Main Country Position


European Union (EU) has some of the highest environmental standards in the world. Its priorities are:
  • Combat Climate Change reducing emission of greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020, raising renewable energy to 20% by 2020 and cutting overall energy consumption.
  • Reduce emission trading penalising those that exceed limits of CO2 emissions.
  • Conserve biodiversity.
  • Monitor environmental health controlling pollutants (noise, swimming water, rare species, etc.).
  • Support sustainable development stressing on the importance of education, research, sustainable production and eco-friendly products.

Its priorities are put in action with policies. The main are the Kyoto Protcol directives, the Green Paper on the security of energy supply to ensure energy availability respecting the environment, White Paper on transport policy for a modern sustainable transport system, eco-technology, increase public awareness and a strong cooperation with third countries.
EU is a driving force in international cooperation trying to achieve the Millenium Development Goal 7 (Ensure Environmental Sustainability).[1]

Legal bases of EU environmental policies: the treaty of European Community

  • article 3: The Community shall have common policies to promote a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment.
  • article 6: environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of the community policies and activities, promoting sustainable development.
  • article 174:

1. Community policy on the environment shall contribute to pursuit of the following objectives:
— preserving, protecting and improving the quality of the environment,
— protecting human health,
— prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources,
— promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems.
2. Community policy on the environment shall aim at a high level of protection taking into account the diversity of situations in the various regions of the Community. It shall be based on the precautionary principle and on the principles that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source and that the polluter should pay.
In this context, harmonisation measures answering environmental protection requirements shall include, where appropriate, a safeguard clause allowing Member States to take provisional measures, for non-economic environmental reasons, subject to a Community inspection procedure.
3. In preparing its policy on the environment, the Community shall take account of:
— available scientific and technical data,
— environmental conditions in the various regions of the Community,
— the potential benefits and costs of action or lack of action,
— the economic and social development of the Community as a whole and the balanced development of its regions.
4. Within their respective spheres of competence, the Community and the Member States shall cooperate with third countries and with the competent international organisations.

The Climate and Energy Package: UE “20-20-20 targets”

In 2008 European Commission proposed binding legislation to:
- reduce Green House Gas emissions by 20%
- achieve 20% share of Renewable Energies in final energy consumption
- increase energy efficiency by 20%

all targets are set to be achieved by 2020


Since the second half of the ‘90s the American approach to environmental issues has been very different from the European one.

The U.S. chose to undertake a unilateral approach: they withdrew from negotiations and they didn’t ratify any international binding agreement on the environment except for the Rio Convention on climate change (1992), in other words it is an independent policy based on national interventions to defend U.S. decisional autonomy from external constraints.

This approach is voluntaristic, it is based on self-regulation of the market and on a system of incentives for the voluntary initiative of the actors.

Until those rules have been successfully exported, the U.S. had no reason to disagree with the common international policies. When EU began to promote and to call for a regulatory approach instead of a voluntaristic one, the U.S. withdrew from the international agreement defining them harmful for American interests.[2]

Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, the topic of environment protection has gained more attention and some of the bills introduced include measures to strengthen energy efficiency and the renewable energy market, but no big change has occurred in their international position.

BRICS countries

BRICS, an acronym referring to Brazil, Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa, is used to refer to those emerging countries that are different from developed and developing countries. Nowadays they have an enormous economic weight in economic world growth.
Their role is very important because, thanks to their potentiality, they could represent the interest of developing countries and that hasn't been considered by rich countries yet.
BRICS are featured by a growth in demography, productivity and incomes. However, there are many differences between them: for instance they have not got the same level of growth and they impact on world economy heterogeneously. In fact, Brazil, India, Russian Federation and South Africa have a different and less powerful economic system than China.
The impact of BRICSs economy in environmental problem is rising fast, also cause of the millions of people that live in these countries and to the unsustainable pattern of their growth. As well as the northern, BRICS and others southerncountries should become responsible of the consuming of Earths resources and the destroying of its environment if they not change way of production and consumption.

