Environmental Perspective to the Year 2000 and Beyond
1. Awareness of environmental issues has been growing during the past decade. This awareness has emerged among and within the Governments as they have addressed environmental problems singly, bilaterally, regionally and globally. The establishment of ministries for environmental conservation and enhancement is but one sign of this growth of common concern. Much of this concern has crystallized in the decisions of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme. Despite these noteworthy developments, and the emergence in the world community of many shared perceptions regarding environmental problems and actions, environmental degradation has continued unabated, threatening human well-being and, in some instances, the very survival of life on our planet.
2. To meet this challenge, the overall aspirational goal must be sustainable development on the basis of prudent management of available global resources and environmental capacities, and the rehabilitation of the environment previously subjected to degradation and misuse. Development is sustainable when it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.
3. The following are some shared perceptions of Governments of the nature of environmental issues and their interrelations with other international problems and the efforts to deal with them:
4. Environmental problems cut across a range of policy issues and are mostly rooted in inappropriate development patterns. Consequently, environmental issues, goals and actions cannot be framed in isolation from the development and policy sectors from which they emanate. Against this background, and in the light of General Assembly resolution 38/161 of 19 December 1983, the present document reflects an intergovernmental consensus on growing environmental challenges to the year 2000 and beyond, in six main sectors. In addition, the document discusses briefly other issues of global concern which do not fit easily under the sectoral headings and considers instruments for environmental action, including the role of institutions in dealing with environmental issues. Throughout the Environmental Perspective, an attempt has been made to reflect consistently the interdependent and integrated nature of environmental issues. Under each sectoral heading, this document covers: the issue; the outlook; the goal to be aspired to in dealing with the issue; and recommended action. While drawing upon the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, the Environmental Perspective has sought to delineate, in an organized manner, the elements of shared perceptions, environmental issues, aspirational goals and the agenda for action envisaged for the Environmental Perspective by the Governing Council and the General Assembly.
1. Issue and outlook
5. Issue: The optimum contribution of human resources for the achievement of sustainable development has not been realized. Yet population levels, growth and distribution will continue to overload the capacities of the environment in many countries. Rapid population growth, among other factors, has exacerbated poverty. The negative interaction between population and environment has tended to create social tensions.
6. Outlook: People are the most valuable asset anywhere for the betterment of economic and social conditions and the quality of life. Yet, in a number of countries, the momentum of population growth today, coupled with poverty, environmental degradation and an unfavourable economic situation, has tended to create serious disequilibria between population and environment and to aggravate the problem of "environmental refugees". Traditions and social attitudes, especially in rural areas, have been a major impediment to population planning.
7. World population may exceed 6 billion by the year 2000. Several countries have achieved population equilibrium as defined by low birth and death rates and high life expectancies. But, for a large part of the developing world, this has not happened because of unfavourable economic conditions. Over 90 per cent of the net addition to the world's population between now and the year 2025, when the world population may exceed 8 billion, will occur in the developing countries. Many of them already suffer from desertification, fuelwood deficits, and loss of forests. Population planning would help, but is not sufficient, to achieve equilibrium between population and environmental capacities. Countries have not yet related population planning to development planning, nor have they linked population and environmental action for mutually reinforcing improvements. Equally, there is the need for more concern for human progress and social justice as factors influencing human resources development and environmental improvement.
2. Goal and recommended action
8. Goal: The achievement over time of such a balance between population and environmental capacities as would make possible sustainable development, keeping in view the links between population levels, consumption patterns, poverty and the natural resource base.
9. Recommended action:
1. Issue and outlook
10. Issue: The shortage of food in many developing countries creates insecurity and environmental threats. The quest to meet rapidly growing food needs, combined with insufficient attention to the environmental impact of agricultural policies and practices, has been causing great environmental damage. This includes: degradation and depletion in the form of loss of soil and forests; drought and desertification; loss and deterioration of the quality of surface and ground water; reduction in genetic diversity and of fish stocks; damage to the sea floor; waterlogging, salinization, and siltation; soil, water and air pollution; and eutrophication caused by improper use of fertilizers and pesticides and by industrial effluents.
11. Outlook: While food production capabilities have increased greatly over the last three decades, self-reliance in food production has not been achieved in many countries. In the absence of proper environmental management, the conversion of forests and grassland into cropland will increase land degradation. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa desertification and frequent droughts are major concerns causing large-scale migration from rural areas. In most developing countries the pressure on the natural resources, including those in the public domain, is a serious concern. In some developed countries loss of land productivity from excessive use of chemicals and loss of prime quality land to urbanization are major concerns.
12. Soil erosion has increased in all regions: increased intensity of land use has resulted in the reduction of fallowing which, in turn, has undermined soil conservation, management of moisture and control of weeds and diseases in small holder agriculture. The main causes of soil erosion have been deforestation, overgrazing and overworking of farmland. Inappropriate patterns of land use and inadequate access to land are other factors which have been at work. Some off-site impacts have been flooding, reduction in hydro-electric capacity, reduced life of irrigation systems and declines in fish catches. The world's rivers may be carrying 24 billion tons of sediment to the seas annually. Technologies which make optimal use of natural resources, minimum tillage, fallowing and drought-, pest- and disease-resistant varieties, combined with mixed cropping, crop rotation, terracing and agro-forestry, have kept erosion under control in some places.
13. Nearly one third of all land is at risk from desertification. Over the last quarter century the population in arid lands has increased by more than 80 per cent. Since the adoption in 1977 of the Plan of Action to Combat Desertification awareness of the problem has grown and so have organizational efforts to deal with it. But the basic elements of the action needed, namely, to stop the process, to rehabilitate degraded lands, and to ensure their effective management, do not yet receive the attention they urgently need. Although long-term economic returns on investments in the control of dryland degradation are high, insufficient resources are being devoted to it.
