36 Environmental aspects of development
|Special Report of the European Court of Auditors: The environmental aspects of the Commission's development cooperation
|Deposited in Parliament
|21 July 2006
|Basis of consideration
|EM of 10 August 2006
|Previous Committee Report
|To be discussed in Council
|To be determined
|Cleared, but further information requested
36.1 Since the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment
in Stockholm the issue of the environment and how to ensure that
development is sustainable has become a subject of international
concern. The 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development in Rio de Janeiro further raised the profile of the
environment and sustainable development, and led to three Multilateral
Environment Agreements (MEAs): the Convention on Climate Change,
the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Convention to
Combat Desertification. Environmental sustainability was chosen
as one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) established
at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000. The 2002 World Summit on
Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg sought to address
both poverty and environment issues.
36.2 There are basically two types of intervention
through which the donor community has sought to address the environmental
aspects of development co-operation:
programmes and projects whose principal objective is to improve
integrating environmental concerns into
all other types of development programmes and projects
commonly referred to as "mainstreaming" the environment.
In recent years the donor community, including the European Commission,
has given increasing attention to this approach.
36.3 The Court of Auditors also acknowledges the
wider European Union legal and policy framework, noting in particular
Article 6 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, as
amended by the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam, which stipulates that:
"Environmental protection requirements must be integrated
into the definition and implementation of Community policies and
activities..., in particular with a view to promoting sustainable
development." Thus, the June 1998 Cardiff European Council
stressed the importance of integrating environmental protection
and sustainable development into the major policy areas, including
development aid, managed by the Commission and invited it to put
forward appropriate strategies. Then the 2000 European Community
development policy included environment as a cross-cutting issue.
Most recently the development policy consensus agreed between
the European Commission, the Member States and the European Parliament
in December 2005 not only maintained the environment as a cross-cutting
issue but also made environment and natural resources one of nine
priority sectors for funding.
36.4 Under the 2007-13 Financial Perspectives, the
Community's external actions will all be grouped under 8 instruments:
"geographic" ones the Instrument for PreAccession
(IPA), the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI),
the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) and the one for industrialized
four "horizontal" ones
Human rights and democracy (EIDHR), Stability Instrument (SI)
and the current instruments relating to Humanitarian Aid and Macro-financial
36.5 In addition, within the Development Cooperation
Instrument (DCI) will be five "thematic" programmes
including the environment to support activities
in all developing countries except those covered by the IPA instrument.
The Court of Auditors' Report
36.6 Against this background, the Special Report
of the European Court of Auditors covers the European Commission's
work on integrating environmental issues into its development
co-operation. It includes the Commission's response to the findings.
In addition to auditor interviews at the Commission's Headquarters,
with EuropeAid, DG Development, DG External Relations (RELEX)
and DG Environment, missions were undertaken in a number of countries
including Botswana, Brazil, Congo, Indonesia, Mali and Tanzania.
The Court of Auditors also met DFID officials to help them benchmark
standards of environmental mainstreaming, and a number of NGOs,
including the WWF European Policy Office. 108 environmental and
non-environmental programmes and projects in 16 countries with
a value of over 1.5 billion were audited.
36.7 The report assesses the Commission's performance
against three questions:
- Does the Commission have a
comprehensive overall strategy to deal with the environmental
aspects of its development co-operation and has it made adequate
management arrangements for implementing its strategy and assessing
the environmental performance of its development aid?
- Has the Commission effectively mainstreamed the
environment into all of its development co-operation?
- Have the environment programmes and projects
financed by the Commission been effective?
36.8 In his comprehensive and helpful 10 August 2006
Explanatory Memorandum, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
at the Department for International Development (Mr Gareth Thomas)
notes that the report is critical of the Commission's progress
so far and highlights the following main areas of concern:
- No clear strategy to implement
and monitor work on environmental mainstreaming;
- Staffing and training inadequate to support environmental
- the Environment Integration Manual, a key tool
to help with integration, remains unfinished;
- Poor environmental integration into Budget Support
guidelines and decisions and Country Strategy Papers (CSPs);
- Considerable variation with regard to the application
of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), with examples of major
infrastructure (e.g. roads) projects, amongst others, not being
subject to EIAs; and
- Project outputs and results have frequently fallen
short of objectives.
36.9 The Court nonetheless recognises some of the
efforts made by the Commission to date for example, the
use of Country Environment Profiles as one way to influence the
development of the CSPs and the potential benefits of the Commission's
environmental projects not only to country priorities but often
also to global environment needs. The main criticisms relating
to projects are linked to over-ambitious design and weaknesses
in the procurement procedures.
36.10 The report makes 15 recommendations grouped
around three main themes:
- establishing a comprehensive
strategy for the environment and following up on its implementation;
- improving the effectiveness of environmental
- improving the effectiveness of environment projects.
36.11 Some of the principal recommendations and the
Commission's responses (in italics) are as follows:
- The development of a comprehensive
strategy for environmental aspects of development co-operation,
based on the 2005 Development policy and review in-house capacity
to implement it.
The Commission will review and update the 2001
Environment Integration Strategy, and make it more comprehensive
setting priorities for the use of limited resources, emphasis
should be put on building the capacity of non specialist staff
to handle basic environmental integration procedures (screening)
and making specialist support available on request.
- Completion of the Environment
Integration Manual and systems to support its implementation.
The Manual is expected to be approved in 2006.
Compliance will be verified as part of the Quality Support
Group checks at the stages of project identification and formulation
- Specific procedures for ensuring
the environmental screening of all projects should be established.
Screening procedures will be set out in the Environment
Integration Manual. The Commission will look into the possibility
to entrust EC Delegations with a greater role in this area
- Better mainstreaming of environmental
considerations into direct budgetary support, in particular by
ensuring that strategic environmental assessments (SEAs) are carried
Through its update of the relevant manuals expected
to be finalised in 2006, the Commission will make a particular
effort to better mainstream the environment into its direct budgetary
- Take further steps to identify
and remove bottlenecks in the procurement procedures.
The Commission agrees that there is scope for
simplification of procedures in order to increase speed and effectiveness
of aid delivery whilst ensuring transparency and fairness. The
Commission has proposed amendments to the Financial Regulation
in this respect.
The Government's View
36.12 The Minister is "pleased to see such a
comprehensive review of the Commission's approach to environmental
integration". He notes that the UK works with the Commission
and other Member States on many of the issues raised in the report
and that the timing of the report means that some of the measures
taken by the Commission over the past 6 months which have been
strongly welcomed by the UK for example, the proposal
for a funding line on Environment and Natural Resources, including
Energy, which will be part of the "thematic" section
of the Development Cooperation Instrument were not fully
taken into account in the Court's analysis. He continues as follows:
"We agree that the Commission needs to have
a clear strategy to help guide their work on environmental integration,
as well as financial disbursements. This will in part be linked
to the strategies to be developed as part of the new Financial
Perspectives (2007-2013) and the planned Environmental Thematic
programme within the Development Cooperation Instrument. We also
agree that the Commission needs to consider how best to ensure
that it has the capacity to implement its strategy and to ensure
adequate screening of programmes. We welcome the Commission's
suggestions on possible ways forward, in particular the recognition
given to finding ways to maximise the use of limited human resources.
We would also welcome the publication of the Environment Integration
Manual before the end of 2006, as indicated by the Commission,
as we believe that this will be a useful source of information
and guidance for EC staff at all levels.
"The integration of environment into Country
Strategy Papers (CSPs), Budget Support and Sector Support (in
particular roads) is a particularly important area. We support
the Commission's response which highlights the link between the
integration of environment into national planning processes (including
Poverty Reduction Strategies, PRS) and the subsequent reflection
in national budgets. The Commission works with other donors, including
the UN agencies, to share best practice and support countries
in their efforts to integrate environment into PRSs. We welcome
the use of Country Environment Profiles by the EC, but it is important
that these don't become stand-alone documents and that the EC
takes measures to ensure that priority issues are properly integrated
"We welcome the references to the use of Strategic
Environmental Assessment (SEA) and the recommendations by the
Court for the Commission to improve its guidance and use. The
Commission's response rightly refers to the OECD DAC process on
SEA which is now complete and which agencies are now working on
joint approaches to implementation. The EC should be encouraged
to continue to play an active part in donor discussions on how
to develop joined-up approaches to SEA and other impact assessment
36.13 Looking ahead, the Minister says that he expects
the report to be discussed in the European Parliament in September/October
but is not aware at present of any further scheduled discussions.
36.14 As the Court says, "without a clear
strategy to help make the new development policy's approach to
the environment operational, the potential benefits are likely
to be undermined. There is a need for the Commission to clarify
how high the environment ranks amongst the many different priorities
it has to address in the field of development cooperation... [and]
to ensure that this policy is actually translated into environment
programmes and projects, that it has sufficient in-house environmental
expertise and that clear environmental integration procedures
are both defined and complied with."
We are accordingly surprised that there appears to be so little
planned follow-up and no sense of urgency about keeping the Commission
up to the mark (for example, ensuring that the long-overdue Environment
Integration Manual is actually published by the end of this year).
Instead, beyond an expectation of further discussion in the European
Parliament, the Minister indicates that the Council will be taking
no particular interest in the report.
36.15 We now clear
the Report, but in so doing ask the Minister to write to us in
a year's time with a full report on what action has been taken
to follow up the Court's detailed and timely recommendations.
88 Court of Auditors' Report, paras 82 and 86. Back