NGOs sketch path to sustainable consumption

An NGO blueprint for sustainable consumption and production (SCP) calls on governments, business and citizens to consume less and start living within Earth’s limits.

The blueprint is born out of the “frustration” of knowing what to do but not doing enough, said the report’s author, Doreen Fedrigo of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), an NGO.

SCP talks were launched at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and a framework for action was adopted at the Johannesburg Summit in 2002. But little political action followed these developments, Fedrigo explained. Moreover, the EU’s SCP plans merely suggest “convenient truths” conditioned by technical progress, she deplored (EURACTIV 17/07/08).

Reacting to the blueprint, Gunilla Blomquist, deputy director of the Swedish Environment Ministry, agreed that SCP lacked “political leadership”. She also found it “unfortunate” that the EU’s SCP plans did not focus on “priority areas” like housing, food and transport. 

Bob Ryder from the UK’s environment department (Defra) noted that the EU policy “deals with single market powers to tackle products”.

According to Blomquist, the upcoming Swedish EU Presidency will focus on “the eco-efficient economy and sustainable cities”. EEB Secretary-General John Hontelez noted that the eco-efficient economy would be “a brainstorming subject” during the Swedish Presidency, paving the way for a renewed Lisbon Strategy in spring 2010.

The EEB’s blueprint is about shifting from “peak everything [peak oil, peak water, peak food etc.]” and reaching Earth’s limits to the notion of contraction and simplification, Fedrigo explained. Meanwhile, the transition needs to be embraced “in an intelligent and planned way to avoid chaos,” she underlined. 

Arnold Tukker, one of the report’s authors, called for limits to be placed on the use of natural resources. Emission and resource-use caps, standard setting, charges and energy-performance targets can be powerful policy measures, as can limitations on advertising and shifting taxes from labour to resources, he argued.

The report also calls for current economic recovery and stimulus packages to become “transition packages” towards a different societal and economic set-up, built on renewable energies, sustainable buildings, agriculture and transport.

Talking about the UN’s Marrakech process, which is developing a global framework for action to de-link economic growth from environmental degradation, Charlie Arden-Clark from the UNEP Economics and Trade Programme said: “We would like to put clear timetables and set targets [for SCP] but member states are against and we will get thumped if we do so. We are only a secretariat.”

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