14. Forests cover approximately one third of all land. Tropical forests occupy over 1.9 billion hectares, of which 1.2 billion hectares are closed forests, and the remaining open tree formations. Although the rate of tree plantations in the tropics has accelerated recently (about 1.1 million hectares annually), it amounts to only about one tenth of the rate of deforestation. Use of forest land for agriculture through shifting or sedentary cultivation, increasing demand for fuelwood, unmanaged clearance and logging, burning and conversion for pastoral purposes are the main factors behind tropical deforestation. In semi-humid and dry climates fire can be a significant cause as well. Widespread deforestation has brought about far-reaching changes in tropical forest ecosystems, which no longer can perform well their essential functions of water retention, climate control, soil conservation and provision of livelihood.
15. Timber, an increasingly scarce commodity, has become the subject of extensive international negotiations. The International Tropical Timber Agreement, ratified in 1985, aims at promoting international trade in industrial wood and environmental management of tropical forests. The Tropical Forestry Action Plan, prepared under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, puts forward five priority areas aimed at: forestry land use planning, forestry-based industrial development, fuelwood and energy planning, conservation of tropical forest ecosystems and institutional support for better forestry management.
16. There have been significant changes in weather patterns as a result in part of loss of forests and vegetation cover. This has reduced river flows and lake levels and also lowered agricultural productivity. Irrigation has greatly improved arability in many areas of uncertain, or inadequate, rainfall. It has also been playing a vital role in the Green Revolution. Inappropriate irrigation, however, has wasted water, washed out nutrients and, through salinization and alkalinization, damaged the productivity of millions of hectares. Globally, salinization alone may be removing as much land from production as the land being irrigated, and about half of the land under surface irrigation may be saline or waterlogged. Excessive use of ground water for irrigation has resulted in lower water tables and semi-arid conditions.
17. Fisheries potential has not yet been tapped sufficiently or in such ways as to ensure sustainable yields, particularly in the developing coastal States, which do not possess the necessary infrastructure, technology or trained manpower to develop and manage fisheries in their exclusive economic zones. Excessive fishing activities have led to overexploitation of several important fish stocks and the exhaustion of some. By the year 2000, annual fish supplies may fall short of demand by about 10 to 15 million tons. Regional agreements on co-ordination of national fishing policies for licensing procedures, catch reporting, monitoring and surveillance have begun to consider sustainability of yields and use of appropriate technology. The World Conference on Fisheries Management and Development established a framework and programmes of action for fisheries management.
18. Freshwater fish farming and aquaculture now produce annually about 8 million tons of fish. In Europe and in South and South-East Asia, aquaculture has made important strides. Whether as part of a traditional way of supplementing farm incomes and protein intake or as an industry, carefully practised aquaculture holds great promise for integrated environmental management and rural development in many countries.
19. The use of high-yielding seed varieties has multiplied agricultural output but has led to a reduction in the genetic diversity of crops and an increase in their vulnerability to diseases and pests. The emerging technology of direct gene transfer, or transfer of the symbiotic nitrogen-fixing capacity of leguminous crops to cereals, can greatly increase production and reduce costs. Also, the spread of gene banks, through the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources, and the work of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology should improve the prospects for genetic diversity, and thereby enhance agricultural productivity.
20. Overuse of pesticides has polluted water and soil, damaging the ecology of agriculture and creating hazards for human and animal health. Pesticides have to be used to increase agricultural production, but their indiscriminate use has destroyed natural predators and other non-target species and increased resistance in target pests. More than 400 insect species are believed to be resistant to pesticides and their number is increasing.
21. Use of chemical fertilizers per capita has increased fivefold between 1950 and 1983. In some countries excessive use of fertilizers, along with household and industrial effluents, has caused eutrophication of lakes, canals, irrigation reservoirs, and even coastal seas through runoffs of nitrogen compounds and phosphates. Ground water has also been polluted by nitrates in many places, and nitrate levels in rivers have risen steadily over the last two decades. Degradation of the quality of surface and ground water, caused by chemicals, including nitrates, has been a significant problem in developed and developing countries alike.
22. In North America, Western Europe and some other areas, food surpluses have accumulated as a result in part of farm price subsidization. The push to produce more in response to incentives, coupled with excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides, has led to degradation and soil erosion in some countries. Similarly, export subsidization of food grains by some countries has undermined agricultural exports of some others, and also led to environmental neglect of farmland. In some countries, however, there is a trend towards reducing the scale of farming, encouraging organic farming, restoring the natural beauty of the countryside and diversifying the rural economy.
23. In the developing countries, farmers receive too little for their produce, and production is thereby discouraged. City dwellers often buy food at subsidized prices, and peasants may receive only a fraction of the market price. In countries where farmers have begun to receive better prices for their produce, agricultural production has increased and soil and water management has improved. When equitable agricultural prices are accompanied by technical assistance for environmental management of farming, they can help improve the quality of life in the countryside as well as in cities, partly by stemming the flow of rural-urban migration. Upward adjustment of food prices is, however, a politically sensitive issue, especially in situations of low resource productivity, low income, large-scale unemployment and slow economic growth.
2. Goal and recommended action
24. Goal: The achievement of food security without resource depletion or environmental degradation, and restoration of the resource base where environmental damage has been occurring.
25. Recommended action:
1. Issue and outlook
26. Issue: There are vast disparities in the patterns of energy consumption. Accelerated economic growth and growing populations require a rapid expansion in energy production and consumption. Major problems in this regard include: depletion of the supplies of, and inadequate access to, fuelwood, and environmental impacts of fossil energy production, transmission and use, for example, acidification of the environment, accumulation of greenhouse gases and consequent climatic change. Although energy is crucial to the development process, there has been little concerted action to balance environmental imperatives and energy demands.
