Informational interview with Jeb Brugmann from ICELI
by Joan M. Veon
Rio Plus Five Meeting
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil March 13-19, 1997

Established at the UN in 1990 in New York and it stands for the International Council for Environmental and Local Initiatives.

JV: ICELI was started in 1990, two years before UNCED. What was going on at that time to start the foundational infrastructure?

JebB: It is a very interesting story. it is an American story. Throughout the 1980s, local government officials, about 600 of them, organized in a network called "Local Elected officials for Social Responsibility" and their concern at that time was primarily addressing the local impacts and the international development impacts of American foreign policy. You may remember cities declaring themselves as sanctuaries for refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala, divesting from South Africa, establishing sister-city relations with the Soviet Union and this movement built and demonstrated the capacity of local governments to have an impact in international affairs so when the Cold War came to an end, we, in the movement, decided that we had to identify the next phase of activities for local government involvement and it was clear at that time that we should focus on the global environment. In 1989, a group of 30 American cities gathered at the American Academy of Sciences and Engineering with Sherwood Rolands, who is a chemist who received the Nobel prize for discovering the depletion of the ozone layer and we held a meeting to determine how cities in the United States could implement the Montreal Protocol to phase out CFC's at a time when the Bush administration was unwilling to include language in the Clean Air Act to actually put the Montreal Protocol into effect. These 35 cities passed local ordinances to phase out CFC's in a very rapid time schedule. That hit the media, it was a front page story and the top evening news story in the national media one weekend. It happened to be the weekend that George Bush was making his announcement about the Clean Air Act and a kind of David-Goliath dynamic got set up where the local governments were saying, "We're willing to lead, if your not Washington." It had a real impact on the final outcomes in Washington. But that alerted the United Nations Environment Program to the potential of local governments and we got a call the next day by the head of the UN Environment Program in NY, inviting us to come to the UN to have a global meeting of local governments to determine how we could play a similar role in other similar kind of role in other global environmental accords and that is the brackground story.


Note: The above was tapped in a large room and it became too noisy so we went to
another location where I could do two segments for my radio show.

Transcription of Interview with International journalist and businesswoman Joan Veon with
Jeb Brugman - International Council for Environmental and Local Initiatives. RIO=5, Brazil

JV Intro:
I am talking to Jeb Bruggman from the International Council for Environmental and Local initiatives. We are talking about how to move Agenda 21 from Agenda to Action. There are many groups who have come together to understand the Agenda AND WHAT needs to be done. Jeb, if you will tell us about ICELI, when you started coming to meeting and what it means.

Jeb: ICELI stands for the International Council for Local and Environmental Initiatives. We are the international environmental agency of local government and we are actually born out of a movement of local governmental officials in the 1980s . About 600 local government officials gathered together at that time to address the local impacts and the global implications of U.S. foreign policy throughout the 1980s and you may remember during those years major cities declaring sanctuary policies for refugees from Guatemala and El Salvador and Haiti, divestment from South Africa, U.S.-Soviet Sister City Relationships. Many of these officials, as the Cold War came to an end, thought that they should continue to be involved internationally and the obvious issue to turn their attention to was the global environment. In 1989 you may remember the U.N. was negotiating an international convention to deal with the issue of the ozone layer, the U.S. government was a bit ambivalent about its commitment to phase out CFC's and 35 local elected officials from American cities gathered with Sherwin Rolands, who is the Nobel Prize Laureate who discovered this problem in Southern California and made a commitment to establish an inter-city accord to deal with the ozone depletion problem. When this hit the press on a weekend which George Bush, the president at the time, was announcing his position in the Clean Air Act, it was clear that local governments were willing to carry forward a global environmental agenda at a time when the United States Government was ambivalent. We got a call that weekend from the UNEP and they invited us to come to the U.N. as local governments from around the world to discuss how we at the local level could play a role implementing global environmental strategies.

Joan: Jeb, how did you get involved? You obviously have been there from the beginning. What was your role and were you surprised to get a call from the Untied Nations?

Jeb: We were surprised, because we were aware that we were having an impact but we never thought of a direct relationship between local government and the U.N. which is an organization of countries. I got involved with local government in the early 1980s as part of this broader peace and human rights movement. I was actually the Director of the City of Cambridge, MA Peace Commission, a very unusual city agency and it was through that Commission that we were able to build this international network. But now the ICELI is a worldwide organization. We have 250 city members from about 60 countries. They represent about 150 million people. What we have discovered is that through the concrete practical actions of the cities at the local level, we can have a real measurable impact on global environmental trends.

