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Schriftenreihe des Europa Institutes Budapest, Band 20:43–50.


Economy–Industry–Environmental Protection



The World Summit of Johannesburg was preceded by a long process of international and domestic preparations. Compared to the Rio Summit of ten years earlier, which mostly focused on issues of environmental protection, this time economic and social considerations played an important role. Despite the new trend environmental issues were accorded a prominent place. The most important issue that was discussed was the so-called second type of activity, namely public and private partnership (PPP), precisely in the areas of water, energy, and health care.


Political Declaration and Plan of Implementation

The greatest achievement of the Johannesburg World Summit was the passing of the Political Declaration and of the Plan of Implementation on 4 September 2002. The Political Declaration is a brief, formal document, in which the countries committed themselves to the realisation of sustainable development. Essentially it contains a list of the most important challenges (such as combating poverty, the protection of natural resources, reduction of the growing gap between the poor and the rich, and of the destruction of the environment).

The Plan of Implementation approves the commitments. Partnership among the stakeholders was stressed (such as between the authorities and private actors, including the business sphere, and the set of tools for implementation). Globalisation was also mentioned in the context of the possibilities and challenges of sustainable development. The contribution of the private sphere to sustainable development was emphasized, together with stressing the necessity of corporate responsibility. After several contradictions the approved text, based on negotiations, is implicitly consistent with the voluntary nature of corporate social responsibility.

The passing of the Plan of Implementation was preceded by more than one week of intensive and constant discussion. Its competency covers a sequence of economic, ethical, financial, environmental policy issues, and to a lesser extent social ones in a particularly broad sphere. A speeding up of the growth of developing economies and those in transition, and the achievement of sustainable development (by the developing as well as developed countries) was put in focus.

The broad scale of the Plan of Implementation has made the negotiating procedures complete, together with the other interpolated obligations, particularly those of Doha (the round of negotiations initiating the Ministerial Declaration of Doha within the framework of the World Trade Organisation) and of Monterrey, and pointed out the basic gap that figured between the political priorities of North and South.

Unrealistic expectations emerged wanting the Johannesburg World Summit to commit itself for a new and major environmental programme and to assure priority to environmental issues in the face of the other pillars of sustainable development.


Aims with a deadline

Some press news projected the Johannesburg Summit as a missed opportunity for setting up aims. In contrast a new set of themes was passed in which the approval of aims with a deadline obtained a prominent place:

– by 2015 the number of those who have no access to safe drinking water and to basic health conditions should be reduced by half,

– by 2010 the presently negative process of biodiversity loss should be reversed,

– wherever it is possible, but by 2015 as latest the restoration of the stock of fish should be ensured,

– by 2020 it should be achieved that the use and production of chemicals may exercise a minimum of harmful effect on human health and on the environment,

– a ten-year framework programme should be elaborated with the objective of speeding up shifting towards patterns of sustainable development and consumption.

Other plans that can be translated into numbers, were also approved, for instance that of increasing the proportion of renewable energy resources.

The Summit confirmed the consciousness that the present trends of sustainable development should be discussed on the highest decision-making levels.

If sustainable development were to be realised all over the world, it would be the most significant achievement of the coming decade. It is truly the implementation of the plan that means the greatest challenge and not the great dimensions of resolutions translated into numbers of its content.

The Johannesburg Summit actively involved the business sphere that had been successfully campaigning and demonstrated its commitment to sustainable development. Experiences were summarised after Rio, acknowledging that the states alone were unable to implement their obligations. The key role of the private sector, of the business world in economic upliftment was recognised as the basis of combating poverty and environmental degradation by the goods produced.

The so-called second-type activity, the institution of partnership was introduced which means an opportunity and also an effective means in the realisation of aims. It has become a general and essential part of the Johannesburg Summit.

Expectations and commitments were partly shifted to the business sphere. At the same time it became clear that its role could not replace, only supplement the public sphere. The business world could only be made partially responsible for any omission, including those that serve the realisation of general objectives. It is this responsibility that has to be properly interpreted on international as well as domestic levels, which largely determines the shaping of the post-Summit events.


The proceedings of talks

Despite the fact that the scale of tasks points far beyond environmental issues, it was generally the ministries of environmental protection that participated in the talks with the exception of the United States, as in that case it was the State Department that led the deliberations. The procedure followed the extremely complex style of the Russian ‘Matryoshka doll’, a practice common in the UN and a diplomatically accepted one, within the framework of a series of talks at various levels. Sessions of technical level, of the heads of delegations and of ministers alternated with repeated feedback coordinating conferences, concentrating countries of similar territorial interests. The European Union made it possible for the acceding countries to form an autonomous negotiating group. Due to tactical and political reasons, the European Union prepared itself for Johannesburg by proposing tangible results, concrete recommendations, deadlines and a monitoring system.