27. Outlook: About three fourths of the world's energy consumption is in the form of fossil fuels: oil, coal, and natural gas. The remainder is supplied mainly by biomass, hydropower and nuclear power. The main problems caused by fossil fuel use are: air pollution, acidification of soil, fresh water and forests, and climatic change, especially warming of the atmosphere. The costs of controlling these problems and of dealing with their environmental and health impacts have been enormous. New and renewable sources of energy, including solar, wind, ocean and geothermal, are being developed but are unlikely to make a significant contribution during the rest of this century.
28. International oil prices are fluctuating. The immediate economic impact of lower prices has been significant, yet the momentum of efforts to improve energy efficiency and to develop alternatives for fossil fuels, which began in the wake of high oil prices, may decline.
29. Though developing countries account for about one third of the world's energy consumption, many of them do not have adequate access to energy. Most of them depend on oil imports and on biomass and animal energy. Wood, which provides energy to about half of the world's people, is becoming scarce, and overcutting has devastated the environment. Some countries have made progress in developing biogas while improving the environment, but the potential of biogas remains largely untapped. Given the needs of industrialization and the trends of population growth, energy needs will increase tremendously during the coming decades. If energy efficiency measures are not put in place, it will not be possible to meet those needs.
30. Many countries have made efforts to control air pollution by setting standards and introducing appropriate equipment in factories as well as automobiles, and by developing clean technologies for cooking, space heating, industrial processes and power generation. But attempts to deal with urban and industrial air pollution have often effectively transported the problem, for example, in the form of acid deposition, to other areas and countries. At least 5 to 6 per cent of the European forests may have already died because of acidification. As a first step, some European countries have agreed on a technical co-operation programme to monitor and control long-range transmission of some air pollutants. Reducing emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, however, is rather costly, although effective reduction technologies have been introduced in some countries. On the other hand, no effective technologies exist to control carbon dioxide accumulation which can markedly change climate. Moreover, available technology is not being fully utilized. The difficulty is to determine up to what level the damage costs of polluting fossil fuels should be accepted and how much to invest in scientific research to develop clean technologies.
31. Energy is often used in wasteful ways. The costs of this waste are being borne by all, but mostly by the poor. Moreover, part of these costs are being transferred to children, future generations and other countries. Several countries have experimented successfully over the last decade with conservation of energy for domestic use, improved efficiency of energy in industry and agriculture and adoption of energy mixes to minimize environmental damage. In some countries the nature of industrial growth has been changing in ways which economize on energy, for example, rapid growth of electronic, recreation and service industries. Consequently, there has been a noticeable delinking of economic growth from increase in energy consumption. Energy savings, renewable sources and new technologies can reduce energy consumption while maintaining the momentum of economic growth.
32. While oil exploration and coal mining have received great attention, the potential of natural gas has not been realized. Considerable quantities are being wasted in the absence of necessary infrastructure and investment. The world also has a relatively untapped capacity to develop hydropower. In the past, environmental planning has not received adequate attention in hydropower development. Decentralized small-scale hydropower schemes are not yet used on a significant scale, although they may be capable of providing economical, efficient and environmentally sound sources of energy.
33. Nuclear energy is widely used as a source of electricity, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has formulated guidelines to ensure that it is developed and used safely. The problems associated with it include the risk of accidental contamination, which can spread quickly over long distances, and the safe handling and disposal of radioactive wastes, including decommissioned nuclear reactors.
2. Goal and recommended action
34. Goal: The provision of sufficient energy at reasonable cost, notably by increasing access to energy substantially in the developing countries, to meet current and expanding needs in ways that minimize environmental degradation and risks, conserve non-renewable sources of energy and realize the full potential of renewable sources of energy.
35. Recommended action:
1. Issue and outlook
36. Issue: Industrial development brings obvious benefits, but it frequently entails damage to the environment and to human health. The main negative impacts are: wasteful use and depletion of scarce natural resources; air, water and soil pollution; congestion, noise and squalor; accumulation of hazardous wastes; and accidents with significant environmental consequences. Industrialization patterns and the consequent exploitation of natural resources and environmental degradation have been markedly unbalanced. The prospect for accelerated, yet environmentally sound world industrial development, is slim in the absence of concerted international action.
37. Outlook: Although some efforts to deal with environmental problems of industry have been made, negative impacts will grow in magnitude if not addressed methodically now. A promising trend is the steadily growing awareness of industrial environmental risks throughout the world. While this awareness increasingly informs and influences public policy, environmental knowledge remains as yet markedly uneven. In the absence of mechanisms for the unhindered sharing of environmental knowledge, Governments and industry may import hazardous materials and allow establishment of processes discarded elsewhere. Inadequate knowledge at the grassroots level of changes in the environment, and of their causes as well as economic implications, impedes participation of the concerned people in decision-making on siting of industrial plants and choice of industrial technology.
38. Natural resources have been used wastefully in industry. Recently, a number of countries have made significant progress in developing and adopting low-waste and clean industrial technologies and in recovering as well as recycling scarce industrial raw materials. New materials and processing technologies have made it possible to save raw materials and energy resources and to reduce environmental stress. Nevertheless, in many countries resource-intensive processes persist in the absence of suitable policies and access to proper technology.
39. Uncontrolled industrial practices have led to unacceptably high levels of harmful or toxic substances in the air, the pollution of rivers, lakes, coastal waters and soil, the destruction of forests, and the accumulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases which threaten to cause climatic changes, including a global warming of the atmosphere. Sea levels may rise considerably as a result. Industrial production and emission of chlorofluorocarbons threaten a significant depletion of the ozone layer, leading to increased ultraviolet radiation.
