16/05/2001 - Environment Ministers or their representatives from the 30 OECD countries met in Paris today. They adopted the "OECD Environmental Strategy for the First Decade of the 21st Century", committing to specific national actions over the next ten years to tackle the worst environmental problems, including climate change, in order to work together towards environmental sustainability.
The Strategy outlines specific, time-bound targets to achieve five main policy objectives:
1. Maintaining the integrity of ecosystems through the efficient management of natural resources
2. De-coupling environmental pressures from economic growth.
3. Improving information for decision-making: measuring progress through indicators.
4. The social and environmental interface: enhancing the quality of life.
5. Global environmental interdependence: improving governance and co-operation.
The main focus of the OECD Environmental Strategy is to ensure that continued economic growth is not accompanied by continued damage to the environment. It addresses a number of specific environmental issues that were identified as "red light" concerns to 2020 in the recently released OECD Environmental Outlook. These problems include climate change, loss of biodiversity, over-fishing, groundwater pollution, pollution-related health effects, worsening urban air quality, and the overuse of "renewable" resources. As part of the Strategy, OECD Environment Ministers agreed to phase out or reform environmentally damaging subsidies and tax exemptions to agriculture and energy by 2010, to work towards getting the prices right for environmental goods and services, for example in road transport pricing, and to integrate biodiversity concerns into physical planning activities, and economic, sectoral and fiscal policies.
To tackle climate change, the challenge will be to meet all obligations under the UNFCCC and work through international processes to take forward its objectives. The Strategy states that, for a large majority of OECD countries, this means seeking entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol by 2002, with timely ratification processes, and with broadest possible support of the international community. OECD countries committed to develop and implement policies to significantly reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, giving priority to market-based instruments such as subsidy removal and green tax reform, tradable emissions permits or quotas, and international offset projects, as well as policies focussing on particular economic sectors.
At the international level, the Ministers agreed to promote coherence among multilateral environmental agreements, to enhance bilateral and multi-lateral co-operation with non-member countries, and to improve management of the environmental effects of globalisation. They committed to expanding opportunities for foreign investment and trade to contribute to environmental policy objectives, and encouraged the adoption of a recommendation on common approaches to environment and export credits with a strong environmental content.
Ministers not only agreed to specific national actions to tackle environmental problems, but also agreed on the ways to measure progress with implementation of this Strategy and what they think OECD can do to contribute to this. They endorsed the regular use of Key Environmental Indicators to communicate trends, in an internationally consistent manner, in the main environmental problems facing OECD countries. They also endorsed OECD Guidelines for Environmentally Sustainable Transport, ten key steps OECD countries can take to realise environmentally sustainable transport in the future.
The OECD Environment Policy Committee Meeting at Ministerial Level was chaired by
Mme Dominique Voynet (France), assisted by vice-chairs from Canada (the Honourable David Anderson), Greece (Mr Ilias Efthymiopoulos), and the Slovak Republic (Mr László Miklós). The day started with a Ministerial Conference with Stakeholders during which representatives from business, trade unions and environmental civil society shared their views and concerns with Ministers.
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