BRICS claim their right to development, as recognized in the Rio Declaration[3] , without being restricted by policies on sustainable development, as well as northern countries had been able to develop their economies without these constraints[4] ; but, doing this, they risk to effect an ecological catastrophe. To avoid it, northern countries and international organizations invited BRICS to use technologies, way of life and systems that could permit a sustainable development. The green economy (become synonymous of sustainable development) is also an opportunity for the BRICS, because it could help them to put the environmental and social dimension at the head of all decision-making process.
Competition between companies and nations does not help in this. The BRICS, in fact, agree with the idea of green economy but, they want also rich country to convert to it. The BRICS would obtain more freedom for their development. They would start to respect a green and sustainable economy when they would gain an equity level of development with rich countries. So, what all countries should do now, is to plan a global agenda to find new rules and decide together new path for development.
One of the opportunity to discuss these issues will be Rio+20: the governments could review progress on the climate and biodiversity conventions and make new plans, sustainable plans, for the future.

Some of the BRICS actually, look at green economy as a real opportunity to develop and start to promote some policy that could be take as an example by the others developing countries.
Brazil proposes an Inclusive Green Economy Pact that would force all the public and private economic actors to publish a complete, timely and objective reports on their activities, including their social and environmental performance. It also plans an International Protocol for the Sustainability of the Financial Sector that would ensure the banks to include the environmental dimension in their risk analysis and project evaluation procedures.
India wants to solve the problem of the low affordability, for poor countries, to green technologies, proponing the creation of Centers of Excellence in developing States. It also proposes to improve South-South cooperation and to implement a Sustainable Development Fund which would provide new, additional and scaled up sources of financing to developing countries.
The Russian Federation plans something too. It suggests to create a knowledge platform to share the best practices of transition to a green economy so as to exchange relevant information between the countries interested in sustainable development.
China, that have a big problem with the unsustainable increasing of its population, aims to achieve very high energy efficiency. The Chinese government has also slowly begun to give priority to environmental controls.
During the BRICS leaders meeting in Sanya (China) on 14 April 2011, the five countries declare that the global economic governance is essential to achieve a strong, sustainable and balanced growth.
They affirmed to support development and the use of renewable energy resources and they underline their conviction of the importance of cooperation, communication and transparency about it.
They declared to believe that growth and sustainable development are essential for addressing poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
They confirmed to support Cancuns Agreements and UN Conventions and Declarations about environment and climatic changes, obligating themselves to taking at the earliest actions, in order to comply the covenants.

China's policy focus on six main points regarding progresses in climate change:
-China has set national target to cut carbon intensity emissions per unit GDP by 40% to 45% between 2005 and 2020;
-China's carbon intensity declined by 50% between 1990 and 2010, while in EU only 30%;
-China is expected to reduce carbon intensity by 5% in 2012, in order to achieve its goal of 17% cut within 2050;
-in January 2011, China's carbon emissions went down by 2,1% thanks to its efforts to promote energy efficiency, clean energy and forest protection;
-China more than doubled its solar power generating capacity and increased its wind and hydropower capacities in 2011;
-a 5 years plan with 16% energy consumption reduction and raise of non-fossil fuels in the overall primary energy mix to 11,4%.
At this point, these statistics clearly demonstrate the strong involvement of China in finding the best solution to the climate change matter.

Least developed countries (LDCs)

The least developed countries (LDCs) are the 49 poorest and the weakest countries of the international community, so they are the most vulnerable to the impacts of human-induced climate change in the future.

The LDCs lack the necessary institutional, economic and financial capacity to cope with climate change impacts and to rebuild the infrastructure damaged by natural disasters. The LDCs also have the least capacity to adapt to climate change, because of their lack of resources to carry out adaptation studies and to implement the strategies.

