United Nations
Commission on Sustainable Development

Background Paper

                      Sustained Risks:  A Lasting Phenomenon

                       A Study by the Scientific Council for
                        Government Policy in the Netherlands

                                Background Paper No. 10

             Prepared by the Division for Sustainable Development for the
                        Commission on Sustainable Development
                                    Fourth Session
                                18 April - 3 May 1996
                                       New York


          The definition of sustainable development in "Our Common Future" is
open to various interpretations.  They largely depend on  how the needs of
present and future generations, and the earth's carrying capacity are defined.
Since such questions can not be answered by only scientific analysis,
normative choices need to be made.

Thus, policy development is guided by a certain interpretation of
sustainability and by a perception of the risks associated with projected
trends in societal environmental developments.

The Dutch Government asked its Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR)
to address these questions and to explore various options for sustainable
development.  The council took a global perspective in its analysis, and
positioned Dutch policy making within it.  The Council explored several policy
scenarios and examined these in a number of leading problem areas in
environment and development, namely the world food supply, energy supply, raw
materials, nature and water.

The United Nations Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable
Development (DPCSD) believes that the global dimensions of the report are of
interest for all Member States grappling with similar problems in
environmental policy making, and that the analysis is especially useful for
furthering the international debate on changing consumption and production
patterns.  Accordingly, DPCSD staff have made a selection of the most relevant
chapters of the Council's report.

This background paper for the inter-sessional on changing consumption and
production patterns focuses on, and illustrates, national policy dilemmas in
the pursuit of sustainable development form a global perspective.  The
background paper includes the case study scenarios of food and energy supply,
raw materials and nature.  (The full version of the report, which was
published in 1994, can be obtained from: WRR, P.O.Box 20004, 2500 EA the
Hague, the Netherlands, Fax: +31 70 3564685).

The DPCSD greatly appreciates the co-operation which the Netherlands Council
for Government Policy has shown in agreeing to this use of the report
"Sustained Risks:  a Lasting Phenomenon".

New York, February 1996


          SUMMARY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    1

          ACTION PERSPECTIVES. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    7
1.1       Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    7
1.2       Sustainable development: from abstract principle to usable
          preconditions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     7
1.2.1     The subjective nature of sustainable development . . . . . .    8
1.2.2     The relationship between the environment and society . . . .   10
1.3       The 'environmental utilisation space' as basis for
          environmental policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   15
1.3.1     Origins of the concept . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   16
1.3.2     Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   17
1.4       Risk as central concept. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   25
1.5       Action perspectives. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   26
1.5.1     Perception of risks. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   26
1.5.2     Elaboration into action perspectives . . . . . . . . . . . .   29
1.5.3     The Utilizing action perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   30
1.5.4     The Saving action perspective. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   31
1.5.5     The Managing action perspective. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   32
1.5.6     The Preserving action perspective. . . . . . . . . . . . . .   32
1.5.7     Scenarios. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   33

2.        SCENARIOS IN SELECTED AREAS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   34
2.1       Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   34
2.2       World food supply. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   37
2.2.1     Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   37
2.2.2     Reference scenario . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   38
2.2.3     Lack of knowledge and structural uncertainties . . . . . . .   43
2.2.4     Action perspectives. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   46
2.2.5     Translation of the action perspectives into scenarios. . . .   48
2.2.6     Evaluation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   52
2.3       Energy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   58
2.3.1     Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   58
2.3.2     Reference scenario . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   59
2.3.3     Consequences of the emission of carbon dioxide . . . . . . .   67
2.3.4     Action perspectives. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   69
2.3.5     Elaboration of action perspectives in scenarios. . . . . . .   72
2.3.6     Evaluation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   81
2.4       Nature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   84
2.4.1     Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   84
2.4.2     Reference scenario . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   86
2.4.3     Action perspectives. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   89
2.4.4     Elaboration of the action perspectives in scenarios. . . . .   91
2.4.5     Evaluation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   98
2.5       Raw materials. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  100
2.5.1     Copper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  101   Reference scenario . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  101   Action perspectives. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  106   Translation of action perspectives into scenarios. . . . . .  107   Evaluation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  113
2.5.2     Chlorine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  115   Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  115   Environmental impact . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  115   Uncertainties. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  118   Action perspectives. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  119   Evaluation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  127

3.        Towards a policy agenda. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  128
3.1       Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  128
3.2       Energy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  130
3.3       Land use . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  135
3.3.1     Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  135
3.3.2     Food production. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  136
3.3.3     Nature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  139
3.4       Raw materials. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  142
3.4.1     Copper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  142
3.4.2     Chlorine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  144
3.5       Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  146


In 'Sustained Risks: a Lasting Phenomenon', the Scientific Council for
Government Policy (WRR) examines the various ways in which the concept of
sustainable development can be manageably translated into policy terms. This
approach centres on the notion that the operationalization of this concept is
unable to circumvent the uncertainties associated with the interdependence of
the environment and society. The resultant risks for the environment and the
economy will need to be weighed against each other.

Over the next half-century, global economic activity will have increased to
the point that the relationship with the natural environment has radically
altered. The long-term continuity of both economic activity and the global
economic system would appear threatened as a result. At the same time there is
major scientific uncertainty concerning the conditions under which the
continuity can be assured in both areas.

On account of these threats and despite this uncertainty, sustainable
development is regarded as an important guideline for government policy. In
the customary policy elaboration of sustainable development the notion of the
'environmental utilisation space' (EUS) occupies a key place. In essence,
however, this by-passes the uncertainty concerning the relationship between
the environment and the economy.

This report argues that it is impossible to work with an objectively fixed
elaboration of sustainable development. In order to elaborate the concept of
sustainability as a genuinely operative policy concept it is necessary for
normative choices in relation to the identified risks and uncertainties to be
made explicit.

Under the approach towards sustainable development advocated by the WRR, the
operationalization of sustainable development involves a survey of the risks.
Insight into the existing uncertainties renders it possible to enter into a
discussion as to how these risks should be handled. Various action
perspectives have been worked out in this report as an elaboration of the
various directions in which a development may be regarded as sustainable. In
this respect not just differing perceptions of environmental risks are a
factor but also divergent perceptions of social risks, namely attitudes
towards society's ability to cope with processes of change.

The action perspectives are ideal-type constructions that seek to bring out
the potential differences in practical implementation. In practice, however,
this policy process does not in any way come down to a once-and-for-all action
perspective but on-going adjustments are made to the perspective on the basis
of a continual process of reassessment, for example as new information becomes

The accumulation of scientific knowledge provides the basis for the
identification of environmental problems. Advances in ecological understanding
have drawn attention to hitherto unknown and unsuspected problems. At the same
time, science relativizes its own products, in that the uncertainty concerning
the relationship between the environment and science is itself fed by science.

Environmental policy aimed at resolving and preventing environmental problems
therefore essentially implies making decisions on an uncertain basis. The
present state of knowledge is limited and hedged about with uncertainties, but
is all that policy-makers have at their disposal in making choices.

The concept of the EUS, which has become an established feature in many
studies of sustainability, implicitly assumes that it is possible
scientifically to determine the limits to the burden that may be imposed on
the environment. This, however, fails to do justice to the value driven and
hence political nature of the choices that have to be made. There is also the
suggestion that the determination of the EUS is of a higher order than
political considerations, so that weighing it against these 'lower' goals and
interests would be inappropriate. It is conceivable that these kinds of
absolute criteria arise when the survival of the human species is at issue;
this is not open to bargaining. It needs however to be recognized that in
respect of most environmental problems such threats do not arise. Even if one
were to have complete knowledge at one's disposal concerning the extent to
which the environment is capable of absorbing the consequences of human action
now and in the future, the scale of 'the' EUS would still not be firmly
established. Auxiliary concepts such as 'restoration of the natural situation'
or 'maintenance of natural balances' are not axiomatic but derive from
judgments as to the goal to be pursued. The link between the empiricism
established by science and judgements on that subject is not a logical,
coercive one but a normative one. The requirements imposed by the environment
are not immanent features but assigned ones. In this respect the approach
towards the environment does not differ from that of other policy areas. This
does not render the application of norms or targets any the less legitimate,
but there can be no suggestion of science supplying such legitimacy. 

Policy is characterized by factual and normative uncertainty; this already
applies in the current situation and even more so with respect to the future.
Factual uncertainties are characteristic not just of the ecological but also
of the social domain. While it is true that the lack of correspondence between
the desired and the expected ecological situation provides grounds for talking
of unsustainability, not just ecological but also economic and other social
risks play a role in formulating possible solutions to this problem. The
assessment of such information and the weighing of the risks is the essence of

Even when one is working on the basis of the same information attitudes
towards sustainability can therefore diverge considerably. On the basis of the
differing weight attached to facts, uncertainties and risks with respect to
the environment and society, each of these approaches - elaborated in this
report as 'action perspectives' - may justifiably at first sight be labelled
as 'sustainable'. The consequences of these differing weights, perceptions and
acceptances of risks are very great. The elaboration of each of these action
perspectives based on sustainability into long-term scenarios brings this out
clearly and may in consequence result in the tightening or adjustment of the
action perspectives. 

Four action perspectives have been elaborated in this report in the various
sub-areas. These have been termed Utilizing, Saving, Managing and Preserving.
These action perspectives differ from one another in two respects, mainly the
extent to which they avoid or accept environmental and social risks and the
degree to which they intervene in the form of adjustments in the production
and/or consumption sphere. The environmental risks to which the action
perspectives relate concern the exhaustion of finite resources and the
disruption of ecosystems as a result of human activities. 

The Utilizing action perspective is based on confidence in the resilience of
the environment. By contrast, the ability to influence social dynamics by
policy measures is considered limited. Environmental problems need to become
urgent before sufficient creative energy can be mobilized in society in order
to solve that problem. This approach places particular reliance on
technological solutions. 

In the Saving action perspective confidence in the resilience of the
environment does not extend across the board. On account of the enormous
growth in the scale of human activities, the continuity of those activities is
even regarded as under threat in the long term. A cut in living standards is
therefore required, which is where policy comes to bear. The possibilities for
applying technology must not be overestimated. 

Under the Managing action perspective, the risks to the ecological system are
avoided as far possible. This is, however, subject to the condition that the
rise in living standards is largely left undisturbed. Under this perspective,
the social risks of rigorous intervention are regarded as so great as to call
into question the legitimacy of such intervention. Although the Managing
perspective does provide for some moderation of consumption the solutions are
primarily sought in the technological sphere.

The Preserving action perspective exhibits little confidence in the resilience
of the environment, for which reason adjustments are required to economic and
other social activities that impose a burden on on the environment. Measures
can be brought to bear both in the field of consumer behaviour and with
respect to the production system. Ultimately, the necessary social willingness
is deemed to exist under this perspective. 

These four action perspectives have been elaborated in the form of scenarios
looking to the year 2040. The scenarios describe the course of a number of
basic environmental issues, such as the world food supply, the global energy
supply, nature conservation and the management of resources (especially copper
and chlorine). For each of these aspects a reference scenario is provided
which sets out the potential developments given unchanged policies. In most
cases these provide clear evidence of situations that may be regarded as

In the case of the world food supply the elaboration has taken the form of
asking whether the rapidly growing world population could potentially be fed
and whether the agricultural methods with which this would have to be done can
satisfy various ecological requirements. In this respect a distinction has
been drawn in the consumption sphere between a relatively 'luxurious' and a
more moderate food package and in the production sphere between globally and
locally-oriented agriculture. On a world scale an adequate food supply appears
realizable for all four scenarios; depending on the scenario between 11 and 44
billion people can be fed. Regionally, self-sufficiency is not universally
attainable; in East and Southeast Asia this is possibly only given a moderate
food package and globally-oriented agriculture. In Africa enough food can be
produced for self-sufficiency under all four scenarios. This contrasts with
the situation described in the reference scenario. Although sustainability
does not run into fundamental obstacles in any of the four scenarios,
achieving it does involve far-reaching objectives for the world community. 

The reference scenario anticipates an explosive growth in the consumption of
energy in the next century, caused in particular by rapid population growth
and a rise in living standards in the Third World. This growth in energy
consumption will be coupled with a substantial burden on the environment due
to energy extraction, as well as a very rapid rise in C02 emissions. Due to
the differing estimates of the risks of fossil fuels and alternatives such as
nuclear energy and renewable sources of energy, the scenarios aimed at
sustainability exhibit major differences in energy consumption and in the mix
of energy sources. In all four scenarios achieving the desired situations
calls for a radical effort on the part of the world community. 

The Preserving and Saving scenarios essentially aim at the preservation of
unspoiled nature, while the Managing and Utilizing scenarios centre on the
preservation of interesting natural features. In the first two cases the
emphasis is therefore on preventing the loss of biodiversity as a result of
human intervention, while the other two aim at an interesting living environ-
ment. The second dimension where the scenarios differ concerns the space to be
set aside for natural areas; under the Utilizing and Saving scenarios a
smaller area is set aside for future generations than under the Managing and
Preserving scenarios. If nature protection is to have anything other than
symbolic meaning under any of these scenarios this will involve radical

In the reference scenario for copper, it is clear that consumption will
increase sharply in the coming decades, particularly as a result of the
growing economic importance of the Third World. The sustainability scenarios
differ in terms of estimates of copper reserves and the damage to the
ecological system that is accepted as a result of the extraction of copper
ore. The varying estimates of the stocks give rise to various levels of
extraction, now and in the future, that are deemed sustainable. In the Saving
and Preserving scenarios, the reserves are in principle regarded as finite
whereas the Utilizing and Managing scenarios assume unlimited reserves. The
latter do, however, involve the continual exhaustion of richer ore deposits.
This in turn means that ever poorer ore deposits have to be used, with an
increase in the extraction costs. Greatly stepped-up recycling is therefore
advocated under all four scenarios. 

The pollution aspects of raw materials are illustrated on the basis of
chlorine and chlorine products. Attention to chlorine is in order because it
is highly damaging in certain compounds. The action perspectives indicate how
chlorine compounds need to be handled, either as intermediary products or as
final products. In the first place consideration may be given to the
replacement or non-replacement of chlorine compounds by alternatives.
Secondly, the functions fulfilled by chlorine can in certain cases be scaled

Most of the elaborations described are on a global scale. This is indeed self-
evident: sustainable development is a global issue. Many environmental issues
of relevance for domestic policy consequently also have a global dimension. 

A policy aimed at sustainable development is also by nature a policy aimed at
the longer term. The elaborated scenarios may therefore be regarded as making
a particular contribution towards strategic policy-formation. This places
heavy demands on the political decision-making. The findings of the various
analyses highlight all sorts of issues which, in the Council's opinion,
require a more prominent place on the political agenda. The exhaustion of
fossil fuels is, for example, a very real prospect; this raises the question
of the possibilities for a radical energy-conservation policy as well as for
encouraging alternatives. In the case of food supply the possibilities for
globally or locally-oriented agriculture need to be drawn into the debate in
the light of the rapidly growing world population. Radical choices also arise
in the other areas investigated. 

In the interests of the debate, the WRR has also adopted its own standpoint in
the light of the analysis of the various attitudes and elaborations of
sustainable development. In this respect it has been guided by three
considerations: the future freedom of action must be guaranteed as far as
possible, the interests of future generations must be visible in the decisions
taken and the measures must be primarily directed towards adjustments in the
production sphere. On the basis of these considerations and the results of the
scenarios, the Council notes that it is not possible to arrive at a uniform
application of one scenario of sustainable development. It has therefore
decided in favour of differing scenarios for the various environmental
aspects. In the case of energy the transition from finite to renewable energy
needs to be promoted. Active environmental diplomacy and the deployment of
adequate market-based instruments will be jointly required to get this
transition under way. In the case of this elaboration the Council has opted
for a scenario in between Managing and Preserving. In the case of the world
food supply, globally-oriented agriculture needs to be encouraged as far as
possible, while the promotion of a moderate food packet at global level is
neither desirable nor necessary. In this respect the Council opts for a
scenario between Utilizing and Saving. In the case of nature conservation the
Council has opted in favour of safeguarding the greatest possible area in the
interests of maintaining biodiversity. This implies a scenario between
Preserving and Saving. This choice cannot be viewed in isolation from the
position adopted by the WRR in approaching the world food supply issue.
Precisely in the case of an efficient, globally-oriented agriculture the
pressure to use natural areas for food production is lowest. In the case of
the domestic water supply the Council opts for a scenario aimed at Saving
supplemented by elements from the Managing scenario. In particular the use of
mains water can be effectively tackled. The necessary measures do, however,
call for purposeful decisions. In view of the anticipated sharp rise in the
global demand for copper and the uncertainties about the ultimately
extractable reserves, the demand needs to be cut back. Policy should be more
closely concerned with the promotion of recycling, conservation and
substitution; the possibilities have been barely exploited. In the case of
chlorine the Council notes that a policy aimed at chlorine in a general sense
will lack any real substance; the problems surrounding chlorine do not so much
concern extraction and transport as the use of chlorine in certain products.
This calls for a flexible strategy in which the policy is aimed at
problematical applications of chlorine.


1.1                 Introduction

Sustainable development is concerned with a longlasting relationship between
human beings, the environment and nature. It was noted in Chapter 1 that this
concept has now largely become a symbol that nobody cares to oppose. Many
people have therefore seen the importance of defining the concept more
precisely and have made efforts in that direction. This has resulted in a
large number of highly divergent interpretations. Generally speaking these
approaches assume that the boundaries between a sustainable and a non-
sustainable development can be unambiguously determined, in other words that
it is possible to indicate the 'carrying capacity' of the environment. 

By contrast this chapter argues that it is exceptionally difficult and often
even scientifically impossible to determine the carrying capacity of the
environment. Even if this were to succeed it would then be difficult to
translate the carrying capacity into constraints for activities - apart from
which it is not easy to translate these constraints into behavioural precepts.
All this knowledge is required in order to establish a link between
sustainable development and human activity. Only then does it become possible
to make directional statements concerning the strategy to be pursued. 

In the absence of clearcut criteria, it will be argued below that the strategy
can only be determined by trade-offs based on normative interpretations. The
argument leads to four action perspectives that illustrate the possible
differences in normative attitudes when making a trade-off between human
activities and the effects of those activities. The action perspectives have
been worked out in Chapter 3 in scenarios up to the year 2040. Taken as a
whole they illustrate normative choices, the uncertainty in the scientific
field and the uncertainty concerning the possibilities and consequences of
social change based on proactive rather than reactive policy.

1.2                 Sustainable development: from abstract principle to usable

In the report Our Common Future, the Brundtland Commission provides a
formulation of the concept of sustainable development that leaves a good deal
of room for individual interpretation 1/. The message in the report that
'sustainable development' is threatened by both wealth (over-exploitation) and
poverty (neglect) has, however, been broadly adopted. In the case of the Dutch
government, a commitment was made in response to the Brundtland report in the
Government Declaration of 1989 to achieve sustainable development within the
space of a single generation 2/. The Brundtland Report states that: 'In
essence, sustainable development is a process of change in which the
exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of
technological development, and institutional change are all in harmony and
enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and

This definition makes it clear that sustainable development is concerned with
at least two dimensions: the continued well-being of humankind and that of the
environment. In doing so harmony must be established between all the
activities required in order to meet human needs. This does not, however, say
anything about the extent to which human needs should be met. In addition
attitudes towards what are acceptable human needs will vary. The Brundtland
Report does not elaborate what is meant by the harmonious treatment of the
environment or when human activities will result in unacceptable damage to the
environment. The fact that divergent responses are possible to these questions
is evident from the differing measures used to determine this limit. In the
Netherlands National Environmental Policy Plan (NEPP), for example, the
yardstick for sustainability consists primarily of the feedback link to source
of environmental problems aimed at the closing of substance cycles, the
conservation of energy and promotion of product quality 3/. This differs
markedly from the way in which the concept has been elaborated by S.
Swaminathan of India, the former chairman of the World Conservation Union
(IUCN) and former minister in the Indian government, who distinguishes six
decisive elements for sustainable development: nature and food production,
economic and social values and two equity values. 

Both these elaborations take the Brundtland Report as their starting point.
The report, in fact, broadly sets the stage, without any precise definition or

1.2.1               The subjective nature of sustainable development

The room that the Brundtland Report leaves for interpretation has made it
possible for deeply-rooted differences in interpretation to surface. One
controversial point, for instance, is whether economic growth is required for
sustainable development. The Business Council for Sustainable Development, for
example, considers that it is 4/. In the Council's view a change for the
better for the environment can only be brought about in a dynamic system
driven by economic growth. The non-sustainable nature of present-day society
is caused on the one hand by the nature of the technology applied and on the
other by the forms of social organisation. It is for example inevitable that
people will use more energy, but sustainability demands that non-fossil energy
sources be explored. Scientists have also been prominent in this field: Van
Noort and others, for example, have calculated on the basis of a number of
simple assumptions that an economic growth rate of at least two per cent is
required for a sustainable environmental policy 5/.

Ranged against this is the view that economic growth is in fact responsible
for the environmental problems. Hueting, for example, concludes that a growth
in national income is the last thing we need in order to relieve the burden on
the environment 6/. In an analysis of the preconditions for a 'sustainable
natural environment in the Netherlands', Stortenbeker argues that sustainable
development cannot come about if economic growth is a precondition 7/. At
best, in his view, there would be sustainable use. As a minimum, the growth of
GNP would need to be adjusted to reflect the degradation of nature and the
environment in order to achieve sustainable development. 

The list of examples on this subject is virtually inexhaustible. In essence,
however, each of these examples turns out to involve a partial approach. The
question as to whether or not economic growth is 'necessary' cannot be
answered without examining other considerations. Ultimately, the answer
depends heavily on the type of sustainable development that is desired. 

When it comes to implementing environmental policy, conflicts arise because
people do not agree on the social sacrifices required to achieve environmental
goals. In the ultimate choice a trade-off made has to be reached that does
justice to both the environmental criteria and the social criteria. This then
raises the question as to how a trade-off between these criteria can be

1.2.2               The relationship between the environment and society 

The differences in definitions and elaborations make it clear that sustainable
development is not an objective feature of a process. Instead it involves
assigning the label of 'sustainable' or 'non-sustainable' to human activities
and their consequences for the environment. Sustainable development is a two-
sided relationship as both the well-being of mankind and society and that of
the environment play a role in evaluating those activities. Social well-being
can be measured in terms of the extent to which needs are satisfied and the
well-being of the environment in terms of the extent to which environmental
functions and assets are left unharmed. In defining these needs we are dealing
with a broad concept; these cover the needs not just of the present generation
but also of future generations. The definition of the needs of future gener-
ations must be viewed as a need felt by the present generation on behalf of
the future generations. The assessment as to whether human activities deserve
to be labelled 'sustainable' consequently needs to be based on these two
fundamentally different approaches towards developments that are deemed

Figure 1.1 indicates how this satisfaction of social needs and the quality of
the environment are interrelated. In fact there are two separate 'circles'. In
the economic circle activities affect society via the satisfaction of existing
needs and in the ecological circle activities affect environmental functions
and values via the inevitable emissions of (for example) polluting substances.
The burden imposed on the environment by a particular activity can take many
different forms. Apart from emissions there may be disruption, fragmentation
and exhaustion, etc. Together, these influences are known as 'impact'. So,
apart from having a positive effect on the satisfaction of needs, an activity
can therefore have a negative impact on the environment. There may moreover be
a feedback with the economic system if the impact involves damage to an
environmental function or asset that helps meet an identified need in the
economic system. 

The impact of human activities on the environment exhibits a relationship with
the number of people involved in that activity and the way in which the
activity is carried out. Take for example the environmental impact of the
production and use of paper. In the first place the impact on the environment
depends on the number of people using paper. Secondly, the impact depends on
the amount of paper each person uses. Finally, the impact depends on the way
in which the paper is manufactured, i.e. the way in which wood-fibres are
processed into pulp, whether or not the paper is bleached and whether waste
paper is recycled, etc. 

Figure 1.1 shows that the size of the impact (I) is the resultant of a certain
population size (population P), a certain degree of per capita prosperity
(i.e. material welfare) (welfare W) and the environmental intensity of the
human activity, which is a function of the environmental intensity of the
production (Ep) and that of the consumption (Ec). At a particular level of
prosperity the environmental intensity will be affected by both consumption
(consumer preferences) and production (technological improvements), emission
and immission reductions). The relationship between these five variables may
be expressed with the aid of the following equation 8/: 

I = P x W x f (Ep, Ec)

In many elaborations of sustainable development just one of the two circles is
taken into consideration, either as a condition of the ecological system to be
defined in isolation (the large circle) or the economic system (the small
circle). In the former case a standard is assigned to elements of the
environment that may not be exceeded. In the second case the satisfaction of
defined needs is considered necessary. Both cases are dealing with sustainable
development from their own particular vantage point.

