Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
WEDNESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2002
40. The cost/benefit, I am referring to?
(Dr Jefferiss) Yes; we have not conducted those on
a global basis.
41. It would be very helpful to have that.
(Dr Jefferiss) Yes, sure.
42. Thank you very much indeed.
(Mr Nouhan) May I make a comment on one of the earlier
questions. It was asked how Governments are preparing, how the
UK Government is preparing, how the international community is
preparing. It did not begin early enough. Our organisation, UNED-UK,
began advocating preparations for this event in 1998. Now I said
they had not begun early enough; in fact, it appears, though I
have not done an exhaustive evaluation of it, that the UK Government
is probably one of the, if not the, most advanced in preparing
both domestically and its activities internationally, but even
the UK Government got off to a slow start. Why is that; it appears,
at least from the people that we speak to regularly in Government,
it is very much a resource thing. For our organisation, for UNED,
certainly the resources to start this process, despite the fact
that we began exploring it, in 1998, and we began it in earnest
in September 2000, nevertheless, it is a difficult thing to conduct,
resources are there but they are not nearly as much as we need
to do it adequately.
43. We get the impression that the UK Government
is underresourced, in preparing for the Summit, by comparison,
for example, with ten years ago, the Rio Summit; there is not
the input there?
(Mr Nouhan) I do not know the figures, but were you
suggesting you have that data?
44. No, we do not have that data, we just have
(Mr Nouhan) I do not know the figures, compared with
last time. I can certainly find that out.
45. It will be useful, if you can let us know?
(Mr Nouhan) Yes; you want to know how much money was
put into it pre-1992, and resources this time around. The resources
are there, but everybody acknowledges that so much needs to be
done, and it is not necessarily for a lack of trying. The teams
that we work with, in DEFRA they have their Environment Protection
International, which is the lead on this; since October, they
have had a domestic WSSD team, with whom we work very closely.
They are working very hard, but do they have the resources to
do it, I think not to do it as well as they would like.
Chairman: Yes, I appreciate that.
46. Continuing with the tie between International
Development and Environment, I think possibly I would be interested
in hearing from Friends of the Earth on this one, Mr Phillips,
we are talking about International Development coming on the heels
of Environment, but how far do you think the Development NGOs
are incorporating Environment in their agenda?
(Mr Phillips) I would just emphasise, actually, the
poverty issue being a high profile at the Summit, we are very
comfortable with that, especially given the sort of international
nature of the network that we are, when we are involved in this
sort of process. The Summit is about sustainable development,
so it is only partly about the environment, it is about the meeting-point
between the three different tiers, environment, social and economic,
and that theme, therefore, needs to be reminded and refreshed
throughout the work. We actually work very closely with quite
a set of Development NGOs, who can see the synergies between sustainable
development and the things they are trying to put forward, as
do we; so we are working with a lot of groups, such as Christian
Aid, for example, on promoting the idea of corporate accountability
being a central theme within the Summit. There is so much common
ground there from the NGOs, and when we are actually there, it
has to be said, NGOs are seen as NGOs, are seen as one lump, we
are given one voice, and that voice is formally considered no
more significant than the business voice, or the voice of farmers,
or youth, or unions, or the other major groups, as they seem to
be called. But the reality is, in terms of the actual activities
that were there, quite a few NGOs were there, and quite active,
and talking to a lot of Governments, and there is a fearsome,
as one delegate described to me, a fearsome amount of business
lobbying going on there. None of that, of course, is up front,
that all seems to be very behind the scenes.
47. One final question, on that. It is the Johannesburg
Summit, and we are all talking about poverty being high up the
agenda; to what extent is the fact that it is in Johannesburg,
and clearly the agenda is being driven by African leaders, but
it is a global Summit, about global sustainable development, to
what extent is it being hijacked, or being used for another means,
which is the eradication of poverty, rather than having the environmental
issues right at its heart? Is that a concern, that it is actually
becoming a Summit about Africa, rather than world environmental
(Dr Jefferiss) I would say that `hijacked' is much
too strong a term.