40. Recently, there has been an increase in the seriousness of industrial accidents, particularly in the chemicals industry. Even in the developed countries, the state of preparedness to meet such contingencies has been inadequate. Also, frameworks for international co-operation in such situations have been lacking. A crucial problem has been the lack of timely warning and of full sharing of information on the nature and magnitude of the hazards at local and regional levels.
41. With industrial growth and spread, the transport, storage and disposal of chemical, toxic and radioactive wastes will pose an increasingly serious challenge. The "polluter pays principle" has been applied with good results in some countries, but in many others it is still not applied at all, so that the source of environmental damage often is not held accountable for the harm caused. In the pursuit of rapid industrialization, some polluting industries may be relocated from other countries. As many developing countries do not possess the technical or institutional capability to analyse or monitor environmental implications of industrial processes, products or wastes, they are vulnerable to industrial environmental damage.
42. Many developed countries have successfully applied technology, policies and institutional and legislative frameworks to deal with industrial pollution. Several have succeeded in innovating or applying low-waste or clean technologies. The Industry and Environment Office of the United Nations Environment Programme has produced publications with extensive and detailed information on environmentally sound technologies in specific industries. Thus, although environmental hazards of industrial processes, products and wastes persist, there is available considerable experience, expertise and technology to prevent industrial accidents and implement environmentally responsible practices.
43. Technical innovation has opened up promising opportunities for achieving mutually supportive economic and environmental objectives. Properly guided technology can transform patterns of industrialization and improve the international division of labour. Innovation in micro-electronics and opto-electronics has revolutionized information and communications industries and could lead to geographical dispersal of industry. These innovations hold promise for developing countries suffering from the twin problems of excessive industrial concentration in urban areas and relative neglect of rural areas.
44. In the decades ahead, the developing countries will depend more and more on industry, including processing of their own raw materials, for incomes and employment. In contrast, in some developed countries, the pattern of industry is changing in the direction of knowledge-intensive, energy-saving, and materials-saving activities. Moreover, leisure and service industries have begun to play a significant part in this change.
45. Countries have been coming together to forge agreements on preventive measures to contain global, regional and transfrontier environmental impacts of industrial products and processes. Examples of this encouraging trend include: conventions and protocols for the control of land-based sources of marine pollution within the frameworks of various regional seas programmes; the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the evolving international consensus on the control of emission of chlorofluorocarbons; the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution and its Co-operative Programme for the Monitoring and Evaluation of Long-range Transmission of Air Pollutants in Europe; and the Cairo Guidelines and Principles for the Environmentally Sound Management of Hazardous Wastes, sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme. Such international co-operation can extend into many areas of industrial environmental management and many geographical regions. Moreover, industry itself, following the World Industry Conference on Environmental Management convened in 1984 by the United Nations Environment Programme, is increasingly ready to undertake environmental responsibilities.
2. Goal and recommended action
46. Goal: Sustained improvements in levels of living in all countries, especially the developing countries, through industrial development that prevents or minimizes environmental damage and risks.
47. Recommended action:
1. Issue and outlook
48. Issue: Despite considerable advances in dealing with problems of health and human settlements, the environmental basis for further improving the situation is deteriorating. Inadequate shelter and basic amenities, rural underdevelopment, overcrowded cities and urban decay, lack of access to clean water, poor sanitation and other environmental deficiencies continue to cause widespread disease and death, ill-health and intolerable living conditions in many parts of the world. Poverty, malnutrition and ignorance compound these problems.
49. Outlook: Human ability to prevent disease has grown greatly over the last few decades, mainly owing to scientific achievements and better access to sanitation, clean water and safe waste disposal. In many developed countries better living conditions have helped prevent disease and have enhanced average life expectations. In the developing countries, however, achievements have lagged behind what is technically feasible.
50. More than 4 million children under the age of five die of diarrhoea in the developing countries annually. Even when it does not cause death, diarrhoea saps vitality and stops physical and mental growth. Malaria is another water-borne disease which infects about 100 million annually. Typhoid and cholera are similarly endemic in the developing countries. Bilharzia and river blindness are other common diseases caused by mismanagement of water. Sleeping sickness, caused by the tsetse fly, effectively denies the use of vast tracts of land in Africa for pastoral or settlements development. The burning of coal, oil, wood, dung and agricultural wastes build up dangerous concentrations of toxic gases in houses and factories, and chronic heart and lung diseases, bronchitis, emphysema and asthma are the result.
51. In warm, humid countries where storage is inadequate, aflatoxins in food cause liver cancer. On the other hand, over-use of fertilizer has caused excessive nitrate levels in ground water, endangering children's health, and nitrate run-offs have led to eutrophication of surface waters and contamination of shellfish. Phosphates in fertilizer have caused high concentrations of cadmium in food. Further, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides pose a direct threat to health in the rural areas when their use is not properly guided. Over-use of pesticides has also led to high levels of pesticide residue in food.
52. About a billion people do not have adequate shelter, and millions practically live on the streets. By the year 2000, about 2 billion people, or 40 per cent of the developing countries' population, will live in cities and towns, thereby putting pressure on city planners and Governments. Most developing countries already do not have the resources required to provide housing and services to the people who need them. The influx of refugees in some developing countries has exacerbated health, shelter and environmental conditions. Also, where rural settlements are widely dispersed, health, housing and infrastructural services become practically unattainable.
53. About one third of all city and town dwellers in the developing countries live in slums and shanties, with no help or infrastructural support whatever, and often under adverse conditions. The inexorable trend towards urbanization will ensure that by the year 2000, 15 of the world's 20 largest urban metropolitan areas will be in the developing countries. Simultaneously, rural environmental degradation reinforces migration to urban areas even when people are unable to earn incomes high enough to ensure decent housing and there is no prospect of meeting their infrastructural needs.
