45. The Commission seems to favour the development
of a set of principles, together with coherent strategies in the
key economic sectors. This could then be used to represent a positive
response to the Community's wider commitment to present its sustainable
development strategy to the proposed Rio +10 UN conference in
The Government supports the Finnish Presidency aim to combine
the Global Assessment process and the integration strategies to
develop an overarching EU sustainable development strategy.
46. Mr Meacher told us that the Environment
Council conclusions had acknowledged the importance of indicators
to accompany an EU sustainable development strategy.
These conclusions state that "in order to monitor progress
appropriate indicators must be developed expeditiously, resulting
in different sets of sectoral indicators, environmental indicators
and indicators for sustainable development."
English Nature agreed that indicators should be an "important
element" of an EU strategy and linked to goals and targets.
Dr Jefferiss (RSPB) felt that a set of "clear and unambiguous"
headline indicators were needed but not too many to be confusing.
Mr Meacher told us that the UK's fourteen headline indicators
were a model for what could be developed at European level.
The European Environment Agency has also set out a number of targets
as a benchmark for future improvement.
47. It is important that there is a clearly defined
relationship between the targets and indicators on sustainable
development developed at EU level and those developed by Member
States. Mr Meacher felt that Member States' strategies should
be compatible with an EU strategy.
Dr Paul Jefferiss (RSPB) suggested that both a top-down and a
bottom up approach were required so that there was a reciprocal
and iterative development of objectives, indicators and targets.
He suggested that the top-down approach may be more appropriate
for selection of indicators and objective setting for consistency
and comparability across the European Union. However, he also
thought that it would be pragmatic to allow Member States some
flexibility in the development of specific targets and the quantification
of how far to go on a specific indicator.
48. Mr Peter Madden (The Green Alliance) pointed
out that there was very little mention in the UK's sustainable
development strategy of the European dimension and the interaction
between UK and European levels. This was a "significant oversight"
bearing in mind the importance of the EU in setting environmental
policy and also because of the impact of the range of other EU
polices on key areas such as agriculture and transport.
49. The Committee believes that any EU Sustainable
Development Strategy should be more than a general statement of
principles. The Committee considers it important that the Government
pushes for a strategy for action rather than guidance, containing
quantitative targets, timetables and headline indicators against
which progress can be monitored.
50. The Committee commends the Government in its
efforts to promote the UK approach to indicators in the EU.
51. There is currently no established structure
in the Commission which appears to have the necessary cross-cutting
links to develop an EU Sustainable Development Strategy. There
is also no current formation of the Council, apart from the European
Council meeting itself, that would be competent to discuss and
endorse a sustainable development strategy and not much likelihood
of one being created. Mr Tony Brenton (FCO) reminded the Committee
that the Government had been supporting the rationalisation of
Council formations (ie reduction) not the creation of new ones
in an effort to reduce the fragmentation of EU business.
Mr Meacher did not favour the establishment of a specific Sustainable
Development Council because he felt it would allow the other Councils
to avoid their responsibilities with respect to integration.
The Government takes the view that a sustainable development strategy
must be owned and implemented across all Council formations rather
than being the work of one Council or Directorate General.
Again the need for strong political leadership is evident.
52. Mr Meacher suggested to us that the Commission
and "appropriate Council" should be involved in monitoring
any indicators associated with a sustainable development strategy.
He would like to see regular reports to each of the relevant Councils
about the progress which is being made in its area so that they
can take account of that and decide what policy changes are needed.
He acknowledged the important role of the EEA as a research body
and other witnesses felt that there was also a role for the EEA
as well as Eurostat for collecting and analysing the data associated
Both English Nature and the panel representing EEB-UK suggested
that there should also be a sustainable development unit located
in the President's office
and a Commissioner for Sustainable Development who was not the
Environment Commissioner, but perhaps a Vice-President,
to oversee and monitor the implementation of a strategy.
53. We support the Government view that an EU
sustainable development strategy cannot be the work of one Council
or Directorate General and that any strategy must be owned and
implemented across all Council formations to be effective. The
Committee believes that the Government should strongly oppose
any moves to allocate responsibility for developing an overall
strategy to DGXI which does not have the necessary overarching
authority or political clout. The development of a sustainable
development strategy will involve protracted and intensive negotiations
between almost all of the Commission Directorates General. Strong,
central political leadership from the President and Heads of Government
in Council is therefore essential to directing the process.
54. The Government should suggest that the Commissioner
Group on Growth, Competitiveness, Employment and Sustainable Development
prepares a draft strategy, serviced by a new Sustainable Development
Task Force, attached to the President's office. The six monthly
Heads of Government summit, meeting as the European Council, should
keep the strategy under regular review. The European Council must
take action when such reviews so demandpassing the 'green
baton' must not descend into passing the green buck.
55. Decisions on how co-ordinating and monitoring
should be carried out need to be discussed at a high level at
the same time as accepting a need for a strategy as these areas
are fundamental to the integration process.
41 2207th Environment Council meeting, Luxembourg, 12
October 1999 Back
Council Press Release 299, 2207th Council meeting: Environment,
12 October 1999, paragraph 12 Back
p. 3 paragraph 11,pp. 23 & 67 Back
p. 43 paragraph 3 Back
883-iii Session 1998-99 Q145, published within HC45-II Session
our future: What directions for future environment and sustainable
development policy? The Global Assessment of the Fifth Environmental
Action Programme, Inter-service draft, European Commission, paragraph
10.1, p. 21, 24 September 1999 Back
p. 46 paragraph 24 Back
48 Q133 Back
Council Press Release 299, 2207th Council meeting: Environment,
paragraph 12, 12 October 1999 Back
50 Q9 Back
51 Q54 Back
52 Q133 Back
53 Q148 Back
54 Q57 Back
p. 2 Back
57 Q138 Back
p. 46 paragraph 38 Back
59 Q137 Back
60 Q177 Back
61 Q56 Back
& Q12 Back
63 Q59 Back