In comparison to the EU the group of developing countries (G77) showed a great contrast due to the excessively large number of complex interests. Consequently the G77 were unable to support the highly ambitious aims of the EU, mostly they adjusted themselves to the aims of the developing countries. Their criticism was mostly directed against the EU and the US, and also against agricultural subsidies, and they again started to challenge the accords reached at Monterrey.

As a rule, the US successfully blocked daring recommendations and rejected every unrealistic, media-oriented idea. The talks were based on consensus within the framework of the two agreements mentioned above, with rather defensive than ambitious proposals.

Generally speaking the ultimate, balanced result may be regarded as a positive one for the EU, what we can also share, but it has not fulfilled the hopes of the ministers of environmental protection. A solution of this contradiction, the evolution of the right strategy of sustainable development is to be an important national, and after our accession to the EU, international task of the coming years. It is significant that all the related domestic political intentions and will have been clearly manifest at the highest levels right after the Summit.

The results are positive from the point of view of the business sector. There was quite a strong pressure exercised particularly by the non-governmental organisations and by some countries for including more environmental requirements in the Doha round, but the Plan of Implementation that was passed called only upon WTO Member States to implement the commitments undertaken as described above.

All those environmental aims should be avoided that are too expensive or technically not accessible by enterprises. Good governmental work is needed in the developing countries. Corporate environmental and social responsibility, accountability and the improvement of business achievements through voluntary initiatives were supported. The institution of partnership was acknowledged as an important means of implementation on a voluntary basis.


The role of business life

The visible presence and effective role of business life in Johannesburg should be stressed. This area was present with a far greater weight than at the Rio Summit ten years earlier: fifty business organisations and seven hundred companies participated in the meeting.

The fact that the role of business life had significantly grown in the talks on sustainable development and in the discussions had two reasons:

– the governments were relatively unable to implement their obligations undertaken in Rio,

– the hope that the private sphere could play a more effective role in the achievement of the aims to be accomplished, in the realisation of concrete and useful projects and in respect to the local demands of development and environmental protection.

The business sphere clearly expounded that it had committed itself to sustainable development. Several exhibitions were held at the different centres of the Summit where the leaders of business world stressed their readiness for partnership. Several other events were also organised, and the talks were followed by stalls and advertisements presenting strategies of sustainable development, of cleaner production and the launching of partnership projects.

An interesting colour spot of the event was the former General Director of Shell, the head of BASD (Business Action for Sustainable Development), who successfully utilised the opportunities offered by the Summit and played a coordinating role with his activity.

The dominant presence of the business sphere particularly preoccupied the green non-governmental organisations. On the one hand the NGOs repeatedly demanded real business commitment to achieve sustainable development, and more corporate, social and environmental responsibility. On the other hand they were afraid of the lack of control over business and governmental partnership but also of its tangible results. Principles of partnership were elaborated to ensure transparency and the control of results. If the Plan of Implementation is carefully read it can be seen that contains important statements from the angle of business life at several places of the document, to be pointed out again on the basis of the recommendations of the European Union.

1. The institution of partnership. All interested actors should be involved through partnership in the Plan of Implementation produced as a result of the Johannesburg World Summit, particularly governments and the major groups.

It is worth mentioning that several concrete partnerships were launched with the involvement of the business sphere within the framework of the Johannesburg World Summit, initiated by the EU in respect of the topics of water and energy. These programmes are accessible and can be viewed.

2. The area of financing and good government. In the developing countries an adequate legal environment is the necessary precondition to international assistance and investment. The Monterrey round, and replenishing the Global Environmental Fund are of basic importance to the realisation of the respective financial developments in the developing countries.

In Johannesburg the developed countries made one another committed to avoid a reopening of these chapters. Business life will contribute to supply the developing countries with the required financial assistance, supplementing foreign direct investments.

3. Trade and globalisation. The importance of the role of trade in achieving sustainable development is commonly known. Support accorded to it was linked to the Doha Work Programme. As far as environmental protection is concerned, the EU and the US strongly oppose any other kind of support.

Globalisation was discussed in a fairly balanced way, which contained possibilities of and challenges to sustainable development.

4. Consumption and production patterns. Every country has to support and promote a ten-year framework programme so that shifting towards sustainable consumption and production may be speeded up. Such actions and means should be named like the processes of monitoring and examination, indicators, life-cycle analysis, consumer information, the exchange of best practices, training of small and medium enterprises, the enhancement of eco-efficiency.

5. Corporate and social responsibility. The industry shall improve its social and environmental output by voluntary means. Any further internationally compulsory commitment and decision that would lead to further debates in the UN, should be avoided. The countries were invited to promote corporate responsibility and accountability.