Where the emphasis is placed on the ecological system this may manifest itself
in a proposal to set a sustainability norm in order to adjust national
income 9/ or to accord greater priority to 'environmental criteria' than to
human needs 10/. In this approach, 'ecological constraints' are determined
in absolute values or an 'environmental utilisation space' is determined. This
indicates the limits within which human activity must take place if it is to
be sustainable 11/. The maximum impact (I) is determined by specifying
requirements for environmental values and functions. Generally speaking this
means that the impact must decline in relation to the present situation. On
the basis of the definitional equation given above this can be achieved by
reducing the product of the population (P), material welfare (W), the
environmental intensity of production (Ep) and the environmental intensity of
consumption (Ec). 

Figure 1.1          Interrelationships between activities, needs and the envi-
                    ronment in the economic and ecological system 

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:   WRR.

In principle all four variables are potential objects of government policy.
This then identifies the steering variables of policy. The most far-reaching
are proposals for population control (B). This is generally prompted by the
anticipated growth of the population in developing countries. Combined with a
rise in living standards this would impose an unacceptable burden on the
ecological system. In these cases the view may be taken that environmental
criteria necessitate an active population policy 12/.

Instead proposals may also relate to the adaptation of material welfare (W).
Under this perspective per capita income is reduced so as to relieve the
burden on the environment. This should not be confused with a variant under
which it has been proposed that consumption, especially in the rich West,
should be 'de-materialised'. In the latter case the starting point is that the
impact on the environment will be reduced if human wants on average assume a
less material nature. For example, the consumption of culture (e.g. going to a
concert) is less harmful to the environment than the procurement and use of a
speed boat. Under this approach, however, policy does not come to bear on
living standards but on the environmental intensity of consumption Ec.

Finally, it may be urged that the environmental intensity of production Ep be
modified. This would involve investments in new, replacement technology in
order to turn the negative effect on the environment around. 

If the sole focus is on the assets and functions of the environment, this
means that a significant element of the social satisfaction of wants is either
left out of account or becomes a derivative factor. Proponents of
environmental interests can, for example, adopt the uncompromising standpoint
that all use of chlorinated hydrocarbons is unacceptable on account of the
environmental consequences, without taking into account the consequences for
human activities and other interests. This position is justified by those
concerned with the notion that the environmental risks are exceptionally great
and that the latter may not therefore be exposed to a 'corrupting' process of
trade-offs. This ignores the fact that others may have an - in their eyes -
equally as justified although totally different attitude towards the use of
these substances, in which the environmental risks are kept within acceptable
limits. In these circumstances 'hard' environmental requirements come in to
conflict with the 'hard' requirements of society, with, in the background, a
difference of interpretation concerning the risks involved. If the required
standard of living, the environmental intensity of production and consumption
or population size cannot be regulated, or only with difficulty, a stalemate
is reached. The most common response to an absolutist but unattainable norm is
to find a way of escaping the burden imposed by that norm. In these
circumstances there is a risk that when concrete choices have to be made, the
skin will prove closer than the shirt and that priority will be given on
imperative grounds to employment, economic growth, improvement of the
infrastructure and so on - in brief, to more 'worldly' needs. 

Alternatively, confidence in the ecological system may be so robust that
emphasis is placed one-sidedly on the economic system. In these circumstances
the evaluation of activities is conducted entirely against the background of
social needs. The satisfaction of those wants is given primacy and any
consequences for the environment are justified in terms of the express desire
of meeting those needs. Under this viewpoint, the risks of undermining these
social needs are regarded as excessive. 

In the definitional equation provided earlier this means that the level of
material welfare (W) is left unfettered and that the impact (I) is simply
accepted. This approach does not primarily examine whether needs can be
satisfied in an 'environmentally-friendlier' manner. Under this approach
environmental interests automatically come into focus if the perceived social
needs which the environment is required to facilitate can no longer be
achieved. If the I should prove too great the scope can then be examined for
modifying the environmental intensity of production and consumption or the
population size. This 'learning by doing' approach implies that there are
sufficient feedback mechanisms in society and that there is enough reaction
time. A clear exponent of this vision is Wildavsky 13/:

'Formerly people always needed a justification for doing nothing. These days
we need a justification for doing something. Progress is based on trial and
error, but now we suddenly want a trial without error. We want a free lunch.
Unfortunately there's no such thing.' 

Both the one-sided approaches discussed above fail to do justice to the
complexity of society. In the one case environmental requirements are imposed
and the rest of the social system has to fit in as best as possible. In the
other case economic requirements prevail and the resulting quality of the
environment is accepted as an inevitable factor. These partial approaches
cloak a risk of an imperative denial of other potential approaches. 

Schwartz and Thompson have illustrated the danger of such an a priori division
into proponents and opponents on the basis of the debate about nuclear
energy 14/. By reducing the analysis to one of proponents and opponents the
complexity of this kind of decision-making fails to come into its own.
Schwartz and Thompson argue that politics, technology and public choices are
inextricably interwoven. By concentrating unduly on one of the elements the
view of the whole is lost and the issue is tackled simplistically. 

Similarly in the case of sustainable development, there is a danger of
reducing the debate to proponents and opponents. It is, however, critically
important to acknowledge that there are a number of highly divergent and in
some cases conflicting perceptions of sustainability that exist side by side.
Each of these perceptions provides its own interpretation of the two most
important aspects of sustainable development: the ecological norms and values
to be respected and the socio-economic norms and values to be respected. 

Failure to take into account all the relevant aspects in elaborating the
concept of sustainable development is the rule rather than the exception. For
this reason the Council considers it essential for both the broadly
interpreted socio-economic and ecological dimension to be incorporated in the
analysis for the purposes of rendering sustainable development operational.
Choices in favour of certain environmental values or certain human needs need
to be determined in the light of the consequences of those choices or the
other dimension. This is not in itself a new notion but this 'double goal' is
not always equally as clear in the present policies aimed at bringing about
sustainable development. 

1.3       The 'environmental utilisation space' as basis for environ-
          mental policy

In the debate about the appropriate environmental policy, the concept of the
'environmental utilisation space' (EUS) has been introduced in recent years in
an attempt to pin down the maximum permitted damage to the environment. In
doing so primacy is explicitly attached to the environment: society must act
in accordance with the potential room for use of the environment. There can be
no question of a trade-off with social goals. 

Interpreting the concept of the EUS requires information on the absorption
capacity of the environment; an indication is provided of the margins within
which properties and functions of the environment may be used. The limits
within which change must take place are thus made explicit. Once the EUS has
been determined limits can be set on activities that could affect the quality
of the environment in one way or another. 

The concept of the EUS derives from resource economics 15/. This presup-
poses well defined limits to the scale of reserves, such as those of raw
materials and energy, familiarity with the resilience of natural and agro-
ecosystems, clarity about the effects and degree of tolerance of alien
substances, and so on. Although various researchers acknowledged that the
information in certain areas remains inadequate, this does not eliminate the
fact that the notion of an objective, generally accepted definition of the EUS
has been broadly adopted at all levels of aggregation. 

Administratively, the concept appears highly attractive. In principle the EUS
can be determined without the intervention of politics but is based on
scientific (i.e. objectified) argumentation. Ecological insights and analyses
provide the basis for determining the burden that the environment can
withstand. The EUS is therefore a usable intermediate stop for the development
of norms. Once those norms have been established they can be used to develop
policies and instruments can be selected and deployed. In doing so
environmental control is reduced to the determination of the EUS, after which
the selection of the appropriate instruments is a question of applying well-
tried mechanisms. For this reason the concept is very much in vogue in
environmental policy. In view of the one-dimensional nature of the EUS,
however, its usability in working towards sustainable development is
questionable. Further analysis will expose the weak spots. 

1.3.1               Origins of the concept

The basic idea behind the EUS is that 'the biosphere' provides a finite base
in the form of stocks of natural resources and the capacity to absorb
pollution and environmental degradation 16/. 'Finiteness' should not be
interpreted in a geological but in a human timeframe: the limits of the EUS
can be achieved within one or two generations. In this respect sustainable
development has been interpreted as a 'form of economic development which
ensures that the resulting environmental burden can be "ecologically
assimilated"'. By this is meant that 'the future functioning of regeneration
systems, absorption capacities and other elements of the EUS are qualitatively
and quantitatively guaranteed as regards the exploitation potential'. Wetering
en Opschoor indicate that we are concerned here with an aspect of environ-
mental quality. The environment must also comply with criteria with respect to
diversity, integrity and amenity 17/. All this is, however, based on the
underlying premise that scientific consensus can be achieved concerning the
EUS in such areas as nature, energy, raw materials and land-use. This then
sets the limits for politics and administration. 

The EUS may be regarded as the embodiment of the carrying capacity of the
environment. In order to clarify this Daly has introduced the metaphor of the
'Plimsoll mark' for the environment 18/. Plimsoll was a British Member of
Parliament who proposed in 1875 that a line be painted on the hulls of ships,
indicating the maximum depth to which they could be safely loaded. The mark
was designed to prevent ships from being overloaded - a frequent occurrence in
the cut-throat competition of those days, and the cause of shipping disasters.
An example of a Plimsoll mark is shown in Figure 1.2. 

Figure 1.2     Example of a Plimsoll mark on the hull of a ship. The lines
               indicate the maximum depth to which the ship may be loaded in
               differing conditions

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:   WRR.

A Plimsoll mark for the environment would therefore indicate the level to
which the environment can be burdened without unacceptable consequences. In an
economic sense this mark may be interpreted as a limiting condition imposed on
the economic system. Within that constraint, the trade-off mechanisms of the
economy are allowed to operate. To continue the metaphor, the economy can
ensure that the load is distributed evenly throughout the vessel, but the
amount of cargo is determined by the Plimsoll mark - the economic system
itself is unable to influence the latter in any way. 

The drawing up of Plimsoll marks is also evident in numerous other policy
fields. These are not generally based on scientifically determined
possibilities; instead a norm is postulated for which various arguments are
advanced. In drawing up this norm a political wish is translated into
operational variables. All manner of examples could be cited: the burden of
tax and social security contributions should not exceed 53.6 per cent for a
financially healthy government; according to the Nature Conservation Policy
Plan, an area of 250,000 hectares should be designated as 'natural areas'; in
order to ensure that workers have a minimum degree of financial independence,
a minimum wage has been set. 

1.3.2               Problems

The notion that the EUS can objectively and unequivocally indicate the margins
within which human activities must take place is, to begin with, at variance
with the observation made earlier that sustainable development is about the
quality of both the environment and society. If the 'demands' of the
environment do not cut across social desiderata there is of course no problem.
In practice, we accordingly find that the greatest progress is made in 'win-
win' situations of this kind. Where ecological and social desiderata come into
conflict with one another, however, the EUS rapidly ceases to act as a guide:
if a criterion that is laid down as 'absolute' proves to be unattainable, the
policy in question will cease to provide a guiding framework. 

The aim of reducing the world population to two billion people on the basis of
an 'objectively' determined EUS forms an example of this 19/. Whatever the
inherent merits of this calculation, the social consequences rule it out as a
practical proposition. The calculated EUS does not, however, provide any
guideline as to what sort of population figure should be aimed at. 

Even if an abstract consensus has been reached about the need to work on the
basis of an EUS, the latter can suddenly prove paper-thin once the
consequences become visible and tangible. This is evident from the
construction of motorways, car mobility and industrial development, etc.
Instead of providing clarity the application of the concept then simply leads
to escapist behaviour. 

The concept of the EUS suggests that definitive knowledge is achievable in
principle, i.e. knowledge that enables the limits to and criteria for
behaviour to be determined. This is what makes the concept so attractive for
government administration: hard, scientifically formulated constraints and
parameters can render all sorts of political debates superfluous. 

This is, however, to deny the dynamic nature of science. New knowledge is
consistently generated that qualifies or tightens previously formulated
'demands' on society. What was previously regarded as incontrovertible
knowledge then proves to have been no more than provisional knowledge. This is
not just a consequence of the fact that the accumulation of knowledge in
general is an on-going process while in the environmental field many of the
areas of scientific investigation are still in their infancy, but also of the
fact that relevant knowledge also derives from action itself, or in other
words from experience. 

But apart from these fundamental problems there are also difficulties with
applying the concept of the EUS. By way of analogy with the Plimsoll mark, a
good deal of research and effort has been put into defining the EUS with the
aid of a set of sustainability indicators. It has not, however, proved
possible to draw up clear-cut indicators for sustainability or sustainable
development 20/.

The metaphor of the Plimsoll mark is itself illustrative of the problems one
encounters in seeking to identify clear-cut indicators. As may be seen in
Figure 1.3, the mark does not show a single maximum level but a whole series.
Different loading limits apply for freshwater and saltwater, for various seas
and oceans and for various seasons. The deadweight capacity of the vessel is
not fixed but depends on the salt-content of the water and the anticipated
weather conditions. Even in the case of a relatively uncomplicated issue such
as the permissable load of a ship, we therefore find that there are a number
of mutually interacting factors which, taken as a whole, produce a highly
differentiated system. 

The complexity of sustainability indicators as an operationalisation of the
EUS is, however, much greater again. To start with, far more factors determine
the carrying capacity of the environment than just the salt-content and wind.
Furthermore, the individual contribution of those factors is often unclear.
But even where these are clear, it is often virtually impossible to indicate
the critical values (i.e. windforce 8 or 9). The question then arises as to
what an indicator in fact shows. 

The main scientific problem in determining the EUS is the lack of the
requisite information for a complete and coherent analysis. In many cases the
knowledge concerning environmental developments and the impact of human
activities on those trends is no more than fragmentary. In particular two
problems arise: ignorance and uncertainty. 

Inherent ignorance
The EUS may be depicted as a system in which certain limits have to be set. As
noted, it is a complex system, which is concerned with setting quality
standards for the environment. The environment does not exist as a unit or
entity but needs to be defined as a system of differing ecosystems (such as
forests, fenlands and river deltas, etc.) supplemented by abiotic elements
(e.g. a supply of raw materials). The ecology is concerned with the analysis
of ecosystems and could therefore provide the most important building blocks
for the quality standards for the environment. To date, however, it has proved
all but impossible unambiguously to determine which elements are vital for the
sustainable functioning of an ecosystem. 

This may be clarified by drawing a distinction between repeatable and unique
systems. Repeatable (agro) ecosystems such as a field of potatoes or wheat can
be identified and the mechanisms of their functioning explained. The time-
scale of the system is known and the number of elements of the system is
limited. Hypotheses on the functioning are testable and can be experimentally
falsified, not least because the object of the system is clear, i.e. to
produce potatoes or wheat. All non-productive elements of the original natural
ecosystems, such as weeds and vermin, are therefore eliminated as far as
possible in the development of the ecosystem. All other external influences on
the system are related to the ultimate goal. In a productive sense this
knowledge is used in order to respond to changing influences. If for example
the density of a plague organism exceeds an experimentally determined
threshold, it may be decided to take countermeasures. 

Even in the case of these comparatively simple systems there is no lack of any
ambiguity concerning the relevant indicators for sustainable development. The
concepts of stability, resilience, productivity and tenability are employed
side-by-side, with attention to the use of both renewable and non-renewable

The majority of natural ecosystems, however, form part of the unique systems
in which the time-scale is in fact infinite. Unique systems are characterised
by a large number of unknown positive and negative feedbacks, so that the
characteristics of the system cannot be described. In contrast to repeatable
agro-ecosystems, the most important goal of the system, and consequently the
most important elements in it, are less clear in the case of natural
ecosystems. For this reason numerous qualitative standards are imposed on
ecosystems that are highly localised and time-bound and which draw for their
frame of reference on the state of nature in the past. Salmon, for example,
should return to the Rhine. In consequence, various indicators of sustainable
development can co-exist, without the ability to assign priority to them on
scientific grounds.  

If quality standards relate to the entire system, the system characteristics
become important. In the case of more complex natural ecosystems, however,
knowledge of the resilience, robustness and persistence of the system is
highly limited. Much may, on the other hand, be known about individual
elements of such systems and the consequences of disruption can therefore be
estimated. The consequences of such disruption for the system as a whole,
however, remain largely confined to speculation. The tropical rainforest, for
example, is known especially for its abundance of species, but the precise
numbers, what their frequency should be and the precise situation concerning
persistence are unknown. 

Whereas science is at best able to provide a partial and conditional insight
into positive and negative feedbacks, policy by contrast is interested in the
net result and seeks absolute statements: is the earth warming up or not?
Especially in the case of unique systems, science is unable to indicate all
the determining factors for the functioning of the ecosystems. In the absence
of such knowledge, it is, precisely for these unique systems, impossible
unambiguously to determine the quality of the environment. Similarly it is
also often impossible to provide a response to questions about ecological
disruption. The absence of unambiguous indicators and lack of knowlegde about
the consequences of change is virtually characteristic of unique systems.
Clear-cut, non-controversial definitions prove impossible, as illustrated in
Chapter 2.

Determining the EUS is hampered by statistical and fundamental uncertainty.
The statistical uncertainty stems from the lack of precise knowledge
concerning human intervention and its effects on the environment, while the
fundamental uncertainty stems from partial knowledge of complex relationships
that may lead to differences in insight concerning that relationship. In a
number of places, it is possible within reasonable limits to predict the
consequences for the quality of the environment of a certain intensity of
human activity by means of dose-effect relationships. This applies for example
to the relationship between urbanisation and nature conservation; clearly,
nature must give way where urban development takes place. In many cases,
however, this relationship is surrounded by uncertainties and ambiguities.
Industrial activities, for example, result in the emission of acidifying
substances such as nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide, but the effects on the
vitality of forests can only be determined by averaging a large number of
observations on lowered vitality. In this regard the system is treated as a
black box and the impact is only examined on the outside of that box (i.e. the
imposition of acidifying substances) and the effect (declining vitality).
Sometimes, causal relationships can be established at the level of the
component elements. This applies for example to the effects of acidification
on the bio-chemical process that forms part of photosynthesis. Extrapolation
of these relationships to crop situations is controversial and conclusions
cannot be reached straightforwardly with respect to the growth and production
of forests. In this case it is therefore necessary to make do with a
statistical estimate of the average effect of acidifying deposition on the
vitality of forests. The relationship between the dose and the effect may then
be portrayed in the form of a scatter diagram indicating that a number of
effects have been observed for a particular intervention. The relationship
between the intervention and the effect is evidently disturbed by background
interference that cannot be screened out. 

In the case of many dose-effect relationships it is not even possible to
provide an indication of the size of the background interference and there is
total uncertainty about the precise position of the points. The reason for
this is that much scientific research into these relationships does not only
reveal statistical uncertainties but also that more fundamental uncertainties
prove unbridgeable. A good example is provided by the theoretical foundations
for measures in the field of climate control. Far-reaching statements have
been made about climatic changes due to the greenhouse effect, all of varying
reliability. These statements range from the belief that the next ice age will
be brought forward to a zero effect and finally the accelerated warming of the

A study by the IPCC, however, has examined the status of the various data by
classifying these into facts, suppositions and guesses 21/. It is for
example a scientifically established fact that the CO2 content of the
atmosphere has been increasing at an accelerating rate due to human activity
(i.e. the combustion of fossil fuels and deforestation). The increase in CO2
levels is, however, lower than would otherwise be expected on the basis of the
combustion of fossil fuels and deforestation; there is a gap in the carbon
balance sheet. It has been suggested that this may be because more C02 is
absorbed by the oceans or because greater quantities are stored in root
systems, but there is no scientific certainty. It is suspected that the
increase in C02 levels will enhance the greenhouse effect and result in higher
average temperatures on earth. This supposition is based on calculations using
incomplete models of the 'unique' climate system. Tests can be conducted on
the component elements of these models but not on the models as a whole. This
means that, depending on the feedbacks allowed for, the results can vary
considerably. For this reason it is necessary to speak of estimates and
suppositions and not of probabilities and facts. Finally there are guesses
that the greenhouse effect will result in a rise in sea levels; these are not
based on hydrological models of the world but are generally no more than
speculative in nature and therefore highly controversial 22/.

However, even if the relationship between (for example) the use of fossil
fuels and the rise in sea levels is unknown, choices have to be made for
policy purposes. In these circumstances the potential risks thought to be
incurred become the determining factor in the choice. In the case of a
statistical risk this can be estimated and both the distinguishing capacity
and the reliability of the statements can then be calculated. In the case of
theoretical risks one is confined to making a normatively determined estimate
of that risk. In fact we are therefore concerned here with the perception of
risks, with respect to both the environment (i.e. can the environment cope
with a particular impact) and the socio-economic order (can society with its
needs, wishes and institutions, etc., adapt to new activities without

These perceptions of risk come into play when a choice has to be made in a
specific instance about adapting economic activities in order to reduce the
burden imposed on the environment. Generally speaking this will then mean that
environmental investments have to be made. If the relationship between
environmental investments and environmental quality is a diffuse one, it will
not be clear how great the investment needs to be in order to achieve a given
level of environmental quality, and conversely it is unclear what level of
environmental improvement will be achieved by a given investment. The recent
debate concerning the costs for the agricultural industry of manure policy in
the Netherlands and the supposed benefits in the form of vital forests
provides one example. Many farmers are naturally well disposed towards the
natural environment but they did not all prove convinced of the need to
eliminate every last emission of (for example) ammonia from animal pens at
high cost because the benefits were not immediately apparent to them. The
estimation of risks therefore invariably comes with a price tag, either for
the socio-economic order or for the environment. 

Apart from differences of insight concerning the relevant dimensions there is
also a difference of insight concerning the extreme value that a
sustainability indicator may assume while still falling within the EUS. It is,
however, by no means always the case that if an assigned critical value or an
indicator is exceeded, life as we know it will cease to exist. It is,
accordingly, virtually impossible to base policy decisions on scientifically
established facts. An attempt has, for example, been made to draw up
sustainability indicators for copper and aluminium 23/. In doing so the
present level of consumption has been compared with 'permitted consumption'.
The latter has been derived from a calculation based on the exhaustion of
reserves in 50 years' time. As will be shown in Chapter 2, however, the latter
is subject to highly varying interpretations. Taking the case of aluminium,
there is an enormous difference between the present commercially exploitable
reserves and the geological reserves, which differ by a factor of 400 million.
On the basis of what is considered technically feasible at present, the
technically extractable reserves are estimated at roughly 700 times the
currently commercial reserves. Differing assumptions about technological
progress may lead to lower but also substantially higher estimates of these
technical reserves. Reducing all these uncertainties to a 'safe' margin of 50
years is therefore, at the very least, a gross simplification of reality. The
length of the critical reserve period is in fact determined by the uncertainty
concerning the volume of the reserves and the development of suitable
substitutes. If that uncertainty is assessed differently this then results in
a different indicator. 

Opschoor and Reijnders accordingly note rightly that the problems surrounding
the determination of indicators for sustainable development arise at both
scientific and ethical/normative level 24/. For example, the question as to
whether species and quality characteristics need to be taken into account in
order to determine the functioning of an ecosystem needs itself only partially
to a scientific answer. Normative arguments also come into the discussion:
which elements of the environment are regarded as vital for the quality of the
environment? Opinions on this aspect tend to vary considerably. 

The ethical question as to whether the sustainability indicator in question
must relate to the conditions of existence for human beings or also to those
of other organisms is an additional factor. Do plant and animal species have
an independent value and should they therefore come under the goals of
sustainable development, or do they have a value only in so far as human
beings are able to utilize them in some way? 
The answer to these questions proves heavily dependent on the assumptions one
makes with respect to the resilience and absorption capacity of the
environment. In order to illustrate these differing interpretations, Schwartz
and Thompson have distinguished four 'Myths of Nature' that determine the
attitude one adopts towards trade-off issues between social interests and the
interests of nature and the environment 25/. The various attitudes they
distinguish are shown in Figure 1.3. Nature has been conceived as a ball on a
plane. Human beings are able to exert influence on the natural environment.
Depending on the assumption one makes concerning the plane, the latter may
cause the ball to oscillate slightly or dislodge it from its unstable position
of equilibrium. Various assumptions about the robustness of nature therefore
lead to totally different judgements concerning damage to the environment. 

Figure 1.3          Four different attitudes towards nature

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:   M. Schwartz and M. Thompson, Divided we stand. Redefining politics,
technology and social choice; Harvester Wheatsheaf, New York, 1990. 

The four different attitudes that one can adopt towards nature are also
reflected in the discussion concerning the importance of environmental
indicators. What those who regard nature as 'benign' consider to be an impact
readily absorbed by the environment because the latter is well able to absorb
a shock is contested by others. Those who regard nature as 'tolerant', for
example, will not be unduly concerned about the risk of exceeding threshold
values. If however one considers that nature is in an unstable position of
equilibrium (i.e. 'ephemeral') then each adverse impact is one too many. Even
if scientific uncertainties can be reduced to a minimum, differences in
normative attitudes mean that there will still be uncertainty concerning the
delimitation of the EUS. This is in part a consequence of the multi-
dimensional nature of the concept of environment. The identification of
environmental problems depends on the state of science in combination with
culturally determined attitudes concerning 'good' nature and a 'good'
environmental result. This perception of environmental problems plays a major
role in determining the EUS.

