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The Norwegian Forum for Environment and Development Forum for utvikling og miljĝ (ForUM)
A Fair Share: ³Environmental Space² As a Tool for Changing Consumption Patterns

Ĝivind Fjeldstad

The Forum for Environment and Development (ForUM) was established in 1993 as a successor organization to the previous Joint Campaign for Environment and Development. While the latter played a major role in preparing and coordinating Norwegian NGOs for the UNCED meeting in Rio, the new organization has a more general and long-term purpose. ForUM is designed as a meeting-place for Norwegian organizations engaged in international environment and development issues. Its goal is to provide up-to-date information on the follow-up processes to the Rio Summit, and to function as a political and professional arena for discussion and the coordination of joint NGO-action. ForUM is at present jointly funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry for the Environment. It has a permanent staff of 3-4 persons, with an annual budget of approximately US $ 300,000. A large part of ForUM's activity is concentrated in a number of thematic working groups, where NGOs with similar interests coordinate their efforts in relation to different international networks and policy arenas. One of the working groups deals with changing patterns of consumption and this group is presently writing a state of the art document on "Sustainability of the Supermarkets", which was the topic of a seminar held in the autumn of 1993. Another group, working on peace, environment and development, focuses on setting military consumption and pollution on the agenda of national as well as international organisations.. ForUM operates its own "hot line" for current information and periodically publishes its own newsletter, Eco-bulletin.


We, peoples of the North, have tended to consider the population growth in the South as the main problem when it comes to global resource scarcity in the future. The response from the South has very rightfully been to challenge our responsibility in this respect: the consumption problems in the North. To change the established patterns of overconsumption in the North, and the kicking-down effect this has on the elites in the South, will be of pivotal importance in order to reverse the trend of environmental deterioration and to meet the needs of all the people of the Planet Earth. The Norwegian Forum for Environment and Develop-ment considers this to be a priority issue.

This paper, which is written for ForUM, aims at outlining a strategy for action in the industrialized countries in order to reach the required changes in consumption patterns. As ForUM has been an active participant in the international NGO discussions on this issue, the analysis and the proposals presented here are to a large extent based on these previous discussions. Of key importance here are the Agenda Ya Wananchi, adopted at the NGO conference in Paris in 1991; the Alternative Treaty On Consumption and Lifestyle, drafted by the NGO's in Rio in 1992; and the most recent recommendations from the Down to Earth conference in Copenhagen in December 1993.

The presentation of the concept of "environmental space", draws heavily on the work done by "Friends of the Earth" (Milieudefensie) - in the Netherlands.

Sustainable Consumption

The UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) identified unsustainable consumption patterns in the North as a major threat to the global environment. Despite this, the industrialized countries continue to pursue policies encouraging con-sumption patterns which widen the gap between the North and the South, clearly representing a threat to future generations.

NGOs all over the world have challenged this form of development and have taken a large number of initiatives aimed at changing consumption patterns. Several of these initiatives have had a certain success, both influencing the behaviour of individual consumers and changing the production processes in certain industries. However, these NGO initiatives have had little impact on the general course of development - or rather maldevelopment. They have not managed to change the overall trend towards increasing unsustainable consumption among the affluent in the world, nor have they managed to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.

To increase the impact of the NGO actions, new bold initiatives are required. Actions directed at the individual consumer must be integrated in a strategy for change at the national and international level. Efforts to stop environmental degradation must be integrated in a strategy for social justice which gives all people the same right to a decent life. This requires that the currently dominant economic theory must be replaced by a new mode of economic thinking, and that fundamental changes be made in production and consumption. Nothing less than a new international consumption order is required, giving every citizen on Earth a fair share of available resources.

Politicians and other decision-makers seem, to a large extent, to agree that major changes in consumption patterns are necessary to solve the pressing environmental and development problems. Judging from their actions, however, they seem to lack the political will to implement the necessary changes.