6. Chemicals. An agreement was reached on reducing the harmful effects of the produced and used chemicals on human health and the environment to the minimum by 2020 on the basis of transparent risk analysis of scientific foundations, management procedures and with the consideration of the principle of precaution.

Similarly an accord was reached on promoting the reduction of the risk of heavy metals harmful to human health and the environment.

7. Mining, minerals, metals. Mining, minerals and metals were mentioned as important economic and social factors for the developing countries. Activities are needed to name their environmental effect and to force the emergence of sustainable practice.

8. Tourism. The governments agreed on promoting sustainable tourism, namely on increasing resources deriving from tourism by protecting the ecologically sensitive areas and strengthening local communities.

9. Forests. The governments agree with such actions that ensure sustainable sylviculture in the case of natural as well as planted forests so that forest degradation may be significantly moderated and the biodiversity loss of forests and the degradation of landscape may stop.

10. Climate change. The governments confirmed their commitment to stabilise glasshouse concentration at a level that would prevent dangerous changes of anthropogenic origin of the climatic system. States that had ratified the Kyoto Protocol pressed the others who have not done so, to accept it.

11. Employment. The governments have undertaken to help in the enhancement of employment opportunities by the realisation of the Declaration on the Right to Work and Principles.

If the above one is surveyed only as a brief enumeration it may be seen that the Plan of Implementation touches at several instances on the business world as well as on the requirements and commitments in connection with the economy in so many places.


Domestic tasks

The question is how we are supposed to survey our domestic tasks, system of planning or the budget on the basis of the Johannesburg Summit. Let us take an apparently simple example in the context of the new National Programme for Environmental Protection under preparation and covering six years.

Industry and environmental protection cannot be considered in isolation any more. The formerly vertical nature of industry by branches was changed precisely by the horizontal character of environmental protection. The new industry for environmental protection that has emerged as a result of changes in industry and in the structure is present in every traditional branch, in health care, in the field of transport, and agriculture and reaches even the educational branch of the knowledge-based society. Hence whenever we speak about industry in an environmental context, it is its horizontal set of means what we refer to, instead of the traditionally interpreted ones, which is the driving force of economic growth, and through which the economic integration of environmental protection can be realised. (In the newly emerging industries environmental protection is integrated right from the outset, see for instance, supplying industries.)

For the industry the greatest challenge is represented by the integration of the set of ideas of sustainable development into the economy and the development of the domestic environmental industry as an economically pulling branch during the period of the implementation of the National Programme for Environmental Protection II.

The recommendations of the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development are to be implemented as fitted into national programmes. The industry of environmental protection meets the requirements of the Plan of Implementation passed by the Summit as an economic programme.

The industry of environmental protection, which is nothing else but pollution management, environmental investment, monitoring, servicing, the spread of cleaner technologies, can ensure the competitiveness of national industry and it is also the driving force of economic growth. The practical implementation of the Chapter on the Environment of acquis communautaire represents such a burden on national economy that can be reduced to a bearable level only by the economic integration of sustainable development. The National Programme for Environmental Protection II is realised through the operational programme of the National Programme for Environmental Protection that constitutes the basis of co-financing. Therefore it is important that the environmental implementation programme should appear in NPEP II through the economic programme of the industry of environmental protection.

A development of the network of environmental monitoring is part of the environmental industry and constitutes the basis of supplying information prescribed by the acquis and of producing the environmental indicators necessary to assistance granted to programmes.

All these tasks have to be prepared by the setting up of programmes that would also mean an entrance ticket for the reception of the Structural and Cohesion Funds of the EU after accession.

It can be seen that the Johannesburg set of ideas of sustainable development permeates our tasks for the implementation of environmental protection and for EU accession that have to be adjusted to the economic programme. The ensuing result constitutes the basis of the entire implementation programme of environmental protection.

What is left behind is that governments have to analyse their domestic problems, namely the possibilities of economic development in the acceding countries from the angle of sustainable development.

There are three roads open to governments to make their choice:

– 1. The usual, traditional business: growing environmental damage and ’economic growth’ that can be accomplished at a high economic, social and health cost.

– 2. Economic growth having a decreasingly damaging effect on the environment. Cleaner technologies should be implemented, waste should be minimised without basic changes in economic decision-making.

– 3. Continuous economic growth besides the significant reduction of environmental effects, fully keeping in view the environmental and social considerations in the decision-making process, which is sustainable development itself.

At present there is apparently full agreement in the advantages of the realisation of Community regulations in Hungary. It is the decisions that indicate agreement and the implementation will contribute to following the way of sustainable development. One of the most important messages of the Johannesburg Summit is that the basis of environmental protection is good government and economic policy that have become inseparable concepts from now on.


This essay is an attempt at summarizing the EU standpoint on the issues discussed.