When it comes to operationalisation, however, it is evident that critical
values are interpreted wholly differently. Scientific research may, for
example, demonstrate that the extent to which surface water may be burdened
with unavoidable pollution as a result of human group activity depends on the
season. The possibilities for natural recovery vary throughout the year. This
does not, however, say anything about the critical values. These are dependent
on the weight assigned to the activity in question, the environmental damage
and the possibility of compensation. Evidently the perception of the risks
incurred by the environment plays a decisive role.

1.4                 Risk as central concept

From the above it will be clear that both scientific and normative problems
may be traced back to perceptions of the risks at issue. Specific scientific
research can in certain cases help draw a distinction between facts,
suppositions, probabilities and beliefs. Statistical risks can also be
reduced, for example by improved observations, and some fundamental risks can
be eliminated by unravelling causal links. The advancement of knowledge will,
however, always be relative, in the sense that greater knowledge about the
functioning of systems is also accompanied by greater knowledge about the
possible threats to those systems. In addition, research does not resolve the
fact that opinions may differ about the relevance of environmental assets. 

In the former case account will need to be taken when a concrete decision is
taken of the statistical risks inherent in the inadequate knowledge of dose-
effect relationships. In the second case there are fundamental risks which
people will or will not be prepared to take. Normative perceptions of this
kind of risk are a major factor in the final policy action. 

What this ultimately comes down to is people's perception of the risks at
issue. How great is the risk put that certain relevant variables have been
overlooked? How great is the chance that the uncertainty has been incorrectly
estimated? Part of the effects of human activities can only be indicated in
the form of a certain probability of an effect. In these circumstances one can
only conduct a probability calculation. A familiar example is the discussion
about the height of dykes. At a given height of the dyke there is a
probability of X per cent of a collapse. This is then expressed as 'once in so
many years'. The distinction between sea and river dykes and between lowland
or highland rivers refines these statements but ultimately it remains a
probability calculation. 

The average citizen is accustomed to dealing with risks. People for example
take out insurance against the risk of fire and accident. The public is also
familiar with individual risks (smoking, alcohol consumption, participation in
traffic) and collective risks (the collapse of a dyke, energy supply). In
addition a distinction is also often drawn between micro-risks (i.e. minor or
major probability with local or comparatively brief effects) and macro-risks
(low probability but with very great and drawn-out consequences, such as an
uncontrolled fission process in a nuclear power plant). In the debate about
sustainable development, a classification of this kind into the various sorts
of risks often takes a back seat, meaning that no trade-offs are made vis-a`-
vis other risks or social needs. Further elaboration is required to prevent
the trade-off being made implicitly and by a small group of decision-makers
rather than explicitly and by public participation. It may not prove possible
to achieve consensus, but at least a democratic basis of support can be

1.5                 Action perspectives

1.5.1               Perception of risks

Achieving the goal of sustainability necessarily involves weighing the
available information on the environment and the impact of human activity. In
view of the numerous gaps in the available knowledge, such a weighing also
involves uncertainties and risks. The solutions that people put forward can
therefore never be solely dictated by the available information. Among other
things, the solutions are determined by assumptions and attitudes arrived at
on the basis of historical experience, contemporary opinion-formation and the
context in which one operates. 

For example, the information that the reserves of a particular resource will
be exhausted in 20 years' time is not as straightforward as it seems, in that
the exploration for further reserves is never final. No-one therefore knows
whether the known reserves are in fact the 'final' reserves or whether we are
still at an earlier stage of the reserve curve. Historical experience never
provides a single lesson: one person will be able to use past experience to
show that further exploration will demonstrate the existence of new reserves
or that replacement raw materials can be found, while another can cite
analogous cases of exhaustion. 

If sustainability is to be achieved on the basis of these attitudes - which
differ in particular concerning the extent to which environmental risks are to
be avoided - the consequences can vary widely. The notion of sustainability
obliges one to ask what form the responsibility towards future generations
should take. The belief that reserves 'will last for only another 20 years'
will necessitate cutbacks in consumption so that something is left for future
generations. On the basis of this environmental-risk-avoiding attitude, the
debate will then centre particularly on the question as to how much should be
left. If, on the other hand, the risks to the environment are considered less
great, one will be expected to be more optimistic about the reserves; here the
reasoning will be more in terms of a dynamic stock. Further exploration will
be expected to result in new reserves. It will therefore more readily be
assumed that there will be enough for future generations or that it will be
possible to switch to substitutes. The responsibility for future generations
will be sought in the generation and transfer of adequate know-how and
techniques for the extraction of the raw material or alternatives. 

Similarly the information about the disruption of ecosystems due to human
activity does not automatically lead to conclusions. The judgement made will
depend on assumptions concerning the fragility or robustness of nature. If
nature is regarded as a complex system of precarious equilibria, one will be
more inclined to assume that small changes in the component parts can have an
enormous knock-on effect. In this case sustainability will be largely
interpreted in the sense of avoiding the violation of what are regarded as
fragile ecosystems and minimising activities that pose risks to the natural
environment. If, by contrast, nature is regarded as a dynamic and robust
system, there will be a certain amount of a priori confidence in its
resilience. It will then be noted that negative feedbacks soften the effects
of positive feedbacks. Furthermore, ecosystems are - quite independently of
any human activity - permanently in a state of flux, and a further adaptation
of the effects of human activity need not necessarily be associated with a
loss of specific environmental features and functions. And where this cannot
be avoided, this will be regarded under this approach as a challenge to human
ingenuity: if nature becomes scarce it will have to be produced. If there are
signals that the resilience is being undermined, on the other hand, caution
will be called for; it may be that gene banks or genetic manipulation can
provide some solace by giving nature a helping hand in the selection process. 

It will be clear that these kinds of assumptions provide frameworks for the
interpretation of the available partial information. In this respect they also
play a role in assessing which activities should take place to assist the
environment and which should be discontinued. 

The risk perceptions with respect to the environment are therefore relative in
so far as environmental risks can never be totally excluded, however risk-
avoiding one sets out to be. Conversely it is not the case that no risks
whatever are incurred, however robust nature may be perceived as being.
Furthermore a certain risk perception need not be adhered to once and for all;
human beings are capable of learning and altering their stance in response to
fresh information. Nor will the same assumptions be applied across the board
in the environment: it is perfectly conceivable that the uncertainties in the
energy field will be interpreted differently from those applying to nature. If
anything the distinction brings out the ambivalence that can arise using
uncertain information. 

It was suggested above that the label of sustainability or reduction of
insustainability relates to the quality of the relationship between the
ecological and social systems. In the same way that it is impossible
unambiguously to interpret the environmental situation we are working towards,
the same applies to the social transformation that is deemed desirable and
possible from the viewpoint of sustainability. Similarly the consequences of
social intervention for environmental reasons are often uncertain and imply
certain risks. Undesired environmental effects are generally the consequence
of behaviour patterns that are essentially regarded as normal and also
desirable, and which are underpinned by numerous institutions in society. The
packaging of consumer goods is based on considerations of efficiency, hygiene,
competition and customer-friendliness but in fact generates an enormous amount
of waste. Consumption, and hence the assault on scarce resources and the
generation of waste, is, among other things, a function of the number of
households. The fall in average household size means that the number of
households and, therefore, consumption is growing. The curtailment and
'internalisation' of undesired environmental effects can touch, therefore, on
deeply felt rights and freedoms. Interference with these - such as the freedom
of production and consumption or the size of households - can produce
reactions that cut across the desired objectives. The violation of interests
can also have undesirable political and economic consequences. A recent
example concerns the threat created by the further tightening of environmental
regulations that economic activities could be transferred to other countries
with less strict rules.

Opinions may also differ about the risks to society that one is prepared to
accept in response to proposed changes to improve the environment. It may for
example be assumed that the well-tested mechanisms behind the existing socio-
economic dynamics will once again demonstrate their problem-solving capacity
if they are confronted with the environmental issue. The risks of far-reaching
autonomous social intervention are, moreover, deemed excessive. Improvement of
the existing mechanisms is therefore the appropriate path. The social risks
are minimised if the 'scarcity' of the environment is as far as possible
regulated by means of the normal coordination mechanisms. The market (under
this approach) is viewed as the most efficient and effective path.

The market will show just how valuable particular needs are considered to be.
Prices bring together information in a highly efficient manner. If prices
reflect environmental preferences this will then elicit the necessary change
in behaviour. It will also give rise to a process of technological information
aimed at mitigating the environmental problem in question. Assimilation into
the world economy is, accordingly, regarded as the best way of countering the
environmental problems in the Third World and ensuring that people there also
have access to scarce resources. The West can contribute to this process by
creating favourable conditions for economic take-off, i.e. liberalisation of
the world market and the abolition of protective measures. 

If however the 'normal' coordination mechanisms are feared to be inadequate,
it will be argued that more rigorous adjustments are required in order to
establish a sustainable relationship with the environment. It is also argued
that the market's time-horizon is short by definition, whereas in the case of
the environment we are concerned with short-term changes in the interests of
preventing problems in the long term. Furthermore there are also environmental
interests that cannot be expressed in price terms. Particularly where the
necessary changes in behaviour take the form of a slowdown in consumption and
production the curative effects of the market cannot be guaranteed. Refraining
from certain forms of consumption or needs, acceptance of redistribution in
favour of the Third World and future generations on account of the scarcity of
resources and the stimulation of technological change even where there is no
consumer demand are all new paths the social consequences of which are not
readily brought into focus. The social risks need not, however, be taken too
seriously. Confronted with this wholly new assignment, society must certainly
be deemed capable of developing new organisational forms, given the necessary

Under this view, it is held that society is willing to accept these political
and socio-economic 'innovations' on account of the ecological threat, or that
it can be mobilised to do so. In other words, the risks of social adjustments
weigh less heavily than they do under the previously discussed set of views.
If, on account of prisoner's dilemmas, these changes are not spontaneously
reflected in the economic process it is then regarded as desirable and
possible for this to be superimposed, namely by legitimating governments to
impose conditions on individual or state behaviour. 

The respective attitudes towards environmental and social risks are both
relative positions. Even if one seeks to avoid social risks, one will
nevertheless be prepared to accept some such risks - for example as a result
of a change in prices - in the interests of sustainability. 

The judgement about social flexibility need not be the mirror-image of that
concerning the environmental risks. If one considers that social activity
poses major risks to the environment this does not necessarily mean that the
social potential for change will be considered high. Nor need the reverse
apply: faith in the changeability of society need not necessarily mean that
major importance is assigned to environmental risks. Both dimensions may,
therefore, be viewed to some extent in isolation from one another. On the
other hand, as argued previously, the two are by no means always seen in
combined terms. Calls for a radical improvement of the environment presuppose
the capacity for substantial social change, but this sometimes remains
implicit. Conversely, trivialisation of environmental problems is often
prompted by the unexpressed assumption that social processes cannot or should
not be changed. 

This report is based on the assumption that sustainability implies that the
present environmental risks are regarded as unacceptable and that there is a
willingness to make social adjustments. Various positions may be adopted with
respect to the seriousness of the perceived environmental risks and the extent
to which one is prepared to accept social risks in order to mitigate the
impact on the environment. These positions are discussed below in stylised

1.5.2               Elaboration into action perspectives

Choices must be made in both risk domains. To this end an estimate has to be
made of the environmental risks that one is prepared to accept or which one
considers should be avoided. The same applies to an estimate of social
resilience. This finally gives rise to an estimate of the ability to prevent
environmental problems by means of adjustments in human activities. 

Although, as seen in section 1.2.2, the size of the population and level of
prosperity also affect the impact of human activity on the environment,
consumer and producer behaviour lend themselves particularly to direct
intervention by (government) policy. On environmental grounds, an active
population policy is highly relevant. In order to place this in perspective,
account has been taken in the elaboration of the action perspectives of the
various variants of population developments. 

In tackling the environmental problem, the action perspectives focus
especially on the consumer needs or functions that are to be fulfilled and/or
the activities with which those needs are to be met. 

Table 1.1           Four action perspectives aimed at the achievement of
                    sustainable development

Production                                    high                low
Adaptation of production methods           Utilizing             Saving
Change in nature of production methods     Managing             Preserving

Source:             WRR.

The view may for example be taken that only minimal adjustments are required
in order to cope with environmental problems. Both the present level of
consumption and the production technology can be continued with some
adjustment over a lengthy period without endangering sustainability. This
perspective may be described as Utilizing.

It can also be argued that the solution should not be sought so much in the
production sphere but that, more especially, the volume or pattern of
consumption - for example of energy or animal proteins - should be adapted.
This perspective may be labelled Saving. 

Another alternative is to counter environmental problems by continuing to meet
the present high level of consumer needs while modifying the productive
activities directed towards those needs, for example by a change in technology
or the use of different energy sources. This action perspective may be
described as Managing. 

Fourthly, environmental problems may be viewed so seriously that both the
level of consumption and production processes need to be adapted. This
perspective is concerned with Preserving.

The four attitudes or sets of views which have been taken as the starting
point are outlined in more detail below. The description of these action
perspectives is confined to the a priori attitudes. The tenability of those
attitudes will be examined more closely in Chapter 2 on the basis of the
scenarios worked out for the next 50 years in the various areas.

1.5.3               The Utilizing action perspective

Deliberately engineered radical social transformation for environmental
purposes is regarded under the Utilizing action perspective as undesirable and
impossible. At best the social dynamic can be adjusted, not directed. In
addition there is the danger that simpler solutions to environmental problems
will be ruled out in the laborious process of imposed behavioural change. This
applies not just to consumption processes but also to excessive intervention
in production processes. Problems need to achieve a certain scale in order to
unleash creative energy. 

This may be at the expense of particular environmental wishes; a certain level
of environmental risk can never be ruled out. Some forms or levels of
pollution of water, soil and air are, however, acceptable. Others can be
mitigated by means of technological adaptations. The availability of energy
and raw materials is not regarded as a major problem. Much can be achieved by
technology. Furthermore, the growing scarcity of resources will mean a rise in
prices, leading in turn to endogenous substitutions. If the conventional
sources of energy are exhausted in the next century this may not be a problem
if the know-how and technology for other sources have been developed in the
meantime. This means that in those areas where energy is now freely available
investments need to be made in good time in new know-how. Nuclear energy,
including in particular nuclear fusion, are options that must not be put to
one side. Terrible though catastrophes such as Chernobyl are, they have also
produced some benefits, e.g. in the form of improvements in the safety of
nuclear power plants in Eastern Europe. The problem of the storage of nuclear
waste could also be nearing a solution. Risks cannot be totally excluded but
are comparable with those associated with (for example) the extraction of coal
(i.e. lung disease and accidents). The nuclear energy option is therefore
placed in a new light, particularly if the environmental aspects - the
physical exhaustion of fossil energy, acidification and C02 - are taken into

Under this action perspective there is a particular need to check the rapid
growth of the world population. The growth of the population in the Third
World is the source of major concern. The associated poverty results in major
environmental problems (erosion, destruction of the tropical rainforests,
etc). Precisely because it is difficult to alter the development of
consumption and production, tackling poverty becomes an important lever. A
rapid increase in prosperity is called for, both indirectly in order to
mitigate the population numbers and directly to improve the environment. An
increase in prosperity in Western countries is also regarded as desirable and
possible. The institutions predicated on high living standards are so firmly
enshrined that any reduction in prosperity may be regarded as illusory.

1.5.4               The Saving action perspective

Under the Saving action perspective, both environmental risks and the risks
inherent in the process of social adaptation are, to a certain extent,
accepted and taken in the interests of sustainability, in that the resilience
of both systems is regarded as considerable. Methods of production, including
technology, cannot however be changed rapidly. Nor is this required from the
viewpoint of environmental risks. These can be reduced to acceptable levels by
reducing the volume of consumption bearing on the environment. This provides
the most important lever for change. Major cutbacks in consumption are not
just required for the environment but are also regarded as necessary in the
interests of a fairer distribution of scarce resources both worldwide and
between present and future generations. 

Under this view, it is desirable to work towards a package of consumer needs
in which each world citizen makes limited use of natural resources. This is
based on the assumption that ultimately everyone has the same right of access
to sufficient resources in order to meet certain priority consumer needs (i.e.
redistribution), before all kinds of luxury needs can be met. Environmental
problems which, despite the lower level of consumption, could still arise, are
accepted as potentially insoluble or inevitable. There is however little
confidence in the effectiveness of banning certain substances or the rapid
development and application of renewable resources. Nor does this particular
set of beliefs share the optimistic noises about the possibilities for
recycling and the replacement of existing raw materials. In many cases this
just leads to the displacement of problems. Because it can never be determined
in advance whether or not environmental problems are insoluble it is best to
allow for a cautious margin for error by exercising restraint with respect to
consumer needs. This applies all the more since a high level of population
growth cannot be ruled out. Emphasis is also placed on reducing dependence on
natural resources. 

1.5.5               The Managing action perspective

The Managing action perspective is based on the assumption that, contrary to
the way in which they are met, needs cannot be rapidly changed. The natural
environment is regarded as 'robust within limits', meaning that these limits
need to be monitored closely in order to prevent accidents. Risks exceeding
those limits are not acceptable. The social capacity for adjustment is
regarded as considerable, but the optimism of the Preserving action
perspective is not shared. It is not for nothing that the present of level of
consumption in the West is widely pursued throughout the world. For this
reason the potential in terms of organised human inventiveness - R & D - needs
to be exploited in order to come up with new production methods that spare the
environment as far as possible. The focus is placed on regulating adjustments
in production. 

It is important to accumulate as much information as possible in order to
provide the foundation for a deliberate, future-oriented policy. This
information is used in order to accelerate the dematerialisation of
production, possibly followed by the dematerialisation of consumption. This
applies especially to the West, for at global level the consumption of
materials is increasing. By 'investing in the future' - for example by the
development of 'clean' technologies and new materials - it becomes possible on
a worldwide scale to revive renewable resources and reduce leakages.

1.5.6               The Preserving action perspective

Under the Preserving action perspective there is a willingness to change both
consumer and producer behaviour. Environmental risks are regarded as high and
avoiding them requires adjustments to the level or pattern of consumption and
changes in the relevant production activities. It is held that the necessary
social willingness will ultimately be available. Undoubtedly this will arouse
resistance, since the necessary intervention will cut across numerous
interests and acquired rights. 

This perspective seeks to minimise the uptake of non-renewable resources and
to control the utilisation of renewable resources in such a way that their
regenerative capacity is not overburdened. Under this vision, sustainable
development means that people must submit to tight ecological constraints and
reconcile themselves to a sober lifestyle. There is also considerable
confidence in the potential that technological contributions can make towards
solving environmental problems, but this is technology concerned with the
recycling of scarce raw materials and renewable sources of energy. By cutting
back heavily on the initial consumption of raw materials, the large-scale
closure of cycles and the increasing use of renewable resources, environmental
risks can be minimised. Even more than in the Saving perspective, the emphasis
is on meeting certain priority consumer needs for each world citizen now and
in the future. This course of action is advocated since a substantial increase
in population must be allowed for. The uptake of scarce resources by the rich
countries must be reduced so as to leave something for the developing
countries and for future generations. 

Where there is certainty about the consequences of human intervention (e.g.
the hole in the ozone layer), immediate adjustments in both production and
consumption are automatically required. New products may only be marketed if
their harmlessness to the environment has been demonstrated. As long as there
is uncertainty concerning the environmental consequences of behaviour that
behaviour needs to be modified in line with the risk. The scientific
uncertainty concerning the consequences of the combustion of fossil fuels or
the temperature of the earth, for example, entails such major risks that
energy use must be radically reduced as long as non-harmful energy extraction
(i.e. renewable sources) is not available. At the same time the process of
innovation must concentrate more on renewables. To an even greater extent than
under the Saving perspective the radical government intervention is
legitimated. This in turn calls for strong governments that are capable of
making use of all the available means, both directly and indirectly, for
example via the market. 

1.5.7               Scenarios

The description of the four sets of views above is based on the attitudes that
stem logically from the various risk perceptions in the ecological
(environmental) and societal/socio-economic domain. On the basis of those
perceptions choices are made. Confrontation with the consequences of those
choices can lead to a review of the a priori attitudes. For this reason, a
number of scenarios have been worked out in particular areas in Chapter 2. On
the one hand these illustrate the incompleteness of the information and the
scientific uncertainty, while on the other they demonstrate how different
attitudes need to be adopted in various areas if sustainability is to be a
'realistic' concept. 


1/        World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future;
          Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1987.

2/        'Regeringsverklaring nieuw kabinet: Beleid gericht op
          rechtvaardigeen evenwichtige verhoudingen' (Government declaration
          by new administration: Policy directed towards equitable and
          balanced relationships); Staatscourant, 27 November 1989, no. 231.

3/        Nationaal Milieubeleidsplan (National Environmental Policy Plan),
          Tweede Kamer 1988/1989, 21 137, nos. 1 and 2.

4/        Stephan Schmidheiny with the Business Council for Sustainable
          Development, Changing Course: a global business perspective on
          development and the environment; Massachusetts Institute of
          Technology, 1992.

5/        P.C. van den Noort, 'Groei als voorwaarde voor duurzaamheid' (Growth
          as a precondition for sustainability); Economisch Statistische
          Berichten, 4 August 1993, vol. 78, no. 3922.

6/        R. Hueting, 'The Brundtland report: a matter of conflicting goals';
          Ecological Economics, volume 2, 1990, pp. 109-117.

7/        C. Stortenbeker, 'Op weg naar het Paaseilandscenario' (On the way to
          the Easter Island scenario), in: Het Milieu: denkbeelden voor de
          21ste eeuw; by Commissie Lange Termijn Milieubeleid, Zeist,
          Kerkebosch bv, 1990.

8/        The dimension of I is environmental pollution, e.g. in the form of
          SO2 emissions or another emission unit; P is population size; W is
          gross national product per person in guilders; Ep is environmental
          intensity for unit of production in for example SO2 emissions and Ec
          ditto per unit of consumption, so that the dimension analysis

9/        R. Hueting, op. cit.

10/       H.E. Daly, 'Towards some operational principles of sustainable deve-
          lopment'; Ecological Economics, Vol. 2, 1-6-1990.

11/       J.B. Opschoor, Duurzaamheid en verandering; over de ecologische
          inpasbaarheid van economische activiteiten (Sustainability and
          change: on the ecological compatibility of economic activities);
          oration, Amsterdam, VU Uitgeverij, 1987.

12/       In his farewell lecture as Professor of Atmospheric Hygiene and
          Pollution at Wageningen Agricultural University, Adema refers to
          evolutionary development which '....as long as human beings do not
          get in the way in my view... is the purest form of sustainable
          development'. On the basis of a maximum permitted burden on the
          environment and the desired level of prosperity, he calculates that
          there is room for a maximum of two billion people in the year 2040.
          See: E.H. Adema, Boeren tussen hemel en aarde, hoe lang nog?
          (Farmers between heaven and earth, how much longer?), farewell
          lecture as Professor of Atmospheric Hygiene and Pollution at
          Wageningen Agricultural University on 28 April 1992.

13/       S. Rozendaal, 'Milieubeleid is geldverspilling. De tegendraadse
          opvattingen van politicoloog Aaron Wildavsky' (Environmental policy
          is a waste of money. The heretical views of the political scientist
          Aaron Wildavsky); Elsevier, 12 December 1992.

14/       M. Schwartz and M. Thompson, Divided we stand. Redefining politics,
          technology and social choice; New York, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990.

15/       G.A.J. Klaassen and J.B. Opschoor, 'Economic of sustainability or
          the sustainability of economics; different paradigms'; Ecological
          Economics, Vol. 4, 1991, pp. 93-115.

16/       R.A.P.M. Weterings & J.B. Opschoor, De milieugebruiksruimte als
          uitdaging voor technologie-ontwikkeling (The environmental
          utilization space, a challenge for technological development); Raad
          voor het Milieu- en Natuuronderzoek, Rijswijk, April 1992.

17/       Ibid.

18/       H.E. Daly, Steady-state economics, San Francisco, Freeman, 1973.

19/       E.H. Adema, op. cit.

20/       In search of indicators of sustainable development; by O. Kuik and
          H. Verbruggen (eds.), Kluwer, Dordrecht, 1991.

21/       J.T. Houghton, G.J. Jenkins and J.J. Ephraums (eds.), Climate
          change: the IPCC scientific assessment; Cambridge University Press, 


22/       For a commentary on the IPCC conclusions see for example: C.J.F.
          Bttcher, Science and fiction of the greenhouse effect and carbon
          dioxide; The Hague, The Global Institute for the Study of Natural
          Resources, 1992.

23/       P. van Egmond, F. Graafland, E. Hanekamp, A. Petit, J. Raad, Y. van
          Sark, N. Spanbroek and J. Vlak, 'Is een duurzaamheidsindicator (al)
          een betrouwbare barometer?' ('Is a sustainability indicator
          (already)a reliable barometer?'); Milieu, 1992/4, pp. 120-128.

24/       H. Opschoor, L. Reijnders, 'Towards sustainable development indica-
          tors'; in: O. Kuik and H. Verbruggen, op. cit.

