Environmental degradation is a serious threat to the developing world. The rural poor are especially dependent on natural resources (eg forests, fisheries) for their livelihoods, and poor people are also most vulnerable to the effects of environmental disasters and pollution.
There is still widespread belief that protecting the environment means curtailing growth and development, but the reverse is true:
- environmental degradation undermines prospects for long-term economic and social development and may cancel out short-term gains in poverty reduction.
- investing in the environment can offer high economic and social returns.
Environmental sustainability of all development activities is therefore a key element for achieving lasting poverty reduction and sustainable development.
The EU helps partner countries:
- to address environmental challenges as part of their development process
- implement their respective obligations under the multilateral environmental agreements.
The 2005 "EU Consensus on Development" also stresses the importance of sustainable management and preservation of natural resources, both as a source of income and as a means to safeguard and develop jobs, rural livelihoods and environmental goods and services.
Integrating environmental concerns in development work
The new European development policy requires that environment and sustainable management of natural resources be treated as a crosscutting issue to be integrated into all development activities. It can also be included as a focus of action in country and regional support strategies, for example through support for:
- management and protection of forests, water, marine resources and biodiversity
- access to sustainable energy
- climate change , desertification and soil degradation
- sustainable management of chemicals and waste
- sustainable production and consumption
The Commission's environment integration strategy outlines how the EU can best help developing countries to respond to environmental challenges as they work to reduce poverty.
In 2009, after consultations with the Member States and Civil Society as well as other organisations, the Commission adopted Staff Working Document SEC2009(555) to report on the implementation of the 2001 environment integration strategy.
Subsequently, the European Council adopted on 25 June 2009 25 June Conclusions which inter alia invited the Commission to set up an appropriate framework, consisting of the Commission and Member States, to prepare and monitor the implementation of the EU approach to environment integration, and to prepare an ambitious EU wide environment integration strategy, to be presented to the Council by late 2011.
Environmental integration in practice
The Environmental integration handbook offers advice on:
- country environmental profiles
- strategic environmental assessments (for policy and sector programmes)
- environmental impact assessments (for individual projects)
- procedures for formulating policies, programming aid, and implementing projects linked to potential environmental impacts and mitigation measures.
Sustainable management of natural resources
Managing these resources sustainably and fairly (through better overall governance) is fundamental to achieving the UN's millennium development goals.
- deforestation (contributing to global warming, reducing biodiversity and increasing the risk of natural disasters like flooding)
- overexploitation of fish stocks
- land degradation and desertification.
The EU supports sustainable management by...
- contributing to international policy-making - by participating in multilateral agreements and international organisations
- managing a range of development instruments supporting sustainable management -mostly its geographic programmes, complemented by its programme for environment and natural resources (dedicated funds for biodiversity and desertification, and sustainable management of forestry, fisheries).
Multilateral Environmental Agreements
Most developing countries have signed up to the major multilateral environmental agreements (also called conventions).
The Commission is an active party to these multilateral agreements. Under The Principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities , the Commission formulates specific policies to help developing countries implement their respective commitments under these conventions.
The most widely-known agreements are those on climate change, biodiversity and desertification ? sometimes referred to as the Rio conventions.
The Commission has adopted development-specific action plans for both climate change and biodiversity, and the EU - through DG Development - is responsible for implementing the desertification convention.
Other agreements that are particularly relevant to developing countries are:
- the Basel convention convention, which deals with waste,
- the Rotterdam convention and the Stockholm convention, dealing with chemicals, including pesticides.
Disasters - reducing the risks
Disasters hit developing countries hardest, as they are the most vulnerable and have the least capacity to cope.
Disasters can be avoided. Investing in the reduction of risks before a disaster strikes is much cheaper than providing humanitarian aid and repairing the damage afterwards.
Communication on an EU Strategy on supporting disaster risk reduction in developing countries was adopted in February 2009. It aims at ensuring that the EU works more closely and more effectively together when supporting developing countries efforts for reducing the risk of disasters. Action priorities:
- strengthening of political dialogue with developing countries;
- integration of disaster risk reduction into both EU and developing countries' policy and action, including EU support for national risk reduction investments;
- development of regional plans, starting with one for the Caribbean: such action plans would include for example support for awareness-raising campaigns.
Other on-going efforts on disaster risk reduction include:
- Linking climate change adaptation to disaster risk reduction
- EU humanitarian aid office - disaster preparedness
Chemicals and wastes
3 main international agreements protect the developing world from hazardous chemicals and waste:
Basel convention- regulates exports/importsof hazardous wastes
- before exporting waste, countries must apply in writing for permission from the importing country
- hazardous wastes may not be exported to or imported from any country not party to the convention
- hazardous wastes must be managed and disposed ofin an environmentally sound manner.
EU rules ban exports to non-OECD countries of all forms of hazardous waste intended for recovery and final disposal (Regulation 259/93).
Rotterdam convention hazardous chemicals and pesticides can be exported only with the consent of the importing country. Other provisions:
- sharing information on potentially hazardous chemicals - e.g. exporting countries must notify all exports of domestically prohibited or severely restricted chemicals
- labelling dangerous chemicals (convention lays down minimum requirements)
- chemicals management assistance (technical and administrative) for developing countries
- international code of conduct on distribution and use of pesticides - to reduce threats posed by agro-chemicals in developing countries.
EU rules in this field are even stricter (Regulation 304/2003).
Stockholm convention - aims to eliminate - persistent organic pollutants-(pesticides)
Highly toxic, these chemicals persist in the environment and accumulate in most living organisms.
Mostly banned in OECD countries, some of the 12 chemicals covered by the convention are still used in the developing world. The agreement provides for technical and financial assistance to help developing countries eliminate existing stocks and develop appropriate alternatives.
Since 2003, the Commission has been financially supporting the World Bank's Africa stockpiles programme, which also aims to eliminate obsolete pesticides in Africa.
Most EC funding for the environment is granted:
- To countries and regions that have prioritised and requested such assistance within their cooperation strategies (CSPs and RSPs). This also includes multi-regional instruments, eg for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, ASEAN, etc.
- Under the Thematic Programme on Environment and sustainable management of Natural Resources, including Energy (ENRTP).
- Environment projects in third countries that relate to research are financed under the Research budget of the EC.
- Other EU environment funding opportunities