coordination. We emphasize the need for effective mechanisms, including financial mechanisms and other means of support as appropriate such as but not limited to, the Global Environment Facility, to enhance capacity-building, technology transfer and sustainable development projects with a view to promoting and supporting the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements. We reaffirm our commitment to implement multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) to which we are Parties, and will work on building synergies amongst MEAs to enhance their effective implementation.

6. We discussed the critical issue of climate change. There was not full consensus on this issue among Ministers of the Hemisphere.

The Challenges of Environmental Management in a Changing Hemisphere – the Need for Innovation

7. We recognize that while poverty results in certain kinds of environmental stress, a major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of consumption and production which is a matter of grave concerns, aggravating poverty and imbalances. We intend to maximize the potential for mutually supportive policies regarding economic integration and environmental protection. Strengthening environmental management systems in our countries starting with improved knowledge, appropriate tools and incentives and better partnerships, is of the utmost importance. We intend to work, in particular, to ensure that the process of economic integration supports our ability to adopt and maintain environmental policy measures to achieve high levels of environmental protection.

8. We will work in partnership to accelerate the development and application of environmental knowledge, such as national indicators to help monitor progress, by promoting, for example, further sharing of best practices and information exchanges between existing institutions and organizations and facilitating the development of environmental science networks across the hemisphere, taking into account, for example, the Convention on Biological Diversity.

9. Public participation is a key element of the decision-making process in environmental policies. We aim to maximize opportunities to increase knowledge, public education and participation, transparency and accountability on environmental issues, including by enhancing access to information about environmental conditions and technologies at the community level, in keeping with national legislation.

10. We will promote an innovative business climate through an appropriate mix of environmental policy initiatives and tools, based on a sound regulatory framework, including market instruments and voluntary initiatives.

11. In this context, we recognize the importance of building national capacity to develop and strengthen environmental laws and institutions and for environmental law implementation, compliance and enforcement, and will work together to combat unlawful international activities that harm the environment.

12. We continue to advance the development of pollution prevention strategies, in partnership with industry, environmental groups, indigenous and local communities, with the goal of increasing investment to encourage pollution prevention.

13. Aware of the accumulating costs of environmental degradation, we urge international organizations including multilateral financial institutions to consider ways and means of identifying and addressing this issue.

Improving the Environment for Better Human Health

14. We recognize the interrelationship between the environment and human health. We will build stronger bridges between the environment and health sectors to take more effective action. In this regard, we call on PAHO and UNEP to support the convening of a regional meeting between Ministers of Environment and Ministers of Health to take stock of progress achieved, to identify priority areas for renewed emphasis and cooperative initiatives, and to explore ways of moving the environmental health agenda forward in the Americas and globally, with a view to contribute to the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development.

15. We are encouraged by the conclusion of negotiations to reduce or eliminate the production, use and release of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that pose threats to human health and the environment, and encourage governments to sign and ratify this convention.

16. We will encourage the implementation of the resolution of the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS) held in Bahia, Brazil, last year.

17. We will work to improve air quality by: increasing our efforts and cooperative work on emissions such as transportation emissions, industrial emissions and transboundary pollution; supporting scientific research and sharing of best practices in the areas of air emission inventories, smog-forecasting, health impact advisories and community programs; encouraging public and private sectors and individual actions.

18. We will strive to enhance access to safe drinking water and sanitation services, and strengthen national and regional capacities for integrated water resources management (e.g., source water and watershed protection, water use efficiency, water quality and quantity, and water availability) and for waste management, by reinforcing cooperative partnership. We will work to help ensure that freshwater and marine and coastal environments, including coral reefs, are sustained and to prevent land-based sources of marine pollution.

19. We stress the need to lessen the vulnerability of our citizens and communities and reduce the impacts on our economies caused by natural phenomena such as, inter alia, floods, fires, hurricanes, earthquake, or drought. We will endeavour to take preventative measures and we will promote conservation of our ecosystems that serve to minimize the effects of these phenomena. We will also explore means to improve science and monitoring, including early warning systems necessary to reduce vulnerability to natural phenomena and provide accurate and useful information to the public.

Conservation of Biodiversity and Ecosystems

20. Half of the world’s wealthiest nations, as measured by the richness of their endemic flora and fauna, are countries of the Americas. Each of the countries of the Americas shares many ecosystems with its neighbours. Many of these ecosystems are under stress as a result of human activities. Healthy and productive ecosystems are the very basis of the economic and social health of nations. We undertake to stimulate and strengthen cooperation for the conservation, management, and sustainable use of biological diversity and healthy ecosystems throughout the Americas in support of the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity and other related agreements and initiatives. We welcome the efforts undertaken by the working groups established by the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity to address the issues of access to genetic resources and the protection of traditional knowledge

21. We encourage governments to cooperate for the effective implementation of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, particularly on issues related to capacity building and information sharing through the Biosafety Clearinghouse.

22. The development of the Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network (IABIN), first proposed at the Bolivia Summit in 1996, is an important stepping stone to effective management of biodiversity information, and an important complement to the Clearing House Mechanism of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. We will expand partnership networks and information sharing systems in support of the IABIN.

23. Habitat losses are a major threat to biological diversity. We will seek to develop better information on losses of different habitat types and the implications for biodiversity. We will actively promote improved management of protected areas and in this regard, we commit to cooperative regional activities. We will explore, where appropriate, the expansion of existing hemispheric networks for terrestrial and marine protected areas, including linkages to create biological corridors such as the Mesoamerica Biological Corridor.

24. In many habitats, invasive alien species are a major threat to native species and may pose a significant cost to society. We support the further development of information sharing networks for invasive alien species as well as cooperative efforts on prevention, control, management, public education and outreach, and incident notification.

25. Consistent with domestic regulations and international obligations, we strongly support the development of a hemispheric strategy to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of migratory species throughout the Americas, beginning with the management of migratory birds, building on existing bird conservation initiatives, and including, inter alia, the protection of wintering and breeding areas and migration routes of species within and across boundaries.

26. We will promote the adoption of concrete and urgent actions toward the implementation of sustainable forest management, building on existing international instruments and cooperation such as criteria and indicator processes. We are committed to initiatives that will facilitate sustainable forest management, in particular the UN Forum on Forests, and fully support the implementation of the proposals for action of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests and the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests.

27. Illegal trade in wild flora and fauna is a threat to our biodiversity and to the well-being and the livelihood of our people, who rely on the sustainable use of those wildlife populations and products. We will strengthen partnership networks and information systems to assist in the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).