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The World Summit on Sustainable Development one year on

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The World Summit on Sustainable Development one year on

One year after the September 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, the European Commission took stock of the progress achieved towards implementing the commitments given by the European Union in the course of the Summit. The actions undertaken by the EU in this regard, both internally and externally, were also assessed. The actions relate inter alia to EU policy coherence, the sustainable management of natural resources, the promotion of sustainable patterns of consumption and production methods, poverty reduction, trade and globalisation, and international governance.


Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 23 December 2003 "The World Summit on Sustainable Development one year on: implementing our commitments" [COM(2003) 829 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


The main targets adopted by the international community at the Johannesburg Summit in September 2002 were:

  • to reduce the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation;
  • to increase access to energy services, energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy;
  • to reverse the current trend in natural resource degradation;
  • to reduce biodiversity loss;
  • to minimise the harmful effects of chemicals;
  • to promote sustainable patterns of production and consumption;
  • to promote the implementation of national sustainable development strategies.

In March 2003 the European Council defined a set of priorities for EU action in order to implement the political ambitions agreed in Johannesburg and strengthen the EU Sustainable Development Strategy. These include promoting sustainable and fair trade, implementing the EU's "Water for Life" and "Energy for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development" initiatives, the sustainable management of natural resources, the promotion of sustainable patterns of consumption and production methods, and international environmental governance.

In order to meet the abovementioned objectives and priorities, the Union has taken the following internal and external action:

Action within the Union

It is vital to enhance policy coherence within the Union, both at internal level (taking account of the environment in other Union policies) and at external level (particularly to avoid European policy having an adverse impact outside the Union). Both these aspects were taken into account in the latest reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy. They will also be applied in the fields of energy policy, transport policy, regional and cohesion policy. An instrument has been set up for assessing the environmental, economic and social impact of all major Commission policy proposals, and their impact on third countries. In June 2003 it was decided to establish a "Green Diplomacy Network". This should play an important role in integrating environmental considerations with EU external relations.

With regard to the sustainable management of natural resources, the Union has set itself a more ambitious target than the compromise reached in Johannesburg. Instead of reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, as decided in Johannesburg, the Union has undertaken to halt the decline of biodiversity by the same date. The EU's biodiversity policy is being reviewed, action plans have been decided and biodiversity indicators are being developed. Strategies for protecting soil and the marine environment (essential sources of biodiversity) are also being developed. In October 2003, the Commission published a communication on the sustainable use of natural resources aimed at identifying resource usages with the greatest potential for environmental improvement.

The Union has developed a range of instruments to promote sustainable consumption and production, such as Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC), the EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), EU environmental, social and fair-trade labels, the new framework for taxation of energy products and electricity and the Integrated Product Policy (IPP). In addition to these instruments, the Union must concentrate on sectors such as transport and energy, where emissions continue to rise. The new EU chemicals policy (REACH) represents another important contribution. The same applies to the environmental technologies action plan.

EU enlargement has made and continues to make a significant contribution to sustainable development. The 10 new Member States have harmonised their legislation with that of the Community (including the environmental and social legislation).

Action outside the Union

With regard to poverty reduction, the Union has taken measures to meet commitments given during the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development, particularly by increasing official development assistance.

The EU has launched initiatives on water, energy and forests. The "EU Water for Life Initiative" and "EU Energy Initiative for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development" were launched at the Johannesburg summit. A third initiative on forests seeks to combat illegal logging and associated trade. In the context of the water initiative, the Community has established an ACP water fund. The Commission has published an Action Plan for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade.

In order to meet the objectives of the World Summit on Sustainable Development with regard to trade and globalisation, the EU is participating in World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations with a view to allowing developing countries to effectively integrate into the world trading system ("Doha Agenda"). It has also undertaken to strengthen the environment and sustainability dimensions of trade agreements under negotiation with third countries. The EU is in the process of establishing a special Trade Helpdesk to provide exporters in non-EU countries with technical information they may require regarding access to the EU market. Various steps have been taken to improve and promote corporate social responsibility at Community and international level. Sustainability Impact Assessments are at the core of the EU's efforts to integrate sustainability considerations with its trade policy.

The Union considers that stronger international governance for sustainable development is necessary to meet the commitments given in Johannesburg. The European Council has proposed reinforcing the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), if necessary by creating a UN Environmental Agency. The EU supports the UN Commission on Sustainable Development as the main international forum for monitoring the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. The Union is actively participating in work to establish a framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production, and develop national sustainable development strategies.


Communication from the Commission of 13 December 2005 on the review of the Sustainable Development Strategy - A platform for action [COM(2005) 658 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 25.07.2007