Select Committee on Environmental Audit Third Report


Developing a new global framework

22. Ms Short, told us that the Summit provided an opportunity to move the "very northern-dominated green agenda, which is almost anti-development" to one of concerns about the "environment and sustainable development".[26] She certainly felt that environmental NGOs had not sufficiently embraced the development agenda. FoE and RSPB disputed this.[27] Jonathon Porritt, Chairman of the SDC, told us that the Secretary of State was "extremely well known for her difficulty with encompassing where the modern environmental movement was" and for her "one-woman campaign to seek to belittle the work done by...environmental NGOs to knit environmental, social and economic concerns in a genuinely integrated approach to development".[28]

23. Ms Short clearly feels that DfID and development NGOs have already integrated the environment into their development agenda. For example, by recognising the vicious circle of poverty and environmental degradation. Indeed, DfID is leading on the EU work on poverty and environment being prepared for the Summit.[29] Ms Short told us that "sustainable strategies to deal with poverty must take account of environmental issues and environmental resources".[30] DfID's view is that the eradication of poverty, as measured by the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, must be built on the efficient management of resources if it is to be enduring. Conversely, the Department suggests that poverty remains the central threat to the achievement of sustainable development.[31]

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

25. Johannesburg is being looked to as the culmination of a series of recent international discussions. The ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) took place in Doha in November 2001. The agreement there combined the launch of a broad round of trade negotiations with a package of measures specifically focused on the needs of developing countries. During the course of our inquiry, Ministers met for the UN Summit on Financing for Development (FfD) in Monterrey (Mexico).[32] This Summit addressed key financial issues related to global development such as: international trade as an engine for development, mobilising domestic and international resources for development, and increasing international financial and technical co-operation, thus putting development on the finance agenda. The House of Commons International Development Committee is currently inquiring into selected issues relating to the FfD conference and will report its findings in April 2002.

26. It is hoped that the WSSD in August will be the opportunity to bring these discussions together. In line with views also being advanced by Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, and the European Commission, the DPM told us that it was important to see these three major meetings as a continuum, contributing to developing a new global structure to work towards sustainability.[33] The DPM told us that, in advance of the Summit, the UK was advocating that developed countries should take on a greater responsibility for helping developing countries, as little progress had been made by developed countries on the Rio commitments in this area. The emphasis being put on the inter-dependency of these key talks means that in effect FfD will set the tone for WSSD.

27. However, there is also hope that the spirit of global co-operation and energy which has been channelled into dealing with terrorism as a result of the tragic events of September 11th can be tapped to reinvigorate the Rio spirit and put the same effort and energy into tackling world poverty. This is certainly a view that has been expressed by NGOs such as British Overseas NGOs for Development (BOND),[34] as well as Mr Prescott[35] and Margot Wallström.[36]


28. The Rio spirit has become somewhat weak and weary. This has not gone unnoticed, Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, has consistently talked of the need to reinvigorate the global commitment to sustainable development[37] and John Prescott echoed these sentiments to the Committee.[38] The European Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallström wants to see the EU play the leading role in ensuring that Johannesburg delivers concrete progress towards sustainability goals and not be "paralysed by the enormity of the task".[39] She has emphasised that it is not good enough "to keep coming back from world gatherings with impressive commitments and fine words which we then leave in the corners of our offices gathering dust. Our implementation deficit will quickly turn into a "credibility gap" especially with the developing world".[40]

29. The world is certainly now looking to the Johannesburg Summit to deliver action. Matt Philips from Friends of the Earth (FoE) told the Committee that WSSD needed to be "a turning-point for the world".

30. 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 in these areas.

Financing the Rio Commitments

31. The Rio Earth Summit recognised the need for new and additional resources for tackling global environmental problems. However, this was not followed by an increase in financial assistance to developing countries. Developing nations have made it very clear in the present preparations for the Summit, that they feel that the international community has failed to meet the commitments made in Rio with regard to trade, investment, finance and technology transfer and that this had been a major limiting factor in implementing the Rio outcomes. The EU Commission has acknowledged that the financial resources required for implementing Agenda 21 have not been forthcoming.[41] There is also international consensus that the Millennium Development Goals will not be achieved without substantial increases in aid. There have been suggestions that an extra $50 billion per year will be needed.[42]

32. Two key mechanisms for funding the Rio Commitments are the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and ODA (Overseas Development Assistance).

