We are the UK Government’s independent adviser on sustainable development. Through advocacy, advice and
appraisal, we help put sustainable development at the heart of Government policy


Seize the Moment to implement Jo'burg World Summit in UK

1 October 2002

Seize the Moment!
'We know the problems'and we know the solution - sustainable development.The issue is the political will.'
(Tony Blair, Johannesburg 2/9/2002)

At its first meeting since the World Summit on Sustainable Development in
Johannesburg, the Sustainable Development Commission urged the Prime Minister
to demonstrate the kind of 'political will' he rightly prioritised in his Johannesburg

Opinions vary as to the success of the Johannesburg Summit. For Margaret Beckett,
it was 'truly remarkable'. For most NGOs, it was deeply disappointing, a 'once-in-adecade
opportunity needlessly squandered.' But what matters now in the UK is how
purposefully the Government takes up the Johannesburg challenge; how, in the
words of Margaret Beckett, it intends to "put sustainable development at the heart
of everything we do."

Addressing the post-Johannesburg debate, Jonathon Porritt, Chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, made the following comments:

"The Sustainable Development Commission warmly endorses the intent to
move sustainable development from the fringes to the centre of Government.
That means a step change in the way things have been done until now. DEFRA
must pursue its responsibility for promoting sustainable development across
Government with renewed vigour; there needs to be much clearer, positive engagement from all Government departments, and a strong lead from the top, both within Government and in reaching out to the general public. Responsibility for this should not lie with some junior "green minister", but with
each Secretary of State answering personally to the Prime Minister for the contribution his or her department is making to the Government's sustainable development strategy. The Prime Minister should take a personal lead in
securing that level of support from his Cabinet colleagues."

As a "first take" on specific actions that should be prioritised in key departments, Jonathon Porritt will be writing to the Prime Minister and Secretaries of States with the following urgent recommendations.
Number 10:

1. The Prime Minister should require all Government
departments to develop their own sustainable development strategies within a year, setting KPIs and targets to determine the contribution they will make to the Government's overarching sustainable development strategy, with an annual report from
each department feeding into the Government's overall Quality of Life report.

2. The Prime Minister should find an appropriate opportunity to reinforce here in the UK the hard-hitting message he made in his 'Mozambique speech' on the way to the Johannesburg Summit, and reinforce this by strengthening the role of sustainable development in all cross-cutting policy-making and impact appraisal processes.

3. The next Quality of Life report should encapsulate the Government's post-Johannesburg strategy, including a much deeper engagement with stakeholders in key sectors such as business, local government and civil society. It should be
launched by the Prime Minister, and a full day set aside for debate in the House of Commons.

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM):

1. The ODPM should ensure that sustainable development is written in at the
heart of both the Planning Bill (as the principal purpose for land use planning), and
as one of the overarching objectives of the new, directly-elected Regional

2. The Deputy Prime Minister should announce as soon as possible an action plan
to ensure that every single new home to be built in the next decade (and every
existing home that is being refurbished) should meet the highest standards of
sustainable design and construction, including more effective measures to meet the
demand for affordable (and sustainable) housing in both urban and rural areas.

3. The Deputy Prime Minister should use the Urban Summit in November to secure
widespread support for the principles and practice of sustainable regeneration and
environmental justice, with particular regard to reinforcing the role of the regional
bodies in England, Local Authorities, Local Strategic Partnerships, and communities.

HM Treasury:

1. Treasury should review and strengthen its commitment to
using fiscal instruments to advance key sustainable development
goals, particularly in the fields of energy, transport, waste
minimization and recycling. The Pre-Budget Report in November
should be used to give the strongest possible affirmation of Treasury's intent to use environmental taxes more effectively.

2. Treasury should work with DTI and DEFRA to finalise without further delay a
formal Resource Productivity Strategy (building on the recent PIU report on Resource
Productivity and the forthcoming report on Waste).

3. Treasury should publish the outcome of the sustainable development appraisals
it carried out on bids made by each department in the recent Spending Review,
together with a detailed analysis of the contribution it believes specific Public
Service Agreements in each department will make to the Government's sustainable
development strategy.

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA):

1. DEFRA should take a far more active role promoting sustainable development
across the whole of Government, and should take the lead itself by ensuring that its
Sustainable Agriculture Strategy will move agriculture and rural land use onto a
genuinely sustainable footing without further delay.

2. In view of the Prime Minister's robust defence of the Kyoto Protocol in
Johannesburg, DEFRA should revisit the UK Climate Change Programme as soon as
the Sustainable Development Commission has completed its audit of the
Programme's adequacy in meeting our Kyoto targets. The Government should
indicate its support for the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution's
aspirational target of a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions, by 2050, as soon as possible.