25/       M. Schwartz and M. Thompson, op. cit.


2.1       Introduction

Sustainable development has been discussed in a general sense above. It was
made clear that science cannot be expected to reveal the path to
sustainability in any clear-cut manner; the available knowledge is too
fragmentary. But even full-scale (although inherently unattainable) knowledge
would still not dictate the goals, in that information, including the inherent
uncertainty and risks, can be weighed differently. It was contended that this
trade-off relates to both the ecological and the social domain. The analysis
gave rise to four generally formulated action perspectives, in which the risks
are weighed differently. 

The action perspectives will be worked out in more detail in time and space in
a number of areas that may be regarded as particularly problematical from an
environmental viewpoint. By working the action perspectives up into concrete
objectives and examining the adjustments this would require, greater clarity
may be obtained about the ways in which it is considered that sustainability
should be approached. 

The action perspectives and their specifications may be regarded as input
parameters for scenarios covering the period 1990-2040. For some this time-
span will be too long for achieving the proposed sustainability, while for
others it will be too short. The nature of the consequences to which the
selected goals in the various areas give rise may mean that the original
judgements have to be qualified. 

The topics examined below are, in order, the world food supply, energy, nature
and various resources. Although this selection does not cover the full range
of environmental problems, it does cover those areas where the demand for
sustainability is particularly acute. Not only do all these areas involve
radical environmental consequences but major social interests are also at
issue. The trade-off between the environment and social goals is particularly
stark in these areas, and the breaks in the trend that are deemed necessary
will therefore have substantial consequences. 

Most of the topics selected have been worked out at global level. That this
should be so is largely self-evident: energy and food supply, for example, are
global issues. Analysis at more local levels is not meaningless but can easily
remain a matter of good intentions if higher levels are not examined as well. 

The primarily global scale of sustainability does not mean that the analyses
have to be conducted solely at that level. Insight into the global energy
problem means that account has to be taken of highly divergent regional
developments. The nature of the regional particularisation required for the
analysis differs from topic to topic. Insight into the food supply, for
example, can be obtained at more local level than in the case of the energy

Separate studies have been conducted on each of these topics, which form an
important source of inspiration for the analysis below 1/. In addition the
suggestions made by a number of experts to whom the studies had been submitted
for comment were used. 

As far as possible each of the topics has been dealt with along the same lines
below. Following the identification of present developments, a 'reference'
scenario is extrapolated to the year 2040. To avoid any misunderstanding, this
is not the most likely development but is simply designed to show where the
present developments would lead in the absence of an exogenously or
endogenously induced change of course. The four action perspectives aimed at
sustainability are then each elaborated for the problem area in question. In
this way it becomes clear what weighting has been assigned to the
uncertainties and risks in the individual areas and the choices to which that
weighting has led. By examining these action perspectives in the form of
scenarios against the developments in the next 50 years, insight is obtained
into the potential consequences of the choices made. This is then examined in
more detail in the evaluation. 
The growth in population to the year 2040 is of major importance for both the
reference scenarios and the scenarios based on the action perspectives.
Although the growth in the world population depends in part on the action
perspective in question, it has been treated here as an exogenous variable. In
order to identify the potential impact of the action perspectives, a number of
variants of population growth have been used. 

Demographic trends vary widely throughout the world. In some parts of the
world there is concern about ageing 2/, while in other, much more sizeable
parts of the world with a comparatively youthful population structure, we are
witnessing population explosions. 

In order to incorporate demographic developments into the scenarios, the
United Nations long-term scenarios have been used. These forecasts elaborate
demographic developments at subcontinent level. The UN estimates that
depending on the growth scenario in question, there will be between 5 and 28
billion people in the world in the 2150 3/.

Because the scenarios presented in this report look to the year 2040 and
sometimes also relate to a lower level of scale, use has also been made of
another UN publication containing population projections for individual
countries up to the year 2025 4/. The population size in the year 2040 has
been arrived at by linear extrapolation between 2025 and 2150 and has then
been translated into the regions distinguished below. In those cases where the
analysis carried out for the present study relates to regions smaller than
those in the UN projections the latter figures have been adjusted. The results
are shown in Table 2.1.

Table 2.1      Population size of 19 world regions according to low, mean and
               high population growth in the period up to 2040

                                            Population size
                                             (in millions)
Region                          low growth    middle growth    high growth
South America                      481            558             663
Central America                    202            241             282
Caribbean                           48             55              65
North America                      274            328             398
North Africa                       277            343             419
West Africa                        466            635             798
Central Africa                     190            240             286
East Africa                        537            679             842
South Africa                        89            100             123
Oceania                             32             37              44
Southeast Asia                     658            820            1005
East Asia                         1503           1770            2098
South Asia                        1964           2408            2888
West Asia                          249            324             399
USSR                               323            369             419
Eastern Europe                     104            119             135
Southern Europe                    126            143             161
Western Europe                     131            151             172
Northen Europe                      75             85              95
World total                       7729           9405           11292

Source:  WRR on basis of United Nations, Long-range World Population
Projections (1950-2150); New York, 1992; United Nations Population
Reference Bureau, World Population data sheet; Washington D.C., 1992.

2.2       World food supply

2.2.1     Introduction

The most elementary prior condition for sustainable development is an
undisturbed food supply, as the persistence of the human race obviously
depends critically on a guaranteed food supply. At the same time agriculture
constitutes a threat to the continuation of nature and environment in many
places. In the case of the world food supply, the essence of the trade-off
problem outlined in Chapter 1 therefore soon becomes clear. 

The explosive growth of the world population has been accompanied by an
enormous expansion in food production. Whether the fivefold increase in the
world population in the 20th century has been made possible by the farmer or
the doctor is hard to say. What can be stated with certainty is that
structural food shortages have been eliminated in this century. The world food
production is now more than sufficient to feed everyone, but wars and other
disasters are responsible for acute local shortages. At the same time it has
become clear that agricultural production is not equally as easy everywhere.
Nor is it always risk-free. In some places too much is demanded of the
productive capacity of the land. Where there is over-exploitation this becomes
visible in various forms of environmental degradation, such as exhaustion,
erosion, soil pollution and salination.

In order to obtain a clearer view of the problems relating to the food supply,
a reference scenario is first worked out below. In this scenario a number of
current problems are discussed as well as problems that could develop up to
the reference year 2040 (partly in the light of the population growth). Four
scenarios are then examined each providing a different interpretation of a
sustainable agricultural system that would also be able to meet a reasonable
demand for food for well into the future without occasioning insuperable
socio-economic and/or environmental problems. The differences between the
scenarios are based on a distinction in the method of agricultural production
and differences in the consumer's level of needs. The elaboration of the
scenarios concludes with an evaluation, which includes a discussion of what is
needed in order to realise the various scenarios. It is then examined whether
those requirements could in fact be met. In doing so a distinction is drawn
between the required social adjustments, the uncertainties with respect to the
consequences for the environment and the potential conflicts between the
desire to meet the demand for food and other objectives relating to land and
water use. 

2.2.2          Reference scenario 5/

Trends in agricultural production 
Part of the increase in world food production has been due to the expansion of
the area under cultivation, but the bulk of the increase has been due to the
increase in agricultural productivity.

Agricultural techniques remained more or less unchanged for many centuries.
Only marginal improvements were made to cultivation techniques, resulting in
the case of grain production in average annual improvements of around 4 kg per
hectare. Since the start of the century yields have been increasing much more
rapidly, especially in the industrialised West. Average increases in yields
are now being achieved of around 80 kilograms per hectare per year. The growth
in productivity has therefore been characterised by breaks in the trend, also
known as 'green revolutions'. 

These breaks in the trend occurred in the industrialised world (Europe and
North America) between 1945 and 1955 and in a number of developing countries
(India, China and Indonesia) between 1965 and 1975. The revolution has still
to take place in other developing countries (namely almost the whole of Africa
and parts of West Asia). 

The sharp increases in agricultural productivity have been due to a
combination of improved operational technological know-how and the ability to
apply this knowledge. The resultant synergy has led to accelerating
productivity gains. In particular, the hefty increases in output per hectare
have been due to the ability to overcome poor soil fertility and water
shortages by means of fertilisers and irrigation. 

Even more impressive has been the increase in labour productivity. During the
course of this century labour productivity in agriculture has risen in the
industrialised world from 4 kg of wheat per man-hour to 600 kg per man-hour.
This is reflected in the loss of employment in agriculture. In 1860, 44 per
cent of the labour force in the Netherlands was still engaged in agriculture;
the figure is now around 5 per cent. Similar developments are currently taking
place much more rapidly in parts of China, India, Indonesia and South America.

For the world as a whole the production of food has risen slightly more
rapidly than the growth in population (2.3% compared with 1.9% a year in 1970-
1989). The growth in food production varies considerably in the various
regions of the world (see Figure 2.1). The FAO expects that food production
will continue to increase in many poor countries until the year 2010, at a
rate of just under 3 per cent a year. Compared with the period 1970-1989 this
represents a fall in growth. According to the FAO the growth in food
production in the rich countries is falling sharply to less than 1 per cent a
year due to the large production surpluses, virtual stagnation of exports and
limited rise in the demand for food.

Figure 2.1        Average yearly growth in food production in various
                  regions of the world, 1970-1985 (in %)

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:  N.Alexandratos (ed.), World Agriculture: Toward 2000; London,
Belhaven Press, 1988.

Nearly two thirds of the increase in food production in the poor countries has
been achieved by higher yields per hectare and around a third by an expansion
of the cultivated area. The latter creates enormous problems because it means
using increasingly marginal agricultural and environmentally highly vulnerable

Ranged against this growth in agricultural output has been a growth in the
population to be fed. The most recent FAO projections suggest that the growth
in food production will outstrip population growth in virtually every region
in the world. An exception is Southern Africa; although the situation is
improving in relative terms, the amount of food per head of population will
continue to fall by an average 0.2 per cent a year until the year 2010. During
the period 1970-1989 per capita food production fell by an average 1.1 per
cent a year. 

The overall conclusion reached by the FAO is that the availability of food in
developing countries can rise from 2500 kilocalories to 2700 kilocalories in
the year 2010. This does not eliminate the fact of continuing malnutrition in
numerous developing countries, especially in Southern Africa and Southern
Asia. Of the 800 million people who still face hunger and malnutrition, 650
million will remain in the same circumstances in 2010. 

Other institutes put forward somewhat different figures and more particularly
reach different conclusions. According to the Worldwatch Institute, for
example, per capita food production has ceased to increase throughout the
world since 1984 6/. According to their figures, the average growth in
production from that point on has been less than 1 per cent a year, while the
population has continued to increase at over 2 per cent a year. 

From this the conclusion is drawn that major problems are looming. The 6 per
cent fall in per capita food production between 1984 and 1992 cannot be viewed
in isolation. The degradation of the environment and the threat of a growing
greenhouse effect combined with a loss of momentum in food production and the
inability to check the growth of the world population will ultimately result
in growing hunger in the world.

Social problems in the food supply
Despite differences in interpretation, it is clear that the average
availability of food per head of population has increased in recent decades.
This is clearly evident from the rise in per capita grain production as shown
in Figure 2.2. The distribution of the food, however, is a source of major
concern. According to the FAO food has not become more readily available in
poor countries or for poor people in wealthier countries in recent decades.
This is therefore not so much a problem of food production and availability
but of access to food. The main causes of the distribution problems are war,
natural disasters and poverty. The disastrous food situation in a number of
African countries is largely attributable to the consequences of war, poor
government and the self-perpetuating effect of the poverty spiral. Healthy
agriculture requires investment in the means of production. The lack due to
poor harvests of the necessary financial resources to undertake such
investment results in a further decline in agricultural yields. This in turn
reduces the chance of the necessary investments being made in the following

Environmental problems associated with the supply of food
For all the benefits that agricultural production has brought, humankind has
been aware for many centuries that certain forms of agriculture also come at a
cost. The exhaustion of soils and over-utilisation of irrigation systems have
resulted in erosion and the irreversible loss of good soils. The bare hills in
the Mediterranean, especially Greece, provide evidence of this tragedy. The
same applies to the over-exploitation of irrigation in what used to be
Mesopotamia, where salination has rendered large areas unsuitable for
agriculture. Another example is the overcropping in the Mid-West of the United
States in the 1930s, which gave rise to extensive dust storms. 

Not that erosion is generally an undesirable phenomenon. On the contrary: the
inhabitants of lowlands, coastal areas and estuaries have erosion to thank for
the fertile soil on which they conduct their agriculture. The same applies to
the fertile loess regions that have been created in Asia by wind erosion. Soil
degradation due to erosion occurs primarily on less fertile soils. Agriculture
on excessively steep slopes or shallow soils or in semi-arid areas is inviting
difficulties. In many cases, however, the local population is forced to turn
these fertile soils to productive account due to population pressures and
poverty. Farmers lack the capital to maintain the soil fertility, so that the
soils become overfarmed and the soil degradation continues. 

Figure 2.2     Average cereal production per head of the world population,

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:   L.R. Brown, C. Flavin, H. Kane, Vital Signs, the trends that shape
our future 1992-1993;  London, Earthscan, 1992.

In sharp contrast to the environmental problems in agriculture caused by
poverty are those arising from prosperity. In parts of the industrialised
world and, increasingly, also in the NICs (Newly Industrialised Countries),
fertilisers and pesticides have been over-utilised in both environmental and
agricultural terms. This has caused major environmental problems. The same
applies to the consequences of large-scale irrigation projects that use water
in an uncontrolled manner. 

Environmental problems arising from poverty and wealth imperil the continuity
of food production. Food security is not, therefore, wholly guaranteed. 

On the basis of various figures an impression may be obtained of the extent to
which agricultural lands are at present suffering from soil degradation.
Figure 2.3 shows the estimated percentage of arable and pastoral land in the
various regions of the world that have been lost due to incorrect use. 

The human activities responsible for erosion may vary markedly from place to
place. Figure 2.4 provides a survey of the estimated shares of the various
activities in the total process. 

Figure 2.3      Percentages of arable and pastoral land in the various
                regions of the world where the consequences of erosion
                are discernible

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:   WRR, on basis of L.R. Oldeman, R.T.A. Hakkeling, W.G. Sombroek,
World map of the status of human-induced soil degradation. An
explanatory-note; Wageningen, International Soil Reference Information Centre,
1991 and World Resources Institute, World Resources 1992-93; New York, Oxford
University Press, 1992.

Figure 2.4          Estimated shares of various activities in the erosion of
                    agricultural lands: situation in 1990

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:             L.R. Oldeman, R.T.A. Hakkeling, W.G. Sombroek, World map
of the status of human-induced soil degradation. An explanatory note;
Wageningen, International Soil Reference Information Centre, 1991.

2.2.3               Lack of knowledge and structural uncertainties

In the previous section it was seen that the present trends in the food supply
can not beforehand be characterised as sustainable. The issue of the world
food supply is, however, subject to numerous uncertainties when it comes to
the possibilities. There is also a major lack of knowledge about the relevant
relationships: is the environment suffering especially from overinput or
underinput; can erosion be countered by changes in agriculture or do all
activities result in a loss of soil quality? These uncertainties and questions
have not only resulted in differences of insight into the present situation
but, as seen before, also in major differences in the way in which it is
considered that agriculture could develop. The FAO, for example, has conducted
various forward-looking studies based largely on the extrapolation of current
trends. The available production potential is of little if any account in such
analyses. The present scale of production is the decisive factor in estimates
of future production. This results in the expectation that the food supply
will not be able to grow sufficiently in order to meet the rising demand
caused by the growing world population. Shortages could therefore arise in due
course in many places. 

If greater confidence is invested in the human capacity to exploit the
production potential a totally different picture emerges. Calculations of the
world food production potential were made in a number of studies in the
1970s 7/. These calculations are based on all the lands that satisfy a
number of minimum agricultural requirements. The production potential can be
calculated on the basis of the quality of the various soils and the
characteristics of the local climate. These computations have not taken
account of possible limitations due to water shortages or of the possible
impact of climate change. The studies also indicate that a great deal more is
possible than assumed on the basis of the present scale of production. 

Any analysis of the possibilities for sustainable food production is obliged
to take account of the potential. For the purposes of this report the DLO
Institute for Agrobiological and Soil Fertility Research (AB-DLO) and the
Delft Hydraulics (WL) were asked to conduct a joint study into the ultimate
potentials for world food production. 

For the purposes of the study a number of assumptions have been made with
respect to sustainability. In the first place the latter presupposes the aim
of closing all cycles as effectively as possible. Agriculture makes use of
nature's productive capacity, tapping outputs from the system in the form of
products. If agriculture is to be maintained over a lengthier period, inputs
need to be added to the system in order to compensate for the tapped off
outputs. Now by definition inputs can never be 100 per cent converted into
outputs; this implies that part of the inputs will be lost to the environment
as leakages. These leakages can never be completely sealed off, so that the
substance cycles in agriculture can never be fully closed. 

Various strategies may be pursued in order to obtain an optimal result.
Efforts may be made to close cycles as far as possible at regional level in
order to bring the losses to the environment under local control. Another
strategy is based on closing the cycles at global level with a view to
maximising the efficiency of the system and hence minimising the overall
losses. Within each of these two approaches the agricultural system can be
organised in many different ways. 

The study carried out by the AB-DLO and WL works out two different systems of
agriculture that are considered to set out the extreme estimates for the
production potential without violating the principles of sustainable
production. These are Globally-Oriented Agriculture (GOA) and Locally-Oriented
Agriculture (LOA). 

GOA seeks to achieve sustainability by aiming at the maximum efficiency of
agriculture at global scale. This is based on the notion that the environment
is best served by the lowest possible loss of inputs per unit of output. This
then makes it possible for comparatively high local leakages to the
environment to be accepted with a view to reducing the overall burden on the
environment. By making use of efficiently produced fertiliser and transporting
it to places where these nutrients can be converted as efficiently as possible
into agricultural products, an attempt is made to limit the total losses as
far as possible. 

With a view to guaranteeing sustainability, LOA aims as far as possible at
closing regional or local cycles. This is based on the underlying premise that
the quality of the environment is best served by the lowest possible loss of
inputs per hectare. This principle results in the deployment of techniques
that avoid the use of external, alien substances such as fertilisers and
pesticides wherever possible. Efficiency is therefore defined at a totally
different level of scale. 

Both globally and locally-oriented agriculture aim at maximum efficiency
within their own limiting conditions, with a view to the sustainable
functioning of the entire system. Under the GOA system the output is
ultimately limited by the available agricultural land and the local
availability of water. Under the LOA system the output is limited not just by
the local availability of land and water but also by the amount of nitrogen
that can be fixed from the atmosphere by natural means. In addition other
physical conditions play a role in determining the production potential, such
as the quality of the soil. The computations have been made on the assumption
that other aspects, such as energy, minerals, investments and labour, do not
impose constraints. Any demand for energy or investment can therefore be met
in both the GOA and the LOA system. In relation to the present situation this
represents a substantial expansion of production. 

In many parts of the world, however, there are distinct limitations,
attributable to the lack of resources and manpower. The necessary quantities
of fertiliser or energy are, for example, by no means procurable universally.
Furthermore, the necessary infrastructure is lacking in many places. Even if
money were for example available under development projects to buy fertiliser,
it remains questionable whether the fertiliser could be applied in the right
place in the right way. The assumptions on which this model study is based
therefore clearly indicate that the calculations can provide insight into the
maximum potentialities of both agricultural systems, but these potentialities
tell us little if anything about probable developments in the various regions.
For this, far more information is required on the range of obstacles impeding
agricultural development in various places.

The availability of water does, however, constitute a possible obstruction in
calculating the production potentials of both systems. The maximum
possibilities have therefore been made dependent on physical factors. This has
been calculated by examining how much water is available for irrigation
purposes in each catchment area in the 19 regions distinguished in section
2.1. For each region the demand that can be derived from possible population
developments on the basis of UN scenarios has been combined with the
production possibilities. The basic calculations of these potentials have been
made on a 1x1 grid basis. The comparison between demand and supply indicates
whether the demand for food can be satisfied in each of the 19 regions, while
at a world scale it is possible to establish whether agricultural production
is able to feed the growing population. The differences between the regions
are indicative for the need for the transport of food from surplus to shortage

Opinions on sustainable food production differ not only in relation to the
potential agricultural techniques but also as to the package of food which the
average world citizen could consume in the future. 

The choice in favour of a Western or a Moderate diet is prompted by differing
estimates of the environmental consequences. The choice in favour of a
Moderate diet may be based on the view that in the long term the world
population cannot be fed at the present level of Western consumption as this
would impose an undue strain on the environment. In the case of a Western
diet, by contrast, the environmental risks are deemed acceptable. It may be
noted that neither of these two diets is extreme; the Moderate diet is
substantially higher than the present world average, while the Western diet is
lower than the present level of consumption in, for example, the United
States. The Western diet contains a comparatively high proportion of meat and
is equal to the present level of average European consumption. This requires a
primary production of around 4.2 kilograms of grain-equivalents per person per
day 8/. The Moderate diet requires around 2.4 kilograms of grain-equivalent
per person per day. The difference is due to the conversion of cereals into
meat. In some countries, a high degree of efficiency has been achieved in
converting animal fodder into meat. This applies especially to intensive
livestock farming. The global average is around 8 kilograms of grain per kilo
of meat. A diet containing more meat therefore leads to a substantial increase
in the necessary volume of grain-equivalents. 

The calculations have drawn on two estimates for the growth of the world
population based on United Nations figures 9/. The low estimate produces a
figure of 7.7 billion people in 2040 and the high estimate a figure of 11.2
billion. A decision in favour of either one of these variants will obviously
have a major impact on the results of the calculations. 

2.2.4               Action perspectives

The four action perspectives referred to in Chapter 1 differ in terms of food
supply with respect to the combinations of production techniques and diets.
Table 2.2 indicates how the Utilizing, Saving, Managing and Preserving action
perspectives relate to the normative differences in insight. 

Table 2.2           Action perspectives for sustainable development of the
                    world food supply

                                  Luxury package       Moderate Package
Globally oriented agriculture        Utilizing              Saving
Locally oriented agriculture         Managing              Preserving

Source:             WRR, on basis of Sustainable World Food Production and
Environment: Options for Alternative Developments; by P.S. Bindraban. H. van
Keulen, F.W.T. Penning de Vries et al., forthcoming.

The Utilizing perspective aims at the provision of a Western diet on a
worldwide basis as quickly as possible. It is assumed that this level of
consumption is consistent with the ambitions in large parts of the world.
Potential environmental problems are regarded as not insuperable. In addition,
there is marked confidence in technological solutions to environmental
problems. In particular, increasing agricultural output on good soils can
result in the highly efficient utilisation of physical inputs such as
fertilisers and pesticides, to the benefit of the environment. Per unit of
product this agricultural technique requires a minimum level of physical
inputs. Furthermore, comparatively little land is taken up at maximum levels
of production. The social risks associated with the introduction of a
production-oriented agricultural system that is required to meet a sharply
increasing demand for food are regarded as acceptable under this vision.
Relevant know-how is also increasingly exploited by food producers throughout
the world. 

The Saving perspective considers that major environmental risks are attached
to feeding a rapidly rising world population. Locally-oriented agriculture
would, however, involve an excessive change in relation to the present forms
of agriculture, for which reason it is sought to minimise the risks for the
environment by limiting the demand for food. This will involve a substantial
reduction in the pressure exerted by the agricultural system on the
environment. The aim is for a moderate diet - without much meat - for each
world citizen now and in the future. This situation must be realised by the
redistribution of the food produced. Residual environmental problems that
could arise under the globally-oriented system are regarded as soluble. The
system can be finely tuned to the point that alien substances such as
fertilisers and pesticides need not be released in large quantities into the

The Managing perspective departs from the aim of a moderate diet on account of
the associated social risks. This must not, however, be at the expense of
subsequent generations. The risks to the environment of a globally-oriented
agricultural system are therefore regarded as excessive. The environment faces
threats not so much from the losses per unit product as from the local losses
to the various environmental compartments. Water, soil and air must be or
remain of high quality and energy and resources must be used sparingly. The
comparatively high uptake of land that may be expected under a locally-
oriented agricultural system is regarded as less of a problem, as are the
necessary adjustments in the structure of production. 

Under the Preserving perspective the risks to the environment are regarded as
so grave that the demand for food needs to be limited and local substance
cycles optimised by the development of modified agricultural systems. The
introduction of alien substances and the long-range transportation of
potentially harmful substances (e.g. fertilisers) are considered to pose an
undue risk to the environment. The social risks of 'adjusting' the demand to a
Moderate diet are regarded as acceptable. It must be possible at global level
to hold down the trend towards rising levels of consumption of animal protein.
In the rich countries, the consumption of meat will therefore need to fall
sharply to around 40 grams a week. The reduction in demand combined with
careful chain-management at local scale would guarantee a sustainable world
food supply. Here too the emphasis is on an equitable distribution of the by
no means overabundant supply of food. 