Global Environment Facility

33. The GEF was launched as an experimental facility in 1991 to forge international co-operation and assist countries in financing actions to address four critical threats to the global environment: biodiversity loss, climate change, degradation of international waters, and ozone depletion. The GEF is operated jointly by the World Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Development Programme. GEF was restructured after the Rio Earth Summit to make it more strategic, effective, transparent, and participatory. In 1994, 34 nations pledged $2 billion in support of GEF's mission; and in 1998, 36 nations pledged $2.75 billion to protect the global environment and promote sustainable development.[43]

34. The Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the GEF recently commented that the GEF's $15 billion portfolio had been inadequate to meet the requirements of sustainable development since Rio. He called for this portfolio to be scaled up and argued that more partners needed to be involved to replicate successes.[44] Ms Short has promised to press other countries to join the UK in supporting a 50 per cent increase in the next replenishment of the Global Environment Facility.[45]

Overseas Development Assistance

35. The UK, along with other OECD countries, is committed to the UN target of providing overseas development assistance amounting to 0.7 per cent of GNP. This target has only been met by Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. If the OECD's Development Assistance Committee's donors had reached their target of 0.7 per cent of GNP in 2000, overseas development assistance would have been US$168.6 billion instead of the US$53 billion it actually was.

36. EU Governments recently agreed to raise their ODA to developing countries to at least 0.33 per cent of GDP by 2006 so that a collective average of 0.39 per cent is reached.[46] The UK Government is now committed to moving from the current 0.31 per cent towards the 0.7 per cent target but the timetable for this is not clear. The US currently provides only 0.1 per cent of GNP but President George W Bush recently promised an extra US$5 billion in foreign aid.[47] 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.[48]

37. ODA is not the only way to channel financial resources to the developing world. Trade and private capital flows are important and have increased significantly since 1992. However, these are often focused on a small number of countries and are highly volatile. The European Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallström has commented that such finances rarely stimulate investment in public services and infrastructure, which are both foundation stones for sustainable development.

38. It appears that a number of developed countries will be committing themselves at Monterrey to increasing their ODA programmes. Although the figures that have been announced fall a long way short of the long-term international targets for development assistance, the proposed increases must be regarded as welcome in themselves and should improve the prospects for a successful outcome at Johannesburg. It will be important to follow through to ensure that the new and additional resources identified at Monterrey are linked explicitly to the key poverty programmes for water, sanitation, sustainable energy, health and food security that are to be discussed at Johannesburg.


39. Ensuring that the Summit delivers concrete action rather than just warm words will be an impossible task without high level political engagement. The UK Sustainable Development Commission has commented that "tangible leadership is needed to deliver the real outcomes that the Rio process demands".[49] This is true both at home and on the international stage. Kofi Annan has appointed Jan Pronk (Environment Minister, Netherlands) as his emissary for the Summit and the UK Government itself is certainly trying to whip up some political enthusiasm for the Summit by leading by example.

40. Our Prime Minister was the first world leader to announce, in October 2000, his intention to attend the Summit thus signalling the political importance which the UK places on the Summit. He urged others to make a similar commitment.[50] The Prime Minister has also charged the DPM, to act as somewhat of a "cheerleader" for the Summit, using his high level contacts, and the respect gained internationally through his work on the Kyoto agreement, to generate political momentum for the Summit.[51]

41. The DPM told us that he had met around twenty Heads of State, Prime Ministers and Deputy Prime Ministers in meetings over the last few months, both in London and during official visits abroad. He had used all of these meetings to raise the profile of the Summit and seek political commitment at the highest level and observed:

    "the truth is that for many world leaders the Summit has not even begun to register on their radar screens. In many countries sustainable development is something labelled as an 'environment' issue and left to the Environment Ministry. Whilst in the United Kingdom we might have a joined-up approach, many others abroad do not. Often the Environment Ministry is weak and disconnected from the rest of government".[52]

The DPM felt that this pressure was proving effective as a growing number of world leaders were demonstrating their commitment to attend Johannesburg.[53]

42. Ms Short has also been encouraging OECD development ministers to attend the Summit. She has contacted them all by letter and reported a positive response.[54] In her letter, she outlined her concern that "up until now the OECD countries have left the running to Environment Ministers and that the dominant perspective has been a concern for environmental conditions in our own countries with too little focus on guaranteeing development to the poor within a sustainable planet".[55]

43. Mrs Beckett, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon. Mr Jack Straw MP, have also been actively involved in encouraging all governments to attend at the highest possible levels.[56] Mrs Beckett recently visited South Africa to reinforce the UK's support for the Summit to the South African Government and explore areas where the UK could assist and advance discussions.[57] We were pleased to see her personal commitment to the Summit, as evidenced in her statement to the Committee.

44. 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.