3. DEFRA needs to make a much more urgent priority of the Government's own
procurement policies and processes by using the report from the Sustainable
Procurement Group (set up by Margaret Beckett) to reinforce 'best practice' where
it already exists and actively to pursue recalcitrant departments that have failed to
implement existing guidance.

Department of Trade & Industry (DTI):

1. DTI should use the forthcoming Energy White Paper to set more demanding
targets for renewables, energy efficiency and CHP (including a new target to cut
energy use in buildings by 50% by 2010), together with concrete proposals as to
how those targets will be met. A Sustainable Energy Agency should be established
to deliver on these targets and on our overall climate change programme. It needs
to be both transparent and consistent in comparing different options, and should
resist the temptation to commit any more public money to the nuclear industry.

2. DTI should review its guidance to Regional Development Agencies as they
revise their Economic Strategies with a view to securing a much more substantial
contribution from RDAs (on climate change, waste management, sustainable
technologies and so on) towards the Government's sustainable development
Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Department for International
Development (DfID):
Recognising the positive and creative role which FCO and DfID have played at
Johannesburg, these Departments should vigorously reinforce their efforts to make
sure that the UK and all other donor countries fulfil their pledges to increase support
for the south, and that implementation programmes in the key areas of water and
sanitation, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity are promptly put in place.
Cabinet Office:
The Cabinet Office should work with Ministers across Government to mandate a
formal duty for all major regulatory bodies actively to promote sustainable

Department of Health:

1. The Department of Health should revise the guidance it has given on the new
hospital and care centres construction programme to ensure that every new building
has sustainable development at the heart of its design, construction and future

2. As the largest single purchaser of food in the UK, the NHS should be a key agent
of change in the Government's Sustainable Agriculture Strategy, and use its
purchasing power to promote sustainable production systems, local sourcing and
improved nutrition.

Department for Transport:

1. The Department for Transport should accept without further equivocation the
urgent need to tax aviation fuel, and together with Treasury lobby urgently within
the EU to secure agreement on phasing in an EU-wide climate change levy on
aviation as soon as possible. If it is committed to ensuring 'that the long-term
development of aviation is sustainable', it must look first to a demand management
strategy before authorising any expansion in airport capacity.

2. Ministers need to look again at the opportunities for improving public transport
services at the local level, substantially increasing grant support for quality schemes
which enable people to walk, cycle and use public transport as 'first choice' options
rather than 'second best'.

Department for Education & Skills (DfES):

1. DfES should support the participation in the Eco-schools programme of all
primary and secondary schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by making
it a Performance Indicator for action on sustainable development and citizenship,
similar to the way it is being used in schools in Scotland.

2. Ministers should ensure that the new Skills Development Agency moves
urgently to exercise its sustainable development remit as the new Sector Skills
Councils are being set up.

3. DfES should urgently review and strengthen the role of 'Education for
sustainable development' in the core curriculum for all secondary schools in England,
Wales and Northern Ireland.

4. DfES should urgently review its guidance on school meals with a view to
ensuring higher standards of nutrition in all schools in England, Wales and Northern
Ireland. Schools must become models of sustainable development in practice.

Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS):

1. DCMS should convene the relevant tourism bodies (nationally, devolved and in
the regions) and private sector interests to develop a nationwide, properly funded
UK equivalent of the Sustainable Tourism Initiative launched by the UK Government
in Johannesburg to help developing countries.

2. DCMS should be monitoring the industry more rigorously to ensure that the
National Minimum Wage is enforced in all sectors and for all age groups.

Ministry of Defence:

The Ministry of Defence must rapidly abandon its continuing opposition to
offshore wind farms, and negotiate positively to expedite planning permission for
the next generation of off-shore wind farms.

Home Office:

The Home Office should actively promote 'the Johannesburg Principles on the
Rule of Law and Sustainable Development,' and work closely with the Lord Chief
Justice to deepen the commitment to the Principles of the entire legal profession.
Devolved Administrations:
The Chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission will be writing
separately to the respective First Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It is recognised that the Devolved administrations are at different stages of
development and that they will also need to take account of and act on many of the
issues raised above.

Notes for editors:
The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) is the Government's independent
sustainable development advisor, reporting to Tony Blair and the devolved
administration leaders. www.sd-commission.org.uk

SDC's remit is to advocate sustainable development across all sectors in the UK,
review progress towards it, and build consensus on the actions needed for further
progress. SDC is currently working in the areas of climate change, energy policy,
food, health and agriculture, and regeneration.

Sustainable development provides a framework for redirecting our economies to
enable everyone to meet their basic needs and improve their quality of life, while
ensuring that the natural resources upon which they depend are maintained and
enhanced, both for their benefit and for that of future generations.

< Back