HL Deb 16 October 2002 vol 639 cc59-62WA
Baroness Hilton of Eggardon

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will report progress on the outcome of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and its follow up. [HL5965]

Lord Whitty

The World Summit on Sustainable Development addressed some of the greatest challenges of our times. For over a year my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had said the summit should be about more than just fine words. It should be about a step-change—a move from words to concerted action and implementation. And it was. The Secretary of State also made clear from the beginning that separate fora would take forward discussion on climate change and on trade, including trade in agricultural produce.

So Johannesburg built on the success of last year's Doha talks on the new trade round, the Marrakech accords on climate change and this year's Monterrey conference on financing for development. It reaffirmed and strengthened the international community's commitment to sustainable development and reinvigorated the Rio Earth Summit agreements, as well as the UN Millennium Development Goals on poverty eradication. There are no silver-bullet solutions, no miracle cures. But what we do have is a new political commitment, momentum and energy for the attainment of a sustainable world.

As in all negotiations, we were rightly ambitious, given the agenda we had. We judge the final deal reached between the 180 participating countries—for which the UK, led by the Prime Minister, negotiated hard—to be a successful outcome. We went to Johannesburg to make a concrete difference to people's lives. We believe that we succeeded. And, while I understand the disappointment of those who pushed us for more, I believe that what was achieved, taken in conjunction with the UN Millennium Development Goals, will, if implemented, represent a revolution in the lives of the poorest people on the planet and the beginnings of a revolution in how we treat the planet itself.

The summit agreed an impressive plan of implementation. We agreed a new target to halve by 2015 the proportion of people living without basic sanitation. This will save millions of lives in developing countries, and support existing goals on safe drinking water and health. There are also new targets and timetables on chemicals, biodiversity, marine protection and fish stocks. These and other commitments will galvanise action and set standards for the next 10 years or more.

The summit also agreed joint actions on reliable and affordable energy provision for the poor and urgently and substantially to increase the global share of renewable energy sources. The provision of energy is a prerequisite for the achievement of the millennium development goals. The summit did not set a global target for renewables, but even those countries which resisted a global target have nevertheless committed themselves to domestic action. At the summit the Prime Minister announced that the UK's Export Credit Guarantee Department will make available £50 million per year to renewable energy exports to developing countries.

And on climate change, Johannesburg issued a ringing call for countries to ratify the Kyoto protocol. Three key developing countries—China, India and Brazil—recently ratified. And crucially, in his positive statement at the summit, the Russian Prime Minister Kasyanov again signalled that Russia is preparing to ratify the protocol. The Canadian Prime Minister, Chretien, said that Canada will make a decision on ratification later this year. We are hopeful that the Kyoto Protocol might enter into force in early 2003.

Over 300 new partnerships were also launched at the summit, representing in excess of $235 million in resources. We are familiar with the idea of partnerships at home. But this is a bold new idea for the UN. These partnerships will be the unique inheritance of Johannesburg—they are not a substitute for multilateral commitments, but they will provide additional and complementary resources. For example, the EU Water for Life Initiative and the UK-led multistakeholder partnership for water and sanitation will support the delivery of the new sanitation target and the existing goals on safe drinking water and health.

Johannesburg has given the global community a strong mandate for intensified action at global, regional and national levels. More fundamentally, it has forged close links between development and environment policy in the service of sustainable development. There is now a widespread agreement that development assistance should be directed at helping the poor and that it needs to be sustainable if it is to be of lasting benefit. Sustainable management of natural resources and of the environment are essential for poverty eradication. This now needs to be reflected in the poverty reduction and sustainable development strategies of developing countries.

We shall work with our partners in the international institutions—the UN, the G8 and the OECD—to ensure that development and environment policy are mutually supportive. We need to ensure that the follow-up to Johannesburg, Monterrey and the Millennium Development Goals is coherent. International trade and climate change issues already have dedicated international processes of their own. On both, the UK Government are taking a lead role.

The Prime Minister has hammered home the case for trade reform, especially of agricultural subsidies. Developing countries need improved market access so they can sell their produce fairly without being hampered by trade-distorting and environmentally-damaging subsidies in the developed countries. This is the single most important issue we need to follow up after Johannesburg. Improved market access and subsidy reform are a joint concern for development and environment policy. Currently OECD countries give around $55 billion in overseas aid but subsidise their agricultural industries by around seven times that amount. CAFOD has suggested that through the CAP the average European dairy cow gets a $2 subsidy a day—the same as the daily income of half the world's population. We will continue to push for reform of agricultural subsidies both within the WTO and, within the EU, on the common agricultural policy.

And on climate change, later this month, the Secretary of State will be in Delhi for the next stage of the UN negotiations on implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

The implementation of the EU's sustainable development strategy will be a driver for change in Europe. In particular, it will need to reflect the summit agreement to develop a global 10-year framework of action programmes to accelerate the shift towards sustainable production and consumption. We need to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation—to get more from less. The industrialised North has agreed to take the lead on this and it must be central to the EU's strategy. This means action on a whole range of issues such as energy efficiency, waste minimisation—a real challenge for us in the UK—and integrated product policy.

But equally important is action we will take at home. We will integrate the Johannesburg agreements and relevant follow-up into UK policy and action, with a sharp focus on the use of technological innovation to deliver sustainable development. If, as a nation, we achieve greater resource efficiency, this will not only help our environment but also improve our competitiveness.

On energy, we are working towards our 10 per cent renewable electricity target by 2010. We are making great strides in both energy efficiency and tackling fuel poverty. On climate change, we have been leading globally in the Kyoto process. We are on track to meet our Kyoto target of a 12.5 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and have put in place a comprehensive programme of measures to meet our more ambitious domestic goal to reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide by 20 per cent.

The Government will shortly publish an Energy White Paper that addresses how to set the UK on the longer term path to a low carbon economy, as the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and others have recommended. In particular, the commission has recommended we put ourselves on the path to 60 per cent reductions in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. We will respond formally to that recommendation at the time of the White Paper, but already it is clear that action on that scale—in the UK and internationally—is what is necessary.

And this autumn we shall be taking receipt of, and later responding to, the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit's report on how we manage waste, stemming growth and prompting recycling and re-use.

Last week the Secretary of State hosted a meeting with leading UK stakeholders to discuss the follow-up action by government and stakeholders at UK level. This provided a useful forum for us to discuss the proposals developed by stakeholders and within government and to establish some shared conclusions on the implications of the summit.

Our next review of progress towards sustainable development, which will be out early in the new year, will include further details on how we intend to take the Johannesburg outcomes forward. Over the course of the next year we will also be reviewing the UK sustainable development strategy and meeting our summit commitments will form a significant part of this.

Perhaps the most innovative feature of the summit was the emphasis on partnerships between governments and civil society, particularly NGOs and business. The UK delegation therefore included Members of the House of Commons, representatives from the devolved administrations, local government, the UK sustainable development commission, from business and NGOs; and since this was a summit on the future, four youth representatives. Besides the formal government negotiations there was a wealth of other events and initiatives. UK participants were active everywhere and made a huge contribution to the overall outcome. Governments must take the lead in setting the framework for sustainable development, they cannot deliver it alone.

Johannesburg demonstrated that it is possible to reach agreement on practical steps towards a more sustainable world. We must, and will, keep moving forward. In the words of the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, this summit will put us on a path that reduces poverty while protecting the environment, a path that works for all peoples, rich and poor, today and tomorrow. We have to go out and take action. This is not the end. It is the beginning.