E/CN.17/1997/2/Add.3 Changing consumption patterns -(Chapter 4 of Agenda 21)

United Nations


Economic and Social Council

22 January 1997


Fifth session

7-25 April 1997

                Overall progress achieved since the United Nations

                     Conference on Environment and Development

                          Report of the Secretary-General


                          Changing consumption patterns*

                             (Chapter 4 of Agenda 21)


                                                              Paragraphs  Page

INTRODUCTION ...............................................      1         2

  I.  KEY OBJECTIVES .......................................    2 - 3       2

 II.  PROGRESS ACHIEVED ....................................    4 - 23      4

III.  PROMISING CHANGES ....................................   24 - 33     10

 IV.  UNFULFILLED EXPECTATIONS .............................   34 - 38     12

  V.  EMERGING PRIORITIES ..................................   39 - 48     13

*  The report was prepared by the United Nations Department for Policy

Coordination and Sustainable Development (DPCSD) as task manager for chapter 4

of Agenda 21, in accordance with arrangements agreed to by the Inter-Agency

Committee on Sustainable Development (IACSD).  It is the result of consultation

and information exchange between United Nations agencies, international and

national organizations, interested government agencies and a range of other

institutions and individuals.


1.This report reviews progress made in the implementation of the objectives set

out in chapter 4 of Agenda 21 (Changing consumption and production patterns),1/

taking into account the decisions taken by the Commission on Sustainable

Development on this subject at its second, third and fourth sessions.  The issue

of consumption and production patterns in the context of sustainable development

first received full recognition at the United Nations Conference on Environment

and Development in 1992.  Chapter 4 of Agenda 21 addresses many issues at the

heart of environment and development policy-making.  They include product

policy, new concepts of economic growth and prosperity, efficient use of natural

resources, reducing emissions and waste, environmentally sound pricing, and


          Box 1.  Changing consumption and production patterns, since the

                  United Nations Conference on Environment and Development,

                  as seen at other United Nations conferences

       Population and Development (Cairo, 1994).  Development strategies must

realistically reflect the short-, medium-, and long-term implications of, and

consequences for, population dynamics and patterns of production and

consumption.  To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life

for all people, Governments should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns

of production and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies.

       Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995).  Poverty and

environmental degradation are closely related.  While poverty results in

certain kinds of environmental stress, the major cause of the continued

deterioration in the global environment is unsustainable patterns of

consumption and production, particularly in industrialized countries.

       Habitat II (Istanbul, June 1996).  Consumption patterns in human

settlements should be adjusted to the needs of resource protection, with more

attention given to strategies for a life-cycle economy.  The internal

structures of cities should be corrected.  Industrialized countries have to

recognize that their urban lifestyles, patterns of production and consumption

are a major part of the global environmental problem.

       World Food Summit (Rome, 1996).  Individuals and households have a key

role in decisions and actions affecting their food security.  They must be

enabled and encouraged to participate actively, both individually and

collectively, through producers, consumers, and other organizations of civil


                                I.  KEY OBJECTIVES

2.   Of the five objectives identified in chapter 4, two are directed towards

the international community and three are directed towards the development of

national policies and strategies to encourage changes in consumption and

production patterns.

3.   Objectives directed towards the international community are:

     (a)  To promote patterns of consumption and production that reduce

environmental stress and will meet the basic needs of humanity;

     (b)  To develop a better understanding of the role of consumption and how

to bring about more sustainable consumption patterns.

Objectives directed more towards the national level are:

     (a)  To promote efficiency in production processes and reduce wasteful

consumption in the process of economic growth, taking into account the

development needs of developing countries;

     (b)  To develop a domestic policy framework that will encourage a shift to

more sustainable patterns of production and consumption;

     (c)  To reinforce both values that encourage sustainable consumption and

production patterns and policies that encourage the transfer of environmentally

sound technologies to developing countries.

