Explanation of Vote on a UN General Assembly Resolution Entitled “Towards a Global Pact for the Environment” A/72/L.51

Mark Simonoff
Minister Counselor
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
May 10, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States regrets that we must call a vote and vote against this resolution. To date, there has been no transparent, open discussion among member states about the need for or purpose of a new international environmental instrument. The United States opposes a resolution that – already in its title – purports to prejudge movement towards a “Global Pact for the Environment” when the concept remains ambiguous, and member states have not yet considered the merits of such a proposal or how it would contribute to the existing international environmental regime.

The United States has engaged constructively in the negotiation of this resolution. In fact, in the spirit of compromise, we have been willing to support the establishment of an open-ended working group to examine whether there are gaps in the existing environmental system and, if so, possible options for addressing those gaps. However, the United States cannot support the title or any language in operative paragraph 2 that would prejudge the working group’s discussions or presume – before particular international environmental challenges have even been identified – that a new international instrument would be the most appropriate solution. We also cannot accept language in preambular paragraph 7 of this resolution indicating that environmental challenges need to be addressed in a “comprehensive” manner; in fact, such language ignores that many of the most successful environmental agreements, such as the Montreal Protocol or CITES, are narrowly tailored to address specific environmental problems. Our concerns on these points were not addressed sufficiently or taken into account.

One of our fundamental interests throughout this process has been to ensure that this proposal does not disrupt or distract from the continuing implementation of existing international environmental agreements, and we believe many delegations share our concerns in this regard. As a result, going forward, we understand operative paragraph 9 as recognizing that nothing in this process or any outcome thereof should impact the rights and obligations of Parties under existing agreements. At the same time, given that some of the proponents of a “Global Pact” have suggested it should include a reexamination of certain environmental principles, such as the Rio Principles referenced in preambular paragraph 4, the United States cannot support language reaffirming these principles in this context.

The United States has therefore called a vote on this resolution and will vote against it, and we urge other member states to do so as well. The United States believes that consensus on this resolution could have been achieved if appropriate consideration had been given to member states’ legitimate concerns. We are unaware of any successful environmental negotiation that was initiated by vote over the objections of member states on a truncated schedule, and we regret that further time was not allocated to achieve agreement on a path forward or for member states to engage in productive debate. We will now look ahead to a discussion with other member states of the substantive merits of this proposal in the open-ended working group.

Thank you, Mr. President.