The European Commission has reported on the implementation of its commitments to eradicate poverty, protect natural resources and achieve sustainable patterns of consumption and production, made at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in August/September 2002. The Commission's report takes stock of progress achieved so far and outlines the actions undertaken by the EU both inside and outside the Union.
The EU Sustainable Development Strategy, launched by EU leaders in June 2001, is the main tool through which the WSSD commitments are implemented. It was updated after the WSSD, and the process to fully review the strategy, together with other EU bodies, Members States and stakeholders, is underway. Without prejudging this review, the new report, entitled "The World Summit on Sustainable Development one year on: implementing our commitments" takes stock of progress achieved and outlines the actions undertaken by the EU.
Putting our own house in order
In the EU, three priorities in WSSD implementation have been identified:
a sustainable management of natural resources, and
the promotion of sustainable consumption and production.
In addition, the enlargement of the EU makes an important contribution to sustainable development. It requires the acceding countries to meet WSSD targets in sectors as varied as social policy, environment, development and many others, and will provide them with the necessary support.
Policy coherence: Important steps have been made to improve coherence. The reform of the EU's Agricultural and Fisheries Policies represents a shift towards a more sustainable agricultural model for Europe, moving away from trade-distorting production-based subsidies. Existing processes such as the 1998 "Cardiff process", which requires the integration of environmental considerations into other policy areas, will be reinvigorated.
Natural resources: The EU has set itself a goal on biodiversity that goes further than what was agreed in Johannesburg: While Johannesburg asks for reducing the decline in biodiversity by 2010, the EU Sustainable Development Strategy commits the EU to halting it by the same date.
A review of EU biodiversity policy has been launched, specific biodiversity action plans have been established, and indicators to measure biodiversity implementation are being developed. In addition, strategies to protect essential sources of biodiversity, such as seas and soils, are being designed.
In October 2003, the European Commission also outlined a new strategy to promote the sustainable use of resources, aiming to examine the whole lifecycle of natural resources and to identify the resource usages with the greatest potential for environmental improvement.
Sustainable consumption and production: The proposed new EU chemicals regulatory system, REACH, which the Commission put forward in October 2003, will make a decisive contribution towards meeting the WSSD goal to ensure the "sound management of chemicals". The Environmental Technologies Action Plan, expected in early 2004, will remove barriers to the development and use of environmental technologies. The Commission also proposed a number of new measures to reduce CO2 emissions, such as linking the project-based Kyoto mechanisms "Joint Implementation" and the "Clean Development Mechanism" to the EU emissions trading scheme, which will start in 2005. In addition, a variety of instruments already exist at EU level to develop sustainable consumption and production patterns, ranging from eco-labelling to the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive, which tackles pollution arising from industrial and agricultural activities. However, the environmental gains achieved are sometimes offset by growth in consumption, in particular in the areas of transport and energy. This requires new emphasis on implementing existing measures and the development of environmental taxation that will reflect environmental costs in the pricing of products and services.
Working together to achieve global goals
EU external action to implement WSSD commitments revolves around poverty eradication, effective implementation of the partnerships launched at Johannesburg on water, energy and forest management, and efforts towards sustainable globalisation and improved international governance.
Poverty reduction: The EU is making progress in delivering on the "Monterrey Consensus". In March 2002, the United Nations hosted an international conference called "Financing for Development" in Monterrey, Mexico, asking for a "new partnership" between developed and developing countries, including an increase in official development aid (ODA). In 2002, eight Member States (Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Ireland, France, Finland) had already met the interim target of 0.33% of gross national income for ODA and, in 2003, ten Member States (including Austria and the UK) will reach this objective.
The EU has also put high on its agenda a better coordination of development cooperation policies, untying of aid, participation in the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Country) initiative aimed at debt reduction, increasing trade-related assistance as well as working further on innovative sources of financing and the reform of international financial institutions.