2.2.5               Translation of the action perspectives into scenarios

The potential grain yields per hectare, corrected for storage and transport
losses, are between four tonnes under Locally-Oriented Agriculture (LOA) and
10 tonnes per hectare under Globally-Oriented Agriculture (GOA). In the
tropics two to three crops can be cultivated per year given sufficient
irrigation water. An estimate of the suitable area is required in order to
determine the potential yield. The land must be capable of supporting
sustained farming over a number of years, so that vulnerable lands have been
left out of account. By way of illustration, 128 million hectares of land are
currently used for agriculture in the EC, while on the basis of the soil
properties, the AB-DLO/WL study reaches the conclusion that 80 million
hectares may be deemed suitable for agriculture in the longer term.

The available land in each of the regions may or may not be irrigated.
Clearly, this depends on the amount of water available for irrigation purposes
in the region in question. It will also be clear that the various production
levels of LOA and GOA result in different water requirements. Taking
everything into consideration, the distribution is as shown in Figure 2.5. In
all cases over 8 billion hectares (approximately 70% of the total area) is
unsuitable for agriculture. In the scenarios based on locally-oriented
agriculture, some 20 per cent of the area is irrigated. Globally-oriented
agriculture results in the irrigation of some 14 per cent of the total area.
This distribution turns out to be comparatively insensitive to the various
world population growth variants. Although the demand for water for household
and industrial purposes rises in line with the population, this increase has
little if any impact on the total amount of water available for agriculture. 

The results of the calculations based on the number of people in the region,
the preferred level of consumption and the agricultural system in question are
shown in Figure 2.6 for the high population growth variant and in Figure 2.7
for the low population growth variant. 

Figure 2.5   Breakdown into suitable and unsuitable agricultural land under
             Locally-Oriented Agriculture and Globally-Oriented Agriculture

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:   WRR, on basis of Sustainable World Food Production and Environment;
Options for Alternative Developments; by P.S. Bindraban, H. van Keulen, F.W.T.
Penning de Vries et al., forthcoming.

Figure 2.6   Self-sufficiency index in the four scenarios for the 19 world
             regions given high population growth, 2040

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:   WRR, on basis of Sustainable World Food Production and Environment;
Options for Alternative Developments; by P.S. Bindraban, H. van Keulen, F.W.T.
Penning de Vries et al., forthcoming. 

Figure 2.7   Self-sufficiency index in the four scenarios for the 19 world
             regions given low population growth, 2040

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:   WRR, on basis of Sustainable World Food Production and Environment;
Options for Alternative Developments; by P.S. Bindraban, H. van Keulen, F.W.T.
Penning de Vries et al., forthcoming. 

From Figures 2.6 and 2.7 it may be seen that self-sufficiency is realisable at
global level in all the four scenarios. Even in the low population growth
variant, however, there are shortages in a number of regions in three of the
four scenarios. Only in the Saving scenario under low population growth can
self-sufficiency be achieved in each region. This implies that in all other
scenarios, certain regions suffer from shortages and that inter-regional trade
is required in order to meet food needs. 

A self-sufficiency index does not of course tell us much about the absolute
quantities, for which reason the results of the scenarios are shown in
somewhat different form in Tables 2.3 and 2.4. In these tables the maximum
production per region is compared with the regional demand, which is equal to
a self-sufficiently index of 1.1. A safety margin of 10 per cent has therefore
been built in in all regions. Table 3.3 indicates the consequences of this
under high population growth. In this case the Managing scenario turns out to
be unattainable. The combination of locally-oriented agriculture and the wish
to provide a Western diet therefore proves out of reach given a high rate of
population increase. At world level there remains a shortfall of around 1.5
billion tonnes of grain equivalent. 

The other scenarios show a surplus. The imposed 110 per cent self-sufficiency
can therefore be achieved. In all three of these scenarios, however, there
remain regions with a shortfall, especially Asia (E, SE, S and to a lesser
extent W). These will need to be supplemented from other regions with a food
surplus. It is not however possible to specify a criterion to indicate which
other regions will become exporters with a view to redressing the global
balance. What the scenarios can do is to indicate the total shortage in the
regions with a deficit. This total shortage provides an initial indication of
the trade flows that would be required in order to meet the demand in all

The biggest trade flow is required under the Utilizing scenario and amounts to
around 5.5 billion tonnes. This is followed by the Preserving scenario, with
around 4 billion tonnes, and finally the Saving scenario with around 1 billion
tonnes. The figures also reveal that the impact of a change in the diet is
greater than that of the production technique applied. Different population
growth figures also have a major impact on the necessary trade flows. Given
low population growth (Table 2.4) all four of the scenarios prove attainable.
The necessary transport flows amount in this case to 5.5 billion tonnes
(Managing), 2 billion tonnes (Utilizing and Preserving) and zero (Saving). 

2.2.6               Evaluation

Prior conditions for safeguarding world food production
Enough food can be produced to feed the entire world in almost any of the
scenarios. Depending on the level of consumption selected, the agricultural
system in question and the availability of water, between 11 billion (Managing
scenario) and 44 billion (Saving scenario) people can be fed worldwide. A
sustainable food supply does not therefore run up against the limits of a
physical environmental utilisation space for the world as a whole. The extent
to which the world population can be fed depends rather on political and
socio-economic factors. 

An important demand made in many countries and regions is the ability to feed
one's own population. Various economic blocs (EU, NAFTA and the former
COMECON) attach major importance to food security, thereby underlining the
strategic importance of food. The analysis in this report does not permit
statements to be made at individual country level, although the possibilities
for self-sufficiency at the level of large regions can be established. 

                                     Table 2.3

   Regional production balance in the four scenarios given a self-sufficiency
   index of 1.1 and high population growth (in 10e6 tonnes)

                           Preserving                    Saving
                         (LOA/moderate)              (GOA/moderate)
                   Production Demand Balance     Production Demand Balance
S-America           5353      630       4724      13173     630   12543
C-America            420      268        152        976     268     709
Caribbean             23       62        -30         57      62      -5
N-America           1612      378       1235       3539     378    3161
N-Africa             359      398        -39        637     398     239
W-Africa             847      758         90       2049     758    1291
C-Africa            1944      271       1672       4966     271    4695 
E-Africa            1585      799        786       3645     799    2845
S-Africa             399      116        282        768     116     652
Oceania             1184       42       1142       2069      42    2026 
SE-Asia              583      955       -372       1386     955     431
E-Asia               912     1993      -1082       1958    1993     -36
S-Asia               775     2744      -1969       1897    2744    -847
W-Asia               163      379       -216        340     379     -39
USSR                 939      398        541       2110     398    1712
E-Europe             100      128        -28        245     128     117
S-Europe              82      153        -71        188     153      36
W-Europe             128      163        -35        319     163     155
N-Europe              52       91        -38        118      91      27

World              17461    10725       6735      40438   10725   29713

                              Managing                     Utilizing
                           (LOA Western)                 (GOA/western)
                    Production Demand  Balance   Production Demand Balance

S-America            5353      1109      4244     13173      1109  12063
C-America             420       471       -52       976       471    505
Caribbean              23       109       -86        57       109    -52
N-America            1612       665       947      3539       665   2874
N-Africa              359       700      -342       637       700    -64
W-Africa              847      1335      -487      2049      1335    714
C-Africa             1944       478      1466      4966       478   4488
E-Africa             1585      1408       177      3645      1408   2236
S-Africa              399       205       194       768       205    563
Oceania              1184        74      1110      2069        74   1994
SE-Asia               583      1682     -1099      1386      1682   -296
E-Asia                912      3511     -2600      1958      3511  -1554
S-Asia                775      4834     -4059      1897      4834  -2937
W-Asia                163       667      -505       340       667   -328
USSR                  939       701       238      2110       701   1409
E-Europe              100       226      -126       245       226     19
S-Europe               82       269      -188       188       269    -81
W-Europe              128       288      -159       319       288     31
N-Europe               52       160      -107       118       160    -42

World               17461     18894     -1433     40438     18894  21544

Source:  WRR, on basis of "Sustainable Food Production and Environment; Option
for Alternative Developments; by P.S. Bindraban, H. van Keulen, F.W.T. Penning
de Vries et al., forthcoming.

                                      Table 2.4

  Regional production balance in the four scenarios given a self-sufficiency
  index of 1.1 and low population growth (in 10e6 tonnes)

                          Preserving                        Saving
                        (LOA/moderate)                  (GOA/moderate)
                 Production  Demand  Balance   Production  Demand  Balance
S-America           5353       457      4896      13173     457     12716
C-America            420       192       228        976     192       784
Caribbean             23        45       -22         57      45        11
N-America           1612       260      1352       3539     260      3279
N-Africa             359       263        96        637     263       374
W-Africa             847       443       404       2049     443      1606
C-Africa            1944       181      1763       4966     181      4785
E-Africa            1585       510      1075       3645     510      3135
S-Africa             399        84       314        768      84       684
Oceania             1184        31      1154       2069      31      2038
SE-Asia              583       625       -42       1386     625       761 
E-Asia               912      1428      -516       1958    1428       530
S-Asia               775      1866     -1091       1897    1866        31
W-Asia               163       236       -74        340     236       103
USSR                 939       307       632       2110     307      1803
E-Europe             100        99         2        245      99       146
S-Europe              82       120       -38        188     120        68
W-Europe             128       125         4        319     125       194
N-Europe              52        71       -19        118      71        47

World              17461      7343     10118      40438    7343     33095

                             Managing                     Utilizing
                          (LOA Western)                 (GOA/western)
                 Production   Demand   Balance   Production  Demand  Balance
S-America           5353       805      4548      13173     805     12367
C-America            420       338        81        976     338       638
Caribbean             23        80       -57         57      80       -23
N-America           1612       459      1154       3539     459      3080
N-Africa             359       463      -104        637     463       174
W-Africa             847       780        67       2049     780      1268
C-Africa            1944       318      1626       4966     318      4648
E-Africa            1585       899       687       3645     899      2746
S-Africa             399       148       250        768     148       620
Oceania             1184        54      1131       2969      54      2015
SE-Asia              583      1101      -518       1386    1101       285
E-Asia               912      2515     -1603       1958    2515      -557
S-Asia               775      3287     -2512       1897     3287    -1390
W-Asia               163       417      -254        340     417       -77
USSR                 939       541       398       2110     541      1569
E-Europe             100       174       -74        245     174        71
S-Europe              82       211      -130        188     211       -23
W-Europe             128       220       -92        319     220        99
N-Europe              52       125       -73        118     125        -7

World              17461     12935      4526      40438    12935     27503

Source:  WRR, on basis of "Sustainable World Food Production and Environment;
Option for alternative Developments; by P.S. Bindraban, H. van Keulen, F.W.T.
Penning de Vries et al., forthcoming.

The results indicate that sufficient food can always be produced in South
America, North America, Central Africa and Oceania to meet the demand,
irrespective of the preferred diet. In East and South Asia, however, this is
only the case given a moderate diet and a globally-oriented agricultural
system. Problems can arise in various regions. In a limited number of regions
(North and South America and Europe) one can in fact afford the luxury of a
Western diet combined with locally-oriented agriculture, but this is an
exception. For the rest of the world the distribution of food is a possibil-
ity. This presupposes an economic climate conducive to international trade,
adequate purchasing power in the deficit regions and a high degree of
international solidarity. In terms of the present world community, these are
extremely exacting conditions. 

In the regions where more food is produced than required for self-sufficiency,
it is in principle possible to increase production in order to offset the
shortages in other regions. The regions in which such extra production would
need to take place would depend on the optimal level of production in each
region. The desire to minimise the transportation of agricultural commodities
throughout the world might for example lead to a choice to locate the
additional production as close as possible to the areas of shortage. On the
other hand the optimisation requirement might mean that the additional
production was located in those areas where the highest yields could be
obtained with the least amount of irrigation. 

In all cases the scenarios outlined above will involve enormous changes in the
agricultural system in comparison with the present structure. These
adjustments will require across the board cooperation by all concerned. In
both a system aimed more at self-sufficiency and one based on international
trade, considerable demands will be made on international cooperation and
solidarity. Just how likely this is to succeed can be assessed very differ-

Both the agricultural systems that have been elaborated are based on optimal
management methods. This will require a great deal of know-how, insight and
'green' fingers - which will also need to be combined with 'green' brains. The
entire know-how innovation system will need to be geared to this end. In
practice, this is asking a great deal. It implies for example that farmers be
well educated and that modern technologies be available worldwide. This will
require an enormous transfer of know-how and technology. A huge effort will be
required to achieve this situation within a time-frame of 50 years. As noted
earlier, the results mainly indicate the potential, not the most probable
development. If it proves impossible in large parts of the world to meet the
prior conditions for optimal agriculture this will create additional problems.
The aim of a Western diet in a situation where regional food needs can
scarcely be met will then be an illusion. There will probably be numerous
physical and organizational obstacles towards bringing about the optimal
On the other hand it should be noted that policies aimed at bringing about a
moderate diet will be very difficult to operationalise. Despite the enormous
growth in population, animal production in the developing countries is rising
substantially. The FAO anticipates that the per capita consumption of cereals
in developing countries will rise disproportionately as a result of the rapid
growth in livestock farming. The developing countries will therefore need to
increase their grain imports. It is therefore expected that local displacement
can take place of the cereal production potential for human consump-
tion 10/. The demand for meat is evidently very strong. In reality the
choice between the Western or Moderate diet is substantially more complicated.
For those who can afford it the Western diet acts as a natural norm. For the
remainder, who have to survive on what's left, the Moderate diet becomes an
unaffordable luxury. 

Environmental consequences of the scenarios
The globally oriented agricultural system assumes the availability of the
necessary external inputs. The requirement of best technical means assumes
that the production techniques applied will have only limited negative effects
on the environment. The quality of the soil will for example need to be
maintained. In the present situation this is not the case. It will also be
difficult to limit nitrogen losses under Locally-Oriented Agriculture, meaning
there will be an impact on the environment. Locally, the leakages per hectare
will be greater under Globally-Oriented Agriculture than under Locally-
Oriented Agriculture. However, since the production under LOA is lower than
under GOA, the leakages per unit product will be higher. Both LOA and the
desire to provide a Western diet will necessitate a higher volume of
interregional food trade. In the case of LOA this will in fact be at variance
with the underlying premises, such as that of closing substance cycles. 

The differences between non-irrigated and irrigated production are dramatic.
In river basins there will often be no lack of water to realise maximum
production. In Europe, for example, a good deal of water is available in a
comparatively small area. Similarly there is sufficient water for food
production in Iran, even though the availability of water in the catchment
area is lower, since the agricultural area is extremely limited. In South
America, which has a large catchment area, water is by contrast a limiting
factor for food production because the area available for agriculture is so

The application of irrigation is based on the most efficient techniques. Even
more would be possible if household and industrial waste water were to be used
for irrigation. All this makes heavy demands on the available technical know-
how but also on the institutional and social structure, as well as political
stability in the region in question, in that there is the potential for
conflict between the various categories of water users, not just between
households, industry, agriculture, fishery and the like but also between
individual countries and regions. Access to water is already giving rise to
conflicts, which can only be exacerbated as population pressures mount.

Apart from increasing yields irrigation can also have negative effects on the
environment, such as a growing nutrient load, salination, diseases, drying up
of soils elsewhere and soil erosion. The quality of the water available for
irrigation is also important. High salt concentrations and other forms of
pollution are harmful to agricultural crops and will lower the potential

Relationship with other goals
The availability and suitability of land constitute a vital factor for food
production. Together with the availability of water these determine the
potential yield of a region. The availability of land depends in part on the
agricultural system chosen. A production-oriented agricultural system will
require less land than biological agriculture. 

Few standard figures are available on the suitability of land on a worldwide
basis. Suitability is at present determined on the basis of relatively simple
criteria. Soils that cannot be farmed with modern, mechanised agricultural
techniques are designated as unsuitable. Processes such as acidification,
nutrient exhaustion or deforestation and over-exploitation are left out of
account in determining suitability. These processes can however substantially
damage the quality of the soil and hence the latter's suitability for
agriculture 11/.

A large area of land is required for food production. A good deal of land
remains available for agriculture, for example in South and North America and
Central and North Africa. The area considered suitable for agriculture,
however, includes the present tropical rainforests, including those in Central
and Southern Africa. Realisation of the agricultural potential in these
regions will often involve large-scale deforestation, with an increased risk
of soil erosion. 

Clearly, other claims on land can come into sharp conflict with the demands
made by food supply. The overall picture is, however, that 70 per cent or more
of the total area is not deployed for agricultural purposes in all the
scenarios. This area is therefore available for other claims, e.g. nature
conservation. These macro figures do, however, disguise the locally strong
competition between the various forms of land-use. In general it is fair to
say that the less land demanded for agriculture the more opportunities there
are for the realisation of other goals. This means that both the aim of a
moderate diet and the development of a globally oriented agricultural system
can contribute towards the solution of land-use conflicts. 

If nature conservation policy is interpreted as the preservation of 'culti-
vated nature', a combination with locally-oriented agriculture may stand a
greater chance under certain supplementary limiting conditions. A
concentration of the results of the various elaborations with respect to
nature with the scenarios for world food supply can throw further light on
this subject. In any case it is clear that not every combination of wishes
with respect to nature and food supply is possible in all regions. 

2.3                 Energy

2.3.1               Introduction

The global energy supply occupies a central place in the discussions about
sustainable development. The supply of energy is vitally important for the
functioning of the economy. There is a widespread impression that the
sustainability of the world energy system is under threat in various respects.
Both exhaustion and pollution are regarded as key factors. 

The growth in the demand of energy means that the exhaustion of energy
reserves is now a genuine prospect. The process of industrialisation and
associated rise in living standards has contributed in large measure to the
demand for energy. The question of possible exhaustion was already raised in
Britain in the 19th century. The economist William Stanley Jenkins, for
example, asked what would happen if coal reserves were to be exhausted 12/.
Although he saw that technical improvements and substitution could bring
alleviation, he concluded in relation to the limited reserves in Britain that
'we have to make a choice between brief greatness and longer continued
mediocrity'. Energy reserves have risen substantially since Jevons's time and,
due in part to the exploitation of oil and gas reserves, the growth in energy
consumption has been able to continue undiminished.

At the same time, we have obtained a much clearer idea of the remaining
reserves of fossil energy as a result of intensified and technologically more
advanced exploration. If the consumption of energy rises several fold in the
next few decades, primarily as a result of the rising prosperity and unbridled
population growth in the Third World, fossil energy reserves, the extraction
of which is comparatively straightforward and subject to only limited
environmental damage, could be exhausted. This applies especially to oil and
gas reserves. In an environmental sense the extraction of oil and gas not only
compares favourably with the remaining fossil reserves, such as coal, but also
leads to fewer emissions upon combustion than for example does coal. 
The next century may therefore see not so much an absolute as a relative
exhaustion of energy reserves, in that fossil alternatives will always be
available upon the exhaustion of oil and gas, even if the scale is unclear,
although it may be assumed that the costs of extraction of those alternatives
will rise. It would also be possible to turn more to nuclear energy, but this
would involve serious safety risks. Geopolitical risks are rising since the
energy cartels can operate more effectively in conditions of growing scarcity.
Finally, the environmental costs of a number of conceivable alternatives to
oil and gas are greater than those at present. 

Sustainable development implies that the consumption of energy by the present
generation should not be at the expense of the ability of future generations
to meet their needs. It is however open to question whether the pace of
consumption of the world energy reserves and the consequences of that
consumption for the environment are in accordance with the objective of
sustainable development.

2.3.2               Reference scenario

In order to provide insight into global energy consumption trends, the Council
has drawn up a reference scenario. Particularly important trends in this
regard are population growth, industrialisation and the rise in living
standards in the Third World. The reference scenario indicates the scale that
the global consumption of energy could achieve and in what period this could
occur if no limits were to be imposed by scarcity or environmental factors. To
this end the reference scenario has been projected forward to the year 2040
and also throws light on a limited period beyond that date. 

The demand for energy
The development in the demand for energy in the action perspectives takes
place as a reaction to the rising price of energy, which in turn is a
translation of the acceptance of environmental and scarcity risks elaborated
in the perspectives. The reference scenario by contrast abstracts from the
cost factors that are characteristic of the various action perspectives. In
this way the reference scenario reflects a widely supported demand-led
development and therefore provides an indication of the need for energy in a
world unhampered by physical and geopolitical scarcities, environmental risks
and the like. Such 'maximisation' enables a clear light to be cast on the
problems that could arise as a result of present-day ambitions and develop-
ments. The action perspectives represent sustainable development trends as a
response to this. 

This means that the reference scenario is atypical. It differs from the
business-as-usual reference scenarios, which are based on plausible develop-
ments given unchanged policies. The compilation of a plausible long-term trend
requires that account be taken of all kinds of positive and negative
feedbacks. A reference scenario drawn up along these lines would cease to be a
true reflection since the fact that the feedbacks can be highly divergent in
nature would remain underexposed.

The reference scenario as developed here is therefore based on an energy-
supply situation such as applied for a large part of this century. Over the
course of time increasingly inaccessible reserves of fossil energy have been
tapped. Advances in extraction technology have prevented the cost of energy
from rising. In the reference scenario it has been assumed that the progress
in extraction technology can provide long-term compensation for the deterio-
ration in extraction conditions. 

The high energy prices in the period 1973-1986 associated with the oil crisis
depart from this long-term path. The reference scenario abstracts from this.
It is notable that, calculated in 1990 dollars, the oil price in 1986 of $15
per barrel is back to near the 1973 level. After the Gulf crisis had caused a
temporary price increase, the price of oil fell back once more in 1994 to
close to 1973 levels. In comparison with the period before 1986 the pace at
which energy conservation is taking place has clearly eased. 

The construction of the reference scenario draws on the development of per
capita energy consumption. From 1950 onwards the latter grew markedly in all
the countries of the OECD as well as in the former Eastern bloc countries. For
these countries as a whole a certain stabilisation in per capita consumption
occurred in the 1970s. This stabilisation was the most pronounced in the
United States, where the consumption at nearly 300 GigaJoule (GJ) per head is
significantly higher than in the remainder of the industrialised world. In
Western Europe the figure is 175 GJ. The reference scenario has assumed that
per capita energy consumption will eventually rise to saturation point. This
appears virtually to have been achieved in the United States, a particularly
mature economy. In most other developed market economies, however, per capita
energy consumption continues to rise. 

At a constant price level it is reasonable to assume that per capita energy
consumption will reach saturation point. Many energy applications themselves
have a saturation point, while limits probably also apply to the demand by
individuals for heating, ownership of household appliances and mobility.
Similarly the demand for materials, the production of which generally takes a
great deal of energy, has proved subject to saturation in more mature
economies. In so far as the consumption of energy continues to increase in
growth sectors, that consumption is offset by an autonomous flow of improve-
ments in energy efficiency across the sectoral board. In terms of per capita
energy consumption, the reference scenario is assumed to describe a logistic
curve. This indicates how initially exponential or proportionate growth
gradually tapers off as saturation point is reached.

The long-term development in the consumption of energy in the industrialised
economies (the 'North') has been separately described in the reference
scenario from the energy consumption in the Third World, or 'South'. Due among
other things to climatic factors, the saturation level in the North as a whole
has been put at a lower figure than per capita consumption in the United
States, namely 265 GJ per head 13/.

With regard to the global demand for energy, developments in the demand for
energy in the Third World are much more important than those in the North. The
consumption of energy is likely to rise substantially in the South for three
reasons. First, the population is bound to continue rising sharply in the
decades ahead in the South as a result of the youthful age structure of the
population; over a third of the population in the Third World is aged under
15. The consumption of energy will increase if only because each individual
necessarily consumes energy. Secondly, large parts of the Third World are
going through a stage of economic development that is associated with high
energy-intensity. Thirdly, economic development means rising living standards,
which in turn is associated with a more energy-intensive life-style. These
three factors, combined with the fact that the energy efficiency in the South
often lags behind that in the North, mean that the consumption of energy in
the South will exceed that in the North within the foreseeable future 14/. 

For the time being the consumption of energy in the South is still in the
initial stage of the logistic curve, namely that of virtually unbridled
proportionate growth. The level to which per capita energy consumption will
rise in the South in the next century is debatable. Apart from the lower
requirement for space heating, the ambitions that have been expressed provide
few if any arguments as to why the per capita energy consumption in the South
in the reference scenario should not in due course rise to the levels in the
North. The developments in Asia and, to a lesser extent, in Latin America
indicate that significant economic growth is to be anticipated in the South in
the coming decades. 

Along the same lines as the projection for the development of consumption in
the North, per capita consumption in the South has been drawn up in the
reference scenario on the basis of a logistic growth curve. A comparable
saturation point for per capita energy consumption has been assumed to that in
the North, which will be achieved around the end of the next century. 