This is evident in the Marrakech Accords where a special LDC Fund has been created to help them adapt to climate change. Furthermore, in this occasion a group of 12 experts with the aim of advising on the preparation and implementation strategy for the National Adaptation Programmes of Action –NAPAs was created. It was adopted in 1980 during the first UN Conference on the LDCs that was held in Paris by the UN General Assembly), which would focus on the urgent and immediate adaptation needs of the LDCs.

The LDCs contribute the least to the emission of greenhouse gases, but they are indeed the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Impacts of Climate Change on the LDCs
Africa is the most vulnerable region to climate change, as a result of geographical factors and the low adaptive capacity of the African population. This low capacity is due to the extreme poverty of many Africans, frequent natural disasters such as droughts and floods and an agriculture heavily dependent on rainfall.

The main impacts of climate change are on water resources, food security and agriculture, natural resource management and biodiversity, and consequently on human health.
These impacts are registered also in Asia and in the Small Island States.

Adaptation to climate change
Adaptation has become a major policy issue within the developing countries, especially amongst the LDCs. There are different types of adaptation:

  • Autonomous or spontaneous, without the intervention of a public agency.
  • Planned adaptations which are generally undertaken by governments on behalf of society.

In order to implement the strategy for the National Adaptation Programmes of Action, information on climate change impacts needs to be translated from the scientific research domain into language and time scales relevant for policy makers. In addition, all relevant stakeholders need to be involved and national and international experts and researchers need to share their knowledge with people making decisions and plans on the ground more effectively[5] .

The next few years will be an important period in the general climate change policy arena, where the role of adaptation will play a crucial part, in particular within the LDCs.
A number of issues will need to be addressed at both the international as well as national levels within the LDCs[6] .

Many countries from the poorest side of the world, have not considered, during the past decades, environmental issues as national priorities as it happened in the US or in Europe. They were mainly worried of take people out from the poverty trap by using all the tools they had in order to escape this situation. Forcing soils, forests and waters to produce more in order to fulfill their needs of foreign currency, brought a great number of Least Developed Countries into a serious danger that could seriously affect the environment.

The main concerns of these countries over environmental issues regard:

  • Forestry - Deforestation is a critical problem above all for tropical countries and South-East Asia;
  • Desertification - Those areas subjected to intensive soil erosion and deforestation are easily destined to become a desert. This is clearly visible in most of the African countries living between the Sahara desert and the tropical forests;
  • Fishery - Massive exploitation of territorial and non-territorial waters of LDCs created a situation of severe danger that could cause the extinction marine species. Concessions to Developed Countries' Companies[7] is a particularly dangerous phenomenon that is accelerating this process;
  • Wildlife - Poaching is affecting many African and South-East Asian countries in order to satisfy the demand of products derived from endangered species[8] ;
  • Gas pollution - During recent years, the problem of pollution caused by car and industry emissions are gradually involving more Least Developed Countries. Often the transports used in these Nations are old and their engines not yet converted into more sustainable ones.

Today, the increased awareness of these countries in environmental issues is starting giving some weak hopes. Even if the Durban Conference was said by many as being a big failure for the future of the world, we have seen different Poor Countries participating in the discussions with a more conscious involvement.

What has also emerged in these last years it is that poverty doesn't have to be necessarily handled in a different context than the problems related with the environment: sometimes the two issues are actually strictly related. The PEI (Poverty-Environment Initiative) is a programme of the UNDP which aims to support alleviation of poverty together with environmental planning[9] .

  1. ^
  2. ^ SICURELLI DANIELA, Divisi dall’ambiente: gli USA e l’Unione Europea nelle politiche del clima e della biodiversità, Milano 2007.
  3. ^ The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, also known as Rio Declaration, recognises the right to development as one of its 27 principles. Principle 3 of the Declaration states "The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations."
  4. ^ [1] Recognizing that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, the Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.”
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Acheampong, A. 1997. Coherence Between EU Fisheries Agreements and EU Development Cooperation: The Case of West Africa (ECDPM Working Paper No. 52). Maastricht: ECDPM.
  8. ^ TOCTA report 2010.
  9. ^