         Box 2.  The unsustainable pattern of consumption and production,

                 particularly in industrialized countries:  some trends

       Over the past 45 years the global economy has nearly quintupled.

Consumption of grain, beef and water has tripled, while paper use has risen

six times.  The use of fossil fuels has grown fourfold, as have CO2 emissions.

       Since 1950, and reflecting differences in per capita incomes, the richest

fifth has doubled its per capita consumption of energy, meat, timber, steel

and copper, and quadrupled its car ownership.  The per capita consumption of

the poorest fifth has hardly increased.

       The OECD countries account for 44.7 per cent of global total CO2

emissions.  The emissions continue to increase and reflect the growth in

industrialized societies.  Increasing numbers of people in developing

countries, in particular in several major developing economies, are beginning

to approximate consumption patterns similar to the middle-income classes in

developed countries.  Those consumers roughly total 750 million, almost as

many as the 850 million consumers in the industrialized countries.

Sources:  Brown, L. R. and others (1996).  State of the World 1996 (New York: 

Norton); Durning, A. T. (1996).  This Place on Earth:  Home and the Practice

of Permane (Seattle:  Sasqautch Books); Myers, N. (1997).  Consumption in

relation to population, environment and development.  The Environmentalist (In

press); United Nations (1996).  The World Population Prospects:  the 1996

Revision.  Annex I:  Demographic indicators (to be issued); World Resources

Institute, World Resources 1996-97 (New York:  Oxford University Press).

                              II.  PROGRESS ACHIEVED

           A.  International efforts to promote patterns of consumption

               and production that reduce environmental stress and will

               meet the basic needs of humanity

4.   Several international agreements which have been reached or in the context

of which further progress has been made since the Conference and which entail

changing consumption and production patterns now cover such issues as phasing

out ozone-depleting substances, stabilizing and eventually reducing greenhouse-

gas emissions, prohibiting the exportation of hazardous waste, reducing

emissions of land-based sources of marine pollution, phasing out lead in

gasoline, and managing international fisheries.  Progress has also been made in

advancing discussions on sustainable forest management.  Each of these areas is

extensively discussed in reports on other chapters of Agenda 21.

               Box 3.  The international work programme on changing

                       production and consumption patterns         

       At its session in 1995, the Commission on Sustainable Development agreed

on an international work programme on the issue of changing production and

consumption patterns.  The work programme builds on the elements of the Action

Programme adopted at the Oslo Ministerial Roundtable Conference on Sustainable

Production and Consumption (6-10 February, Oslo).  It has five main elements

and is in its first year of implementation.  The elements are:

       (a) Identifying the policy implications of projected trends in

consumption and production patterns;

       (b) Assessing the impact on developing countries, especially the least

developed countries and small island developing States, of changes in

consumption and production in developed countries;

       (c) Evaluating the effectiveness of policy measures intended to change

consumption and production patterns, such as command-and-control, economic and

social instruments, governmental procurement policies and guidelines;

       (d) Eliciting time-bound voluntary commitments from countries to make

measurable progress on those sustainable development goals that have an

especially high priority at the national level;

       (e) Revising the guidelines for consumer protection.

         B.  Developing a better understanding of the role of consumption

             and how to bring about more sustainable consumption patterns

5.   The issue of changing consumption and production patterns has figured

prominently on the international policy-making agenda.  Some countries, such as

Australia, Brazil, the Netherlands, Norway and the Republic of Korea have

fulfilled a leadership role in facilitating and developing the international

debate on the issue.  International organizations (e.g., the Organisation for

Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Environment

Programme (UNEP)), business and industry groups (e.g., World Business Council

for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)), the academic community and many

non-governmental organizations have been active in taking up specific tasks and

responsibilities and have been instrumental for the progress achieved.