The Case for a Change in Consumption Patterns

The Consumption Gap is In-creasing

There is a wealth of documentation showing that wasteful consumption patterns in the industrialized countries in the North is a main cause of global environmental problems and an impediment to solving the poverty problems in the South. During the last three decades, the gap between consumption in the North and in the South has been doubled (cf. UNDP´s Human Development Report).

While it has sometimes been claimed that poverty is the greatest polluter, it can also be argued that it is more just to attribute the problem to affluence and an extensive over-consumption of scarce resources. A few examples of the gap between the North and the South in this area can illustrate this:

* Estimates show that the North - with only 25 per cent of the world's population - accounts for more than 80 per cent of the world's consumption of natural resources and generates more than 75 per cent of the world's municipal and industrial wastes.

* The industrial countries have about 85 per cent of the global income and have contributed to about 80 per cent of the global CO2 emissions since 1950.

* Each person in the North consumes 15 times as much paper as a person in the South and more than ten times as much steel and other metals.

* The World Commission on En-vironment and Development pointed out in 1987 that the average person in the North consumes 80 times as much energy as a person in Africa south of Sahara. Recently, Worldwatch magazine reported that a single building complex in New York city, the World Trade Center, consumes more energy annually than the African country Niger.

* Population growth has been identified as a major development problem. Yet, without underesti-mating the importance of reducing population growth, there is reason to point out that with today's consumption patterns and economic policy, a child born in the North will consume 30-40 times as much of the Earth's resources as a child born in the South.

International Consensus on the Need for Change

Internationally there is now a consensus that major changes in the present consumption patterns are necessary in order to solve the global environmental and development problems. In its report Our Common Future , presented 1987, The World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) stated that "sustainable global development requires that those who are more affluent adopt life-styles within the planet's ecological means". The report also called for international cooperation to achieve this, as in the following statement: "All nations will have a role to play in changing trends, and in righting an international economic system that increases rather than decreases numbers of poor and hungry."

The UN Conference on Environment and development (UNCED) in Brasil in June 1992 followed up the issue of changing consumption patterns. In her opening speech in Rio, the head of WCED, Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, stated: "A global partnership must start with a commitment by the industrial countries to reduce sharply the burden they impose on the carrying capacity of the Earth's ecosystems by their unsustainable consumption and production patterns."

Principle 7 in the Rio Declaration, which was adopted at UNCED, speaks about the responsibility of the North: "The developed countries acknow-ledge the responsibility that they bear in the international pursuit of sustainable development in view of the pressures their societies place on the global environment and of the technologies and financial resources they command."

Principle 8 in the Rio declaration links the issue of consumption to the issue of population growth: "To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all people, States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies."

In the comprehensive Rio-document, Agenda 21, Chapter 4 deals with the need to change consumptions patterns. It is here stated that: "the major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of consumption and production, particularly in industrialized countries". The document goes on to demand that: "measures to be undertaken at the international level for the protection and enhancement of the environment must take fully into account the current imbalances in the global patterns of consumption and production".

Furthermore, Agenda 21 calls for research which should, among other things: "identify balanced patterns of consumption worldwide which the Earth can support in the long term". The document also calls for: "a new system of national accounts and other indicators of sustainable development".

To reach more sustainable consumption patterns, Agenda 21 envisages a variety of measures, including promoting environmentally sound technologies; encouraging environmentally sound use of renewable natural resources; encouraging recycling in industrial processes as well as at the level of individual consumption; and a reduction in wasteful packaging.

Public-awareness campaigns, en-vironmental taxes and environmental labelling are among the means proposed to achieve the required changes. Finally, Agenda 21 points out that changes in unsustainable patterns of consumption and production require the combined efforts of Governments, consumers and producers.

Gap Between Policy and Practice

Despite policy statements such as the ones quoted above, policy-makers in the North follow a course which may in general be termed as "business as usual". The various initiatives and negotiations on major issues such as the debt burden of countries in the South and reforms in the international trade system, have not challenged the course of development which steadily widens the gap between the North and the South.