48. I was being deliberately provocative.
(Dr Jefferiss) I think there is likely to be an emphasis
on poverty alleviation, but, as I have suggested, I do not think
that is necessarily incompatible with an environmental or economic
agenda at the same time, if you frame the issues correctly. I
do think I would be concerned though that an exclusive focus on
a development agenda, in an African context, could distract attention
from the fact that some of the more specifically environmental
issues, on a global scale such as climate change and biodiversity
loss, are not progressing very well, and we should not lose sight
of that. Because, the fact that biodiversity and climate change
are showing negative trends will, in turn, have very significant
negative impacts on poverty alleviation. Both of those things
are likely to cause increased poverty, and I think we need to
keep those kinds of connections in mind.
(Mr Nouhan) Could I comment. I have to say, it is
Africa because there is no other place in the world where the
three pillars and the key issues, environmental and development,
in our time, converge in a better place than Africa; if anything,
having it there legitimises the process, rather than we should
perceive it as being hijacked.
49. Just finally, can I quickly ask, we are
coming to the end of the time, you talked about Governments and
you talked about civil society, what do you think Parliaments
in the world could do to get this up the agenda?
(Mr Phillips) We are not seeing the pressure being
put on Ministers. The mismatch we have seen, when we have been
there, at New York, has been about, a lot of information-gathering
about what people think, and the fact that Governments really
are not moving very far from their policy positions, when it actually
comes to their negotiation. So it is almost as if, there is a
sort of a feeling of going through the motions, and the only reason
they can get away with that is because, not all the Governments
there are democratic, but a lot of them, and very influential
ones, are, they are not getting the spikes, sort of saying, "Well,
what are you going to deliver; are you going to address these
controversial issues that might be rubbing up against normal policy
parameters, as part of the negotiation?".
50. So what could this Committee do about that?
(Mr Nouhan) One word: leadership. I do not mean to
be critical, as much as to say what Parliaments can do is they
can stand up and make it public, do something about it. I walked
out of the UK Mission in New York, a week ago, and as I was getting
onto the elevator I almost knocked over a Member of Parliament,
a name whom I will not mention. I introduced myself, and he said,
"Hello, nice to meet you; what are you doing here?"
I explained what I was doing there; he did not have a clue that
the PrepCom was going on.
(Mr Phillips) He was probably there for the World
Economic Forum, was he?
(Mr Nouhan) Perhaps; perhaps.
Chairman: He thought he was at Davos, really.
51. Finally, it is nearly ten years now since
Rio; what has the Government actually achieved, if anything, what
is on the record that is working, or are they just simply now
rushing around, trying to cobble things together, to whip up some
initiatives, in order to look good at the Summit?
(Dr Jefferiss) In terms of the UK's domestic policy?
52. Yes, exactly.
(Dr Jefferiss) I would say that, in terms of establishing
processes and structures that relate to Agenda 21 and sustainability,
they have made excellent progress, and there are many examples,
including the Environmental Audit Committee, of steps in the right
direction, but there are many others, the UK Strategy on Sustainable
Development, the headline indicators, the Biodiversity Action
Plans, both at the UK and local levels; so I think there are many
examples of process and structures of that kind. In some cases,
I think, they have actually influenced policy development, so
now, for example, the Treasury subjects spending plans to sustainability
assessment; in some cases, they have led to sustainable policy,
so you have got examples, such as the Renewable Energy Obligation
on suppliers, and a willingness to entertain modulation of production
subsidies in agriculture. I think though that there are still
fundamental problems, and specifically a lack of political will
to put sustainable development right into the heart of particularly
economic policy-making, and so you have a set of structures that
are there to deliver sustainability, but implementation in particular
economic sectors has been either incomplete or contradictory or
non-existent. So, in energy policy, for example, there are plenty
of examples of contradictory policy, where one good initiative
is cancelled out by a negative initiative; similarly in waste
policy; similarly in agricultural policy. The recent Planning
Green Paper, for example, does not seem to invoke the concept
of sustainable development at all. Another example would be the
DTI, they have a Sustainable Development Strategy, which is to
be welcomed, but in a recent press release, announcing the review
of the objectives and roles of the DTI, sustainable development
was not given a mention. So I think there are real problems in
implementation, as well as real successes.
Mr Barker: So, in some way, perhaps, we should
take the whole thing in the round and give it marks out of ten.
Chairman: I think we will have to draw the session
to a close, I am afraid. That was a very succinct, if I may say
so, and very clear answer, so if you do not mind we will have
to, because we have overrun by a quarter of an hour already. But
thank you very much indeed. As you see, we have struggled to contain
this huge subject in the time available. But I am very grateful
to all three of you, I think it has been an extremely illuminating
session. Thank you all very much indeed.