6.   Several United Nations agencies and other international organizations,

Governments, non-governmental organizations and academics have initiated

activities on the identification of indicators for sustainability, the

"greening" of current gross domestic product (GDP) as a measure of progress,

genuine savings indicators, measures of environmental debt, and the further

operationalization of concepts such as eco-space, ecological footprints, and

ecological rucksacks.  Many of these approaches and tools have contributed to

policy-making over the past five years, in particular with regard to the

integration of environment and development in socio-economic policy (chapter 8

of Agenda 21) and as improved information in decision-making processes

(chapter 40 of Agenda 21).  The work on changing consumption and production

patterns over the past five years has resulted in a consensus that the most

promising and cost-effective policy strategies are those that aim at cost

internalization and improved efficiency in resource and energy use.

7.   Significant progress has also been achieved in increasing an understanding

of the nature of environmental problems and the interlinkages between economic

and environmental policy-making, at the sectoral level, inter alia.  Good

examples are the studies on the transport and energy sectors, in the context of

the Framework Convention on Climate Change, by OECD and the International Atomic

Energy Agency (IAEA), the recent study on the sustainable paper cycle, 2/ the

first comprehensive life-cycle analysis of a large industrial sector, by the

International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), and the report

on comprehensive assessment of freshwater resources, 3/ prepared for the

Commission at its fifth session.

8.   A focus on changing consumption and production patterns is especially

useful for integrating environmental and economic factors, for focusing on the

demand side as well as the supply side of the economy, and for highlighting the

need for policy measures that affect the behaviour of a large number of

producers and consumers.  It is recognized that measures which internalize

environmental costs are important for changing behaviour.  But those measures

need to be accompanied by others that facilitate or magnify the responses. 

Thus, a list of policy options would include regulatory instruments, economic

incentives and disincentives, social incentives and disincentives, facilities

and infrastructure, information and education, and technology development and


                 Box 4.  Cost internalization in the production of

                         Malaysian palm oil                       

       Organic wastes from the mills of the crude palm oil industry used to be

the worst source of water pollution in Malaysia.  Since 1977 effluent control

in the industry has been carried out through a licensing system stipulating

effluent discharge standards for each licence holder.  Standards have been

made stricter over time.  Licence fees for high-effluent discharge plants,

emitting above standard, were more costly than the flat-rate fees for plants

emitting below standard - e.g., for biochemical oxygen demand (bod) loads. 

Both the Government and industry developed pollution-abatement technologies

and stimulated their dissemination.  The Palm Oil Research Institute of

Malaysia was established.  This mix of regulatory, economic and social

instruments resulted in a decrease in pollution of 99 per cent (bod loads)

over a period of seven years.

Source:  Khalid, A. R. (1995).  "Internalisation of environmental

externalities:  the Malaysian experience", paper presented at the UNCTAD

Expert Group Meeting on Internalization of Environmental Externalities,

Geneva, 13-14 February 1995.

9.   Methods to achieve greater resource and energy efficiency in production

processes have been further developed by business and industry.  Eco-efficiency

and the related concept of industrial ecology, which aims to close the

production cycle for polluting substances by using them as inputs in other

industries, have become common in discussions on sound environmental management.

Research by the academic community and non-governmental organizations has

demonstrated that increases in efficiency by a factor of 4 can be achieved with

currently available technology and knowledge.  Efficiency improvements by a

factor of 10 by the year 2025 might be necessary in order to achieve a minimally

satisfactory degree of environmental sustainability.

10.  It has also been recognized and emphasized over the years that cost

internalization and eco-efficiency approaches are most effectively and

efficiently implemented in combination with specific time-bound targets and


                         Box 5.  Practising eco-efficiency

       Xerox has adopted a new system of product stewardship.  Copy cartridges

that were disposable when first introduced are now being replaced by

cartridges that are taken apart and have their components recycled.  This form

of product stewardship introduces "life cycle" concepts and makes

manufacturers, along with suppliers and consumers, responsible participants in

the cradle-to-grave cycle of products.

       In 1995 Sony introduced "Green TVs" which contain recyclable materials,

disassembly characteristics, plastics that are reduced in both type and

variety, and halogen-free flame retardant materials.  As a result the weight

and cost of the television sets have been significantly reduced, while use of

hazardous substances during production has been eliminated.

       Dow Chemicals implemented energy savings and waste-reduction measures

which yielded a rate of return, on a relatively small investment, averaging

over 200 per cent per year.

Sources:  Fussler, C. (1996).  Driving Eco-Innovation:  A Breakthrough

Discipline for Innovation and Sustainability (London, Pitman); Lovins, A. B.

(1996).  Megawatts:  twelve transitions, eight improvements and one

distraction. Energy Policy, vol. 24, No. 4.

11.  It is now also recognized that differences in levels of per capita resource

use among and within countries primarily reflect disparities in per capita

incomes and are thus linked to national policies and international cooperation

intended to accelerate economic growth and combat poverty, especially in

developing countries, underlining the importance of developed countries

fulfilling their commitments to official development assistance (ODA).  To the

extent that such policies succeed in causing per capita incomes gradually to

converge over time, per capita resource use would tend to increase at both the

country and world levels and associated environmental problems, to worsen. 

Achieving or maintaining environmental sustainability will thus require all

countries in line with their own national priorities progressively to adopt more

sustainable consumption and production patterns.

12.  A reorientation of governmental policy-making and the fact that environment

and development policy-making on changing consumption patterns is gradually

shifting to implementation and a more action-oriented approach have directly

resulted in the recognition of the need for a stronger role for actors such as

business and industry, trade unions, international organizations and

non-governmental organizations.  Increasingly, responsibilities have been

defined for the major actors, such as local authorities, business, trade unions

and national Governments.

           C.  Promoting efficiency in production processes and reducing

               wasteful consumption in the process of economic growth,  

               taking into account the development needs of developing  


13.  The combination of consumer and technology-driven changes in economic

structures, the effects of national environmental policies, and the spreading of

environmental awareness have resulted in measurable - although inadequate -

progress in the achievement of this objective.  In most developed countries and

for this grouping as a whole, material and energy intensity of production and

the carbon intensity of energy have continued to decline.  As a result, the rate

of growth of emissions of CO2 has slowed, although absolute amounts continue to

increase.  Emissions of ozone-depleting substances, and releases of lead are

falling; emissions of SO2 and the release of hazardous wastes to environmental

media and of pollutants to freshwater are also falling, although they are still

considered far too high.  The volume of municipal wastes discharged to landfills

continues to increase, although its rate of growth has been dramatically

reduced.  The growth rates of certain emissions associated primarily with the

transport sector, such as NOx, and VOC have also slowed greatly, and the

absolute volumes appear to have nearly stabilized.  They are still, however, far

too high compared to their environmental and health costs.  An increasing number

of developing countries and economies in transition have made progress in

respect of this objective.  Indeed, in some of them, because of technological

leap-frogging, annual pollution levels and resource intensity in some sectors

are lower than they were in industrial countries at a similar level of

development.  (More extensive appraisals on all of these issues are to be found

in concise reports on other chapters of Agenda 21).

14.  Increased efficiency in production has been achieved through various policy

tools and measures.  Much policy-making has focused on products.  There have

been two important aspects in product policy:  first, the further shift towards

demand management strategies by Governments, accompanied by the enhanced power

of the consumer to support or avoid products on environmental grounds, taking

into account their production and process methods; and secondly, the growth in

interest for new and innovative instruments related to producer responsibility.

Among other things, these approaches require producers to supply adequate

information in response to consumer demands and to make provision for the

maintenance and/or final disposal of the product.  In this regard the ISO 14000

series and the Eco-management and Audit System (EMAS) certification processes

for environmental management systems are stimulating more sustainable production


15.  Policy development is increasingly benefiting from life-cycle analysis. 

The integrated life-cycle analysis approach emphasizes that resource production

and consumption is a multistage process, with each stage associated with certain

types of environmental degradation.  Each stage should be regarded as an

integral part of a whole interrelated process, with changes at one stage

yielding effects at other stages.  For instance, establishing manufacturers'

responsibility for some aspects of disposal at the end of product life-cycles

may influence design of the product and packaging material, thus integrating

waste avoidance into the production process.  Examples of such policies in

European countries include the packaging legislation pioneered in Germany,

take-back requirements, and deposit/refund schemes, such as the deposit to be

paid when buying a new car (implemented in the Netherlands) and refunded once

the car is at the end of its life-span.

               D.  Developing a domestic policy framework that will

                   encourage a shift to more sustainable patterns  

                   of production and consumption                   

16.  Since the Conference, the policy framework has been further developed both

in terms of content and process.  Studies and workshops have been undertaken by

several countries interested in defining and scoping the debate on consumption

and production patterns.  Among the most instrumental in making progress with

regard to the development of a policy framework were the two Oslo Ministerial

Roundtables on sustainable production and consumption.  In addition, OECD, for

example, initiated a discussion on the available and most relevant concepts and

strategies for policy development.

17.  Also since the Conference, most countries have set up national commissions

on sustainable development or national round tables to discuss national policies

intended to achieve more sustainable development.  These commissions often

function as a platform, involving major stakeholders in society, providing input

in national decision-making processes on environment and development policy-

making.  The commissions often report on progress to their Governments, the

Commission or the Earth Council. 4/ 

             E.  Reinforcing both values that encourage sustainable  

                 consumption and production patterns and policies    

                 that encourage the transfer of environmentally sound

                 technologies to developing countries                

18.  Shifts in the values on which consumers and producers base decisions can be

widely observed.  The continuing rise in the application of eco-labels

illustrates a growing demand for products that are environmentally sound and

safe for human health and safety.  Consumers, especially in the developed

countries, are demanding more environmentally friendly and "fairly" produced

products from developing countries.

19.  Initiatives from many environmental non-governmental organizations are

targeted at influencing the behaviour of consumers in their daily lives.  The

Sustainable Europe campaign, through a continuing process of preparing reports

on sustainability for the European countries, is informing consumers and

producers about the impacts of their lifestyles and about the changes that are

needed in order to make consumption patterns more sustainable. 

20.  Citizen participation programmes such as the eco-team programme of the

non-governmental organization Global Action Plan (GAP) are increasingly being

adopted at the community level and have a significant impact on changing

individuals' lifestyles towards more sustainable patterns.

21.  The Commission on Sustainable Development recognized at its session in 1996

that the role of the media and advertising may have a significant impact on the

values of citizens.  Additional work needs to be done, however, on how the media

and advertising industry can help support changes in current patterns of

consumption and make them more sustainable.

22.  The Brazil/Norway Workshop on Consumption and Production Patterns

(Brasilia, November 1996) concluded, among other things, that the role of

advertising and the media is critical; that the international community should

apply the resources of the media to induce behavioural changes to avoid waste,

inefficient resource use and conspicuous consumption; and that positive messages

of how individuals can live in a sustainable manner were required, instead of

encouraging ever-rising material consumption or exaggerating the likelihood of

environmental disaster.

23.  Issues related to the transfer of environmentally sound technologies are

discussed in the concise report on chapter 34 of Agenda 21


                              III.  PROMISING CHANGES

24.  The most promising changes and developments can be observed in the

increased participation of non-governmental organizations, business, trade

unions, local authorities and the academic community in the implementation of

Agenda 21 - in particular, the ongoing efforts of the non-governmental

organization and academic communities to promote sustainable lifestyles, the

business initiatives furthering the development and implementation of

eco-efficiency, the pro-active role that local authorities and trade unions play

in mobilizing public and stakeholder participation, and the responsibilities

taken up by international organizations to facilitate North/South, East/West

cooperation and further to promote cleaner production and sustainable

consumption patterns.

