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U.S. One of Five Countries to Oppose UN Environment Pact

Politics
French President Emmanuel Macron launches the Global Pact for the Environment in September. Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations in New York

The U.S. was one of only five countries to vote against a UN move towards establishing a Global Pact for the Environment on Thursday, The Associated Press reported.


The pact, the brainchild of French President Emmanuel Macron, would be "the first international legally binding document, gathering and harmonizing all environmental laws in one single document," according to the Permanent mission of France to the UN.

The resolution, approved by 143 of the 193 members of the UN General Assembly, with seven countries abstaining, called on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to produce a report for September's General Assembly session outlining any gaps in international environmental law. It also empowered a working group to prepare recommendations for filling those gaps to be presented in 2019.

Supporters see the pact as a way to continue the work of the Paris agreement and the 2030 UN goals for fighting poverty and protecting the Earth.

French Ambassador Francois Delattre, who spoke before the vote on behalf of the resolution's more than 90 co-sponsors, raised concerns about climate change, water and air pollution and biodiversity loss, saying these problems were already impacting the world's most vulnerable populations.

"If we don't act decisively, we are exposing ourselves to dire consequences: the exhaustion of natural resources, migrations, and an upsurge in conflicts," he said.

But President Donald Trump's appointee for U.S. UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, disagreed. In a statement reported by Fox News on Wednesday, Haley said she would vote against the resolution.

"When international bodies attempt to force America into vague environmental commitments, it's a sure sign that American citizens and businesses will get stuck paying a large bill without getting large benefits. The proposed global compact is not in our interests, and we oppose it," she said.

Her statement is of a piece with Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement.

The other countries who voted against the resolution were Russia, Turkey, the Philippines and Syria.

The idea for the pact was first floated by Macron in June 2017 and officially launched with a UN speech by Macron on Sept. 19, 2017.

In the speech, Macron alluded to the UN's long history of environmental statements and protocols based on extensive research and said all that work deserved to be codified in a single document.

"This draft is a challenge posed to us all: to build, in a way, the law which the epoch we've entered—the anthropocene epoch—needs," he said.

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