54. There are three main environmental aspects of urbanization: characteristics of the dwelling - living space, ventilation, sanitation, water supply, waste disposal, recreation space, domestic energy; ambient environmental situation - air pollution, water pollution, environmental risks and hazards, noise, stress and crime; and environment of the area surrounding the urban centres - deforestation, soil erosion, changes in micro-climate. Between a quarter and a half of all urban residents in the developing countries live in unhealthy and degraded dwellings. Consequently, diarrhoea, dysentery and typhoid are common, and there are periodic outbreaks of cholera and hepatitis. Tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases spread easily in ill-ventilated, damp and crowded surroundings.
55. Excessive concentrations of industry and commerce in a few urban centres often reflect a dualistic development pattern, implying a relative neglect of rural and agricultural development. Concentrations of people, settlements and income and employment opportunities often become mutually reinforcing in such a situation. People continue to migrate to the urban areas even if their expected incomes are not high enough to ensure decent housing, or there is no prospect of their infrastructural needs being met. Thus, the problems of safe disposal of toxic and hazardous wastes, control of air and water pollution, collection and disposal of domestic wastes and provision of clean drinking water assume gigantic proportions, requiring enormous finance and great organizational and technical capabilities. Photochemical smog, oxides of nitrogen and sulphur, hydrocarbons, lead, mercury, cadmium poisoning, carbon monoxide, polychlorinated biphenyls, asbestos and other particulate matter along with the respiratory and gastroenteritic diseases and malnutrition, cause serious damage to public health. The consequent stress of living in such conditions contributes to social tensions and outbreaks of violence and unrest. When industrial accidents or natural disasters occur, loss of life and human suffering follow on a large scale because of the congestion, lack of organizational and technical capacities and vulnerability.
56. Heavy urban concentrations have also placed excessive demands on natural resources and polluted and degraded surrounding areas. High land prices have caused good agricultural land to be used for construction and speculation. Urban firewood demand has led to widespread deforestation, soil erosion and even changes in micro-climate.
57. The congestion of settlements near factories multiplies the health risks of chemicals production in the developing countries. The accumulation of toxic wastes and their inappropriate disposal similarly endanger the health of millions. Awareness of the risks to human health posed by environmental contamination has increased greatly. Such risks arise partly through an absence of environmental regulation and management capability. Most developed countries have succeeded in reducing environmental pollution and its risks and impacts. International co-operation has also progressed on several fronts: national programmes launched under the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade, the World Health Organization/United Nations Children's Fund Programme on Primary Health Care, the Onchocerciasis Control Programme in Africa in the Volta River basin, the United Nations Environment Programme/World Health Organization/International Labour Organisation International Programme on Chemical Safety, the dissemination of information on chemicals of environmental concern through the International Register of Potentially Toxic Chemicals of the United Nations Environment Programme, the International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and its accompanying technical guidelines, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/United Nations Environment Programme Panel of Experts on Integrated Pest Control, the United Nations Development Programme/World Bank/World Health Organization Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, the World Health Organization/Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/United Nations Environment Programme Panel of Experts on Environmental Management of Disease Vector Control, the specification of radiation dose limits by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, and the two recent international Conventions adopted under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency on exchange of information and assistance in the event of a nuclear accident, are some examples.
2. Goal and recommended action
58. Goal: The provision of improved shelter with access to essential amenities in a clean and secure setting conducive to health and to the prevention of environment-related diseases, which would, at the same time, alleviate serious environmental degradation.
59. Recommended action:
1. Issue and outlook
60. Issue: Inequalities in international economic relations, coupled with inappropriate economic policies in many developed and developing countries alike, continue to affect adversely sustainable development and cause environmental degradation. Deteriorating terms of trade, chronic trade deficits, which are partly caused by growing protectionism, heavy debt-service payments, and inadequate financial flows have made it very difficult to allocate resources to environmental protection and improvement, particularly in developing countries. Specific problems include: insufficient consideration of environmental impacts in development co-operation; insufficient control of trade in scarce natural resources and hazardous substances; and transnational investment and transfer of technology without adequate observance of environmental standards or information on environmental management.
61. Outlook: Awareness of the environmental aspects of international economic relations has increased, but it has not yet found adequate expression in institutional practices and national policies.
62. Development co-operation projects have not helped build significantly national capabilities to avert environmental disasters. The environmental damage resulting from the execution of some large-scale projects is now better understood than in the past. There is also a growing awareness of the need for additional resources to rehabilitate degraded environments.
63. Long-term declines in commodity prices, coupled with their inequity and instability, have adversely affected environmental management of natural resources. Furthermore, these prices do not fully reflect the environmental costs of depletion of the resource base. Good quality land, fishing areas and other natural resources are being overworked, and tropical forests are being encroached upon in order to achieve additional income. The substitution of export crops in place of subsistence crops has displaced small farmers and pastoralists from good quality land and has led to excessive pressures on marginal land and natural resources.
64. There is a growing awareness of the hazards associated with trade in chemicals, pesticides and some other products, but international practices for controlling the transport of hazardous chemical goods do not yet provide for a systematic consideration of the environment.
65. Mounting debt burdens, repayment obligations, austerity measures and reductions in financial flows to developing countries have endangered and, in some cases, blocked sustainable development, and this had had negative economic, environmental and social impacts.
66. Recent years have seen a sharp worsening of the international economic situation. Its impact has been particularly severe on developing countries. Lack of economic growth in developing countries could have devastating consequences.
2. Goal and recommended action
67. Goal: The establishment of an equitable system of international economic relations aimed at achieving continuing economic advancement for all States, based on principles recognized by the international community, in order to stimulate and sustain environmentally sound development, especially in developing countries.