45. If President George W Bush, and other world leaders, also lead by example this would boost the UK's efforts to ensure high-level attendance at the Summit. His father's attendance at the Rio Summit at the last minute certainly had a rallying effect. The DPM confirmed that the UK would be pressing for his attendance.[58] President Bush will be attending the Financing for Development Conference in Monterrey and the DPM thought that the outcome of these talks would influence US representation at Johannesburg.[59]

46. We recognise that high level attendance at 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.

Facilitating the full participation of other nations

47. The UK's post-Rio assessment acknowledges that "sustainable development in the UK cannot be considered in isolation from sustainable development elsewhere. Our lifestyles have an impact on the rest of the world and we have a moral duty to help the poorest people in the world as we move towards a new global society".[60]

48. The Department for International Development sees WSSD as a good opportunity to focus attention on poverty and development issues in line with its own priorities. The Department has provided support for the preparatory process in a number of other countries. DfID environment advisers are working with FCO Environment Attachés to promote the Summit in a number of agreed priority developing countries. These include: Indonesia, Bangladesh, Brazil, India and South Africa.[61] The FCO's Environment Project Fund (EPF) is being used to finance projects worth £130,000 in South Africa to help prepare for WSSD and another £608, 213 world-wide to assist civil society in developing countries such as the Solomon Islands and the Cameroon with their preparations.[62]

49. The South Africans still face a funding gap of 190 million rand, over £10 million for organising the Summit. Mrs Beckett confirmed that the UK was among the largest donors so far, at about £1.25 million pounds, but noted that "regrettably", some large EU countries had yet to make any commitment. She assured us that the Government was continuing to explore ways to encourage them to contribute.[63]

50. We welcome the work of DEFRA, DfID and FCO 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.

Developing the Summit's agenda

51. If the Johannesburg Summit is to tackle sustainable development in its widest sense, a clear and focused agenda needs to be established in advance. Otherwise there is a danger that the Summit will just provide an excuse for international discussion on any environmental, economic or social issue rather than the interface and synergies between them. Business is already expressing concern that the Summit will be diverted from its "action-orientated" intentions and revisit individual agendas around intractable problems.[64] The DPM acknowledged the danger that the Summit might merely create a massive number of demands and become another talking shop.[65]

52. Since Rio, it is clear that there is much greater multi-stakeholder participation both internationally and within the UK than there was ten years ago. This enhanced participation brings its own challenges. As Dr Paul Jefferiss of the RSPB, observed to the Committee, "with a multiplicity of voices, there is a multiplicity of messages".[66]

53. It was recognised at the Rio Earth Summit that all sectors of society needed to be involved if sustainable development was to become reality. At that Summit, NGOs organised their own conference in parallel. However they, and others outside government, have the opportunity to be more involved in the Johannesburg Summit and make a direct contribution to preparations for WSSD. The Summit's agenda is being developed in a 'bottom-up' process essentially formulated from meetings which took place in each of the five UN regions throughout the latter half of 2001. This approach is in response to the widespread feeling that one of the weaknesses of the 1997 UN General Assembly Special Session of Rio+5 was the fact that it was prepared from the top down.[67]

54. There have also been a series of preparatory meetings in sub-regions, meetings centred around specific issues and regional round tables of 'eminent people' to engage civil society. The results of all these regional meetings were reflected in the Secretary General's report, 'Implementing Agenda 21', which was published in December 2001. This report contains ten themes for action which DEFRA believes are closely in line with UK and EU priorities. These themes are set out in Table 1 which compares UK and international priorities for the Summit. UK priorities are also considered in paras 68-73 .

Table 1: Comparison of UK and International priorities for the WSSD agenda

UN Secretary General
PrepCom II
Poverty eradication
Conservation of the
natural resource base
Changing unsustainable
patterns of consumption
and production
Managing ecosystems and
SD Initiatives for Africa
Water (Fresh)
Y and oceans
Access to Energy
Capacity building
Good governance &
Yand education
Financing SD
Yand technology
SD of small island developing states

* Integrated with environment
** Resource Productivity-including the development and application of scientific and technical knowledge
SD: Sustainable Development
UK: DEFRA memo para 4d
EU: Presidency Conclusions, Barcelona, European Council, 15-16 March 2002, p28 para 7
United Nations Economic Committee for Europe (UNECE): Agreed at UNECE meeting in Geneva, 24-25 September 2001
UN Secretary General: Report on Implementing Agenda 21, 28 January 2002
PrepCom II: Chairman's summary, 11 February 2002

55. The tenth session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (known as CSD10) is acting as the Preparatory Committee for the Summit. CSD 10 has set up four preparatory meetings known as PrepComs. Annex I sets out the schedule of PrepComs and other key international meetings leading up to the WSSD.

