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The intersessional Symposium on Sustainable Consumption, sponsored by Norway, served as preparation for the discussion of this delicate issue within Working Group I. The Chair distributed a 25-paragraph draft text entitled "Changing consumption patterns" on 23 May. The following day, the Chair opened discussion on the draft text and it quickly became apparent that it would need major redrafting. During the short discussion, consensus was reached on one point -- the text was too long.

After hearing general comments, the Chair decided that delegates should indicate the paragraphs they felt were redundant as well as the important elements that should remain. The EU noted that: unsustainable production patterns should also be considered; the need to change production and consumption patterns detrimental to the environment must be reaffirmed; and the responsibility of developed countries is important. The EU also suggested deleting 10 of the 25 paragraphs. The G-77 proposed deleting 17 paragraphs, 6 of which were the same as the EU's proposed deletions. The G-77 and China also mentioned the importance and vital role to be played by the issue of changing consumption patterns and a recommendation for further studies.

The negotiations on the Chair's revised 16-paragraph draft text took place during an informal, late night session on 25 May, chaired by Amb. Tunguru Huaraka (Namibia). Given the initial reactions to the original text, some were apprehensive as to the outcome, but the revised text was more manageable and one delegate reported that there was a sense that "consensus was in the air," it was just a matter of determining what that consensus was and putting it on paper. The text was reported to be "one that we can live with" and "more than some expected but less than others wanted," but most agreed it was a step forward. Many delegates believed that all nations moved closer to accepting their responsibilities for action to change consumption and production patterns.

During the negotiations, the developing countries stressed: the need to identify the "differentiated" responsibilities among countries; recognition that measures taken for environmental purposes might affect vulnerable groups, in which case off-setting measures should be taken; and that special attention should be given to the situation and needs of developing countries. The developed countries emphasized the need to: promote the internalization of environmental costs and the use of economic instruments; and recognize the work that OECD has done in this area.

The final document notes that, in the "context of differentiated responsibilities in this field, developed countries bear special responsibility and should take the lead for change by taking effective measures in their own countries." The text also notes the special situation of developing countries. It calls for further studies of economic instruments, but "urges national authorities to endeavor to promote the internalization of environmental costs and the use of economic instruments...with due regard to the public interest." [Return to start of article]