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close this bookEliminating World Poverty: A Challenge for the 21st Century - White paper on international development (DFID - The Stationery Office, 1997, 86 p.)
close this folderSECTION 3 - Consistency of Policies
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe Importance of Consistency
View the documentThe Environment
View the documentTrade, Agriculture and Investment
View the documentPromoting Political Stability, Social Cohesion and Responding Effectively to Conflict
View the documentPromoting Economic and Financial Stability

The Environment

3.3 Conservation and sustainable management of the environment is a cornerstone of our approach to international development. Perhaps nowhere is the need for consistency greater. Nor is there a clearer example of a mutual, global interest. It reminds us that development is not a rich country/poor country issue, and that it matters to all of us. We need to tackle environment problems at local, national and international levels.

3.4 At the national level, there is a strong link between poverty and environmental degradation. Poor people are often the main direct human casualties of environmental degradation and mismanagement. In rural areas, competition for access to resources, especially land, often squeezes poor people into marginal, low productivity lands, where they have no alternative but to over-exploit soils and forests. In towns and cities, poor people typically have to live and work where pollution is worst and the associated health hazards are highest.

3.5 Lasting eradication of poverty requires environmentally sustainable solutions. Consistent policies and better management are the key. Natural resources must be managed sustainably or else continued economic growth will not be possible. But some use must be accepted or development will not happen. We will help developing countries integrate environmental concerns into their decision-making by supporting their efforts to prepare plans and policies for sound management of their natural resources and national strategies for sustainable development.

3.6 Rural communities are still the majority in most developing countries. We will work to promote sustainable agriculture which tackles hunger and poverty while protecting the environment. We will focus on small producers and on productive systems which maintain or improve the productivity of land and water resources. This should promote both poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. Agricultural trade policies have an impact too and we will be proposing reforms that support our international development aims. Our new approach to the problem of deforestation will support work to improve management of forest resources in ways that lead to a range of benefits to poor communities.

3.7 By the beginning of the next century, more than half of the world’s population will for the first time in history be living in towns and cities. For most poor people, urban environment problems - such as air pollution, poor sanitation and contaminated water - will be a major concern. In many cases, the infrastructure to tackle these problems either does not exist or ignores their needs. We will promote urban development policies and programmes that focus on improving employment, shelter, education, health, water, sanitation and energy provisions for poor people.

3.8 At the international level, there is a self-evident common interest in addressing global environmental issues in a coherent and coordinated way. The poorest countries can and do suffer the consequences of the domestic environmental policies of the richer countries. The UK believes that the richer countries should lead on taking domestic action to combat those consequences, and is acting to meet its commitments. At the same time, the impact of developing country actions on the global environment is growing rapidly and their impact will be felt by developed as well as developing countries. An obvious example of the need for co-operation and coherence is climate change. Our approach in this area is set out in Panel 20 (see also Figure 11).

3.9 There is a range of other issues where we will work to develop coherent policies. We will use our approach to forests to press for comprehensive and coherent international arrangements to achieve sustainable forest management. We shall take a leading role in a programme of action to ensure optimal use and protection of freshwater resources. We shall support measures to combat land degradation and desertification. We will help developing countries meet their commitments to phase out ozone depleting substances. We shall also continue to help poor people in developing countries, often rich in species and habitats, but lacking resources, to manage and benefit from their biodiversity. Developing countries hold the bulk of the world’s wild animals and plants. Helping them to conserve such resources and gain income from them offers benefits both for the alleviation of poverty and the safeguarding of biodiversity.

3.10 Given the connections between development, the elimination of poverty and the environment, we shall play a significant role in the Commission on Sustainable Development. This will include promoting capacity building in developing countries and exchanging experience to achieve the important target that all countries should develop national strategies for sustainable development (see Panel 21). We shall also seek to play a full and influential role in the UN Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) in supporting urban development policies that contribute towards the reduction of poverty and sustainable development objectives.



Climate change is perhaps the most serious global environmental problem we face. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change advises that, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, by the year 2100 average global temperatures will have risen by between 1 and 3.5 degrees centigrade. This will cause sea levels to rise perhaps up to a metre over the same period, trebling the number of people at risk from flooding - from 46 million now to 118 million. Important decisions will be taken at the Climate Change Conference in Kyoto in December 1997 on targets for reductions in greenhouse emissions for the period after 2000.

Climate change is likely to have a significant adverse effect on areas of the natural world and human society, affecting eco-systems, human health, water resources, agriculture and forestry. The impacts will be felt by all of us, but developing countries and some of the poorest within them could be hit particularly hard. The very future of many small island states will be threatened and low-lying areas such as Bangladesh will be particularly vulnerable.

The Government recognises that climate change is a global problem and one which requires a global solution. Developed countries have been responsible for the majority of emissions to date and have a moral obligation to take the lead in reducing emissions. That is why the UK, which is one of the few OECD countries on course to meet the emission targets set so far, is in the forefront of those pressing for significant reductions in emissions to be agreed by developed countries at Kyoto.

But the threat of climate change will only be solved through global action. The total greenhouse gas emissions of the developing world are likely to overtake those of developed countries in the next 20 to 30 years. Therefore whilst the UK Government, in accordance with the Berlin Mandate, does not believe that developing countries should take on emission targets in this round of negotiations at Kyoto, it does believe that future stages of the process will require an increasingly global effort in setting emission reduction and limitation targets.

