A bold set of policy measures to strengthen poverty reduction through improved environmental management were presented in Johannesburg at the launch of Linking Poverty Reduction and Environmental Management a joint report produced by the UK Department of International Development (DFID), the European Commission (EC), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the World Bank.
"It is often the poor who are most affected by environmental degradation, such as desertification, deforestation, and overfishing," said European Commissioner Poul Nielson. "As a result, they are not able to earn a decent living. In our development cooperation efforts, we are specifically addressing this by better integrating environmental issues. Moreover, we should look at our own consumption patterns and arrive at a fairer world trading system. We are addressing our own agricultural and fisheries subsidies in order to take developing country and environmental concerns into account."
The report stresses that global policies are critical, including reform of trade distorting agriculture subsidies and other trade barriers, making foreign direct investments more environmentally and socially responsible, the greening of development assistance strategies, and debt relief.
According to Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development, UK, "This initiative provides an important opportunity to change the terms of the global debate on the links between poverty, the environment, and sustainable development. We must be clear that protecting the environment is not an end in itself. We do not simply want to conserve the world we have. We want improved lives for the poor of the world and a world that is sustainable for future generations."
At the national level, the report recommends ways to better integrate environmental assessment into economic policy reforms, improving national income accounts to better reflect the real cost of environmental damage, strengthening governance at local and national levels, and expanding access of the poor to environmental resources, such as clean water supply and sanitation.
"In order to reduce poverty we need growth, but we need socially and environmentally responsible growth," said World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn. "It must not curtail the options of future generations by destroying biodiversity or the capacity of ecosystems to support human life, nor can we continue with the inequalities of today, where 80 percent of the world’s population has 20 percent of the planet’s income."
For Mark Malloch Brown, UNDP Administrator, "Reversing environmental decline in ways that benefit the poor is critical to achieving poverty eradication and the Millennium Development Goals. And this means empowering people and local communities to improve their livelihoods by protecting and benefiting from the environment, and ensuring that global and national policies support rather than undermine their efforts."
To reduce poor peoples’ exposure to environmental hazards, the report proposes strengthening of disaster preparedness and expanding people’s access to insurance and other risk management mechanisms.