ENB:05:45 [Next] . [Previous] . [Contents]


The CHAIR then introduced Agenda Item 2, Changing consumption patterns (Agenda 21, Chapter 4). He outlined six areas elaborated by the CSD at its second and third sessions. These are: greater efficiency in the consumption of energy and resources; minimizing waste volume; assisting individuals and households to make environmentally-sound purchases; influencing the procurement policies of governments; pricing to develop incentives and disincentives; and reinforcing values of sustainable development.

The Task Manager, Kenneth Ruffing (DPCSD), introduced the report of the Secretary-General on Agenda Item 2 (E/CN.17/1996/5 and Add.1). The report contains analysis and policy recommendations in five sections: identifying trends and projections in consumption and production patterns; assessing the impact on developing countries of changes in consumption and production in developed countries; evaluating policy measures; reviewing voluntary commitments to achieve sustainable development; and revised UN guidelines for consumer protection. The Chair then invited general comments on the Secretary- General's report.

The REPUBLIC of KOREA reported on the Workshop on Policy Measures for Changing Consumption Patterns, which was held from 30 August to 1 September 1995 in Seoul. The meeting was co-sponsored by the Republic of Korea, Australia, the UN DPCSD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The workshop discussed four main topics: sustainable consumption; policy options and instruments; case studies of their application in end-use energy consumption, waste management, water resource consumption and urban/land-use planning; and shared responsibility toward sustainability.

ITALY, on behalf of the EU, noted the Rio commitment that developed countries should take the lead on sustainable consumption and production issues, but stated that rapid population and economic growth in several large developing economies are changing their relative impact on the global environment. He called delegates' attention to a number of issues, including: the catalyzing role environmental legislation and consumer demand for more environmentally friendly products and services is playing in the development of new products and technologies; the necessity to assess the impacts on developing countries of changes in production and consumption patterns in developed countries; the positive step represented by the OECD initiative of "greening governments" and of incorporating environmental considerations into decision-making processes; and the importance of ensuring that trade, environment and development policies are mutually supportive.

NORWAY stated that the demand side is where the most gains can be made and suggested that the CSD concentrate on what can be done at the global level, such as cooperation on policy instruments. The Norwegian Government is supporting a dialogue on this issue on the internet, which can be found at <<http://enb.iisd.org/consume/>>. He noted that developed countries have taken the lead, and suggested welcoming developing countries into projects on these issues.

COLOMBIA stated that any change in the consumption and production patterns of industrialized countries must not have an adverse impact on the prospects for developing countries. He called for trade and technology transfer to be connected to any change in production and consumption patterns. Regarding the inferred recommendation from the Secretary-General's report that greater attention must be given to consumer decisions, he stressed producer decisions over consumer decisions. He called for the involvement of exporters, especially in developing countries, in decisions on worldwide standards of production and consumption.

AUSTRALIA suggested a focus on sustainable consumption patterns. She welcomed the Secretariat initiative to analyze global trends and develop a model, and supported a simple clearinghouse. The US supported a CSD multi-year study, and suggested that it focus on: the creation of sustainable development indicators; eco-efficiency and the internalization of externalities; and enhanced public awareness regarding the need for more sustainable patterns. He supported continued work on the demand side, and stressed voluntary programmes.

The OECD noted findings from a recent workshop, held in Norway, on the subject of clarifying the concepts involved with production and consumption. Findings included: eco-efficiency is a promising tool in an overall strategy to address consumption and production patterns; the value of eco-efficiency strategies can be enhanced by setting targets; and more needs to be done to clarify the linkages between OECD and non-OECD countries.

CHINA stated the CSD should continue to study consumption patterns and raise public awareness. He supported COLOMBIA and stated that: developed countries should take the lead on the economic and social consequences of their policies; policy proposals should not be mandatory; and guidelines for consumer protection should be discussed. The UK: described a set of environmental indicators to monitor the environmental impact of economic activity; endorsed the role of economic instruments in changing production and consumption behavior; and called for Governments to internalize environmental externalities in line with Principle 16 of the Rio Declaration.

MEXICO stated that poverty eradication and reducing disparities in living standards are essential for sustainable development. He noted that it is more important to consider the "development trajectory" of developed, rather than developing, countries, and highlighted the environmental, social and economic aspects of this issue. He cautioned against the economic effect of applying inappropriate environmental standards to the exports of developing countries, and noted that UN guidelines should be developed in a balanced manner, taking into account both producers and consumers.

MALAYSIA raised the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. While acknowledging that the demand for resources will increase as countries develop, he noted that all countries have the "universal right to develop." While developed countries have an obligation to change unsustainable patterns, they must also assist developing countries through financial and technical means. Lastly, he stated that economic instruments must be approached cautiously, transparently, and with the needs of developing countries in mind.

INDIA stated that: the paragraph on demand-side modification of consumption patterns should reference studies of the impact of media and advertising; the paragraph on increased efficiency in the use of energy and materials should address technology transfer; the paragraph on waste generation must adopt stronger measures than voluntary ones; eco-labelling must be voluntary; and the paragraph on the demand-side approach was downplayed relative to CSD-3 recommendations.

JAPAN stated that changing consumption and production patterns must target consumers as well as producers. He highlighted the long-term objectives of his government's basic environmental plan. He called attention to guidelines for environmentally-sustainable procurement, and emphasized the importance of consumption patterns in the service sector. The REPUBLIC of KOREA stressed the importance of technical assistance and transfer for capacity building.