68. Recommended action:
69. This section discusses briefly the major environmental issues of global concern that have not been adequately dealt with in previous sections.
70. Oceans and seas are being polluted extensively. The rising pollution levels and degradation of coastal ecosystems threaten the life-support capacities of oceans and seas and undermine their role in the food chain. Efforts to monitor the state of oceans and seas, including those of the United Nations Environment Programme and other international organizations, confirm that there is cause for concern. This problem is particularly serious for coastal waters and semi-enclosed seas that border highly populated and industrialized zones. The situation will get much worse unless concerted action is undertaken now. The ongoing monitoring effort is far from comprehensive and, where it has advanced, it has not yet led to adequate change in the practices causing environmental damage.
71. The challenge is to control and decrease marine pollution, and establish or strengthen regimes of environmental management of oceans and seas through international co-operation and national action.
72. A comprehensive data base should be established over time on which action programmes to restore and preserve the environmental balance in the world's oceans and seas can be based. Among others, the Global Environmental Monitoring System, Global Resource Information Data Base and the oceans and coastal areas programmes of the United Nations Environment Programme should intensify efforts towards this end.
73. Conventions and agreements to monitor and manage human activities with a view to ensuring environmental protection of the seas and oceans should be ratified and implemented by all concerned countries. Where such legal instruments do not exist, they should be negotiated. Governments should strengthen or introduce policies and measures aimed at preventing practices harmful to marine ecosystems and ensuring environmentally sound development of inland areas. Such policies and measures should include control of the discharge of industrial effluents and sewage, dumping of wastes, including hazardous and radioactive materials, disposal of hazardous residues and operational wastes from ships, incineration at sea, and oil spills from tankers and off-shore platforms. Environmentally sound land-based technology for the disposal of hazardous wastes should be developed and promoted. The United Nations Environment Programme should continue to collaborate in this work with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the International Maritime Organization, and other appropriate international organizations.
74. Outer space has now become a recognized area of human activity. As activity in this area develops over the coming decades, sound management of outer space will become increasingly important. To this end, international co-operation exclusively for the peaceful use of outer space is essential, especially on the part of those countries that now have the capacity to undertake outer space activities.
75. All countries, in particular those with a major capacity to exploit the benefits of outer space, should create conditions, including specifically the maintenance of its non-militarization, for broad international co-operation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes. This should include the use of space technology to monitor the Earth's environment. The benefits of the peaceful use of outer space, including weather forecasting, remote sensing and medical benefits, should be made readily available to the world community, particularly through assistance to the developing countries.
76. Traditional crop and livestock species are giving way to high-yielding varieties and breeds. As the genetic base of plants, animals and micro-organisms becomes narrower, some genetic material is being irretrievably lost at such a rate that the world could lose one tenth to one fifth of its 5 to 10 million species by the year 2000.
77. Over 100 countries are collaborating in the global programme co-ordinated by the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources for conserving crop genetic resources, and the global gene banks network contains over 1 million samples of crop germ plasm. Yet, in many countries, national efforts for conservation are still ill-organized and under-financed, and often do not attend systematically to the components of planning, training, education and research. International co-operation and technical assistance in this field should be further developed.
78. An international network of protected areas for conserving animal and plant genetic resources, encompassing about 10 per cent of the world's land area, should be established to reverse the trend towards depletion of species. Management plans for conserving ecosystems as reservoirs of species diversity have to be prepared.
79. Efforts to conserve crop genetic resources and the global data banks network have to be extended to cover adequately germ plasm with economic potential for providing food, fodder, fibres, waxes, oils, gums, medicines, energy and insecticides. In situ and ex situ components of conservation have to develop in a complementary manner in the light of the interdependence of nature conservation and genetic diversity.
80. Mechanisms should be established to provide information on rates of exploitation of genetic resources to facilitate selection of those to be conserved.
81. The gap between conservation of species and economic access to them should be bridged through maximum international co-operation. Agreements involving rights of possession of and access to genetic material, including research results, should facilitate such co-operation. Conserved genetic resources should be regarded as a common interest of mankind.
82. The accumulation and deployment of weapons of war and destruction present very grave risks to the environment. The use of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, could bring about far-reaching, even irreversible, changes in the global environment.
83. The development and stockpiling of nuclear arms and delivery systems at current levels have made the human race technically capable of putting an end to its own existence. In addition, the growing capacity of some States to undertake deliberate manipulation of the environment represents an immense potential danger. If the material, financial and intellectual resources devoted to armaments were to be used to solve problems such as those of the human environment, food security and shelter, prospects for sustainable development would be considerably enhanced.
84. The World Charter for Nature proclaims that "Nature shall be secured against degradation caused by warfare or other hostile activities". A comprehensive system of international security is essential in order to ensure that this declaration is implemented.
85. Progressive disarmament through detente, negotiation, and avoidance of the use of force as a means of resolving conflicts should be pursued to minimize the environmental risks associated with armed conflicts. Governments should continue to pursue, in relevant negotiating forums, efforts to ban weapons that have the effect of modifying the environment.
86. One of the roles of the United Nations Environment Programme is to promote environmentally sound development in harmony with peace and security, and towards this end, issues of disarmament and security, in so far as they relate to the environment, should continue to receive appropriate attention.
87. Sections I, II and III above largely sought to indicate how to deal effectively with environmental problems by addressing their policy sources. However, such actions need to be reinforced by the performance of certain overarching functions. This section deals with those functions.
88. Environmental rehabilitation and management depend upon the availability of organized information on the state of the environment, its trends, and their relationship to social and economic factors. Decisions, however, continue to be made in ignorance of the changing state of the environment and its implications for human well-being. It is essential, therefore, that reliable environmental information, obtained and analysed using modern technology, is made available to planners and managers in a usable form. Most developing countries face the constraint of lack of access to modern technology and to the necessary expertise to collect and interpret environmental data.