There is a discrepancy between the commitments the governments have made at events such as UNCED, and the policy they follow at the national level. An example which may illustrate this is the case of Norway. While the Norwegian Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, has, as chairman of the World Commission on Environment and Development, called for a change in consumption patterns in the North, her government has recently presented a long-term programme for Norway which is based on a doubling of consumption-per-capita over the next 40 years. As with other governments in the North, the Norwegian government seems to base its long-term planning on an optimistic assumption that technological innovations will make such consumption growth possible within acceptable environmental limits. Despite the sophistication of the models which Norway and other countries employ in their long-term planning, no serious efforts are made to analyze the political consequenses of aiming at consumption levels and consumption patterns which are universally acceptable.

Lack of Political Commitment

The delegates in Rio requested more research and documentation to clarify the implications of sustainable consumption. Such research should, among other things, "identify balanced patterns of consumption worldwide which the Earth can support in the long term". While such research may be needed, it must not overshadow the fact that the major problem today is not lack of knowledge, but lack of comprehensive alternatives and political will to make the necessary changes possible. Many politicians know what has to be done but are unwilling to implement the policies which are necessary.

The countries in the North base their policies on the assumption that technical innovations will reduce environmental problems and that the market mechanism is the most effective tool to achieve this. They choose to overlook the fact that while new technologies may reduce the environmental hazards per produced and consumed unit, the consequences of current strategies for economic growth are that the accumulated harmful environmental effects are increasing. They fail to concede, in other words, that the negative effects of economic growth in the industrialized countries outweigh the benefits.

Rising unemployment in the North has made it more difficult for NGOs to get the message across that economic growth and growth in consumption do not represent solutions to the current problems. Again the problem is not lack of knowledge, but lack of political will to explore alternatives. As will be shown below, there are numerous studies demonstrating that reduced consumption in the North can be achieved without causing increased unemployment. A willingness to explore such alternatives, which must have a fair and equal distribution as a major aim, is a prerequisite for achieving a decent standard of living for all people within the limits of the Earth's ecosystems.

The Need for New Economic Models

The negotiations in the 1970's for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) yielded few results. The industrialized countries showed little interest in changing a world order from which they benefited, and now the entire idea of a New International Economic Order is considered dead and buried.

The fall of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe has discredited communism as a viable alternative economic model, also for countries in the South. The liberalist market economy has established itself as the dominant economic model. At the same time, the industrialized countries seem unable to cope with increasing unemployment, social problems and environmental degradation.

Although such problems show the deficiencies in current economic thinking, based as it is on growth in production and consumption, international free trade and industrial competition remain virtually unchallenged. Economists who advocate alternative economic models, have, as yet, had relatively little influence.

While it is hardly possible - and perhaps not desirable - to revive the idea of a New International Economic Order in the way it was presented in the 1970's, there is clearly a need for new models of economic planning. A number of prominent economists, among them Senior Economist at the World Bank, Herman Daly, and the Norwegian Nobel Prize winner, Trygve Haavelmo, have convincingly argued that the costs of economic growth in the industrialized countries clearly outweigh the benefits. Daly has pointed out that the market economy with its focus on economic growth and the idea of unrestricted free trade, is incompatible with sustainable development. Among other things, Daly has argued that the market economy overlooks the question of a fair distribution of the benefits of economic progress. He has further argued that the current concept of free trade rewards those who are willing to pass on environmental costs to coming generations. Daly advocates an economic policy which gives priority to the use of local resources to meet local needs. Instead of an increasingly integrated world economy, he argues for increased self sufficiency and the strenghtening of national and local institutions.

Such ideas have gradually become more accepted in the general debate, but have still not had any significant impact on the dominant economic models. The implication, however, is that a strategy which aims at reducing consumption in the North to a level which is within ecological limits and which is compatible with basic ideas of justice, must include a change in current economic thinking.