The development in per capita energy consumption in the North and South
according to the reference scenario is shown in Figure 2.8. During the first
stage of the logistic curve there is unbridled or proportionate growth; a
figure of 5 per cent a year has been assumed 15/. The United Nations middle
population projection combined with the per capita energy consumption provides
a reference scenario for the total energy consumption, broken down into the
North and South shares. 

Figure 2.8          Per capita energy consumption in the reference scenario

                                       (Not available on the Internet) 

Source:  WRR.

Table 2.5            Energy consumption in the reference scenario; middle

Unit: EJ            1990    2020   Growth in %     2040     Growth in %
                                   1990-2020                2020-2040
World               302      798        3.3                 1411        2.9
North               220      322        1.3                  347        0.4
South                82      476        6.0                 1064        4.1

Source:   WRR.

What is the relationship between the cumulative consumption of energy and
energy reserves in the reference scenario? Estimates of the ultimately
exploitable reserves of fossil energy are shown in Table 3.6. The cumulative
consumption of energy between 1990 and 2040 according to various variants
ranges from 30,000 EJ to 40,000 EJ 16/. Assuming that three quarters of
this energy consumption relates to fossil fuels - in 1990 some 85 per cent of
the world consumption of processed energy was generated from fossil sources -
and that less than half of this fossil energy consumption relates to coal and
the remainder to oil and gas - in 1990 coal accounted for two thirds of fossil
energy consumption - it will clearly be impossible for the supply of energy to
remain based on oil and gas in the second half of the next century since oil
and gas reserves will have been largely exhausted. 

According to the same reference scenario variants the cumulative energy
consumption in 2090 will range between 90,000 EJ and 190,000 EJ. This broadly
corresponds with the ultimately extractable reserves of the most common fossil
fuel, namely coal. 

The conclusion to be drawn from the reference scenario on scarcity grounds is
that a transition from an energy supply predominately based on fossil fuels to
one predominately based on alternatives will need to take place in the course
of the next century. This will be required in order to safeguard the
continuity of the energy supply beyond the period covered by the reference
scenario. Part of the solution could also come from more vigorous energy
conservation measures than provided for in the reference scenario. Low variant
population growth would not eliminate the shortage but would slow it down
substantially. The two variants of the reference scenario just discussed,
which are linked to the high and low population variants, differ at the end of
the next century by a factor of two with respect to energy consumption.

Table 2.6           Ultimately exploitable reserves of fossil fuels

Unit: 1000 EJ
                                WEC        Holdren        Skinner
Crude oil                       8.4          18.9           15.0
Natural gas (conventional)      9.2          12.6           11.0
Coal                          142.8         157.7          210.0
Heavy oils, tar sands and
unconventional gas              6.1 1/       31.5 2/       5.0 to 25.0 1/
Shale oil                      18.9         946.1         10.0

Source:   World Energy Council, Energy for tomorrow's world; London, Kogan
Page, 1993.  Holdron, J.P. 'Prologue. The transition to costlier energy'; in:
Energy efficiency and human activity: Past, trends, future prospects; by
L. Schipper and S. Meyers, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Skinner, B.J., Earth resources; Englewood Cliffs, Prentice Hall, 1986. 

1/        excluding unconventional gas
2/        speculative. 

The energy supply
The estimates of the ultimately extractable reserves of crude oil, natural
gas and hard coal, lignite and other solid fuels indicate a margin of
uncertainty that pales into insignificance compared with the uncertainty
concerning the ultimately exploitable reserves of less conventional fuels
such as heavy oil, tar sands and shale oil. Part of the uncertainty about
the ultimately exploitable reserves, especially these less conventional
energy sources, is attributable to the marked dependence on largely
unforeseeable technological developments. An evident disadvantage of many
unconventional reserves is the low energy density. Compared for example with
the extraction of crude oil, a greater mass of earth has to be mined in
order to extract the same quantity of energy. For this reason the mining
itself requires a higher input of energy and the environment is placed under
greater pressure. Skinner, for example, notes that the large-scale mining of
shale oil would lay waste to many millions of hectares of the earth's sur-
face 17/. Given also the pollution associated with the extraction, the
signs are that only a very limited part of these enormous reserves will be

Under the reference scenario fossil reserves look like being exhausted at
the end of the next century, but even during the course of the century
fossil fuels will become steadily more expensive. Exhaustion will mean that
increasingly polluting varieties of fossil fuels will have to be used. The
sharp increase in energy consumption and the finite nature of easily
extractable fossil fuels mean that the necessary transition time to other
fossil energy resources will become steadily shorter. We are concerned here
not with centuries but with decades. 
The 'cleanest' fuels will be exhausted first. The remaining reserves will
contain ever increasing levels of harmful substances, such as sulphur or
heavy metals, that are released in combustion. Environmental interests will
also be increasingly at issue in mining. The increasing importance of hard
coal, especially in a number of large developing countries 18/, will also
result in a more rapid increase in the atmospheric concentration of the
greenhouse gas C02. Emissions of carbon dioxide in the reference scenario
could be five to 14 times higher in the year 2090. With a view to
sustainable development, a switch will need to be made to alternative energy
resources well before fossil fuels near exhaustion point. The advantages and
disadvantages of the various types of energy are assessed differently in the
four action perspectives, in that the alternatives to fossil energy are also
subject to limitations.

Biomass in the form of wood, agricultural waste and manure has traditionally
formed an important source of energy. Biomass continues to make an important
contribution to the energy supply, especially in rural areas and developing
countries. The annual production of biomass is however limited and is
increasingly unable to meet the demand for energy. Increasingly, biomass is
being replaced by fossil fuels. 

In traditional societies the efficiency with which sunlight is converted
into biomass is low. In a modern biomass production system, the efficiency
can be increased from 1 per cent to 2 to 3 per cent 19/. 

The large uptake of suitable agricultural land and freshwater supplies by
biomass production generates conflicts of interest with agriculture.
Although an increase in the cultivation of crops for energy purposes is
possible it will necessarily remain limited. Johansson et al. outlined a
situation in the year 2050 in which 429 million hectares are cultivated
worldwide for energy purposes, generating 128 EJ per year 20/. This would
enable 30 per cent of the present demand for energy to be covered using a
land area three times as great as the present European cultivated area. Not
only is the future demand much greater but highly optimistic estimates of
the energy production are made. In the case of food production large parts
of the world are achieving no more than 30 per cent of the potential, while
with new energy crops even that figure will not be reached for the time

Another form of renewable energy is hydroelectric power. In contrast to
traditional biomass production, this form of energy generation is entirely
integrated into the world energy system. Energy from hydropower has long
been the most important alternative to the use of fossil fuels for
electricity generation. The potential for hydropower is not unlimited. The
construction of dams involves substantial social costs, apart from which the
most suitable locations have already been utilised. On a worldwide basis a
trebling to quadrupling of the present hydropower production of 7.3 EJ is
considered realisable 21/. Hydropower will therefore be able to make only
a very limited contribution to the global energy supply.

The third alternative to the use of fossil energy is nuclear energy. The
application of nuclear energy took giant strides in the second half of this
century. Generation from nuclear sources currently amounts to some 15 EJ.
Although nuclear power is continuing to expand appreciably (it is growing
nearly twice as fast as global energy generation) the initial optimism has
evaporated and powerful social opposition has arisen in various parts of the
world. Where this has happened the future of nuclear energy is dependent on
the social and political support that this form of energy is able to muster
and expansion plans are stalling. In other parts of the world - especially
the former Eastern bloc countries and the Third World - a substantial
increase in nuclear power is likely in the next few decades. 

The social and political problems associated with nuclear energy focus on
three main aspects: reactor safety, the waste problem and the proliferation
problem. An additional problem consists of the limited reserves of uranium.

A high proportion of the nuclear-power producing countries operate an open
cycle, under which less energy is withdrawn from the nuclear fuel than is
technically possible. Only a limited number of countries, including France,
the United Kingdom and Japan, reprocess and re-use the nuclear fuel, thus
extending the useful life of the uranium. In reprocessing the proliferation-
sensitive plutonium released in a nuclear reaction is separated from the
uranium. The ultimately extractable reserves of high-grade uranium, which
are estimated at 10 to 25 million tonnes U 22/, have an energetic value
in the open cycle of 3,360 to 8,400 EJth. The continuing expansion of
nuclear fission in an open cycle will therefore also lead to the exhaustion
of uranium reserves in the next century. 

If nuclear energy is to play a significant role as an alternative to fossil
fuels in the long term it will be essential for the energetic yield of the
nuclear cycle to be appreciably increased. Reprocessing could be of marginal
benefit but a substantial step in the direction of sustainable energy supply
based on nuclear fission would involve the use of breeder reactors. The
latter enable several tens as much energy to be extracted from the available
fuel as conventional reactors. In order to do so, either the proliferation-
sensitive plutonium or the equally proliferation-sensitive uranium 233 has
to be recycled. The social and political risks of nuclear energy would be
substantially enlarged by the global application of breeder reactors. Both
the risk of incidents and the scale of the consequences would rise
substantially in comparison with the present situation. 

Biomass, hydropower and nuclear fission are not the only alternatives to
fossil energy. Some set considerable store by the coming on stream of
nuclear fusion technology, but this is totally speculative. It is unclear
whether this technology will ever be available and equally it is unclear
whether nuclear fusion will in fact offer advantages in relation to the
alternatives whose future availability is now reasonably assured. 

Wind energy, solar energy and geothermal energy are already being used
successfully on a comparatively small scale. Numerous other forms of
renewable energy, however, are conceivable, some of which hold out a bright

One of these is solar energy in its various guises (i.e. thermal and
electrical). If renewable sources such as wind and solar energy, the
availability of which is subject to continuous variation, are to account for
a significant proportion of the energy supply, they will need to be
supported by storage systems. The costs of the large-scale application of
renewable sources will therefore rise in comparison with the costs of the
present energy supply. The full realisation of the potential in terms of
renewable energy sources will therefore demand enormous investments in a
comparatively capital-intensive energy supply. This forms a further reason
why the notion that a full-scale substitution of renewable energy for fossil
energy towards the end of the next century is hotly debated 23/. 

2.3.3               Consequences of the emission of carbon dioxide

It was noted previously that according to the reference scenario, the
emission of C02 could increase between five and 14 times by the end of the
next century, thus increasing the concentration of the greenhouse gases in
the atmosphere. On account of negative feedbacks in the carbon balance
sheet, the scale of this increase is still subject to uncertainty. In theory
the increased concentration of a greenhouse gas such as C02 results in the
warming of the global temperature. The radiation balance between the earth
and space remains in equilibrium given a doubling in the concentration of
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere if the temperature rises by 1C. Opinions
differ about the consequences of this initial warming. A rise in the
temperature will mean that the atmosphere is able to absorb more water
vapour - another important greenhouse gas, thus leading to a positive
feedback. On these grounds the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC) concludes that the temperature on earth will rise in a response to a
doubling of the carbon dioxide concentration not by 1C but by 1.5C to
4.5C 24/. 

If more than three quarters of the energy supply remains based in the
reference scenario on fossil fuels, the carbon dioxide concentration in the
atmosphere could even more than double in the next century. According to the
IPCC, a climate change is therefore likely in the reference scenario. 

Various other experts, however, emphasise the existence of negative
feedbacks on the radiation balance 25/. As a result of these negative
feedbacks the temperature could on balance also rise by less than 1C.
Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases could moreover disrupt
identified and unidentified unstable equilibria with even less predictable
consequences for climate change, in which a fall in temperature is not ruled
out. The uncertainty about long-term temperature changes as a result of the
cyclical pattern of ice ages complicates the consequences still further. 

There is therefore major uncertainty about the size of the temperature
change that could occur as a result of an increase in the carbon dioxide
concentration in the atmosphere. It is even uncertain whether any increase
in temperature due to the enhanced greenhouse effect could ever be
distinguished from variations in the mean global temperature taking place
independently of the anthropogenic enhanced greenhouse effect.
Statements on the social and political consequences of any increase in
temperature due to the enhanced greenhouse effect are subject to even
greater uncertainties. When it comes to the likelihood of further
consequences such as an increase in mean sea levels, uncertainties are piled
on uncertainties. 

Higher carbon dioxide concentrations need not, however, always have a
disruptive effect. In agro-ecosystems, higher concentrations promote
photosynthesis and enlarge the water utilisation efficiency. In the case of
natural ecosystems, however, which are limited by the availability of
phosphates and nitrates, the growth-inducing effect is much less pronounced.
An elevated carbon dioxide concentration could disrupt the highly fragile
balance of competition, leading to species impoverishment. The evolution in
these natural ecosystems can perhaps not keep pace with the increase in
carbon dioxide concentrations, but this is all purely speculative. 

There is therefore no clarity about the dividing line between non-
sustainability and sustainability. Designating the reference scenario as
unsustainable therefore depends heavily on the weighing of the risks at

Two extreme positions are however clearly at variance with sustainable
development. First of all, major risks will be incurred if developments in
the energy field are allowed to run their course. Secondly, there are the
risks of external effects such as climate change, as well as the exhaustion
of fossil fuels if a switch is not made in good time to other energy
resources. Equally, however, risks will be taken if the use of fossil fuels
is rapidly - e.g. in the space of a few decades - reduced to zero in the
interests of the environment. In both cases this involves an absolutist
approach towards the objectives. Sustainable development demands that the
interests of both the present and future generations be weighed against one

2.3.4               Action perspectives

Four action perspectives are set out below that are all concerned with
sustainable energy supply. They have in common the fact that the reference
scenario is regarded as unsustainable. The grounds on and extent to which
this occurs, however, differ; both the scarcity problem and the
environmental problems are weighed differently. 

In this regard the action perspectives differ with respect to the choice of
energy resources, technological developments and changes in life-style and
energy consumption. The four action perspectives distinguished in Chapter 1
- Utilizing, Saving, Managing and Preserving - are spelt out in greater
detail below. The four perspectives have also been elaborated into the same
number of scenarios. 

Table 2.7                     Action perspectives

fall in energy intensity                   slow            rapid

supply side structure
energy management
limited change                           Utilizing          Saving
radical change                           Managing          Preserving

Source: WRR.

Under the Utilizing perspective, a certain degree of ecological risk, as
associated with the consumption of fossil energy, is regarded as acceptable.
An increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is,
for example, regarded as an acceptable risk given the present state of
knowledge about the greenhouse effect. The measures that need to be taken in
order to hold down a rise in the concentration represent a social and
political risk that does not weigh against the risk of an enhanced
greenhouse effect. Although measures are taken to limit the emission of
greenhouse gases these are also taken on the basis of other objectives, such
as conserving the reserves of fossil fuels. In social and political terms
energy conservation is often preferable to expanding the supply of energy,
apart from which it reduces carbon dioxide emissions. Waste must be avoided
but any further-going reductions call for radical change in deeply rooted
institutions and perceived freedoms. 

The ecological risks associated with nuclear energy may also be acceptable
under the Utilizing perspective, particularly since nuclear energy helps
reduce the risks to the climate from C02 emissions. In the longer term the
possibility of fast breeder reactors is not to be ruled out. In addition the
social and political risks of not applying nuclear energy are downplayed
under this perspective since there are deemed to be sufficient reserves of
fossil fuel. As far as nuclear energy is concerned, the desire to avoid
social and political risks therefore carries little weight in the trade-off
between the social and political risks of non-application and the ecological
risks of going down the nuclear path. 

The available reserves of fossil energy are there to be exploited. Fossil
energy will remain the most important source of energy in the next century.
A continuing emphasis on fossil energy is acceptable in view of the
anticipated increase in ultimately extractable fossil reserves. In addition
there remains a large potential for energy conservation, in which investment
is imperative. In so far as fossil reserves become scarce in the next
century the solutions lie in the technological sphere. Utilizing is largely
synonymous with the avoidance of the social and political risks of changes
in life-style. 

The risk of scarcities for future generations weighs heavily under the
Saving perspective and the social and political consequences of the
necessary adjustments are accepted. This perspective is accordingly based
around an austerity strategy. Saving implies caution with respect to
possible reserves of fossil energy and the potential of renewables, which
should not be overestimated. There is also a possibility that nuclear energy
will not live up to expectations. The most pronounced growth in the demand
for energy will occur in the Third World. The complicated technology of
nuclear power plants will mean the latter find only limited application in
the Third World in the decades ahead. This leaves no alternative to facing
the social and political challenge and, especially in the developed
economies, achieving a sharp reduction in per capita energy consumption. In
the Third World adjustments need to be made to the future perspective of a
potentially high level of prosperity. The level of energy consumption
currently prevailing in the West is one-off; for the Third World and for
future generations, consumption on this scale would not be sustainable. 

The intended reduction in energy consumption cannot be achieved simply by
increasing the energy efficiency. For this reason this perspective calls for
a more sober Western life-style.

The ecological risks of energy consumption are largely accepted under the
Saving perspective. In principle nuclear energy would provide a welcome
supplement to a meagre energy diet. The social and political risks of a
failure to stimulate nuclear energy are significantly higher under this
perspective than in the Utilizing perspective. The trade-off between
ecological and social risks in the Third World is, for the time being, of a
different order from that in the developed economies; this also applies to
fast breeder technology. Once this technology becomes available there will
be a market for it in the Third World. Technological support could make this
development acceptable. 

Primacy is not attached to the ecological risks of the greenhouse effect.
Social and political risks are accepted when it comes to avoiding the
scarcity risk. Additional social risks to prevent a greenhouse effect are
avoided. The austerity strategy, however, has the effect of reducing the
risks of an enhanced greenhouse effect. By reducing the use of fossil energy
the risks of a greenhouse effect and of energy scarcity can be avoided.

Under the Managing perspective, certain ecological risks attached to the use
of energy are not acceptable. This applies among other things to the risks
of a heightened atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases. Managing
means a clear reduction in the potential growth of fossil energy
consumption. In so far as use is made of fossil energy the emphasis should
as far as possible be placed on natural gas, which produces comparatively
low carbon dioxide emissions. The use of fossil energy should be combined on
a large scale with the catchment and storage of carbon dioxide. The social
costs of such development are accepted. 

By contrast the social risk of a sharp reduction in energy consumption per
head in order to reduce fossil energy consumption is not acceptable.
Renewable sources of energy are a significant factor in maintaining per
capita energy consumption. It is, however, virtually inevitable that this
involves accepting a certain scarcity risk. 

Among other things, the scarcity risk arises because the risk of nuclear
energy is not accepted under the Managing perspective. The future supply of
energy is therefore rendered dependent on the development of renewable
sources. Despite the favourable prospects for certain renewables, such as
biomass and wind energy, a high degree of penetration in the energy supply
in the near future is far from assured. Of all the renewable sources,
biomass combines a not unfavourable profitability with, in global terms, the
highest potential. For this reason an intensification of energy conservation
fits into this action perspective. It is not ultimately a matter of
maintaining a certain level of per capita energy consumption but of
maintaining certain social functions for which that energy is required. 

Under the Preserving perspective, both ecological and scarcity risks are
avoided. This means that substantial social risks are accepted. Energy
resources must be switched as quickly as possible to a system based on
renewables. At the same time an austerity strategy needs to be adopted. This
means that apart from a marked increase in energy efficiency, Western life-
styles need to become simpler and plainer. 

The social and political risks associated with this perspective are related
to the incomplete state of development of numerous renewable sources, which
will need to account for a high proportion of the energy infrastructure in
the next century. Combined with the austerity strategy, this can have a
radical effect on economic growth. It is assumed that society is
sufficiently impressed by the ecological and scarcity risks to accept a
radical change in life-styles. 

Table 2.8           Specification of the action perspectives

Fall in energy intensity             slow                   rapid

supply side structure
energy management 
                              Utilizing:                    Saving:
                         continuation of        reduction in fossil
                          fossil use              use
                         some CO2 fixing        some C02 fixing
Limited change           development of fast    development of fast
                          breeder                 breeder
                         moderate development   moderate development
                          of renewable sources    of renewable sources
                         moderate energy        emphasis on energy
                          conservation            conservation 
                                                 life-style change
                              Managing:                     Preserving:
                         reduction in fossil use  fixing and storage of C02
                          emphasis on gas          switch to renewables
Radical change           fixing and               emphasis on energy
                          storage of C02            conservation 
                         emphasis on              life-style change
                          development of renewables
                         moderate energy conservation

Source:   WRR.

2.3.5               Elaboration of action perspectives in scenarios

Population trends have been based on the United Nations' population projec-
tion 26/. The scenarios presented here are based primarily on the middle
projection. Scenario variants corresponding with the low and high projections
are also discussed in passing. 

The likely economic rate of growth in the South is based on the growth assumed
by the Central Planning Office in its Balanced Growth scenario as well as on
the growth in the basic path of the Asia survey in the Central Economic Plan
of 1994 27/ 28/. A sensitivity analysis conducted by the Council has
indicated that the scenario results are closely correlated with population
growth and, to a lesser extent, with the pace of economic growth in the Third

Needless to say the margin is important in this regard. A growth of 6 per cent
results in much higher energy consumption than 2 per cent growth, but the
difference between 4 and 5 per cent is limited. In view of the enormous
pressure for growth in the South it would appear unrealistic to work on the
basis of low percentages. The selected growth figures are shown in Table 2.9.
It has been assumed that per capita growth varies slightly with population
growth. Although it is known that there is no direct link between population
growth and economic growth, it is, however, broadly clear that a rapid
increase in population impedes the growth in per capita income and conversely
that a period of actual or anticipated income growth results in lower birth

In the case of the North it has been assumed that per capita income will rise
by 2.5 per cent a year. This rate of growth is consistent with the figures
achieved in the past. The growth is lower than in the Third World because the
economies of the North are more technologically advanced and growth is not
spurred on by the impetus to catch up as it is in the Third World. Since the
consumption of energy in the Third World will be higher than that in the North
within the space of a few decades, the sensitivity of global energy
consumption to the rate of economic growth in the North is declining. 

Table 2.9           Growth in per capita income (%)

Population scenario:        low              middle           high
North.                      2.5               2.5              2.5
South                       5.0               4.75             4.5

Source:             WRR.

Energy intensities
The scenarios express various perceptions of the costs of energy supply. This
is not just a matter of the extraction costs but also of the costs associated
with a guaranteed energy supply, with the risks of nuclear energy and with
various environmental risks, including those of climate change. The energy
intensity is falling in response to the rising costs of energy: the higher the
perceived costs, the more rapid the fall in energy intensity.

The energy intensity in the North (11.5 MJ/$'90) in 1990 was significantly
lower than that in the South (25.6 MJ/$'90). In part this reflects the
different stage of economic development in the South, which is associated with
less efficient energy use. The energy intensity has been declining in the
North since as far back as the 1960s. With the exception of China, there has
been a rising trend in energy intensity in the countries of the Third World
during the period 1950-1990 29/. The assumptions concerning the development
of energy intensity in the first half of the next century are shown in Table

Table 2.10          Development of energy intensities (in %)

                          1990-2020                 2020-2040
                      North     South           North      South  

Reference              -1.5      -0.4            -2.1       -1.5
Utilizing              -1.8      -0.7            -2.4       -2.1
Saving                 -3.0      -1.9            -3.7       -3.3
Managing               -2.0      -0.9            -2.7       -2.3
Preserving             -3.5      -2.4            -4.2       -3.8

Source:   WRR.

In order to enable the initially slow decline in energy intensity in the South
to manifest itself in the Utilizing and Managing scenarios, the period 1990-
2040 has been divided into two. Among other things, the slow decline in energy
intensity up to 2020 is the result of rapidly rising mobility and the
increasing ownership of household appliances. In addition, growth in the South
remains concentrated in the energy-intensive industrial sector on account of
the high demand for investment to build up the infrastructure.

The spread in the fall of energy intensities in the South and the various
scenarios during the period 1990-2020 corresponds with the results of other
scenario studies. In the variant with a delayed decline in energy intensity in
the South the World Energy Council assumes a rate of decline of minus 0.8 per
cent 30/. In the most far-reaching variant the energy intensity in the
South falls by 2.4 per cent. In another analysis conducted for Greenpeace
International a fall in the energy intensity in the South of 2.8 per cent is
regarded as feasible, combined with economic growth (GNP) of 3.7 per
cent 31/. The Central Planning Office sees the fall in energy intensity in
China and the rest of the Third World as varying from 3.6 per cent and 2.4 per
cent respectively in Balanced Growth and 0.5 per cent and 0.3 per cent in
Global Crisis 32/. The Balanced Growth scenario allows for the introduction
of a global C02 levy gradually rising to the equivalent of $33 per barrel of

Especially in the Saving and Preserving scenarios, the fall in energy
intensity in the North exceeds that provided for in the three aforementioned
scenario studies. In all the latter scenarios the greatest fall in energy
intensity in the North is between 2.5 and 3.0 per cent. Another study
specifically concerned with the prospects for a further fall in energy
intensity in the OECD countries comes to more far-reaching conclusions 33/.
A fall in energy intensity of 3.6 per cent in the OECD countries is attainable
during the period 1985-2010. To achieve this a sharp internalisation of
external effects is required, so that the price of energy at the end of this
period would be two to two and a half times as high as that at present. An
increase in price on this scale must support a powerful energy conservation
programme, comparable in intensity with the energy conservation activities
conducted in 1979-1983.

