Global environmental problems require strengthened global coordination structures that protect the global commons, ensure the long-term sustainability of planet Earth, encourage governments to take actions, and provide agreed frameworks to do so. These structures will need to be reinforced by environmental observing systems, scientific research programmes, policy advice and assessment panels, legislative bodies and international policy action mechanisms—some of which are already at an embryonic stage of development.
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.
At the national level, the USA currently devotes about 2% of its gross national product to environmental protection, intending to increase this allocation to about 3% by 2000. More than 60% is incurred by the private sector, and most of that is borne by business at an annual rate of increase of 7% (or cumulatively estimated over US$95,000 million in 2000). Comparatively, this expenditure is the highest in the world, although certain Scandinavian countries, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, France, and the UK, also spend more than 1% of their GNP on the environment.
The LIFE programme of the European Union was the only one which supported ecological initiatives in all parts of Europe, irrespective of how well-off they were. Its total budget was 450 million euro for the period from 1997 to 1999. It supported three main types of projects: LIFE-Nature, which sought to protect animals and plants, as well as their habitats, LIFE-Environment and LIFE-Third Countries. The projects approved for co-financing ranged from a radio-controlled robot submarine to recover oil and other dangerous substances that have leaked from sunken vessels to the sustainable management of high tourist flows and the creation of job opportunities.
Information on the current state of the environment is riddled with weakness. There are few tools to assess how developments in one region affect other regions, and whether the dreams and aspirations of one region are compatible with the sustainability of the global commons.
Japan had only cleaned up its environment at home by exporting its problems to other parts of Asia.