International Environment

U.S. Funding of Environmental Programs and Activities Gao ID: RCED-96-234 September 30, 1996

In recent decades, nations have entered into an increasing number of agreements to address environmental concerns, both regional and global. Since 1972, when more than 130 countries took part in the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, the number of such agreements in which the United State participates or in which it has a significant interest has swelled from fewer than 50 to more than 170. Accompanying the rise in the number of international agreements has been an increase in spending by the world community to deal with transboundary environmental issues. Members of Congress have raised concerns about the absence of consolidated budget information on the funding of international environmental activities by the federal government. This report discusses the overall level of federal funding for international environmental activities, including specific programs, treaty negotiations, information exchanges, conferences, and research. GAO identifies (1) funding by individual federal agencies and (2) federal financial support for the environmental programs and activities of the United Nations, the World Bank, and other multilateral financial institutions.

GAO found that; (1) in fiscal years (FY) 1993 through 1995, the Departments of State and Commerce, DOE, AID and EPA spent a combined total of $975.2 million in support of programs and activities related to the 12 international environmental agreements that were covered by GAO's review; (2) the greatest share of this spending, about 71 percent of the total, was related to the objectives of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; (3) the next largest shares of the spending, about 20 percent and 5 percent, respectively, related to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the International Tropical Timber Agreement; (4) AID accounted for the largest single share, 61 percent of the total spending by the five federal agencies, followed by DOE, which contributed nearly 31 percent of the agencies' spending; (5) the spending by both agencies was primarily related to fulfilling the individual missions of those agencies, and was devoted principally to funding specific projects and programs; (6) in both cases, this spending related more closely to the objectives of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change than to the other international environmental agreements covered by GAO's review; (7) the U.S. government's financial support for the international environmental programs and activities of nonfederal agencies consisted primarily of financial support for the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and for the activities of the World Bank and other multilateral financial institutions, including the Global Environment Facility; (8) from 1992 through 1995, the United States contributed a total of $74.61 million to UNEP's Environment Fund, which represented about 23 percent of all nations' contributions to the fund during that period; (9) from 1992 through 1995, the United States also contributed a total of $7.09 million to the special purpose trust funds administered by UNEP, which was approximately 11 percent of all nations' contributions to these funds in that period; (10) in FY 1993 through 1995, the United States provided a total of $4.73 billion to support the overall activities of multilateral development banks and other international financial institutions; (11) while it is not possible to determine precisely what percentage of this amount went for environmental projects, the World Bank, which received approximately 70 percent of this funding, recently reported that almost 10 percent of its investment portfolio was devoted to projects with primarily environmental objectives; and (12) another recipient of funds for environmental purposes was the Global Environment Facility, which in the same period received U.S. contributions totaling $120 million to provide developing countries with grants and loans, at favorable terms, for projects and activities designed to protect the global environment.

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