89. Environmental and resource data are being collected at global and regional levels by the United Nations and international organizations working with Governments. Additional data also exist at the national level, although often in a fragmented form. The institutional mechanisms needed to relate such data sets to each other and to analyse them in the context of existing practices and policies are often lacking. Governments and intergovernmental organizations at the regional level should intensify efforts to collect and analyse data, especially data relating to common environmental problems.
90. The United Nations Environment Programme, working through the United Nations system, co-ordinates the collection, monitoring and assessment of selected environmental variables and distributes this information worldwide through: the Global Environmental Monitoring System, encompassing the monitoring and assessment systems relating to climate, health and natural resources and the Global Resource Information Data Base; data bases and systems for the conservation and management of genetic resources; the International Register of Potentially Toxic Chemicals, which operates a global information exchange network to provide information and data on chemicals and their effects on health and environment through a query-response service and evaluations of the effects of chemicals on the environment; INFOTERRA, the International Referral System for sources of environmental information; and the state of the environment reports of the United Nations Environment Programme, which address major issues of topical environmental concern.
91. Through improved collection and analysis of data and its wide distribution to potential users, which should be a service to countries as well as international organizations, the United Nations Environment Programme should become, and come to be accepted as, a leading authority in environmental assessment.
92. Countries, particularly developing countries, should be assisted, through international co-operation on environmental assessment, with the participation of the United Nations system and with the United Nations Environment Programme playing a leading role, in establishing effective national monitoring systems, geographic information systems and assessment capabilities, and improving data compatibility. In order for this to take place, technical co-operation among countries regionally and globally has to increase significantly.
93. Notable environmental assessments have been carried out recently and related to socio-economic factors by non-governmental organizations in some countries. These have helped expand awareness and stimulate action to protect and improve the environment. Governments should encourage such efforts.
94. Environmental planning should provide a conceptual, methodological and institutional framework within which to internalize progressively the consideration of the environment in development decision-making. Every country should define its national environmental objectives and make them part of its plans for socio-economic development. Just as each country sets targets for sectoral growth, it should set time-bound targets in respect of environmental resources and indicators of major concern. Plans and policies at sub-national levels should also provide for the simultaneous pursuit of the specified environmental and development objectives.
95. Governments should establish mechanisms and procedures to facilitate interdepartmental co-ordination of policies and unified direction for integrating environmental concerns in development planning. Use of analytical methods to ascertain the environmental and socio-economic implications of alternative courses of action should inform decisions on projects and programmes. It should also help resolve conflicts of interest among departments, among population groups and among regions.
96. The allocation of investment resources of a national plan among regions and sectors has to reflect a sensitivity to environmental constraints and objectives. This should be facilitated by periodic analyses of the socio-economic significance of the changing state of natural resources and the environment at national and provincial levels. Efforts should also be made to prepare an accounting of the use of scarce natural resources, focusing particularly on the country's major environmental problems, for example desertification, and to relate it to the periodic reporting on national income and well-being.
97. Sectoral ministries should be encouraged to apply environmental impact assessments and social cost-benefit analyses in decision-making regarding development projects and programmes. Taxation and economic policies should encourage sectoral decisions that favour environmentally benign technologies and locations, recycling and safe disposal of wastes and conservation of natural resources, and should establish mutual support between environmental and economic objectives. Land and water use plans should be prepared and their implementation monitored. Already some countries have made progress in planning at the district level to reflect environmental needs.
98. There have been advances in the analytical methods of environmental impact and risk assessment, social benefit-cost analyses of environmental measures, physical planning and environmental accounting. Theoretical work on decision models with multiple objectives and constraints has also progressed. The United Nations Environment Programme, the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have played a useful role. This work should be strengthened so that it will have a greater impact on decision-making.
99. Environmental action and economic planning remain insufficiently related to each other in most countries. Efforts must be intensified at national and international levels to promote the application of suitable methods, procedures and institutional arrangements to make economic planning fully responsive to environmental constraints and opportunities. The guiding role of the United Nations Environment Programme in this field should include technical assistance to the developing countries. Collaborative arrangements should be made at the working level between the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, the Department of Technical Co-operation for Development of the United Nations Secretariat and the World Bank. They should set up, or strengthen, units to conduct environmental analyses of their projects and programmes and, in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme, assist Governments in systematically considering the environment in development planning.
100. Increasingly, environmental legislation has been providing practical frameworks at the national level for implementing environmental standards and regulating the activities of enterprises and people in the light of environmental objectives. At the international level, conventions, protocols and agreements have been providing a basis for co-operation among countries at bilateral, regional and global levels for the management of environmental risks, control of pollution and conservation of natural resources.
101. There is a need to expand the number of accessions to and ratifications of these conventions and to institute mechanisms at the national level to ensure their application. The present momentum should be maintained of concluding conventions in fields such as hazards relating to chemicals, treatment and international transport of hazardous wastes, industrial accidents, climate change, protection of the ozone layer, protection of the marine environment from pollution from land-based sources and protection of biological diversity, in which the United Nations Environment Programme has been playing an active part.
102. Groundwork has been prepared over the last 15 years under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme to establish legal frameworks to manage regional seas. Governments should intensify their efforts to implement legislative measures and other policies at national levels so that the policy sources of the environmental problems of the regional seas are effectively tackled. Increasingly, environmental management of rivers, lakes and forests has been posing a challenge to international co-operation. Governments, with the collaboration of the Programme and concerned international organizations, should accelerate action to establish legal regimes at international and national levels to improve significantly the environmental management of rivers, lakes and forests. The new programme for environmental management of freshwater systems, sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme, is a promising start.