Partnership initiatives: The EU launched three major partnership initiatives in Johannesburg: the EU Energy Initiative (EUEI), the EU Water Initiative (EUWI) and the Forest Action Plan. For the EUWI, which seeks to bring safe water and sanitation to the world's poorest regions, general approaches have been defined, an initial dialogue with beneficiaries and stakeholders is taking place and moves are being made to develop practical measures. Earlier this year the Commission proposed to establish an EU water facility of €1 billion from the European Development Fund to promote access to clean water and sanitation for the people of the ACP countries. The initiative is currently being followed up by a concrete proposal to be presented to the EU Council at the beginning of 2004. The main objective of the facility will be to serve as a catalyst - promoting new initiatives, new information, building research and management capacity in ACP countries and to provide the flexible source of funding which is often the missing link in financing of sustainable water related programmes. The Forest Action Plan is mainly intended to combat illegal logging and has resulted in the proposal for an EU Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) in May 2003. In addition, the JREC (Johannesburg Renewable Energy Coalition) now groups 82 countries that have agreed to set quantifiable targets and timeframes for increasing the share of renewable energies in their overall energy mix, thus going beyond the more general commitments on renewables in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.
Trade and globalisation: The EU aims to reinforce synergies between trade and sustainable development. This includes reviving the Doha WTO negotiations, which are aimed at taking the needs of developing countries in international trade into account. Launched in 2001, the talks experienced a setback at the WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun in September 2003. A new strategy put forward by the Commission in November refreshes and updates the EU negotiating position in several areas, but sticks to the objective that the negotiations must truly contribute to sustainable development. Other actions in the area include the launching of Sustainable Trade and Innovation Centres (STICs) aimed at helping developing countries' producers to benefit from growing market opportunities, notably for environmentally friendly products. Sustainability Impact Assessments also examine the impact of trade agreements on sustainability.
Global governance system: The EU believes that the global governance system must gain legitimacy, coherence and effectiveness. Support for multilateralism in the aftermath of the war in Iraq and at a difficult time for the international trade system is more necessary than ever. The European Commission is pushing for reinforced multilateralism and is, inter alia, supporting a common framework for the follow-up of major UN conferences and developing strategic partnerships with UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes in order to reinforce co-operation at all levels.
The Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) was held in September 2002, with the participation of governments, NGOs, businesses and other groups.
It built on the UN Millennium Summit in New York in September 2000, at which the UN member states agreed on a set of time-bound and measurable targets for combating poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women the so-called Millennium Development Goals.
Among other things, the number of people living on less than 1 dollar a day, the number of people suffering hunger and the number of people without sustainable access to drinking water and basic sanitation are to be reduced by half until 2015.
In addition, the principle of sustainable development is to be incorporated into country policies and programmes.
Together with the Millennium Development Goals, the Doha Development Agenda and the Monterrey Consensus, the outcome of the WSSD is provides the essential building blocks of a worldwide partnership for sustainable development. Its overarching objectives are to eradicate poverty, to achieve sustainable patterns of production and consumption, and to protect natural resources.
The main targets agreed at the WSSD are the following:
- To halve the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.
- To increase access to modern energy services, improve energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy, and support the target set out in the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) to ensure energy access for at least 35% of Africans in the next 20 years.
- To reverse the current trend in natural resource degradation as soon as possible by implementing strategies that include targets to protect ecosystems and achieve integrated management of land, water and living resources, while strengthening regional, national and local capacities.
- To reduce biodiversity loss significantly by 2010 and halt the decline in fish stocks.
- To minimise the harmful effects of chemicals, especially by ensuring that, by 2020, chemicals are not used in ways that harm human health and the environment.
- To develop a ten-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production.
- To start implementing sustainable development strategies by 2005 in all countries.
The EU also launched at WSSD three major partnership initiatives:
- The EU Energy Initiative (EUEI) aims at improving access to energy services in order to reduce poverty.
- The EU Water Initiative (EUWI) aims at contributing to the implementation of the Millenium Development Goals and WSSD targets on water and sanitation. The European Commission has proposed to create a €1 billion ACP-EU Water Facility dedicated to the Water Initiative.
- The Forest Action Plan is mainly intended to combat illegal logging.
Both the EUEI and EUWI, whose secretariat is hosted by the European Commission, are designed as multi-stakeholder partnerships involving Member States, the EU, the European Investment Bank, civil society and the private sector, and are primarily aimed at Africa.
The Communication can be found at:
and further information on the WSSD is available at: