Mr F. Korthals Altes
Chairman of the Advisory Council
on International Affairs
P.O. Box 20061
2500 EB The Hague
Date: March 2012
Re: Request for advice on global environmental public goods
Dear Mr Korthals Altes,
The foreign policy of the Netherlands is increasingly concerned with complex global issues. This complexity is described in the report Attached to the World by the Advisory Council on Government Policy (WRR), which deals with global issues such as climate, energy and security. The report states that:
• National problems are increasingly interwoven with global issues.
• Global issues increasingly overlap in terms of content.
• These issues are no longer only dealt with in the interstate arena but also in intrastate and non-state arenas.
Global environmental public goods, in particular, are fraught with complexity and uncertainty. These goods – a stable climate, access to energy, access to raw materials, sufficient water and the preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems – are crucially important for global stability and security, sustainable economic growth and prosperity. Improved ‘delivery’ and regulation of these goods is essential for the growth and stability of wealthy nations, emerging middle-income countries and poor countries alike. The WRR’s report Less Pretension, More Ambition, about development cooperation, advocates a Dutch globalisation agenda that takes international cooperation on global public goods as an important reference point. In its policy responses to both WRR reports, the government acknowledges the importance of global public goods and the need for targeted and coherent foreign policy.
In the years ahead, countries all over the world will be confronted with extra expenditure for tackling global challenges in the areas of food, energy, water and climate policy. They will also face rising costs for their energy and raw material supplies. Some emerging economies are now seeking market dominance for geopolitical aims. Many developing countries are seeing their potential for economic growth marred by environmental degradation, increasing water scarcity and climate change. Moreover, their energy and mineral resources are not being deployed effectively enough for sustainable growth, and they are suffering from loss of biodiversity and depletion of soil and water resources.
Yet developing countries also have potential for economic development, poverty reduction and self-reliance. They possess abundant natural wealth and therefore opportunities to create more prosperity for a substantial proportion of the world’s poor, who currently number around one billion. This calls for a combination of effective management of natural resources, international market forces and global environmental conditions (such as a stable climate), innovative technologies and technology transfer, regulation and cooperation. The absence of any one of these elements imperils not only natural resources but also sustainable economic development.
Local development, coupled with national self-interest, is increasingly bound up with international opportunities and threats. For this reason, links should be sought between the global public goods approach and the current agenda for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The simultaneous climate, food and financial crises have sharply highlighted the inadequacy of existing international arrangements (the agreements on regulation, institutions and finance). In the years ahead, various interconnected scarcity issues (energy, raw materials, water and biodiversity) will further underline the urgent need for effective international cooperation. It is currently bilateral, regional and multilateral in nature, with the European Union able to function as an important channel for pooling resources and exerting influence on responses to global challenges by strengthening its own geostrategic role. Any form of cooperation needs to take account of the diversity of views and interests with regard to the sustainability issue, such as exist between rich countries, developing countries and emerging economies, as well as between population groups (indigenous and other peoples, for example) within individual countries. Given this situation, achieving the desired cooperation is anything but simple.
This request for advice may be seen in relation to earlier policy documents such as the study by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (‘A global public goods perspective on environment and poverty reduction’, March 2011), the Raw Materials Memorandum (letter to parliament of 15 July 2011), the policy memorandum ‘The Development Dimension of Priority International Public Goods’ (letter to parliament of 4 November 2011) and the Sustainability Agenda of October 2011.
Against this background, the AIV is requested to address the following questions:
What specific agenda and input is needed from Dutch and European foreign policy to contribute to effective delivery and regulation of global environmental public goods? The basic principles are security of supply, security and stability, strengthening Europe’s geostrategic role, respecting the planet’s capacity, and economic development and innovation both in Western countries and elsewhere (i.e. in the emerging economies and those that are still poor). How does our international cooperation policy fit in, particularly with regard to the Dutch and European objectives on climate, energy and raw materials, security of supply and security generally? To some extent, the report requested will constitute follow-up to AIV advisory report 54 (of April 2011) on the post-2015 development agenda, which needs to be linked to international public goods. Which governance structures are desirable for a better delivery of global environmental public goods, particularly since private actors are stepping up their work on sustainability – notably through supply chain management?
The report should tie in with the outcomes of the Rio+20 agenda and the debate about linking the Sustainable Development Goals and MDGs.
This request for advice has been included in the AIV’s work programme for 2012. We look forward to receiving your report.
Uri Rosenthal Ben Knapen
Minister of Foreign Affairs Minister for European Affairs
and International Cooperation