A Strategy for Changing Consumption Patterns

A Comprehensive Perspective

As pointed out above, there is - in theory - a broad international consensus about the need for changes in the consumption patterns in the North, and there is a wealth of documentation showing that the current environmental and development problems cannot be solved without reduced consumption in the North. The logical consequence of the political declarations in Rio and from other international declarations, is that there must take place major changes in the established patterns of consumption.

The World Commission on Environment and Development has, however, been reluctant to address the issue of changing consumption patterns in its entirety. What the Commission has stated is that there is a need for "consumption standards that are within the bounds of the ecological possible and to which all can reasonably aspire." This statement is, however, not specific enough to form the basis for the consumption changes which are required.

In a working paper on "sustainable development" as a concept of justice, researchers at the Project for an Alternative Future in Norway have pointed out that the concept has two different equity dimensions: a dimension related to geographical scope (the range of the concept's normative applicability at present) and a dimension related to temporal scope (the normative implications for future generations). These two dimensions of social justice can be presented in the form as shown on the next page.

A strategy for altering consumption patters in the direction of sustainable consumption must have as its ultimate aim the fulfillment of the normative goals of box IV, i.e. full global equity between generations. In other words, a complete understanding of the normative implications of sustainable consumption must, in addition to the goal of ecological balance, include notions of both national and global justice for current and future generations.

A useful definition of sustainable consumption within this normative framework has been presented by Martin Abraham from the Asean Environment Programme: "Sustainable consumption [can] be defined as a level of consumption that meets the present and future needs and aspirations of people the world over, from all sectors of society, without compromising the sustainability of the environment and its life-support system".

Along the same lines, the International Organization of Consumers Unions (IOCU) has pointed out that: "Any scenario for sustainable consumption includes the assumption that citizens of the developed countries will consume less, and in many cases far less, resources per capita."

Sustainable Development: Dimensions of Justtice

T                         GEOGRAPHICAL SCOPE
M                 The Nation-State        Globally
O  Within         I. Equity within a      II. Equity within
R  generations    current national        a current global
A                 generation              generation
   Across         III. Equity across      IV. Equity across
S  generations    national                global
C                 generations             generations

The Concept of Environmental Space

The NGOs present at UNCED drafted a separate Treaty on Consumption and Lifestyle, which forthrightly states that: "the most serious global environment and development problems facing the world arise from a world economic order characterized by ever expanding consumption and production which exhausts and contaminates our natural resources and creates and perpetuates gross inequalitites between and within nations."

The treaty also introduces the important new concept of "environmental space": "The concept of environmental space, whereby all people have the right to equitable shares of water, food, air, land and other resources within the carrying capacity of the earth, should be the basis for equitable production and consumption."

To achieve the required changes, the treaty states that it will be necessary: "to establish and publish a set of criteria for socially just and environmentally sustainable consuming and investing, appropriate to different regions [and to] set measures and evaluate progress of sustainable consumption and production patterns".

In its report Our Common Future, the World Commission on Environment and Development states that "sustainable development requires the promotion of values that encourage consumption standards that are within the bounds of the ecological possible and to which all can reasonably aspire". The concept of environmental space as defined above is fully in line with both this passage from the WCED, as well as the call in Agenda 21 to "identify balanced patterns of consumption worldwide which the Earth can support in the long term".

Friends of the Earth Netherlands (1993) has made a pioneering study to calculate the implications on consumption in the Netherlands of living up to the concept of environmental space, starting with the following basic questions: "What is the environmental space for human activities in a sustainable society? How much energy and resources can we use without destroying the earth?"

The efforts of the Friends of the Earth to answer these questions in the case of the Netherlands, show that major changes in consumption and production patterns are necessary. They also show, however, that even when Northern citizens adapt their consumption to a level based on a fair share of the world's natural resources, they will still have a comfortable standard of living.