The Saving and Preserving scenarios also imply adjustments in Western life-
styles in order to correct the most extravagant forms of energy use.
Suggestions in this connection relate to a reduction in mobility and living
comfort, for which reason a fall in the energy intensity in the North of over
3.0 per cent on an annual basis has been assumed.

The fall in energy intensity in the North in Utilizing and Managing is not a
matter of 'business as usual'. In the eyes of Schipper and Meyers a
substantial effort will be required in order to achieve a development path of
this kind 34/.

The fall in energy intensity in the post-2020 period is greater in both North
and South than in the preceding period. This is a logical outcome of the
assumption that per capita consumption is approaching saturation level. The
higher the level of prosperity, the less energy used per unit of prosperity,
since the growth in energy use falls as saturation is reached but economic
growth continues undiminished. In both North and South there is therefore an
accelerating fall in energy intensity in the reference scenario as time goes
by. The energy intensities in the scenarios based on the action perspectives
fall less rapidly (one more than the other) than in the reference scenario. 

Energy use
The extent of energy use in North and South may be deduced in the various
scenarios from the assumptions made concerning the fall in energy intensity
and the rate of economic growth. The forward calculations must be placed
against the background of the current use in North of 220 EJ and in South of
81 EJ. The energy use in South exceeds that in North in all scenarios after
the year 2020. 

Table 2.11          Development of energy use (Exajoules)

                                          North           South
Reference              1990                220                82
                       2020                322               476
                       2040                347              1064
Utilizing              2020                298               441
                       2040                302               881
Saving                 2020                203               302
                       2040                159               466
Managing               2020                276               409
                       2040                266               776
Preserving             2020                174               259
                       2040                123               361

Source:   WRR.

Alternatives to fossil energy
Each of the scenarios provides for a growth in alternatives to fossil energy.
A distinction has been drawn here between nuclear energy and renewables. The
extent to which nuclear energy and renewables contribute towards the energy
supply differs from scenario to scenario, in that the pros and cons of nuclear
energy are differently weighted. In Preserving rapidly growing social
resistance towards any kind of nuclear energy is allowed for. In the short
term this resistance translates itself into a gradual reduction in nuclear

In Managing nuclear energy fulfils a temporary role in the world energy
supply. The open cycle becomes standard and a large-scale application of
breeder technology fails to get off the ground as the associated risk of
proliferation is regarded as excessive. After 2020 the growth in nuclear
energy gradually switches to contraction. The ability to control the risks
means that nuclear energy ends up on the list of superseded energy options and
the application of the open cycle brings forward the exhaustion of uranium
reserves. By contrast in Saving and Utilizing the potential of nuclear energy
is developed further. Compared with Utilizing, Saving provides for a rapid
growth in nuclear capacity.

Table 2.12          Growth and contraction rates of nuclear energy
                    (in %)

                                  1990-2020            2020-2040
Utilizing                             2.5                 2.0
Saving                                4.0                 3.0
Managing                              2.0                -2.0 
Preserving                           -2.5                -5.0

Source:   WRR.

All four scenarios provide for a growth in renewables, but in Preserving and
Managing the penetration of renewables is vigorously encouraged. The input of
renewable energy is particularly important in Managing, in which the risk of
an enhanced greenhouse effect is taken very seriously, while at the same time
energy use takes off. In absolute terms the input of renewable energy is
higher than in any of the other scenarios. On account of the favourable
profitability and available know-how, biomass is the most important source of
energy. In 2040 the share of biomass could amount to 15 per cent of energy
use. Since the technology for a number of promising renewable sources of
energy is still in the process of development, the utilisation of renewable
energy rises more rapidly in the period after 2020 than before. This will
require large-scale investment, not just for generation but also for storage
and transport. 

Table 2.13          Growth and contraction rates of renewable energy
                    (in %)

                                       1990-2020      2020-2040
Utilizing                                  2.0       2.5
Saving                                     2.0       3.0
Managing                                   4.0       4.0
Preserving                                 3.0       4.0

Source:             WRR.

The shares of fossil, nuclear and renewable energy in the global energy supply
follow logically from the assumptions about the growth in nuclear energy and
renewable energy. In 1990 86 per cent of the global energy demand was met by
fossil energy, 9 per cent by renewables and 5 per cent by nuclear energy. In
the Utilizing and Managing perspectives, the share of fossil energy remains at
a high figure. 

Table 2.14          Share of various energy sources (in %)

                                         1990       2020     2040
Reference           fossil            86                    
                    nuclear            5                    
                    renewables         9                    

Utilizing           fossil                            87        87
                    nuclear                            5         5
                    renewables                         8         8

Saving              fossil                            78        66
                    nuclear                           11        17
                    renewables                        11        17

Managing            fossil                            81        76
                    nuclear                            5         2
                    renewables                        15        22

Preserving          fossil                            81        63
                    nuclear                            2         0
                    renewables                        18        36

Source:   WRR.

Fixing and storage of carbon dioxide
Two of the four scenarios, namely Managing and Preserving, attach particular
importance to the risk of an enhanced greenhouse effect. Despite the efforts
to bring about a rapid penetration of renewable energy, the share of fossil
energy remains high, particularly under the Managing perspective. In order to
prevent the emission of carbon dioxide, a large-scale switch is made to fixing
and storage. On account of the need to achieve international consensus on
these aspects, realisation cannot get properly under way until after 2020. In
Managing and Preserving, 45 per cent of the emissions of carbon dioxide into
the atmosphere are ultimately prevented. In Saving and Utilizing the catchment
of carbon dioxide is much more limited. 

Table 2.15          Fixing of carbon dioxide (in %)

                                 2020        2040        2090
Utilizing, Saving                   0          10          25
Managing, Preserving               10          20          45

Source:             WRR.

Cumulative use of fossil fuels
The use of fossil fuels - oil, gas and coal - has been brought into harmony
with the way in which the risk of a disrupted supply due to geopolitical
factors or exhaustion has been weighed in the various scenarios against the
certainty of a more modest but guaranteed supply. Utilizing and Managing
perspectives allow for ultimately extractable reserves of oil and gas of
15,000 EJ each, while in Saving and Preserving the figure is put at 10,000 EJ.
On account of the enormous reserves, coal forms a balancing item in all the
four perspectives and continues to play a role in the energy supply.

The weight assigned in Managing and Preserving to the risk of ecological
effects provides grounds for the accelerated exploitation of reserves of gas
and oil. 

Oil and gas provide a significant component of the energy supply in the first
half of the next century in all four scenarios. Production is expected to peak
in the period 2020-2040. In the second half production eases and the share in
the energy supply falls markedly. Towards the end of the century the
ultimately extractable reserves of oil and gas are down to a quarter of less.
This applies to all the scenarios. 

In Utilizing and Managing, the consumption of coal at the end of the next
century has assumed an inconceivable scale by present-day standards, namely a
14 to 20-fold increase in relation to the present consumption of 88 EJ. If the
local environmental consequences of consumption on this scale are to be kept
in bounds, large-scale investments will be needed in the environment in the
next century. Although none of the four scenarios provides for the exhaustion
of global coal reserves within the next century, it is clear that coal too can
play only a finite role in the global energy supply. Especially in the high
population scenario, the prospects in the Utilizing scenario at the end of the
next century are far from rosy. 

Table 2.16          Development of coal consumption

Unit: EJ
                                  1990        2040        2090
Reference                           88
Utilizing                                      728         164
Saving                                         266         112
Managing                                       329         976
Preserving                                     134         122

Source:   WRR.

The cumulative consumption of coal in the next century, as shown in
Table 3.17, needs to be juxtaposed against ultimately extractable reserves of
150,000 to 200,000 EJ. 

Table 2.17      Cumulative consumption of coal over the period 1990-2090

Unit EJ             
                                        middle                high
Utilizing                               77844               114853
Saving                                  19216                33065
Managing                                48620                77831
Preserving                              10522                18249

Source:             WRR.

In Utilizing and Saving, nuclear energy continues to play a significant role.
Especially in the Savings scenario, in which the growth in nuclear energy is
greatest, uranium reserves would reach exhaustion point in the second half of
the next century if the open cycle were generally applied. A permanent role
for nuclear energy therefore implies that reprocessing and breeder technology
make greater inroads in the course of the next century. The same outlook
applies in the case of Utilizing, except that the reserve situation affords
more room for manoeuvre.

Enhanced greenhouse effect
In the base year 1990 the emission of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide due to
the use of fossil fuels amounted to 5.4 Gigatonnes C. All four scenarios
provide for the fixing and storage of carbon dioxide. Nevertheless, in the
middle population scenario, the emission of carbon dioxide in the year 2090
has more than quintupled in Utilizing and more than doubled in Managing due to
the use of fossil fuels. Saving and Preserving emissions of carbon dioxide
fall by half in the next century. Apart from the fall in energy intensity, the
penetration of nuclear energy is important in Saving for reducing the carbon
dioxide emissions, while in Preserving the latter also comes down due to
advances in fixing and storage.

Table 2.18          Emission of carbon dioxide [Gigatonnes C]; middle

                             1990         2020         2040
Reference                     5.4                 
Utilizing                                 13.2          22.1
Saving                                     8.2           9.1
Managing                                  10.0          13.9
Preserving                                 6.2           5.6

Source:   WRR.

The emission of carbon dioxide by the combustion of fossil fuels affects the
atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide. The growth in atmospheric carbon
dioxide concentrations has been calculated in the various scenarios with the
aid of a simple model, in which account has been taken of the exchange of
carbon dioxide between the atmosphere, biosphere and oceans 35/. In the
absence of knowledge about possible feedbacks the results need to be treated
with caution. In terms of the assumptions in question, however, the trends are
unmistakable. The results are shown in Figure 2.9. 

It has been possible to establish that the atmospheric concentration of carbon
dioxide in the pre-industrial period from 1000-1800 fluctuated between 270-290
ppmv. In 1990 the concentration at 353 ppmv was approximately 25 per cent
higher. Ice core research has revealed that the present concentration is
higher than at any time in the last 160,000 years 36/. The carbon dioxide
concentration is currently rising by around one and a half per cent a year due
to anthropogenic emissions. The increase in carbon dioxide concentrations,
especially in Utilizing and Managing, therefore means a radical break with
historical concentrations. 

Land uptake
The scenarios imply major differences in the land area required for energy
supply. Biomass generation is highly land-intensive. Under the Managing
scenario, biomass would provide some 15 per cent of energy needs in 2040. Even
allowing for the advances in cultivation techniques by that time, the required
area would be more than three times the present cultivated area in Europe. In
this regard it needs to be borne in mind that the cultivation of biomass is
most effective on superior soils. If less good land is used the land uptake
becomes much larger again. Solar energy by contrast requires a much smaller
area, namely by an estimated factor of five to ten less. Furthermore the cells
can be stationed on otherwise unusable land, such as deserts. 

Figure 2.9          Growth of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:   WRR.

2.3.6               Evaluation

The future energy supply appears as though it will entail a number of
substantial risks. The most prominent of these are the risk of climate change
and the risks associated with nuclear energy. If the present trends in the
consumption of fossil fuels are continued, the atmospheric concentration of
greenhouse gases, the emission of which is closely correlated with energy use,
will rise sharply. The Climate Convention that arose out of the Rio conference
aims at a stabilisation of these gases at the 1990 level. Given the trends
discussed in this report, especially in the Third World, the prospects of
achieving this must be regarded as highly limited. The Convention is
accordingly a first but insufficient step to bring to a halt the increase in
atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. 

If the present growth in the use of nuclear energy continues at global scale,
this will bring forward the exhaustion of uranium reserves and breeder
technology and the associated proliferation risks will become unavoidable. A
third environmental risk is incurred if coal reserves and possibly also shale
oil reserves are exploited on a hitherto unknown scale, as this would
inevitably involve widespread local environmental pollution. 

Table 2.19          Summary table

                    Reference  Utilizing  Saving  Managing  Preserving
Growth rates [%]                                                      

Energy intensity
North               -1.5         -1.8      -3.0      -2.0       -3.5
South               -0.4         -0.7      -1.9      -0.9       -2.4
North               -2.1         -2.4      -3.7      -2.7       -4.2
South               -1.5         -2.1      -3.3      -2.3       -3.8

1990-2020                         2.5       4.0       2.0       -2.5
2020-2040                         2.0       3.0      -2.0       -5.0

1990-2020                         2.0       2.0       4.0        3.0
2020-2040                         2.5       3.0       4.0        4.0
Shares [%]          1990         2040                        
fossil              86            87        66        76          63
nuclear              5             5        17         2           0
renewables           9             8        17        22          36

C02 fixing in 2040                10        10        20          20
Energy [EJ]                                                 

Use in 2040         
North              347           302       159       266         174
South             1064           881       466       766         259

of which coal                    728       266       329         134
CO2 emissions in 2040
[Gigatonnes C]                  22.1       9.1       13.9        5.6

Source:             WRR.

There is however no compelling need to go down the technological trails with
which these risks are associated. There are alternatives involving less risk.
The demand for energy can for example be controlled by improvements in energy
efficiency and by switching to life-styles with a much lower consumption of
energy. The potential energy from renewable sources has also been barely
exploited. These alternatives will, however, increase the cost of the energy
supply and it is debatable whether societies throughout the world will be
prepared to bear those costs. 

For the time being fossil energy sources can meet the demand. This kind of
energy is moreover comparatively safe and clean. The risk of scarcity,
however, will become a major factor in the next few decades. Time-preferences
are therefore at issue, fed by the uncertainty about technological
developments. The more that the decision to go down alternative technological
trails is deferred to a later stage, the higher the costs of a transition to a
less risky form of energy supply. 

The costs that need to be incurred in order to avoid the long-term risks
associated with the energy supply are substantial. The Utilizing scenario
corresponds with a policies that stimulate a fall in energy intensity per unit
produced. Nevertheless, this scenario still allows for an enormous increase in
global C02 emissions. The emphasis in the Managing scenario is on avoiding
both the climate risks and the nuclear risks. This is a major challenge. While
the nuclear risk remains controllable up to a certain point, this scenario
also exhibits a major increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations,
rather than the intended stabilisation. Coal reserves are also used on a much
greater scale, even though the Managing scenario provides for a rapid
expansion of renewable energy and a sharp fall in energy intensity by present
standards. The Savings scenario is primarily characterised by far-reaching
energy conservation and a rising input of nuclear energy. This would require
significant technological and social breakthroughs. This is not just a matter
of reactor safety and the waste problem but also of the issue of prolifer-
ation. Current solutions to this problem under the Non-Proliferation Treaty
are based in part on mutual confidence. The conditions for such confidence
have, however, deteriorated sharply in a world in which the sources of
conflict have become steadily less predictable. 

Only the Preserving scenario - provided it is sustained - is strong enough for
the aforementioned long-term risks to be largely avoided. The required
transition is, however, enormous: the objective of a worldwide reduction in
energy intensity implies a radical break in the trend in both North and South.
In order to indicate the order of magnitude, it would in the case of the
Netherlands involve a doubling of the rate on which the - increased - present
objective of an annual 1.7 per cent reduction is based, and this would need to
be sustained over an extremely long period. The assumed rate at which the
share of renewables will need to increase throughout the world and the
necessary infrastructure would also require a huge effort. If society is
unable to bear the social and political costs of these transitions one or more
of these risks will gradually need to be accepted. 

In thinking through the scenarios, the various risks will need to be weighed
up against one another. This includes an open trade-off between the risks of
the large-scale application of nuclear energy (including the application of
breeder technology) and the risks of an enhanced greenhouse effect. It is
notable that in the IPCC scenarios this trade-off has resulted in a large
share for nuclear energy. 

Without exception the scenarios point to the exhaustion of oil and gas in the
next century. Only in Saving is this exhaustion controlled. All scenarios
therefore stress the necessity of developing alternatives in the first half of
the next century. This is the most urgently required with respect to the
demand for mobility, which will rise particularly sharply in the Third World.
During the next decades mobility will remain largely dependent on oil. 

The scenarios are based on a rate of economic growth which, especially for
South, implies a break in the trend. In the light of developments in South and
East Asia, where even higher growth figures are now being achieved, the
plausibility of such growth is however acceptable. 

The assumed growth is a significant cause of the fact that the growth in
energy consumption in the South turns out comparatively high and that, in
comparison with other scenarios, a scarcity situation is brought significantly
forward 37/. The likelihood of a rapid rise in energy use in the South
provides an important argument for the transition towards considerably more
expensive energy in the next century. 

In the absence of supplementary criteria none of the four scenarios may be
designated as less sustainable than the others. Each of the scenarios is based
on a different trade-off between social and environmental risks. Each of these
trade-offs may be translated into a differing perception of the margins for
energy use. The required efforts, however, differ sharply, which is where the
trade-off comes in. 

Among other things sustainable development involves ensuring that the coming
generations are not prevented from satisfying their wants by the fact that
fossil reserves have been exhausted. The uneven global distribution of energy
use makes this a highly discernible problem. The next generation in the Third
World will be unable to achieve the level of prosperity envisaged for it by
the present generation in that part of the world, and which is inspired in
part by the level of Western Prosperity, if the present level of energy use in
the developed economies rapidly leads to scarcities. It is therefore important
for the increasing scarcity of energy to be countered by improvements in the
efficiency of energy use and the development of alternatives. The transfer of
technology is therefore required in all four scenarios. To this end countries
in the Third World must bring the operation of their energy markets more
closely into line with the conditions in the world market. 

Finally the findings point to the importance of low population growth. The
lowest possible growth in population will be unable to prevent fossil scarcity
but can substantially extend the necessary transitional period. 

2.4                 Nature

2.4.1               Introduction

Humankind has never dealt particularly carefully with the natural environment,
but in recent decades there has been a sharper increase in awareness that
current practices are very much to the detriment of nature. Direct
exploitation for the purposes of food production, timber and other raw
materials is resulting in the withdrawal of large areas from the natural
environment. In addition considerable damage is being caused indirectly by the
pollution of soil, water and air. The result is a substantial change in
natural conditions, in turn reflected in flora and fauna 38/. Traces of
human activity are to be found in even the most unspoiled areas. 

The scale and severity of the damage has led to the realisation that a halt
must be called to these developments, both nationally and internationally. 

Public involvement and attention for nature has been growing: since 1970 there
has been a sharp increase in nature conservation areas from 5 to 7.5 million
km2, or over a sixth of the total wildlife and countryside area in the world.
The protected area does not just concern wildlife areas but also landscapes
that are deemed characteristic on account of a 'harmonious interaction between
inhabitants and land' (IUCN criteria). 

The assignment of protected status to an area does not however guarantee that
it will in fact be or remain protected. The protection measures can vary
widely and there are major doubts concerning their effectiveness. Furthermore
certain treaties and conventions permit the protected status of certain areas
to be lifted if this is in the urgent national interest. 

In the present situation a limited part of the global wildlife area is
afforded protection against direct harm but not against indirect disturbance.
Once again the question arises as to what sustainability in the man/nature
relationship could imply. In deciding which natural areas need to be protected
from the viewpoint of sustainability, it needs first of all to be determined
what 'nature' means. This is a matter of considerable ambiguity; attitudes
vary widely. What is regarded as 'natural' may on further reflection in fact
relate to features that have arisen as a result of human activity, such as
excavated peatlands or manmade lakes. Furthermore the frame of reference may
vary from person to person: for an urban dweller a trip through farmland may
mean a venture into 'nature', whereas for a biologist the same farmland will
be regarded as short on natural features. For both, however, nature is defined
here as the occurrence of interesting natural assets in an area, and this can
also relate to an area or landscape affected by human activity. The extent to
which one considers that an area represents natural assets is determined on
historical, aesthetic, educational and recreational grounds. As the example of
the urban dweller and the biologist indicated, these are all subjective
variables. An objective, universally valid content cannot therefore be
assigned to this category of 'nature'. 

In the case of natural assets we are concerned in particular with the
safeguarding of 'strokeable' animal species (seals, beavers, black-tailed
godwits) or 'strokeable' natural features (peatlands, sand drifts, reedlands)
within a cultivated area influenced by man. This is also designated as
secondary nature. 

Nature conservation may, however, also relate to safeguarding wildlife areas,
i.e. areas largely untouched by human activities. This is sometimes designated
as primary nature. 

In both cases the satisfaction of human needs arises. For the protection of
both natural assets and unspoilt nature, anthropocentric motives apply since
we are concerned in both cases with the assignment of a value. When it comes
to the protection of unspoilt nature it is also sometimes argued that this is
in the interests of nature itself, in the sense that nature has intrinsic
assets and deserves to be protected on those grounds. In the latter case it is
of course once again human beings who form a judgement concerning the
intrinsic value of nature. This distinction is therefore also arbitrary and
the reason for on-going debate 39/. 

The distinction drawn is also open to debate for other reasons. Ultimately,
the natural assets also form part of the goal of nature conservation in
wildlife areas. In practice, therefore, the protection of natural assets comes
down to leaving the social use of the area in which those assets occur
undisturbed. If human activity constitutes a threat to the maintenance of the
natural assets, a system of limiting conditions will be imposed on the
activity in question. 

When it comes to the protection of wildlife areas, the entire area is to begin
with withdrawn from human activity. Only once it becomes clear that the
available or desired natural assets are dependent on human management can
agricultural activities be carried out, such as grazing in dune valleys and
moorlands. It will be clear that in the latter case it is not in fact a matter
of maintaining unspoilt nature. These grey transitional zones between primary
and secondary nature can never be fully closed. 

The implications of these two definitions of nature for the appropriate
policies can, however, differ widely. Although many will wish to see both
kinds of nature fulfilling requirements, the solution in the case of conflict
with other needs will vary widely. If the emphasis is placed on natural
assets, the pressure to exploit as yet unspoiled natural areas will easily be
given into and the emphasis will be placed on the realisation of natural
assets in cultivated areas. In terms of the other approach the latter will not
be unimportant but has little to do with genuine nature. 

To begin with the changes that take place in nature according to the two
approaches are examined below. Despite patchy information, the resulting
picture is one of decline according to both definitions of nature. This
provides grounds for examining how developments could be moulded in a more
sustainable direction. It will be seen that the various definitions of nature
result in highly different elaborations. 

2.4.2               Reference scenario

If one wishes to form a picture of developments in the natural environment,
one runs into major gaps in knowledge. Global evaluations, of which use has
been made here, do not for example pay any systematic attention to the
occurrence of natural assets in urbanised areas. This may reflect the attitude
of researchers towards nature, in the sense that species associated with
civilisation are not regarded as forming part of 'genuine' nature and
consequently receive less attention. This can result in a distorted picture of
the state of nature, at least in the eyes of someone who views nature

Similarly knowledge concerning the species in large natural areas and develop-
ments in the past is no more than fragmentary. The total number of plant and
animal species on earth is not even remotely established; estimates range from
five to 80 million. Only some 1.7 million species have been described. Over
half the species live in tropical jungles, ecosystems in which the wealth of
species has barely been identified. The majority of the as yet undescribed
species relate to insects and mites. 

Significant differences in definition also interfere with the comparison and
interpretation of research findings. How unspoiled must a wildlife area be to
qualify as such? When does a group of trees form a forest? What is meant by
tropical rainforest? What precisely is a species and which organisms belong to
it? For how long must there have been no sightings of a particular species for
it to be regarded as extinct and how intensively should it have been looked

It is comparatively common for species to die out in a certain locality. After
a certain interval it may happen that the species in question reappears in
that place because individual animals or seeds are reintroduced from
elsewhere. If the distribution of species is confined to a small area, this
recovery chance is fairly limited. In such cases the population in the
locality in question may account for virtually the entire species. This
applies particularly to natural ecosystems such as the tropical rainforest.
The geographical area employed in order to determine the extinction of species
is therefore decisive for the results. The timescale employed is also, as
noted, a relevant factor. 

The research findings can therefore sometimes differ widely, as may be seen
from Table 2.20. This makes it difficult to make precise statements about the
current state of affairs. 

