Select Committee on Environmental Audit Third Report


The Environmental Audit Committee has agreed to the following Report:



Progress since Rio

The global scene

    1.    Despite the fine words crafted at the Rio 'Earth Summit', we continue to struggle with the global problems discussed there whilst new problems continually emerge (para 11).

The World Summit on Sustainable Development

A true sustainable development summit?

    2.    We support the Government's decision to push issues such as poverty eradication and access to clean water as leading candidates for the World Summit on Sustainable Development's agenda rather than issues such as climate change and biodiversity where frameworks of action have largely been agreed. However, the World Summit on Sustainable Development does not start with a clean sheet and it is important that these elements of the Rio process are built upon and not forgotten in the World Summit on Sustainable Development discussions (para 21).

Developing a new global framwork

    3.    We believe that tensions between environment and development stand-points, as displayed by Jonathon Porritt and Clare Short, need to be resolved (para 24).


    4.    We strongly endorse the European Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallström's, view that any implementation deficit in relation to agreements reached at Johannesburg will quickly turn into a credibility gap, especially with the developing world. The Johannesburg Summit provides a unique forum to provide the ultimate, overarching framework for the integration of the trade and sustainable development agendas. This framework should provide the key point of reference for future negotiations and international agreements (para 30).

Financing the Rio commitments

    5.    We welcome the Government's commitment to achieving the 0.7 per cent ODA target and, in line with the International Development Committee, recommend that a clear timetable be set (para 36).


    6.    We commend the Prime Minister for leading by example by being the first world leader to announce his intention to attend the Summit. Such high level leadership is crucial to advancing the sustainable development agenda both domestically and abroad. The Prime Minister's attendance needs to be backed up with sustained, political engagement back home from both himself and all his Cabinet Ministers (para 44).

    7.    We recognise that high level attendance at the World Summit on Sustainable Development is vital if the event is to generate the necessary political momentum to "reawaken the Rio spirit". We therefore urge the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to continue in their efforts to encourage other world leaders, in particular President George W Bush, to attend the Summit (para 46).

Facilitating the full participation of other nations

    8.    We welcome the work of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to facilitate the participation of other nations in the Summit. We regret that some large EU countries have not yet committed funds to support the Summit and urge the UK Government to explore with the EU Commission ways of encouraging them to do so (para 50).

Developing the Summit's agenda

    9.    We very much welcome the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders in the preparations for the Summit. We also accept that this involvement brings many more competing bids for the World Summit on Sustainable Development's emerging agenda (para 59).

    10.    We acknowledge that the Government has developed focused UK priorities which mesh relatively well with the emerging EU and UN priorities. It is crucial that the UK also continues to work towards ensuring that the World Summit on Sustainable Development agenda which is agreed at PrepCom IV is clear and sharply defined. Otherwise, there is a real danger that the Summit will merely present an opportunity for many nations to engage in an bewildering array of discussions relating to economics, development or the environment in isolation rather than exploring the interface between them (para 60).

The emerging global wish list

    11.    We note that poverty eradication is emerging as a uniting theme for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. We acknowledge that this issue is a prime candidate for a Summit agenda which is seeking to explore global problems in the context of their economic, social and environmental impacts. We therefore hope that the Government will endeavour to ensure that any additional resources agreed at Monterrey are linked explicitly to key action programmes to be discussed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development rather than relegating the Summit to a rehearsal of old stalemates on development policy (para 63).

UK expectations for The World Summit on Sustainable Development

    12.    We accept the Deputy Prime Minister's concerns that expectations of the World Summit on Sustainable Development should not be over-ambitious if there is to be international consensus. However, expectations should not be pitched too low either. We cannot risk underestimating the nature of the task—achieving consensus and progress on issues such as poverty eradication and access to basic resources such as freshwater, is an ambitious challenge in itself. It will require the UK and other participating nations to be wholeheartedly committed at the outset to engage in delivering some new momentum in these areas (para 66).

    13.    We support the UK Government's push for practical, project-orientated, (Type 2) outcomes from the Summit (para 67).

UK priorities for the Summit

    14.    The Confederation of British Industry has applauded the Government for taking this sectoral approach which it sees as the most effective way of engaging business in the preparations for the Summit.[1] Mrs Beckett explained that this initiative was designed to provide a clear pathway for the business community to become involved in the Summit. We commend the Government for this innovative approach (para 72).

Influencing the EU agenda

    15.    We believe that the Government should be advocating discussion of the agenda for the World Summit on Sustainable Development by the European Council of Ministers (in all its formations) just as all departments within the UK Government should be engaged with the preparations for the Summit. This would be consistent with the spirit of the 'Cardiff process' for environmental policy integration which the Government itself instigated during its EU Presidency in 1998 (para 77).

UK Progress

    16.    We are concerned that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is seeking to portray the latest quality of life indicators as demonstrating improvement in UK quality of life when in fact the picture is mixed. Areas such as landuse, traffic and violent crime show worrying trends (para 86).

Reporting to the UN

    17.    In September 2001, the UK Government published its country report entitled "Review and Assessment of Progress made by the United Kingdom in the implementation of Agenda 21 at National and Regional Levels" to assist its preparations for the Summit. Disappointingly, this is little more than a list of every UK initiative related to a social, economic or environmental policy. It contains no critical assessment of where the UK has got to in the implementation of Agenda 21 and is not the warts and all assessment that the UN is seeking (para 87).

Structures and processes

    18.    We acknowledge that the Government has put in place much of the machinery necessary to generate
policies with sustainable development at their heart. However, these are far from delivering their full potential because few departments consider sustainable development to be central to their activities (para 102).

    19.    We recommend that the Government makes efforts to ensure that all departments make full use of the structures and processes which have already been set up to deliver policies consistent with sustainable development. Such engagement will be key to implementing any new commitments agreed at Johannesburg (para 103).

Generating Enthusiasm and Action at Home

Presenting clear messages

    20.    It is important that Ministers across Government take on a leadership role in explaining and articulating sustainable development as it relates to particular policy areas. We fully endorse the Sustainable Development Commission's suggestion that each Cabinet Minister should make a key note speech on a sustainable development theme in the run up to the Summit (para 109).

Communications strategy

    21.    Unfortunately, we find that many departments cannot point to any awareness raising activities linked to the Summit at all and have yet to flag up the event through their websites or even provide links to the Government's sustainable development website (para 119).

    22.    We welcome the preparation of the Government Communications Strategy for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. However, the late appearance of this strategy means that there has been little impetus for departments to start to 'drip-feed' messages about the Summit at an early stage. Now, with five months until the Summit, there is little evidence of a sound foundation of public awareness upon to which to launch a more powerful media offensive nearer the Summit itself. It is crucial that the Government makes good use of the time it has left to generate some enthusiasm for the event (para 120).

    23.    We support the recommendation of the Sustainable Development Commission that all Cabinet Ministers should make a key note speech on sustainable development in the run up to the Summit (para 121).

UK Preparatory Mechanisms for the Summit

    24.    We find UK preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development to be comprehensive and well organised despite inadequate resources, particularly within DEFRA. Although we would have welcomed an earlier start to these preparations, we commend the Government for its strategic and inclusive approach (para 132).

UK Government and other structures

    25.    We note that DTLR intends to publish its departmental sustainable development strategy in the run up to the Summit. However, we are disappointed that DTLR did not take up the opportunity to send a representative to attend PrepCom II bearing in mind its responsibilities relating to regional policy (para 136).

The devolved administrations

    26.    We would welcome high level participation in the Johannesburg Summit from all the Devolved Assemblies (para 147).

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Prepared 26 March 2002