Given that all citizens of the world have the same right to environmental space, Friends of the Earth has arrived at concrete targets for consumption reduction in the Netherlands by the year 2010. Some of these targets are:

* CO2 emissions will have to be reduced by 60 per cent. * Water use will have to be reduced by 32 per cent. * Meat consumption will have to decline by 60 to 80 per cent. * Timber usage will have to drop by approximately 60 per cent.

So as to achieve these targets, Friends of the Earth Netherlands has drawn up the following initial steps for developing an overall plan of action:

1. The concept of environmental space: Resources are globally available and used in a sustainable fashion, i.e. in a way that ensures that they will continue to be available in the future. The total environmental space of the whole world is (at least partially) quantifiable and, for a number of key resources, indicators are already available.

2. The equity principle: Each country in the world has the right to the same amount of environmental space per capita (or, maybe one could say more realistically, within acceptable minimum and maximum limits). So the fact that the rich world uses the bulk of resources now does not give them the right to a larger portion in the future. This can, of course, be further elaborated to the equity principle within countries.

3. The reference year 2010: A time frame within which one generation should be able to solve the current unsustainable situation. It is a period which is long enough to enable a meaningful redistribution of environmental space, yet short enough to foresee possible developments in technology and society.

4. Environmental space is not the same as end-use: Radically increased efficiency in the use of resources (energy, raw materials, soil, etc.) means that the reduction in end-use benefits (housing, mobility, services etc.) can remain limited.

Critics have said that although the concept of environmental space is a nice idea, it will not create equal standards of living for everybody, as consumption needs will vary based on among other things, variations in geography and climate. To this it may be said that such inequalities will be very small compared to the inequalities prevalent within the present world order, and, as the Dutch study further maintains, an adherence to the concept of environmental space will secure everyone a decent standard of living.

The idea of policy planning based on the concept of environmental space is gaining ground. It has put the question of overconsumption on the agenda in a manner whereby individual consumers, business, governments, trade unions and Southern interests all have their place. The Dutch action plan was presented in the Spring of 1992 and has already had a wide impact. Trade unions have begun to investigate the implications for employment; political parties are taking the perspective very seriously; the Dutch Minister for Environment is openly advocating the principles - and business is getting worried! At the global level, numerous environmental organizations have shown interest and have begun to discuss the possibility of applying the concept to their own local settings, and numerous organizations in the South are studying the possible consequences of the approach for their societies.

In Germany there are plans to carry out a study which is similar to the one made in the Netherlands, and efforts to do the same are underway in Japan and the USA. There are also plans for a regional study covering the European Union (EU). With the support of the Ministry of Environment in the Netherlands, the Friends of the Earth is now carrying the concept further and is planning a study involving a number of countries in the South in order to develop a strategy for how the South can take over environmental space which will be made available when the Netherlands reduces its consumption. This transfer of environmental space requires a rethinking of several aspects of the relationship between the North and the South, including both development aid and trade.

According to Manus van Brakel from Friends of the Earth Netherlands, an obstacle to gaining acceptance for the changes following from the introduction of environmental space, is that people find it difficult to understand that it is possible to follow a policy which is not based on economic growth. But on the other hand, van Brakel points out that politicians are equally confused by the fact that economic growth no longer seems to solve the unemployment problem. It may also be worth noting in this regard that the EU has given economic support to Friends of the Earth's work on environmental space.

Energy and Transport

Energy will be a major focus in the development of action plans based on the concept of environmental space. There is a growing international consensus that the level and pattern of current energy use in the industrialized countries is causing major - and in a number of cases irreversible - environmental damage.

While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its work prior to UNCED, concluded that a 60 to 80 per cent cut in human-generated emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is needed to stabilized the world's climate, the Convention of Climate Change speaks about stabilizing such emissions at the 1990 level. This is clearly not sufficient to address the environmental problems caused by the industrialized countries.