103. The Montevideo Programme for the Development and Periodic Review of Environmental Law, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme, should be implemented fully. Development of international environmental law should continue, with a view to providing a strong basis for fostering co-operation among countries. The progressive emergence of general environmental norms and principles and the codification of existing agreements could lead to a global convention on protection and enhancement of the environment.
104. Governments should settle their environmental disputes by peaceful means, making use of existing and emerging agreements and conventions. The International Court of Justice, the International Court of Arbitration and regional mechanisms should facilitate peaceful settlement of environmental disputes.
105. The participation of people in environmental protection and improvement depends upon their being aware of the environmental problems and possibilities, of how the changing state of the environment affects their well-being, and how their lifestyles affect the environment. People's effectiveness in dealing with environmental problems depends upon their technical and organizational capabilities to design and implement the needed measures.
106. Since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held at Stockholm in 1972, awareness of the interrelationship between human activities and the environment has steadily grown. Voluntary action groups at the community level, national and global non-governmental organizations, scientific bodies, schools and universities, mass media and Governments all have played a part in this process. Also the United Nations Environment Programme, through its programme and through its information activities, has helped build environmental awareness.
107. In a large number of developing countries, knowledge of proper environmental management practices still does not reach millions who suffer as a result of environmental degradation. People are the most valuable resource in development, but in order for them to participate constructively in accelerating and sustaining development, environmental information must be made available in languages they understand and in a form that can help them relate it easily to their own situation. Governments should intensify efforts to make this possible. Non-governmental organizations, with appropriate support from the United Nations Environment Programme, should play an increasingly active role in this field, especially by way of provision of requisite materials.
108. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme should ensure systematic coverage of environmental education needs at all levels of schooling, especially in the developing countries. They should also prepare and promote course materials which would include environmental components in professional training given to selected occupational groups, for example, engineers, builders, foresters, farm extension workers and managers. Training in analysing environmental considerations in relation to economic and other goals also has to receive growing attention. Governments should make environmental education and training an integral part of their education and communication policies and programmes.
109. International support for the training of personnel in environmental assessment and management, especially in the developing countries, has grown steadily. It is essential, however, to ensure that the content and modality of such instruction is relevant to the needs of the countries where it is intended that the skills be applied. International co-operation and governmental efforts should also help ensure a progressive strengthening of institutional capabilities within the developing countries themselves to make available such training.
110. Consideration of the environment must be internalized in sectoral policies and practices to ensure that environmental objectives are met and sustainable development is achieved. Sectoral bodies should be made accountable for such internalization. Existing environmental problems also have to be dealt with through concerted action and allocation of resources. This is true at both national and international levels.
111. At the national level, the mandates of sectoral ministries and other governmental institutions should explicitly state their responsibility and accountability for sustainable development and environmental protection within their sectors. Their policies, functions, structures and budgetary allocations should be consistent with this. As appropriate, the same should apply at provincial and local levels. Authoritative mechanisms and procedures are needed to oversee and ensure that national environmental objectives are met throughout the Government. Governments should establish or strengthen environmental ministries to stimulate, guide, support and monitor actions to achieve these objectives. To this end, essential functions should include: environmental assessment, planning and incentives, legislative and regulatory advice, awareness-building and training, stimulation of research and application of its results. Environmental ministries should also provide leadership and co-ordination for direct action to deal with environmental problems, including rehabilitation. Bilateral and multilateral institutions and international organizations should assist developing countries in this regard.
112. International institutions, both inside and outside of the United Nations system, dealing with such areas as food and agriculture, health, industry, energy, science, trade, finance and development assistance, should reorient their policies and programmes to make steady progress towards environmentally sound development.
113. These institutions should be accountable for integrating the objectives of sustainable development into their policies, budgets and staffing strategies. Governments should ensure, through consistent policy guidance to these institutions, that their mandates and programmes meet this objective.
114. The governing bodies of all United Nations organizations should report regularly to the General Assembly on the progress made in achieving the objectives of sustainable development. Such reports should also be submitted to the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme for that body to provide comments on matters within its mandate to the General Assembly. The Administrative Committee on Co-ordination, under the chairmanship of the Secretary-General, should oversee effectively the inclusion of the concept of sustainable development in all programmes of the United Nations system, by reviewing and co-ordinating the efforts of all organs, organizations and bodies of the United Nations system in this field, and by including this in its reports to the General Assembly and the Governing Council of the Programme.
115. The inter-agency mechanism of Designated Officials for Environmental Matters should guide, support and monitor more effectively activities within the United Nations system to ensure consistent policy.
116. In parallel with the institutional arrangements at the national level, the United Nations Environment Programme should promote, guide, support and monitor actions to achieve environmentally sound development and stimulate and co-ordinate action to deal with environmental problems.
117. The major priorities and functions of the United Nations Environment Programme should be:
118. Specialized agencies, organizations and bodies of the United Nations system should more speedily assume full operational and financial responsibility for environmental programmes supported by the United Nations Environment Programme in their sectors included in the system-wide medium-term environment programme and the Environment Fund. The human and financial resources which will become available to the United Nations Environment Programme as a result should be concentrated on the priority areas listed above.
119. Environmentally sound development cannot be assured solely by actions of governmental, intergovernmental or international organizations. It requires the participation of other entities, particularly industry, non-governmental environmental and development organizations and the scientific community. Non-governmental organizations have important contributions to make in various areas, including environmental education and awareness, as well as design and implementation of programmes at the grass-roots levels. The scientific community should continue to play an important role in environmental research and risk assessment and international scientific co-operation.
120. Regional and continental co-operative arrangements are being established to deal with common environmental problems. For example, the first session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, held at Cairo in 1985, adopted the Cairo Programme for African Co-operation and modalities to implement it. Governments and development co-operation agencies should support such institutional arrangements and programmes.