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Sustainable Production & Consumption Caucus (SPAC) Statement

April 20, 1997, New York

SPAC Mission and Goals

We call for governments:
to place sustainable production and consumption at the heart of economic policy.

Sustainable production and consumption needs to move beyond its currently marginalized status as a secondary "environmental" consideration and become the framework for national and international economic policy decisions. Social and economic development should be measured by the good returned to all of society, not the size of profits to a cluster of influential companies. Responsibility for achieving sustainable production and consumption must extend beyond that of environment ministers to become the mandate for all ministers, including trade and finance, as well as the responsibility of the heads of state.

A shift in national policy

Such a major shift in national policy should result in government actions which:

1. Seek to overcome the gap between rich and poor and improve the quality of life of all current and future generations, nationally and internationally;

2. Move towards equitable access to resources, while maintaining the carrying capacity of the environment and accounting for ecological limits, locally and globally;

3. Convince companies to identify and report on production costs externalized to and subsidized by communities and the environment;

4. Encourage recognition and respect for indigenous cultures already practicing sustainable lifestyles and livelihoods and helps protect rather than jeopardize their communities and ancestral lands;

5. Institute clean production as a required standard, ensuring that products and production processes will not harm human health or the environment;

6. Move beyond the current emphasis on efficiency to sufficiency, promoting sustainable lifestyles and livelihoods for everyone;

7. Encourage and promote corporate responsibility for sustainable production and marketing practices, and at the same time establish mechanisms for holding corporations accountable for unsustainable practices;

8. Provide a sustainable and just response to the negative social and environmental impacts of economic globalization, particularly with the trend towards increasing corporate rights above human, labor and community rights.

Implementation

The CSD should institute a process of:
consultations with governments and major groups leading to the definition of time-bound, measurable global production and consumption targets by sector,  to be followed by regular monitoring, evaluating and reporting on international progress in reaching those targets.

Governments should also initiate national public dialogues on the goals and strategies for achieving sustainable production and consumption, leading to the development and adoption of national sustainable production and consumption plans establishing time-bound, measurable targets for energy, transportation, food, chemicals, weapons, and other areas, as well as government (e.g., environmentally sound purchasing).

Action Programs

However, dialogue and goals are not enough; action programs are necessary; examples include instituting or supporting:

a. The right and means to knowledge about products and production processes, especially about social and ecological impacts;

b. Extended Producer Responsibility;

c. Ecological tax reform and elimination of destructive subsidies (including those for commercial advertising);

d. Youth initiatives promoting sustainable lifestyles;

e. Identifying and developing model programs to address industrial "hot spots" in communities suffering the consequences of unsustainable practices and policies;

f. Microcredit initiatives to promote sustainable livelihoods;

g. Inclusion of information about externalized costs on product labels.

Rationale

Agenda 21 states that "…the major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is unsustainble patterns of consumption and production, particularly in industrialized countries." Efforts emerging from the 1994 Oslo Roundtable, particularly those advancing ecoefficiency, represent positive steps towards changing these patterns. However, we have yet to see a significant reduction in the large share of resources consumed by industrial countries or in the shameful gap between the overconsumers in those countries and the underconsuming poor throughout the world.

Much greater political will, commitment and accountability is required by governments and industry. Without major intergovernmental action to end economic and fiscal policies which reward unsustainble practices by producers and consumers, individual companies cannot and will not internalize the costs they have traditionally externalized to the environment and society. Nor will the advertising industry be weaned away from its celebration of the joys of overconsumption. Nor will the underconsumers of the world be welcomed from the margins of consumer society into the security and dignity of living in a sustainable society.

 

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