JV: You talked earlier about the cities were doing a number of things--sanctuaries, sister cities in the USSR, separating out when they did not agree with the political trends of the government, what kind of role did that play in the evolution of your firm?


Jeb: That was the pilot test experience to determine if people acting locally could actually influence international policy of governments and could have an impact internationally and we found that we were having impacts. Cities divested 10's if not hundreds of millions of dollars from businesses involved in South Africa. That had an impact. That brought it to the state level. From the state level, as they divested, it bought it to the Congress and eventually Congress changed it policy. These sanctuary city policies, which in fact in some cities still are in effect today, raised the profile of that issue and one and one-half year later, the Supreme Court ruled that the Immigration Service of the U.S. was in violation of U.S. law in sending these refugees back so we found in case after case, in concerted, local action that we could have an impact on things that are suppose to be outside the domain of local concerns foreign policy issues.

That was one thing to do in a period of great international tensions but we were always hoping to have a positive impact in terms of being able to create something. What we found since Rio, the Earth Summit that so many of the agenda items in Agenda 21 actually cannot ever be implemented without local governments and communities taking action. So that is what we are about today---making sure this agreement among nations actually will get implemented after all the rhetoric is spent.

Joan: It is really powerful as you speak. In 1990 you said you were approached by the UN, you have been in this many years before that. Was it a surprise to understand the power that you had?

Jeb: Well, I am obviously a great advocate of local government. I believe that that is the level of government which will survive and has historically survived the crises, the revolutions in the world. The government in the Soviet Union in Russia has changed many times but the City of Moscow and St. Petersburg have always been there. When we look at the environmental movement, people have always seen local governments as apart of the problem but if we take a bigger perspective, it was in New York City, it was the municipality in the 19th C actually was the first government in the U.S. to invest making a major environmental infrastructure investment and that was to build a sewage and drainage system in New York City and local governments over time have in some way, been at the forefront of investing for environmental protection. Right now as we approach the end of the century, local governments in the U.S. account for 65% of total public expenditures on the environment. So what we have realized is there is a tremendous amount of resource and capacity to take action and not just to talk about policy.

JV: You have grown substantially. Let's talk about the United States and then internationally. You started, if you well, as a grassroots group a number of years ago and little by little you realized that you were having an impact on international foreign policy by what you were doing locally so now as you have been tapped by the UN, how has that influenced what you have done or are doing in the U.S., how many cities do you have in the U.S. and what do you see now as your mandate?

Jeb: Now we are able to plan ahead a bit more rather than react to an international policy in figuring out what we can do with it. We get engaged in the design of that policy. As the United Nations is right now negotiating an international treaty on dealing with the Climate Change problem, the cities are the table. In the U.S. 45 cities have joined an international "Cities for Climate Protection Campaign" and their commitment as participants in that campaign is to develop a local action plan to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. EPA is giving full support to this activity financially and in other ways and in fact, the cities are reporting to the U.S. EPA on their emissions reduction so the U.S. Government can go to the international arena and claim that the U.S. is complying with its treaty commitments. So we are now at the starting point of engaging in a process with the United Nations and governments in actually designing the policies that we can implement locally in order to achieve global

environmental accords and we will be doing the same with Climate, Agenda 21, endorsed a major international campaign called "Local Agenda 21" whereby now more than 2000 cities in more than 60 countries around the world are developing Agenda 21's for their cities with concrete targets, with concrete budgets on how they are going to implement these things and this is a movement that is now beginning in the U.S. Out of the 4000 or so cities and towns in the United States, there are now only 19 formally in this Local Agenda 21 activities.

Joan: Can you give us the names of some of those cities?

Jeb: Seattle, Santa Monica, San Francisco, Chattanooga, TN, some of the names you have heard before, I believe even Tacoma Park [MD] is involved.

Joan: Well, that is close to home. As you expand in the United States, what other activities are you involved with, for example, you may or may not know in Maryland, we have "Smart Growth" and the "Rural Legacy." Is that all part of this?

Jeb: Well, actually we end up have an urban bias in the way we are approaching problems for two reasons. First people don't realize that cities are an environmental opportunity. People traditionally in the environmental movement have seen cities as a problem. Environmentalist have always thought that saving the planet is about creating new parks, protecting wilderness areas, things that are outside of the lives of the average people in the United States....or understanding. most people don't get to go to these parks, actually. The city, because of its concentration allows us to economically invest in the infrastructure we need in order to protect the environment as well as social services. it is by creating high density that we can finance public transportation systems, recycling systems, all of these things so we want to reap the opportunity of the city to protect the environment. On the other hand, because so many resources are consumed in cities, it is at this level that we can have an impact. So we are looking at water management, solid waste management, air pollution issues in the context of the planet--the whole gamut of environmental issues.