Obviously as developing countries increase their efforts to tackle climate change and limit emissions, they will require appropriate assistance to do so. As the Prime Minister said at the UN Special Session on Sustainable Development in June:

‘Industrialised countries must work with developing countries to help them combat climate change...and other global environmental challenges. We must live up to our side of the bargain and ensure that they have the resources to do this.’

Developing countries need energy. A major element of the UK’s approach will be to help key developing countries improve the efficient generation, distribution and management of energy, particularly by building national capacity. We will, where appropriate, promote and encourage the use of renewable energy resources. We will also help developing countries to build expertise in climate change research and observation.

3.11 The UK also recognises that there is a need to provide additional assistance at a global level. Such assistance enables developing countries to take actions which benefit the global environment but which could not be justified solely on the basis of their national sustainable development needs. The UK will therefore continue to provide substantial additional commitments in support of global environmental objectives through the Global Environment Facility and the Multilateral Fund for the Montreal Protocol (see Panel 22).



The Earth Summit (1992) called for countries to incorporate environmental considerations into their development plans and build national strategies for sustainable development. At the United Nations General Assembly’s Special Session - Rio Plus Five (1997) - countries agreed to have them in place by 2002. We see these strategies as the main vehicle for integrating pro-poor economic growth with a social improvement and responsible approach to environmental management.

National strategies for sustainable development must respond to the specific needs of the country and its people.

Important principles in developing and implementing them include:

· securing strong political commitment and local ownership for the process and effective host country coordination of external development assistance

· strengthening national capacity to develop and implement the strategies, aiming for early implementation of promising initiatives which will bring tangible benefits quickly to poor people

· ensuring the full participation of the communities concerned, particularly those who are often ignored such as women, indigenous people and poor farming and slum communities

· making the most of win-win opportunities which reduce poverty, boost economic growth and conserve the environment, eg sustainable agriculture and urban health programmes

· focusing on the better management of key environmental and natural assets central to the livelihoods of poor people, eg water, soil and land

· using poverty assessments and strategic environmental assessments to develop pro-poor, pro-environment policies and programmes whether of an economy-wide or a sectoral nature

· framing policies and fiscal incentives which encourage socially and environmentally responsible behaviour by the private sector and communities at large

We will:

· work internationally to develop common approaches, and mobilise support for, the development and implementation of national strategies for sustainable development

· support partner countries in their efforts to develop and implement such strategies

FIGURE 11 - Carbon Dioxide Emissions Per Capita, by Income Group of Country, 1980 and 1992

Data refer to emissions from industrial processes

Source: World Development Indicators 1997.

FIGURE 11 - Carbon Dioxide Emissions, by Income Group of Country, 1992

Data refer to emissions from industrial processes

Source: World Development Indicators 1997.



Neglecting the global environment would eventually jeopardise all sustainable development objectives. The poor would be particularly vulnerable. Action to address national and regional environmental needs are insufficient to protect the global environment. As the Rio Earth Summit recognised, additional coordinated global action is required.

Developing countries see the developed world as overwhelmingly responsible for current global environmental problems. They look to developed countries to take a lead in addressing concerns and in helping developing countries to do likewise. UK government departments work closely together to pursue these objectives domestically and internationally. Since 1990, the UK has made separate provision in its public expenditure framework to help developing countries tackle global environmental problems. These funds, managed by DFID, are separate from and additional to the development assistance budget. This separation is crucial as confirmation of the UK’s commitment to help developing countries meet global needs without diverting resources from our traditional bilateral and multilateral aid channels.

The UK’s Global Environmental Assistance provision makes contributions to:

· the Global Environment Facility, which helps developing countries and countries in transition meet the additional costs of global environmental actions in four focal areas: climate change; biodiversity; pollution of international waters; and (for countries with economies in transition) ozone depletion

· the Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol, which helps meet the costs to developing countries of their phase-out of ozone-depleting substances

The UK is a strong supporter of these funds and will continue to be so. And we will be prominent in ensuring that the resources are efficiently and effectively deployed. The impact of developing countries on the global environment is growing rapidly. For example, developing country greenhouse gas emissions will overtake those of developed countries in 25-30 years. DFID will work in partnership with developing countries on integrating environmental objectives in their sustainable development strategies and, where appropriate, provide support through our bilateral programme.

FIGURE 12 - Commercial Energy Use Per Capita, by Income Group of Country, 1980 and 1994

Commercial energy use refers to the use of oil, natural gas and solid fuels, but excludes the use of firewood and charcoal.

Source: World Development Indicators 1997.

FIGURE 12 - Commercial Energy Use, by Income Group of Country, 1994

Commercial energy use refers to the use of oil, natural gas and solid fuels, but excludes the use of firewood and charcoal.

Source: World Development Indicators 1997.

3.12 At the Special Session of the UN General Assembly in New York in mid-1997, the Prime Minister committed the Government to enhancing the UK’s partnership with key developing countries in energy efficiency (see Figure 12). We will, where appropriate, assist our developing country partners to improve the efficiency of their power generation and distribution systems, and to reduce atmospheric pollution from transport, particularly in major cities. We will also support the greater use of renewable sources of energy.