If the necessary political will is mobilized, it is possible to reach the required changes in energy consumption, even beyond the target that will follow from the adoption of environmental space as a tool for planning. With the assistance of independent analysts, the organization Greenpeace has shown that it is not only possible to reach the target set by the IPCC, but that it is technically and economically feasible to phase out the use of fossil fuels altogether.

The "Fossil Free Fuel Scenario" presented by Greenpeace includes the phasing out of nuclear power by 2010 and fossil fuels by 2100. This can be achieved even if World Bank projections for economic growth and UN populations projections are taken for granted. However, the scenario is based on the assumption that the gap between the North and the South will be reduced.

According to Greenpeace, the major obstacle to change in energy consumption is lack of political will, not a lack of technical solutions. According to Kalle Hesstvedt in Greenpeace Norway, the organization often has the feeling of "preaching about solutions in a vacuum".

Hesstvedt points out that there is not enough concern about consequences of unsustainable energy use among the general public. The danger of climate change is also an issue which it is difficult to gain understanding for. "Nothing will happen if we don't have a sufficient pressure on governments from the public", Hesstvedt points out. In fact, Greenpeace has been approached by politicians who ask for help to create such public pressure for change.

The Role of the NGOs

NGO's have an important role to play to in the process of establishing national action plans based on the concept of environmental space. NGO's in the North have a long tradition with work on consumption change. Nevertheless, as pointed out above, they have not been able to alter the general trend of development. The approach of the NGO's has varied. Many organisations have focussed on changing the behaviour of the individual consumer, often having an optimistic view on the effect of individual actions on governments and industries, while other organizations, working on the macro level, have pointed out the need for change on the national and international levels, but have not always had a clear strategy for how such change is to be achieved.

Many environmental organizations in the North have obviously focused too narrowly on environmental protection, without linking it to consumption patterns and development problems in the South. NGO's in the South have increasingly challenged such a perspective and demanded that the unequal distribution of resources and the harmful effects on overconsumption is given more attention.

NGOs have also become increasingly aware of the need for coordinated action, realizing that simultanous efforts on different levels is a prerequisite for obtaining results. There is a growing awareness of the need for integrating the various initiatives for change in consumption patterns within an overall strategy. The success of NGO actions in the future will, to a large extent, depend on the degree to which they manage such integration.

The concept of environmental space gives NGOs a tool for strenghtening cooperation among themselves to arrive at a strategy which combines individual and collective action for changed consumption patterns.

NGOs in the OECD countries have adopted the concept of environmental space as an important tool for change. This was clearly spelled out at the Down to Earth conference in Copenhagen in December 1993. Among others, the working group on comsumption patterns within the Alliance of Northern Peoples for Environment and Development (ANPED) is involved in the work to make environmental space a major tool for changing policies in the North.

Action at the National Level

As pointed out above, there are initiatives in several countries to establish national action plans based on the concept of environmental space. The first necessary step will be the elaboration of concrete indicaters of such a concept in each country, and economic models based on them. A possible work programme for national follow-up action - drawn up by participants in the working group on consumption patterns at the Down to Earth meeting in Copenhagen in December 1993 - contains the following points:

* Seminars: Meetings should be held to introduce and discuss this new tool with NGOs which are likely to be interested and active on this issue.

* Audit of activities: NGOs should co-operate to undertake a national audit of activities in all relevant organizations which may be interested in working on this idea.

* Public education: A programme of public education will be necessary to explain the idea, to show how it will lead to changes and to emphasize that many of these changes will not involve any "sacrifice".

* A national "Fair Share" caucus: Those groups who wish to develop a Fair Share/Citizens' Sustainability Action Plan should come together to develop and produce such a plan within a time limit of 1-3 years. NGOs should ensure that Governments give them space to develop this idea independently.

* Campaigning and diversifying: Implementing the plan will have to involve not only all those who have helped to produce the plan but many others as well.

To accomplish all this, it is proposed that an initial effort be made to develop a national "profile document"; that work be started on a more comprehensive action plan; and that links be established with work already done on Local Agenda 21 and Sustainable communities.