JV: With regard to biospheres. That is a very key part of Agenda 21. Is that also a key part of what you
are doing on the local level with The Nature Conservancy and other groups and organizations?

Jeb: Some of the cities we work with, not so much in the U.S. Durban, South Africa is a city in a tropical areas with great biodiversity and during the apartite era, it was able to maintain a variety of parks but as democracy has been established in South Africa, people who used to be forced to live in townships have come to live in the city and they have established squatter settlements in many parks so there is tension between social justice and economic development in protecting natural areas. What they have done is engaged these squatter communities in actually being the people who are employed to maintain the parks and they have created a whole linking system to make sure that all of the difference species who live within Durban are able to migrate and have a large enough territory in order to redpruce themselves. Cities, even where there is not a lot of natural area are taking a great interest in the biodiversity issue. coastal management as you know from the East Coast, is an area where municipalities have played a major role.


Tape Two
Joan Veon - I am interviewing Jeb Brugmann - ICELI - this is in follow-up to the Rio earth summit in 1992. There are a lot of lings going on, we need to get plugged in and to act.

Jeb, when we talk about ICELI, you have a growing role with regard to the environment and Agenda 21. At what point did you get involved and how do you see implementing Agenda 21?

We got involved during the process of the negotiation of Agenda 212 sustainable development action plan. Our job since the Summit has been to make sure that local government is aware of its responsibilities in implementing that plan and that it has the resources and the support to do. What does it mean? Local governments needs to create a mechanism in which they work with the business community, the non-profit organizations, the civic sector to develop strategies to implement the different chapters of Agenda 21--dealing with issues like protection of the atmosphere, water resources, biological diversity, changing consumption patterns, sustainable agriculture--all of these areas mentioned in Agenda 21. So what do we have to work with at the local level? First we have local law and regulation. municipalities manage the infrastructure or invest in the infrastructure which is needed to deal with pollution control, municipalities often times have a great influence over the public educational system and psend a lot of money. The way they spend their money in the markets can have dramatic impact on the kinds of products and services available to consumer s and to give some example, local governments in the southwestern states of the U.S. organized together with one another because they could not afford to buy recycled paper so they aggregated their demand and jointly purchased large bulks of this paper to bring the price down and now we at our local xerox centers can get recycled paper made available to us. So the purchasing power of the local government is very influential as well.

As the international community identifies global environmental problems scientifically, develops policies, nations sign international agreements and then they go back and pass national laws, all of these things eventually trickle down to us at the local level in our cities and in our households. And so, what ICELI does, is looks ahead and tries to identify, well what are the new issues going to be on the agenda? And how can we build a capacity locally to be able to implement those things by the time they come around to us locally?

Joan: Powerful. I mean. Powerful. With regard to the local level, the big buzz word that has been growing, if you will, in importance is public-private partnerships. How -- what is it and how does it affect Agenda 21, the implementation thereof?

Jeb: Well, as most people know in their cities, if there isn't a good relationship between the residents of the town or the businesses of the town and the local government, not much gets done. There's just a lot of rhetoric and controversy, but things don't move forward. And, we in the local government community have also realized that we have limited resources. The federal government and state governments have been down loading responsibilities to us now for many years without the money that they had available in order to implement those things. So, things are tight in our local budgets. We're trying to overcome this by taking a partnership strategy to implementation and in many cities, particularly those that are doing this local Agenda 21 process in the U.S. What they do is create multi-sectoral councils or organizations where local government representatives, business, the church community, the union community, the non-profit community meet together, flesh out a common strategy in areas where they can agree with one another and make joint agreements to implement that strategy. What does that mean? The local government agrees that

first it will get its own house in order. It will, if the strategy is in the area of energy, it will retrofit its buildings. It will promote energy efficiency in its operations. At the household level, households get involved by retrofitting their own homes and putting in energy efficient light bulbs and things like that. And it's through these community-wide campaigns that we really see the results. If it's just one sector of government or industry working alone, we see sort of individual cases of good practice, but it doesn't add up to a change in the global trends. We like to say in ICELI when we ask ourselves if we're being effective, has the Earth noticed yet? Does the planet notice what we're doing. And so, ultimately it's through every sector being involved that we ..

Joan: And how will it answer that, Jeb?