                            Box 6.  Eco-taxes in Europe

       According to a recent report of the European Environment Agency, the

continuing use of environmental taxes over the past decade, has accelerated in

the past 5-6 years.  The report finds that the taxes have been environmentally

effective, and seem to have achieved their environmental objectives at

reasonable cost.  Examples of successful taxes are tax differentials on leaded

fuel (e.g., Sweden), taxes on toxic waste (e.g., Germany), and water pollution

charges (e.g., Netherlands).

Source:  European Environment Agency (1996).  Environmental Taxes:

Implementation and Environmental Effectiveness.  Environmental Issues Series

No. 1. Copenhagen.

25.  Participants in the GAP eco-team programme, for example, have reduced usage

of water, on average, by 25 per cent, fuel use for transport by 16 per cent

(with related reductions in CO2 emissions), and produced 42 per cent less

household waste.

26.  Governments are increasingly adding demand-side management to policy-making

in order to influence actors on the supply side, the producers.  In addition,

there is an increasing use of mixes of regulatory, economic and social

instruments to achieve certain policy objectives.

27.  One of the most promising approaches is the use of emission-trading schemes

in several countries.  Active consideration is now being given to how an

international scheme for emission-trading for CO2 and SO2 might be implemented.

28.  Some key transnational corporations and WBCSD, among others, have made

considerable progress in making eco-efficiency operational, reducing the

material and energy intensity per unit produced and improving profitability. 

UNEP, in cooperation with Governments and the business community, has played an

important role in exploring viable business strategies for cleaner production

and eco-efficiency in developed and developing countries.

29.  In the area of enhancing the environmental performance of Governments,

international organizations and certain countries have undertaken promising

initiatives over the past several years, e.g., the OECD Council recommendation

on improving the environmental performance of government.  In many countries,

greater priority is being given to governmental purchasing as a component of

environmental policy-making.

30.  Promising changes can be observed in the environmental programmes developed

and implemented by local authorities.  Innovative ideas about public

participation, community development and making operational local Agenda 21s are

being piloted and demonstrated.  The International Council for Local

Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) has played a significant role in facilitating

these activities at the local level. 5/ 

31.  Product-oriented policies have matured over the past five years, and

promising results include consumer information (including eco-labels) on

environmentally preferable and "fair trade" products, extended producer

responsibility, take-back requirements, the involvement of the retail sector,

and continued efforts in the areas of life-cycle management, eco-design,

materials substitutions, and enhanced durability.  For example, Swedish

consumers buy up half of the European Union's imported pesticide-free bananas;

Germany's baby food products will soon have entirely organic sources; some 4,000

Mexican farmers are producing organically grown coffee; and some major

companies, such as Patagonia, are turning towards organically grown cotton and

recycled materials in the production of their clothing.  Electric cars

(EV1 Saturn (United States) and Tulip-project Citroen (France)) are on the

market, waste-streams are being turned into input resources, life-cycle studies

are being conducted for specific industries (paper, IIED/WBCSD), and business is

increasingly becoming aware of the fact that an environmentally sound image is

an essential aspect of solid company practice and a quality check for the

products produced.

                               Box 7.  Eco-labelling

       At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development,

eco-labelling was considered primarily in the context of changing consumption

patterns.  In the period since the Conference, eco-labelling criteria have

been of particular interest because of their trade implications.  Although

eco-labels can improve the quality and transparency of environmental

information about some products, they may also serve as disguised

protectionist behaviour.  The work under way in the International Organisation

for Standardization and the World Trade Organization (WTO) may help to

minimize such concerns.

       Eco-labels are increasingly being used on national and regional levels. 

The Nordic countries, for example, have had an eco-label, the "Nordic Swan",

since 1989.  The vast majority of the labels are in different categories of

paper products, sometimes enjoying market shares of up to 30 per cent.  It was

found that over a five-year period of implementation, the labels significantly

influenced consumers' purchasing patterns and the production methods of

producers participating in the scheme.

Source:  Nordic Council of Ministers (1996).  The Use of Economic Instruments

in Nordic Environmental Policy (Copenhagen:  Nordic Publishing House).

32.  More attention is being given to environmental considerations in the design

of a wide variety of goods, services and infrastructure.  Increasingly designers

incorporate aspects such as future disposal and recycling into the design of

products.  Physical planners and architects have shown great innovation in the

design of cities, infrastructure, buildings and houses, taking into

consideration elements such as quality of life, resource efficiency,

accessibility, durability and living environment.

33.  Another promising change is the increasing role of the service industry in

general.  In industrialized countries there is a trend emerging in the

substitution of goods for services that are more environmentally friendly. 

Business and industry are increasingly stressing the service offered with the

purchase of a product (see also box 5).  The ongoing developments in the area of

telecommunications can play an important role in intensifying this trend.

                           IV.  UNFULFILLED EXPECTATIONS

34.  The positive developments mentioned in sections II and III have been

largely offset by larger volumes of production.  Consequently, many natural

resource and pollution problems persist or continue to worsen.  The car industry

has, for example, produced cleaner and more efficient cars; however, the growth

in the number of vehicles has offset the positive environmental effects of that

development.  Similarly, significant results have been achieved in waste

reduction, through, in particular, waste prevention programmes, but total

volumes of waste produced have been growing in many countries of OECD.

35.  A cause for grave concern is rising CO2 emissions.  Governments in

industrialized countries have not been able to achieve previous commitments and

identified targets.  Further, changing relevant consumption and production

patterns will need additional efforts and activities in policy-making.

36.  In spite of the fact that important results have been achieved in the area

of policy integration, many governmental policies in sectors such as

agriculture, economics, finance, trade, communications, tourism, energy and

transport do not adequately reflect an appreciation of how they shape

consumption and production patterns.  Evaluation of policies in terms of

effectiveness, efficiency, and equity in these sectors in respect of the

objective of sustainable development needs to be strengthened.

37.  The call for environmentally sound pricing - efficient cost

internalization - was renewed at the Conference, but little progress has been

made.  Governments shy away from additional eco-taxes and environmental

regulations that intend to incorporate the cost of environmental protection into

products and services offered in the marketplace.  Examples of such policies

include carbon taxes, environmental tax reform and subsidy removal,

international eco-labelling schemes, standards for products, management, and

performance (e.g., ISO, EMAS), and extended producer responsibility and

packaging requirements.

38.  Developed countries have also failed to provide sufficient finance and

technological and other forms of support to enable developing countries to

accelerate their own transition towards more sustainable consumption and

production patterns. 6/

                              V.  EMERGING PRIORITIES

39.  An ongoing priority is the further implementation of the Commission's

international work programme on changing consumption and production patterns. 

The work programme, agreed by the Commission at its third session, is in its

first year of implementation.  Some of the activities initiated include the

identification of a "core-set" of indicators to measure changes in consumption

and production patterns, a case study on trade opportunities for developing

countries due to changes in consumption and production patterns in

industrialized countries, and the development of a database on new and

innovative instruments intended to make consumption patterns more sustainable. 

In addition, the revision of the guidelines for consumer protection is under

way, and the Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development of

the United Nations Secretariat, in close cooperation with international

organizations, non-governmental organizations (in particular, Consumers

International), and other major groups, has embarked on the task of preparing

additional draft guidelines addressing sustainable consumption.