From the very beginning, the themes for the development of a Fair Share/Citizens' Sustainable Action Plan should be equity and quality of life. Within this framework the fundamental basis is the equal distribution of resources on a planetary per-capita basis. It is suggested that those working on each national plan be asked to consider at least the following points (based on the belief that similar working plans will make co-operation easier and more effective):

* Energy
* Transport
* Agriculture/fisheries
* Resource management

These topics have to be considered in the light of targets generated by the analyses of available resources. As well as indicators on environmental issues, each plan should be susceptible to monitoring in relation to indicators for social, economic, and health considerations.

Also instrumental in this strategy is the need for partnerships with Southern NGOs. It will be important for each national plan to produce "Southern Impact Statements" and "Gender Impact Statements" by working with Southern groups and women's groups to project how proposed changes will affect their concerns.

Action at the International Level

Achieving changes in consumption patterns based on the concepts of "Fair Share" and "Environmental Space", requires a major international effort to redistribute the world's resources.

The UN system will no doubt have to play a major role in the international efforts which are necessary. At the moment, however, the UN is not prepared to handle this challenge. The international finance institutions, such as the World Bank and the IMF, are still firmly committed to economic models which represent the problem rather than the solution, and other UN organizations are often plagued by bureaucracy and inefficiency.

The new Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) is given the responsibility for overseeing the follow-up of recommendations from UNCED, in particular Agenda 21. But the mandate of the Commission does not give it any powers vis-à-vis other UN organizations or over national governments. NGOs and governments should, therefore, coordinate efforts to expand the mandate and scope of the Commission.


In addition to the initiation of campaigns related to the concepts of "Fair Share" and "Environmental Space", the move towards sustainable consumption could be considerably strengthened by further selective changes in international organizations, institutions and procedures. Among such changes, the following deserve top priority for joint NGO-governmental action:

* The Commission on Sustainable Development should be given the powers to set standards and guidelines to which the rest of the UN system must comply. The Commission should be given the responsibility for developing an international action plan to obtain a fair distribution of the world's environmental space within the year 2010.

* The dominant role of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund must be reduced. The two institutions must be instructed by its members to examine all aspects of their work and to make their institutional efforts compatible with a more equal distribution of environmental space.

* The OECD and the World Bank should introduce new standards for national accounting including the costs of environmental degradation as well as measures for monitoring progress in the process of redistributing environmental space.

* The mandate of GATT and the new world trade organization should be changed to make them instruments for developing an international trade system aimed at bringing about a fair distribution of environmental space in the most effective way. They should be given the powers to punish environmentally damaging trade practices and trade practices which violate the right of individuals or nations to environmental space.

* A major aim of further negotiations on international trade, as well as implementation of existing agreements, should be to minimize resource use and maximize democratic controll over the economic sector.

The Norwegian Forum for Environment and Development has played a significant role in making changing consumption patters a priority issue for NGOs in the North. A paper, pointing at the lack of attention given to the effect of militarism on the global environment in the mandate of the UN Commission of Sustainable Development, was presented to the conference from ForUM´s working group on peace, environment and development. At the "Down to Earth" meeting in Copenhagen, ForUM coordinated the efforts to draw up a work programme for national action. A major challenge for ForUM in the future is to ensure that the type of programme outlined above is implemented for Norway.

In sum, the concept of environmental space points towards a world order in which it will be possible to achieve changes giving everybody a fair share of the world's resources, without unacceptable changes in the welfare of citizens in the industrialized countries. The documentation of the need for such changes is overwhelming, and the solutions are, we believe, available. As stated so forcefully by The World Commission on Environment and Development at its symbolical "reunion" just prior to the Rio summit:

"We know what we have to do - it is time to do it"


Friends of the Earth Netherlands (1990): Action Plan for a Sustainable Netherlands. (Vereniging Milieudefense. P.O. Box 19199, 1000 GD Amsterdam).

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