HL Deb 20 December 2001 vol 630 c77WA
The Earl of Sandwich

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Working Party on Export Credits and Credit Guarantees; and what specific conclusions they have reached on environmental review and impact assessment. [HL1709]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

At the November 2001 meeting in Paris of the OECD Working Party on Export Credits and Credit Guarantees an informal and voluntary agreement to raise environmental standards for capital goods exports was reached between 24 of the 26 OECD export credit agencies (ECAs). The USA and Turkey—for different reasons—were unable to support the agreement. The agreement's provisions will be implemented with effect from 1 January 2002.

The UK played a leading role in securing this agreement, to be known as Common Approaches on the Environment and Officially Supported Export Credits (The Agreement on Common Approaches), which has for the first time created a level playing field in terms of environmental impact analysis in the field of capital goods exports.

The main points of the agreement are:

An obligation for ECAs to screen all applications for support of projects and project related capital goods in order to identify and review those which may have an adverse environmental impact (including resettlement, indigenous or vulnerable groups and cultural heritage).

Procedures under which ECAs would classify projects according to their sensitivity to help ensure a thorough environmental review, including a full environmental impact appraisal for sensitive sectors and locations before decisions are taken.

An obligation to compare or benchmark the projects against international standards such as those contained in the guidelines of the World Bank Group. Projects that did not comply with these standards would need to be fully justified. In addition ECAs would need to explain any departures from international standards through reporting and transparency procedures.

Obligations to encourage the dissemination of information relating to environmental impacts, subject to national legal provisions on public disclosure.

Robust reporting provisions which will assist in a review of the recommendation no later than the end of 2003 with the aim of "enhancing it in the light of experience".

We shall continue to work towards an agreement which all parties can support.