Doc. 9680

27 January 2003

Follow-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development : A common challenge

Draft Opinion 1

Committee on Economic Affairs and Development

Rapporteur: Mrs Zapfl-Helbling, Switzerland, Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group

I.       Conclusions of the committee

1.       The present draft Opinion commends the very rich report prepared by Mr Meale on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs (Doc. 9659). The World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September 2002 was a success in the sense that it took the results of the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 a step further toward proper implementation of more concrete commitments. The Summit was greatly assisted by the exceptionally strong involvement of parliamentarians as well as non-governmental organisations and the private sector. Parliamentary involvement is essential, and the draft Opinion fully supports the call made in the Environment Committee’s report for close cooperation between our Assembly and the European Parliament to realise the Johannesburg commitments.

2.        The draft Opinion stresses that both economic growth and stronger environmental protection are needed for lasting poverty reduction and sustainable development, and that there need not be any contradiction between the two. For this to happen, however, developed countries must enhance both the volume and efficiency of development assistance, just as developing countries must pay attention to the quality of their institutions and governance.

II.       Explanatory memorandum by the rapporteur

1.       The Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs has presented a report entitled ź Follow-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development : A common challenge ╗. The World Summit in question was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September 2002 and the report prepared on the Environment Committee’s behalf by its Rapporteur, Mr Alan Meale of the United Kingdom, is very complete and rich in suggestions. The present draft Opinion will therefore focus on adding a few points the Rapporteur may have overlooked.

2.       The Johannesburg Summit, it will be recalled, came ten years after the Earth Summit of Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and thirty years after the first conference of this kind, the Stockholm Environmental Conference in 1972. Johannesburg had largely set itself the goal of ensuring implementation of the so-called Agenda 21 agreed at Rio – a realisation considered all the

more essential since many saw the follow-up to Rio as having been rather disappointing. Characteristic of Johannesburg was the wide participation of a large number of non-governmental organisations as well as business. In this respect, Johannesburg can be seen as going beyond the “Earth Summit” of Rio to being more of a “World Summit”.

3.       Your Rapporteur considers Johannesburg to have been, in the main, a success. Thus, agreements were reached on ways both to fight poverty and reduce environmental degradation. Naturally enough, the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development has always stressed 1) that economic development is absolutely necessary in order to reduce world poverty and (2) that economic development and environmental protection, the latter being equally necessary, can indeed work in tandem.

4.       For example, only better sanitation made possible by a greater overall wealth in developing countries can lead to reduced soiling of the environment, with all the human disease and poverty that this brings in its wake. Over 13,000 people die each day from water-related diseases, while more than 80 countries have per capita incomes lower than they were a decade ago, with some 2.4 billion people living without sanitation.

5.       On the other hand, major strides toward better sanitation have been reached by many countries around the world which have seen their per capita incomes rise considerably thanks to more open trade and general economic development – China and India being cases in point. Overall economic development can also, when combined with wise environmental policies, lead to less land degradation from deforestation, better waste disposal and a reduction in the excessive use of fertilizers. Here, solutions are urgent, considering that a third of the earth’s soil has now become unfit for growing food as a result of the negative processes just mentioned.

6.       The Johannesburg Summit did not succeed in establishing clear and binding targets to increase the use of solar and wind power and reduce the use of energy sources that emit greenhouse gases. This was largely due to the opposition of oil producing countries, including the United States (which emits 25% of the world’s greenhouse gases). It can only be hoped that the United States in particular rethinks its position on this, and the Rapporteur notices recent encouraging developments in this respect. Thus, several of the individual states in the United States, such as California, are taking strong action to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, perhaps moved to do so by such things as extreme droughts in certain parts of the US, torrential rainfalls in others and a growing number of hurricanes elsewhere.

7.       At the same time, we should remain open to more possibilities of fighting global warming than those including in the Kyoto Protocol. Your Rapporteur can, for instance, see nothing intrinsically immoral in having different countries trade pollution quota if this can help reduce worldwide emissions. Furthermore, the idea of having some countries plant rapidly growing forests to serve as captors of CO2 should also be considered if it holds the potential of serving the overall purpose; for many countries signatories to the Kyoto Protocol will find it very difficult to realise a 5% reduction in their CO2 emissions over the next decade when compared to 1990. In view of the recent calamitous weather in Europe we need not only adherence to the Kyoto Protocol, but also innovative ideas of the kinds mentioned.

8.       Since the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development works closely with the World Bank, your Rapporteur may be permitted to refer in this context to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2003 “Sustainable Development in a Dynamic World” ( This report foresees that the world population by 2050 will have reached around 9 billion people from the present 6 billion. There is of course the possibility that an increase in global wealth may combine with an expected eventual slowdown of world population growth to considerably reduce world poverty. But that will require a more equitable sharing of world income among rich and poor.

9.       The World Bank report furthermore draws attention to the importance of having the world community adopt correct strategies to fight poverty and environmental degradation, and for individual countries to have good institutions and governance. A tragic example today is a country not far from Johannesburg, Zimbabwe. It is an extremely fertile country, where people now, however, die of hunger due to erratic government. Another example is, of course, North Korea.

10.       Another development raised in the World Bank report is the growing urbanisation of the world, where two-thirds of the world’s population are expected to live in cities by 2050. This will require enormous investments in infrastructure such as energy and water supply, housing, education and public health.

11.       Johannesburg showed the way in this respect by involving governments, international organisations, NGOs and the private sector very closely in its work. The Environment Committee’s report rightly, however, points to the insufficient involvement of parliamentarians, and your Rapporteur fully supports the Committee’s call for efforts to remedy this situation, for instance through greater cooperation between the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament.

12.       In conclusion, we need both economic growth and forceful policies to protect our environment. The industrialised countries, including the Council of Europe area, must open their markets more and also seek to reduce more resolutely their export subsidies to agriculture which erode the living conditions for millions of people in the developing world. Other tasks will be to enhance the technology transfer to developing countries and to make medicaments against various diseases, including AIDS, less expensive.

13.       Developing countries for their part must improve their institutional set-up so as to be able better to realise their productive potential and increase their transparency and accountability vis-Ó-vis their citizens. The recent Summit in Monterrey on “Financing for Development” and the new development initiative for Africa, NEPAD, in many ways paved the way for the Johannesburg Summit, whose implementation must be followed not only by the Assembly’s Environment Committee, but also by its Economic Committee.


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Reporting committee: Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs.

Committee seized for opinion: Committee on Economic Affairs and Development.

Reference to committee: Doc. 9597 and Reference No. 2777 of 18 November 2002.

This opinion was approved by the committee on 24 January 2003.

Head of secretariat: Mr Torbi÷rn.

Secretaries to the committee: Mr Bertozzi, Ms Ramanauskaite, Mrs Kopaši-Di Michele.

1 See Doc. 9659