56. The second preparatory meeting (PrepCom II) in New York in January 2002 gathered views on the implementation of Agenda 21, barriers to action and measures to overcome failings. The various inputs from stakeholders were synthesised by the Chair (Indonesia) and will form the starting point for negotiations at PrepCom III (New York, 25 March-5 April) which will address the plan of action. This will then be followed by a Ministerial Preparatory meeting in Indonesia from 27 May-7 June, which will prepare the political declaration for further consideration by Heads of Government at Johannesburg. Mr Prescott described this as the crucial moment in the process.[68]

57. No new conventions are expected to be agreed at WSSD. However, DEFRA told us that a three-pronged outcome was envisaged:[69]

  • a short overarching political text suitable for signature by Heads of Government/State;
  • a more detailed text focusing on action by governments—in essence a "Johannesburg Programme of Action"; and
  • a third tier comprising a wide range of partnership initiatives involving groups of willing governments with business, NGOs and other stakeholders focused on implementation and with sufficient substance and credibility to be a WSSD outcome.[70]

58. During the PrepCom meetings these have become characterised as Type 1 and Type 2 outcomes, Type 1 outcomes being the more traditional outputs of international summits such as a political declaration and Type 2 outcomes, practical, specific partnership initiatives which would benefit both North and South. A number of proposals for these partnership initiatives were presented at PrepCom II and included: a global initiative to promote investment in the development of mass public transport systems and regional partnerships to provide assistance to replace traditional biomass fuels and coal with affordable clean fuels.[71] Mrs Beckett told us that the UK had taken a lead in advocating and instigating discussion on these Type 2 outcomes.[72]

59. 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 WSSD's emerging agenda.

60. 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 WSSD 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.

26   Q. 146. Back

27   QQ. 46 and 48. Back

28   Q. 224. Back

29   Q. 293. DfID has contributed to a joint consultation paper with The Directorate General for Development of the European Commission, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank about the links between poverty reduction and environmental management-Linking poverty reduction and environmental management: Policy challenges and Opportunities, Consultation draft, January 2002. Back

30   Q. 149. Back

31   Ev 55. Back

32   21-22 March 2002. Back

33   Q. 86. Back

34   Ev 149. Back

35   Q. 66. Back

36   Speech by Margot Wallström, European Commissioner for the Environment, A wake-up call for global sustainability, made at the European Policy Centre Dialogue-Sustainability and Globalisation: Towards Johannesburg, Brussels, 26 February 2002. Back

37   Report of UN Secretary-General, Implementing Agenda 21, 19 December 2001. Back

38   Q. 66. Back

39   Speech by Margot Wallström, European Commissioner for the Environment, A wake-up call for global sustainability, made at the European Policy Centre Dialogue-Sustainability and Globalisation: Towards Johannesburg, Brussels, 26 February 2002. Back

40   Ibid. Back

41   Com (2001) 53 Final, Ten years after Rio: Preparing for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, 2 June 2001. Back

42   Technical Report of the High Level Panel on Financing for Development, 26 June 2001 (A/55/1000). Back

43 Back

44   Second Summit Preparatory Committee (PREPCOM 2), Chairman's summary of the discussion on the comprehensive review and assessment of progress achieved in the implementation of Agenda 21 and the other outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development as well as the Programme for the further implementation of Agenda 21, 11 February 2002. Back

45   DfID Press Release, Clare Short launches environment strategy and challenges environment movement to put poor people first, 6 March 2001. Back

46   Agreed at the Barcelona European Council, 15-16 March 2002. Back

47   BBC News, 17 March 2002, US rethinks aid policy, Back

48   First Report from the International Development Committee, Session 2001-02 on The Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan and the Surrounding Region, HC 300, para 23. Back

49   Ev 69. Back

50   Speech to the CBI/Green Alliance, Richer and Greener, 24 October 2000. Back

51   Q. 3. Back

52   Q. 66. Back

53   Ibid. Back

54   Q. 176. Back

55   Ev 67. Back

56   Q. 85. Back

57   Q. 272. Back

58   Q. 103. Back

59   Ibid. Back

60   Review and assessment of progress made by the United Kingdom in the implementation of Agenda 21 at national and regional levels, DEFRA,  Back

61   Ev 57. Back

62   Ev 128. Back

63   Q. 272. Back

64   Ev 155. Back

65   Q. 116. Back

66   Q. 8. Back

67   Ev 89. Back

68   Q. 115. Back

69   Ev 90. Back

70   Q. 115. Back

71 Back

72   Q. 272. Back

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