The CHAIR then opened the floor for specific comments on each section of the Secretary-General's report. The EU noted that its opening comments addressed specific aspects of the report. In reference to a paragraph that notes that sustainable development will depend on the development trajectory followed by developing countries whose current consumption levels are relatively low, MOROCCO cautioned that the text confused levels of consumption and methods of consumption.

A. Identifying the policy implications of trends and projections in consumption and production patterns: BENIN noted that the report does not refer to the contribution that the private sector could make in changing patterns of consumption and production, and noted a role for transnational corporations. In a paragraph identifying the need for research and investment in clean, efficient technologies and efforts to disseminate these technologies, and an accompanying reference to a report of the Secretary-General on Chapter 34 of Agenda 21 (technology transfer), he stated that Chapter 4 should be considered in connection with all of Agenda 21. BRAZIL noted the importance of the economic viability of these clean technologies and stressed the need for access to them. MEXICO questioned the references to "demographics" and "wealth" as some of the driving forces of production and consumption levels. MALAYSIA also questioned inclusion of "demographics." CANADA suggested "demographic dynamics," the phrase used in Agenda 21.

In a paragraph regarding the levels and characteristics of production and consumption, BENIN noted that the reference to identifying socio-cultural changes that could lead to more sustainable patterns is a delicate issue, and stated that changes in socio-cultural customs should not be imposed from outside.

INDONESIA suggested that the CSD consider consumption patterns against the background of poverty alleviation. He also noted the roles that governments, businesses and NGOs play in these issues.

CANADA added a reference to pollution "prevention" in a paragraph that noted the great scope for reducing pollution. The FOSSIL FUELS RESEARCH INSTITUTE, on behalf of the Energy Caucus, and supported by BRAZIL, noted that efforts to bring goods to the consumer are not addressed in the report. He specifically noted environmental disasters associated with oil transport. The REPUBLIC of KOREA supported the Secretariat's efforts to develop a modeling framework, but stressed that the work should be balanced.

B. Assessing the impact on developing countries, especially the least developed countries and small island developing States, of changes in consumption and production in developed countries:

BENIN noted that transnational corporations do not apply the same standards in developing as in developed countries, and he encouraged application of the same standards. He also suggested a reference to the impacts of large-scale, as opposed to artisanal-scale, production. He noted that the reference to eco-labeling only dealt with certain materials, and he called for a balanced treatment of the issue.

CANADA noted the importance of greening the government, and offered to share its manual on the subject. MEXICO suggested that the paragraph referencing activities to implement policies to reduce waste in developed countries should also note such activity in developing countries. He suggested a reference to the need for suitable markets for eco-labeled products in the paragraph regarding eco-labeling. The UK noted that eco-labeling can help create new markets. INDONESIA stated that eco-labeling schemes introduce potential trade barriers.

C. Evaluating the effectiveness of policy measures intended to change consumption and production patterns: SWEDEN noted three instruments to change consumption patterns: government procurement; regulatory means; and economic means, such as taxes. The REPUBLIC of KOREA noted that eco-labeling schemes have a discriminatory trade effect. GERMANY stressed education to change patterns of consumption and welcomed the work of NGOs in this regard.

BENIN suggested that the advertising industry and the media should not just sell products but also promote the environmental importance of changed patterns of consumption. In reference to a paragraph noting a UNESCO Workshop on Education and Public Awareness for Sustainable Development that called on the CSD to reach households with information on sustainable consumption, BENIN suggested also transmitting information to producers.

BRAZIL called for measures to encourage governments to stimulate eco-friendly publicity.

D. Progress made in implementing voluntary commitments to achieving sustainable development goals that have an especially high priority at the national level: Much of the discussion on this section focused on a paragraph calling for subsidy removal and internalization of environmental costs. BENIN noted that the issue is delicate and that each government should be allowed to decide how to act. SENEGAL stated that some subsidies are desirable, such as a Senegalese programme to combat desertification by replacing wood fuel with gas. The UK called delegates' attention to an expert meeting in Manila, which recognized that the impact of subsidy removal should be addressed. The NETHERLANDS suggested a reference to removal of "environmentally damaging subsidies." The OECD noted it is currently analyzing the costs and benefits of subsidy removal and reform. The NETHERLANDS COMMITTEE FOR IUCN stressed the importance of addressing distributional aspects of removal, such as disproportionate effects on the poor.

MOROCCO suggested a recommendation for the promotion of new and renewable energy resources.

E. Revision of the UN guidelines for consumer protection: BENIN suggested preparing guidelines for producers as well, so that their goods do not harm consumers or the environment. MEXICO suggested a reference to the informal sector and noted the importance of funding from international organizations to promote eco-efficiency.

The INTERNATIONAL CHAMBER of COMMERCE (ICC) noted that it has played a key role in developing ethical business standards, including the present UN guidelines for consumer protection, and that it is working on a code for environmental advertising, including eco-labeling schemes such as timber certification. He emphasized that guidelines must be worked out with business, since compliance may involve costs, and called for the participation of the ICC at the earliest possible stage.

MOROCCO stated that it is "surrealistic" to talk about principles of consumer protection and environmental behavior when discussing citizens who earn less than one dollar a day. Such standards are only relevant above a certain income threshold, and this should be reflected in the paragraph on influencing environmental behavior.

[Return to start of article]