Jeb: We are now going from stage one, which is mobilization and getting yourself organized to stage two which is actually monitoring whether we're having an impact. And, this year we're launching a new program. It's called Cities 21. We will be inviting our members from around the world to measure the change in their performance in key areas, energy, waste management, water resources management, from 1990 to 2000. And in the year 2000 as the world looks at a scary new century and asks itself, are we any closer to sustainability that we were in 1992, we will actually have aggregated the results of these cities to see whether we're having a positive impact or a negative impact. My guess is we'll see that in the 1990's we got ourselves organized, but we continued to have a detrimental impact when we add it all up. But that will allow us to figure out what are the new measures that we need to put in place in order to be successful in the next century.

Joan: I have a basic question. One that's been growing within my understanding which is also growing. How did the world or the earth come this far without the measures that have been, if I understand correctly, instituted, talked about, evolved since maybe before 1972, but I don't know when. But, how has the world come this far since 1972 without self-destructing?

Jeb: Well, the world, our planet is an extremely resilient planet and our economies in the 1800's and even in the early 20th century were still small enough that we weren't having a dramatic impact on the biosphere of the planet. But, economic growth is accelerating tremendously. Since 1992, 450 million new people have been born on this planet. So, as we speak 10,000 new people will come into this planet. So, population growth, economic growth are accelerating to the point where the earth is noticing and we're stressing the limits of the balance in our eco-system.

Why we haven't done something sooner is an interesting question. I like to say, in a historical context that we spent most of the 20th century arguing over two doctrines of development. There is the socialist doctrine of development and the capitalist doctrine of development and we spent all our resources battling between these two doctrines. We had the Cold War, we had real wars. I mean, hundreds of billions of dollars. And, it wasn't until the Cold War came to an end, 1987 the World Commission on Environment Development put forward a third doctrine called sustainable development which is about balancing between social equity, the long time socialist concern, economic vitality, the capitalist concern and then this new concern that neither paid any attention to which is environmental sustainability. So, we have a new concept for how to develop now and we're just beginning to learn how to put it into practice.

Joan: Out of all the definitions I've heard of sustainable development, Jeb, that is the most precise, concise definition that I have heard that basically answers, I think a lot of questions about what's going on. Can you elaborate on those three for a moment?

Jeb: Well, it's clear that if -- we obviously all want a vital economy. We were talking earlier about why the American public isn't more involved in the environment and how people are just stressed out -- both parents working, people just trying to keep ahead and maintain their lifestyle. So, we all want that, but the reality is that in our societies, and we see it in our inner cities in the United States, people have no reason to buy into what you'd call the social contract, to be part of the system. They will work to undermine the economic system. And that is the case in much of the United States. It's also true that if we use up all our resources and create polluted environments that there won't be an economy either. so, we need at the local level to bring the interest groups for these three tracts of development, social well-being, economic vitality and the environment together with one another to negotiate out how to best advance all of those agendas. In the past we've seen constant conflict between business interests and the environmental community or even the unions have often times come out against environmentalism. what we're realizing now is that sustainable development is an agenda in all of our interest.

Joan: In doing some research I realized that in Russia they have been aware of sustainable development, not in those phrases, but the environment for much longer than we have. Are we just catching up to the rest of the world?

Jeb: Well, I think the United States, to be fair, the United States has been a global leader on the environment. we have been a country that has lead in major environmental legislation that other countries around the world have followed. I worked, as you know, through our sister city relationships in the Soviet Union during the communist regime. They had strong environmental laws, but because there is no distinction between business and government, those laws were never implemented. So, I don't think we can be that critical of ourselves. The world has still a lot to learn from the U.S.A.

Joan: Where do you see Agenda 21, the Rio Summit, going? What's the next step at this point?

Jeb: Well, it's got to be implementation, implementation, implementation. National governments have backed off from the agenda since 1992. We need more support from National governments. there's a lot of deregulation going on, not maintaining environmental laws, disinvestment from sustainable development. So, we need to reinforce the partnership between different levels of government. We can't all do it at the local level.

Joan: That brings us to public-private partnerships. What will be their role in putting it all together?

Jeb: Excuse me, what will be ICELI's role in putting it all together? We have two roles. Of course to maintain these, develop these partnerships at the local level, but we at local government have to continue to put pressure on state and national government to be there as a partner as well and not just to say, well, that's a local problem, we'll delegate it to the municipalities and we'll go concern ourselves with free trade, deficit reduction and other agenda items.

Joan: Jeb Brugman, our time is almost up I would like to thank you for your graciousness, for helping us understand what ICELI is doing, what's going on and, again, the future, and the future is ours. Thank you so much.