40.  Changing consumption and production patterns is increasingly recognized in

the international policy-making arena as an important issue.  Since the

Conference, the emphasis of international and national efforts has been on

increasing understanding and policy development.  An emerging priority, also

reflected in a Commission decision taken in 1996, is the need for a more action-

oriented approach, focused on the implementation of policies.  This implies a

continued and strengthened cooperation between actors, in developed and

developing countries, in particular those with responsibilities for


41.  Some key challenges that can be highlighted for Governments and business

and industry are:

     (a)  To adopt more widely eco-efficiency strategies in developed and

developing countries and countries with economies in transition;

     (b)  To enhance self-regulation, managing the responsibilities and

privileges of some of the key actors in the process of sustainability, such as

business and industry and regional and local authorities.

42.  For Governments, international organizations and non-governmental

organizations, it is important:

     (a)  To assess the most efficient and effective policy instruments and

mixes of instruments in order to achieve a higher degree of cost internalization

and eco-efficiency;

     (b)  To increase understanding of the key determining factors in the

behaviour of consumers, in particular in the areas of transport and energy;

     (c)  To further stimulate social and technological innovation;

     (d)  To pursue the integration of sustainable development in the heart of

governmental decision-making;

     (e)  To assess the scope for environmental tax reform and subsidy removal,

in order to remove distorted prices, stimulate development, encourage employment

and reduce pollution and resource use;

     (f)  As consumers themselves, to help shape markets through better

understanding of their use of goods and services and incorporating environmental

criteria into procurement policies.

43.  For business, in cooperation with Governments and non-governmental

organizations, it is important:

     (a)  To find new ways of satisfying consumer requirements at the lowest

environmental cost, in particular the further substitution of goods for


     (b)  To put cleaner production and eco-efficiency into operation.  Where

possible, these strategies should be applied in combination with time-bound

targets and objectives.

44.  For non-governmental organizations, in cooperation with Governments and

business, the goal should be:

     (a)  To foster North/South and East/West dialogue and international

networks on changing consumption and production patterns;

     (b)  To develop and propose concrete action at all levels of policy-making;

     (c)  To continue to strengthen education and training on sustainable

"consumption values" and lifestyles;

     (d)  To educate and assist citizens to participate in decision-making on

policies intended to change consumption and production patterns.

45.  The upcoming period will provide important lessons learned from the

implementation of policies.  The exchange of examples of best practice should

provide a further stimulus for governmental action.

46.  The deep-seated nature of many of the issues requires new forms of

international cooperation between and among Governments, international

organizations and actors in civil society on questions such as resource-pricing,

technology, trade, environmental regulation and management systems.  The results

of the recent bilateral initiative of Norway and Brazil illustrate that there is

a commonality of interests between developed and developing countries on many

issues related to changing consumption and production patterns.

47.  Future discussions in the Commission may be most fruitful in a framework in

which approaches to changing policy on consumption and production patterns can

be explored within such major economic sectors as energy, transport, forestry,

tourism, and agriculture.  Such a framework would facilitate the increasing

focus on implementation and the need for a more action-oriented approach.

48.  Changing consumption and production patterns does not imply a decline in

living standards or quality of life.  It calls for a reorientation - not merely

consuming less, but consuming differently.  Following the industrial revolution

and the telecommunications revolutions, the third wave of progress in world

society will be marked by sustainable consumption patterns that ensure

prosperity, improve the quality of life, and provide equitable access to

education, health and safety, and a high-quality environment.


1/ Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development,

vol. I, Resolutions Adopted by the Conference (United Nations publication, Sales

No. E.93.I.8 and corrigendum), resolution 1, annex II.

2/ Towards a Sustainable Paper Cycle (London:  International Institute for

Environment and Development, 1996).

3/ E/CN.17/1997/2/Add.17.

4/ See also E/CN.17/1997/2/Add.7.

5/ See also E/CN.17/1997/2/Add.22 and 26.

6/ See E/CN.17/1997/2/Add.1, 23 and 24.



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Date last posted: 10 December 1999 17:25:35
Comments and suggestions: DESA/DSD