Environment and Development A Challenge to Our Lifestyles - 2. The Special Responsibilities of European Countries
The process of economic development in Europe, both East and West, over the
last decades has caused environmental and human damage out of all proportion
to our share of the world's land, resources and population. Moreover, there
are unsupportable imbalances which can be recognised at several levels:
- between Western- and Eastern European countries, recognising that there
are also significant imbalances among countries within both regions,
- between the rich and the poor within European countries,
- between most of the countries of Europe and developing countries, and
- between present and future generations.
Several examples illustrate these imbalances:
- approximately 36% of global CO2 emissions are produced by Europe, East and
- despite the existence of international conventions, some Western European
countries are still continuing to take unjust advantage of less stringent
regulatory standards abroad by exporting hazardous wastes to Eastern Europe
or developing countries, in exchange for hard currency, instead of managing
their own wastes themselves.
- although the GNPs of most of the industrialized countries indicate economic
growth, high levels of unemployment continue;
- while the European Union spent over 8.000 million ECU in 1994 on subsidies
for the export of its excess agricultural produce, it spent only half this
amount on development aid to the poorer regions of the world.
Affirming the principle that a sustainable future requires an equitable sharing
of resources, the countries of Western Europe must assume a special responsibility
for making changes in their patterns and levels of growth and consumption. Eastern
European countries need to act urgently to address their serious pollution problems
in ways which would achieve environmental goals without causing undue economic
destabilisation. In many cases this might be done in conjunction with Western
European countries. The question of nuclear energy and safety is particularly
It is now evident that the Earth could not support all countries of the world
reaching the levels and patterns of production and consumption already practised
in Western Europe. This situation again puts Europe in an unjust position of
benefit and power with regard to the process of development. Such imbalances
must also be regarded as present and potential root causes of international
disorder and conflict.
Developing countries and countries in transition have a right to an equitable
share of the common goods of the Earth. Their development cannot be guided by
the unsustainable practices adopted in Western Europe. Rather, the most industrialised
countries must reduce their demands on the environment, achieve environmentally-sustainable
technologies and lifestyles for themselves, and, where appropriate, assist other
countries to do the same.
With regard to the crucial issue of climate change and acid air pollution,
for example, it is the clear responsibility of Western Europe to reduce drastically
the demand for energy and the consumption of fossil fuels. It must also make
every effort to improve and apply the appropriate technologies and infrastructure
towards the implementation of renewable energy sources and efficiency measures.
In addition, Western Europe must be prepared to share its best practices of
efficient, renewable and sustainable technologies with the poorer areas of Europe
and with the developing world.
Peoples in different countries and of different cultures need to be given the
space to develop their own models of sustainable societies. Spreading a "western"
model of society to Eastern Europe or developing countries through the use of
development aid needs to be questioned. Participants from Eastern European countries
strongly expressed the view that the consumption-based society characteristic
of Western Europe at present is not the model they would wish to follow. They
stated: "we hope to develop a more human society, to learn from the mistakes
of the western countries".