Table 2.20          Globally extinct and threatened species (after 1600)

                 McNeely et al. 1990        WCMC 1992      WRI 1992

              Extinct  Threat-    Known  Extinct  Threat-    Known
                       ened                       ened 
Plants          384    19,078   294,650    595   23,078    400,000
Mammals          83       497     4,170     60      507      4,170
Birds           113     1,037     9,198    116    1,029      8,715
Fish             23       343    19,056     29      713     21,000
Reptiles         21       170     6,300     23      169      5,115
Amphibians        2        50     4,184      2       57      3,125
Invert.          98     1,355 1,046,361    252    1,977  1,300,000

Source:             T. van der Meij, J.H.W. Hendriks, C.J.M. Musters et al.,
                    Ontwikkelingen in de natuur; visies op de levende natuur
                    in de wereld en scenario's voor het behoud daarvan
                    (Developments in nature; visions on the living nature in
                    the world and scenarios for its preservation), Preliminary
                    and background studies, V87, The Hague, Sdu uitgeverij,

Nevertheless, the picture to emerge from the survey conducted for the purposes
of this report is one of steady decline virtually across the board, measured
in terms of both natural assets and unspoiled nature 40/. The variety of
plant and animal species is declining and many species are threatened with
extinction. The main cause is regarded as the disappearance of biotopes and
biotopic deterioration through the over-exploitation of plants, animals and
soil minerals and the pollution of soil, water and air. Given the continuation
of present trends, the global forest cover would decline between 1990 and 2040
from 4,100 106ha to 3,700 106ha. The area of tropical jungle - of which 4 per
cent is protected - is shrinking much more rapidly; between 1981 and 1990 the
area contracted by around 0.9 per cent a year. If the main causes - the
requirement for agricultural land by poor farmers, the need for firewood on
the part of the indigenous population and agricultural land for exports -
continues, the area of tropical forest will be substantially reduced in the
next half century. Current policy developments in the countries in question
are inadequate to prevent far-reaching deforestation. Figures on the annual
decline of the tropical rainforest - which accounts for 50-90 per cent of all
plant, animal and microbe species - vary widely from 0.6 to 2 per cent a year.
Present trends provide little ground for optimism about the prospects for
tropical jungle, including the rainforest 41/. Nevertheless, a few positive
developments are discernible. In a few countries, for example, more forest is
being planted than felled. Chile is one example, while the reafforestation
programmes in Brazil, Zambia and Zimbabwe are reasonably successful. 

In temperate areas, the forest cover declined heavily in the 19th and early
20th century. Recently, an increase has even been discernible; planted forests
are, however, much less rich in species than primeval forests. A significant
proportion of the present forest cover no longer consists of primeval forest.
The remaining primeval forests are threatened by conversion to forestry and
commercial exploitation. 

The continued existence of the savannahs, prairies, open forest areas and
tundras are also threatened. An estimated one third of these natural
grasslands are affected to a greater or lesser extent by cultivation, erosion,
degradation and desertification as a result of overintensive use. 

Of the original area of wetlands (e.g. swamps and mangrove forests) an
estimated 25-50 per cent has been lost on a worldwide basis, primarily in
recent decades. These wet and swampy areas are seriously threatened, chiefly
by activities connected with agriculture: drainage, reclamation or the
construction of dykes, dams and barriers in or near water-bearing rivers. The
dunes are also declining in terms of both quality and quantity. As a result of
urbanisation, tourism and recreation the area of dunes in Europe has shrunk by
40 per cent since 1900. 

The speed at which species die out as a result of human activity is generally
regarded as higher than that in prehistoric times, leaving aside natural
disasters. The number of plant and animal species is currently declining in
developing countries due to biotopic loss and in industrial countries due to
biotopic deterioration. It is frequently assumed that a reduction in the area
of an ecosystem by 90 per cent results in a 50 per cent fall in the number of
species. The estimates of the number of species faced with extinction range
from a few to 140 a day. It is however difficult to provide a complete picture
of the extinction or threatened extinction of species in various parts of the
world. The total number of plants, animal and micro-organism species on earth
is unknown. Knowledge about the condition of these species is even more
limited. If the speed at which species are dying out is estimated at 10 to 100
species per day, this will result over the next 50 years in a loss of some
200,000 to 2,000,000 species. In the latter case this would even exceed the
number of known species today. In this respect it needs to be borne in mind
that 'attractive' species obtain a kind of protection in botanical gardens,
zoos and gene banks. The majority of the species, however, are unidentified.
These species could only be aided by means of general conservation measures -
especially the designation of protected areas - but generally speaking these
are not well developed. 

According to the OECD, the percentage of threatened bird, mammal, reptile,
amphibian and fish species is the highest in Western Europe 42/. The possi-
bility can also not be excluded that this percentage is related to the
intensity of research conducted in this part of the world. The extent to which
birds and mammals are threatened has been the most intensively investigated;
the continued existence of over 10 per cent of the species is threatened. 

Against the background of the deterioration of the natural environment there
is every justification for asking what a sustainable relationship with nature
would involve. The notion of sustainability means that account needs to be
taken not just of the nature or specific natural features that currently need
to be safeguarded or realised but also of what nature or specific natural
features need to be passed onto future generations. It may be objected that
natural conditions are always dynamic and have always been changed by human
activity. The present generation does not miss the dinosaur or those species
associated with the cultivated landscape as it existed in the last century.
This argument amounts to the fact that adjustment will always take place to
changes in specific natural features and the amount of unspoiled nature; why
therefore could future generations not in turn adjust to an environment with
less nature or fewer specific natural features? The question is, however,
whether the present generation in fact wants this. The perspective also takes
on a different complexion if it is borne in mind that the processes of decline
have increased sharply throughout the world in recent decades as a result of
population growth and economic activity. 

2.4.3               Action perspectives

The scenarios presented here are based on action perspectives which differ
primarily in their definition of what should be aimed for in terms of nature.
The aim of the Preserving and Saving action perspectives is the preservation
of an unspoiled natural environment, while the Managing and Utilizing action
perspectives seek to realise and sustain specific natural features. Clearly,
the responsibility of future generations is given widely differing interpreta-
tions in these two pairs of action perspectives. The emphasis in the first two
is placed strongly on combating the loss of species caused by human
activities; interaction between man and the environment must be minimised
since, it is argued, it has led to a strong increase in the risk of species
loss. In the Managing and Utilizing action perspectives there is a commitment
to transferring an interesting living environment to future generations.
Extrapolated to its furthest extremes, the consequence of this approach,
namely the 'world as one great park', is ultimately not seen as unsustainable;
in fact, optimum interaction between man and the environment is seen as
desirable. This attitude may also be inspired by a 'second best' inter-
pretation of sustainability, in which the processes of environmental
impoverishment due to population pressure and economic activity are seen as so
strong that the only possible strategy remaining is to safeguard the continued
existence of those specific natural features which are regarded by man as
being of great importance.

Both pairs of action perspectives are therefore aimed at combating irre-
versible trends, though in one pair this attempt is non-selective and in the
other pair selective. An attempt can be made to translate these basic
principles into claims on an area of countryside to be protected. This gives
rise to a difference within each of the pairs of action perspectives because,
although the aim is to preserve as large an area as possible of unspoiled
nature, the actual extent of that area depends greatly on whether this basic
principle means 'the total area which is still unspoiled' (Preserving) or 'all
current options for the natural environment must be kept open' (Saving).

On the basis of the principle that important natural features must be
sustained, a distinction can also be made between an action perspective which
seeks to realise these features primarily in cultivated areas (Utilizing) or
mainly in natural areas (Managing).

Table 2.21          Action perspectives for sustainable development of nature

                     Natural features         Unspoiled nature
Minimum space    Utilizing: Interesting    Saving: Preservation
                 nature in cultivated      of representative
                 areas and towns           ecosystems
Maximum space    Managing: Interesting     Preserving: Preservation
                 nature in natural         of all unspoiled
                 areas                     nature

Source:             WRR.

The Utilizing action perspective is based on the principle that humans not
only have a need for natural products but also for green spaces and contact
with interesting, attractive, fascinating and appealing plants and animals
which deserve our care. In order to satisfy the need for these natural
resources, however, it is not considered necessary to set aside separate areas
on a large scale. It is perfectly possible to enjoy and study nature within
built-up and non-built-up cultivated areas, zoos, botanical gardens, parks,
etc. Nature and the landscape in economically exploited situations can also be
highly attractive from a recreational and educational point of view. It is
perfectly possible to maintain species in cultivated settings, if necessary
through breeding and cultivation programmes. Ecosystems can even be imitated
on a small scale. The creation of separate spaces in the form of nature
reserves is therefore only necessary if certain valuable species or ecosystems
cannot be sustained in a cultivated setting. The population size of those
species and the extent of those ecosystems must be large enough to enable
samples to be taken from them at intervals in order to enable the populations
of botanical gardens and zoos, etc., to be supplemented.

The Saving action perspective is based on the principle that natural areas
must be safeguarded. Moreover, the opportunities for using those areas must
also be retained for the future. At least one representative section of each
type of ecosystem must be protected in as complete a form as possible. The
size of the systems must be such that they are self-sustaining, possibly
supported by a certain amount of management aimed at maintaining important
parameters for the system. This supportive management must then be focused on
important environmental factors such as the supply of clean water and
maintenance of the soil structure and/or key species, such as the most
important producers, consumers, predators and reducers. The knowledge required
for this is already available or will be available in the short term. Nature
management using 'large grazers' is an example of this approach.

In this action perspective the need for contact with nature can only be
satisfied by observing plants and animals under natural conditions. Space has
to be created for this, and nature conservation therefore has to concentrate
on preserving and developing plants and animals and their respective biotopes.
Opportunities must also be created for recreational and educational use of
these natural areas, though this must take place in such a way that the
species concerned and their biotopes are disrupted or eroded as little as
possible. National parks can be seen as an example of this perspective.

The Preserving action perspective is based on the view that all the earth's
existing unspoiled nature must as far as possible be allowed to develop
unhindered. In places where that nature has been eroded or become extinct, the
natural conditions should be restored as far as possible. This is the only way
to keep open all options for future generations. It is acceptable for the
preservation and restoration of wildlife to take up a lot of space, though not
at the expense of other functions. This view is based on the idea that each
component in an ecosystem has a function which cannot be substituted. Systems
cannot be sustained by simply protecting a typical part of them, because this
brings the risk of the system becoming isolated and thus impoverished. In this
perspective, humans must form part of and add themselves to the ecosystem. A
nature policy which allows nature a completely free head to develop in a given
area is typical of this view. This does not mean, however, that areas which
are currently not used by humans are by definition areas of unspoiled nature;
the natural environment in these areas may have been indirectly disrupted or
may not yet have recovered from severe disruptions in the past.

2.4.4               Elaboration of the action perspectives in scenarios

Habitat destruction, i.e. reduction of the amount of space available for
nature, is the most important threat to many specific natural features and
valuable natural areas. The various solution paths have therefore been worked
out in terms of the claims on that space. Although this is a rough criterion,
it does give an indication of what the concept of sustainability could entail.
The question is whether science can help in the specification of the
subjective action perspectives. For example, what area would be needed in
order to sustain the present wealth of species?

Clearly, the amount of space needed in the Utilizing scenario is limited. In
this scenario, it is perfectly possible to study and enjoy nature within
agricultural areas, productive forests, the urban environment and in museums,
though protected nature reserves will be needed in order to sustain species
which cannot as yet be bred or cultivated. In this scenario, the aim is to
preserve the existing acreage of protected areas, amounting to 5 per cent of
the total land area. This would appear to be a realistic option for the
preservation of some species. In Africa, for example, it has been estimated
that the present acreage of protected areas is the minimum necessary to
preserve large mammals 47/. What will be necessary is a relocation of the
protected areas in order to ensure that sufficient space is created for nature
conservation. This will involve expansion of the protected areas in Asia and
Africa and, to a lesser extent, in Europe and the former USSR; the existing
acreage in North and South America is more than adequate.

There is a greater need for space in the Managing scenario. The assumption is
that 10 per cent of the total land area will be required, twice the size of
the present protected areas. This choice is relatively arbitrary, since the
knowledge required for a precise determination is not available. What is
clear, however, is that the present protected area is too small, so much so
that many attractive species are already facing extinction.

The Saving scenario also opts for a total protected area covering 10 per cent
of the overall land area, though here again a great deal of research is needed
in order to establish this figure more precisely. This estimate is based on
calculations by Wolf, which produce a figure of 1.3 billion hectares 48/.
The location of this 10 per cent is not identical to that in the previous
scenario, since the Saving scenario covers all possible ecosystems.

The Preserving scenario designates all presently uncultivated areas - 60 per
cent of the total land mass - as worthy of protection.

Obviously, debate is possible on the size of the areas chosen; there are no
hard scientific indications for either the minimum or the maximum area
required. Nonetheless, given the principles upon which they are based, the
choices appear defensible. It is plausible, for example, that preservation of
the existing wealth of species and ecosystems will not permit further
domestication and resultant reduction in the present area of unspoiled nature.
The 'hardest' consequences of the scenarios relate to the use of space. The
amount of space available on earth is a fixed given, and if part of it is
reserved for nature, the question arises of how much space is left for other
purposes, in particular for the other activity which demands large amounts of
space, namely agriculture.

Table 2.22          Present use of space (in 106 ha) and population (in 106)

Region              Area      Pop.      Agric.       Woodland
World               13,129   5,292      4,801          4,095
Africa               2,964     642      1,077            686
N.+ C. America       2,138     427        642            715
S. America           1,753     297        619            896
Asia                 2,731   3,112      1,149            539
Europe + USSR        2,700     787        827          1,102
Oceania                843      26        486            157
excl. Greenland area:   217,3
excl. Antartica area: 1.321

Region               Other     Nature    Protected      Agric./cap.
World               4,233     3,486.1      651.3             0.91
Africa              1,201       823.2      117.1             1.68
N.+ C. America        780       907.7      160.5             1.50
S. America            238       374.6      101.4             2.09
Asia                1,044       377.6       90.6             0.37
Europe + USSR         771       765.9      121.8             1.05
Oceania               200       237.1       48.6            18.69
excl. Greenland area:   217,3
excl. Antartica area: 1.321

Source:   T. van der Meij, J.H.W. Hendriks, C.J.M. Musters et al.,
Ontwikkelingen in de natuur; visies op de levende natuur in de wereld en
scenarios voor het behoud daarvan (Developments in nature; views on living
nature in the world and scenarios for its preservation). Preliminary and
background studies, V87, The Hague, Sdu uitgeverij, 1995.

The following three tables indicate the amount of space which remains for
agriculture for varying assumptions of population growth. For each scenario,
the amount of space to be set aside for nature is distributed roughly 'pound
for pound' over the different continents.

Table 2.23          Use of space in 2040 for nature scenarios (in 10e6 ha)
                    low population growth (in 10e6)

Region                         Utilizing               Saving
                      Remaining     Remaining     Remaining    Remaining
                                    per capita                 per capita
World                    12,473     1.61          11,816           1.53
Africa                    2,816     1.81           2,668           1.71
N. + C. America           2,031     3.88           1,924           3.67
South America             1,665     3.46           1,578           3.28
Asia                      2,594     0.59           2,458           0.56
Europe + USSR             2,565     3.38           2,430           3.20
Oceania                     801    25.00             759          23.72

Region                      Managing                   Preserving
                    Remaining      Remaining      Remaining     Remaining
                                   per capita                   per capita
World               11,816           1.53           5,252           0.68
Africa               2,668           1.71           1,186           0.76
N. + C. America      1,924           3.67             855           1.63
South America        1,578           3.28             701           1.46
Asia                 2,458           0.56           1,092           0.25
Europe + USSR        2,430           3.20           1,080           1.42
Oceania                759          23.72             337          10.53

Source:   WRR, based on T. van der Meij, J.H.W. Hendriks, C.J.M. Musters et
al., Ontwikkelingen in de natuur; visies op de levende natuur in de wereld en
scenarios voor het behoud daarvan (Developments in nature; views on living
nature in the world and scenarios for its preservation); Preliminary and
background studies, V87, The Hague, Sdu uitgeverij, 1995.

Table 2.24          Use of space in 2040 for nature scenarios (in 106 ha) with
                    medium population growth (in 106)

Region                        Utilizing                   Saving
                    Remaining        Remaining   Remaining     Remaining
                                     per capita                per capita
World               12,473               1.33     11,816         1.26
Africa               2,816               1.41      2,668         1.34
N. + C. America      2,031               3.26      1,924         3.09
South America        1,665               2.98      1,578         2.83
Asia                 2,594               0.49      2,458         0.46
Europe + USSR        2,565               2.96      2,430         2.80
Oceania                801              21.60        759        20.51

Region                       Managing                       Preserving
                    Remaining           Remaining    Remaining   Remaining
                                        per capita              per capita
World               11,816              1.26          5,252       0.56
Africa               2,668              1.34          1,186       0.59
N. + C. America      1,924              3.09            855       1.37
South America        1,578              2.83            701       1.26
Asia                 2,458              0.46          1,092       0.21
Europe + USSR        2,430              2.80          1,080       1.25
Oceania                759             20.51            337       9.11

Source:             WRR, based on T. van der Meij, J.H.W. Hendriks, C.J.M.
Musters et al., Ontwikkelingen in de natuur; visies op de levende natuur
in de wereld en scenarios voor het behoud daarvan (Developments in nature;
views on living nature in the world and scenarios for its preservation);
Preliminary and background studies, V87, The Hague, Sdu uitgeverij, 1995.

Table 2.25          Use of space in 2040 for nature scenarios (in 106 ha) with
                    high population growth (in 106)

Region                        Utilizing                   Saving
                       Remaining   Remaining       Remaining    Remaining
                                   per capita                   per capita
World                   12,473        1.10           11,816        1.05
Africa                   2,816        1.14            2,668        1.08
N+C America              2,031        2.73            1,924        2.59
South America            1,665        2.51            1,578        2.38
Asia                     2,594        0.41            2,458        0.38
Europe + USSR            2,565        2.61            2,430        2.87
Oceania                    801       17.80              759       16.87

Region                        Managing                   Preserving
                       Remaining    Remaining      Remaining    Remaining
                                    per capita                  per capita
World                    11,816        1.05          5,252         0.47
Africa                    2,668        1.08          1,186         0.48
N+C America               1,924        3.59            855         1.15
South America             1,578        2.38            701         1.06
Asia                      2,458        0.38          1,092         0.17
Europe + USSR             2,430        2.87          1,080         1.10
Oceania                     759       16.87            337         7.49

Source:             WRR, based on T. van der Meij, J.H.W. Hendriks, C.J.M.
Musters et al., Ontwikkelingen in de natuur; visies op de levende natuur
in de wereld en scenarios voor het behoud daarvan (Developments in nature;
views on living nature in the world and scenarios for its preservation);
Preliminary and background studies, V87, The Hague, Sdu uitgeverij, 1995.

The four scenarios sharply illustrate the consequences of the various sizes of
the areas to be set aside for nature. The category 'Remaining per capita' in
the tables indicates the area left over for food production and other human
activities, such as living and working.

Comparison with the space currently available for food production (Table 2.22)
shows that in the Utilizing scenario, with its small acreage of protected
natural areas, more space than is currently available for, say, food
production will only be available if there is low population growth on all
continents. The gain in space for agriculture in Asia and Africa is very
limited even in this scenario, however, because of the high population growth;
the present diet in these regions is already very modest, but a better diet
would still have to come mainly from an increase in productivity. Medium or
high population growth will lead to an increase in the food production
problems in both these continents. No problems will arise in the other
continents, even if population growth is high.

The Saving and Managing scenarios portray a doubling of the protected area,
though with major differences in accessibility. The problems in Asia and
Africa prove to be even greater in these scenarios; with a high population
growth, the per capita area available for agriculture on both continents even
falls below its present level - in Africa by a large margin. Competition
between nature conservation, agriculture, forestry and other functions which
demand space is high in these scenarios. It also has to be realised that large
tracts of currently unspoiled natural areas will have to be used for food
production in both these scenarios. Here again, the picture on the other
continents is much more positive.

The conflicts are most pronounced in the Preserving scenario. In terms of area
used this scenario could be realised in Europe and the former USSR, even with
varying assumptions for population growth; in almost every other continent,
however, problems would arise, once again being most pronounced in Africa and
Asia, where much less land would be available for food production than at
present. This conclusion can also be formulated differently: if agricultural
productivity remains unchanged and the population continues to increase, it
will be absolutely impossible in large parts of the world to sustain the
present acreage of unspoiled natural areas. The only way of making this
possible is through far-reaching increases in productivity. This is of itself
not an impossible task; in Asia, for example, a tripling of the yield per
hectare is by no means impossible, while the possibilities in Africa, given
the present low level of production, are often much greater - though the
relatively poor soil does present a problem.

While the amount of physical space is the 'hardest' limiting condition for
these scenarios there are also other, 'softer', factors at work, including the
cost of establishing protective measures or refraining from the exploitation
of nature for other purposes. Whether there is a willingness to pay the price
this will demand depends on the priorities set, the physical scarcity of raw
materials, etc.

Each scenario has its own specific measures and costs. In the Utilizing
scenario, for example, it will be necessary to relocate a number of protected
areas in order to ensure that sufficient space for nature conservation can be
realised in areas where many attractive species originate; these are mainly
the relatively warm and wet regions on land and the coastal areas in warm
regions. The area to be protected in Africa and Asia, and to a lesser extent
in Europe and the former USSR, will have to increase, while a slight reduction
is feasible in North and South America.

The Utilizing scenario demands changes particularly in the way in which
agriculture, forestry and urban development interact with nature. Urban areas
will have to contain extensive green spaces, while rural areas will have to
sustain a varied landscape and use of land. The present decline in interesting
natural features due to intensification of agriculture and over-exploitation
of the soil must be stopped. The space needed for forestry and agriculture
will thus have to increase still further in this scenario. Many plants and
animals will benefit from smaller-scale agriculture and forestry, although
these will mainly be 'culture followers'. This extensification is particularly
relevant for regions already practising high-production agriculture, such as
Europe and the former USSR, North America and Asia.

The remodelling of urban areas will also demand more space for parks, zoos,
botanical gardens, museums, etc., and substantial financial investments will
be needed to achieve this. Moreover, this scenario relies strongly on the
knowledge which is necessary in order to be able to determine which species
can be cultivated and which species can be preserved in which areas. This
knowledge will have to be accumulated in the short term.

In the Managing scenario, plants and animals will be preserved under natural
conditions. Recreationally attractive species thrive best in a natural
environment, and the way of life and living environment of species is part of
their educational and recreational value. Moreover, the risk of extinction is
regarded as lower where natural populations are preserved. Natural features in
cultivated areas are accorded low value, since the occurrence of plant and
animal species in these areas is not the result of natural processes.
Accordingly, no requirements are set in terms of natural features in these

It is not necessary to protect the entire population of the species selected
in designated natural areas, but only sufficient sub-populations to guarantee
the continued existence of the species under conditions which are accessible
to humans. It obviously makes sense to site these areas in locations where the
species thrive best. Natural areas can also be used for other purposes in this
scenario, such as timber harvesting and fishing, as long as the continued
existence of the population is not placed in danger.

The doubling in the size of the protected areas provided for in the Managing
scenario will demand a considerable international effort in order to reach
sound agreements regarding location, degree of protection, funding of
purchases and management. Recreational facilities will have to be introduced
in the protected natural areas and supervision will be necessary to limit the
pressure on the natural environment and the populations occurring within it. A
great deal of knowledge will have to be acquired for this: how large must a
population be in order to be able to survive; how much space is needed for
this; and what quality standards will that space have to meet? The expansion
of the protected natural areas which is necessary in this scenario will to
some extent take place in areas which are currently unused/unspoiled. Land
will also be taken from areas which are currently in agricultural use.

Many other, less interesting species will be able to benefit from the
protection of interesting plants and animals in nature reserves in the
Managing scenario. Species which are susceptible to disruption by recreation
and other shared use will fare less well, however. There is no reason in this
scenario not to reclaim unspoiled areas which are currently inaccessible but
which could be exploited. As long as the interesting nature and nature tourism
are not disturbed, the 'pollution' caused by this type of activity will not be
stopped. There will be few opportunities for wild plants and animals outside
the designated natural areas, except in those areas which cannot be exploited.

The establishment of designated natural areas, the organisation, protection
and patrolling of them, as well as increasing the knowledge on the
conservation of species in those areas, are all things which will have to be
financed in the Managing scenario. On the other hand, money will also flow in
from nature tourism, which experiences a boom in this scenario. It is even
feasible that this economic interest will offer a certain guarantee for the
preservation of natural areas.

The Saving scenario seeks to preserve at least one characteristic part or
example of each ecosystem. This does not mean, however, that all species of
plants and animals will automatically be protected. In order to achieve this,
several examples of each ecosystem would have to be protected, or supportive
conservation techniques such as zoos and gene banks would be needed. A large
body of knowledge would also be necessary regarding ecosystems and their
limitations. All of this carries a large price tag. The costs for agriculture
could also be high; a certain amount of agricultural land would have to give
way to nature, forcing farming production to be concentrated on a smaller

Due to the minimal area which is set aside for nature in this scenario,
natural areas could be quickly disrupted, including by external influences
such as emissions from the intensively utilised urban and agricultural areas.
Harvesting of products such as timber, minerals and energy, as well as recre-
ational activity, will accordingly have to take place almost exclusively
outside the natural areas, unless it can be demonstrated that no damage is
caused to the ecosystem. The prevention of recreational shared use and
exploitation of raw materials, etc., together with guarantees of sufficient
water in protected areas, will demand strict limitations of behaviour. From a
preventive perspective, this will also demand the large-scale development of
environmentally and nature-friendly harvesting techniques and renewable
sources in order to reduce total demand for raw materials and energy.
Recreational facilities will have to be created in urban and agricultural

Conflicts appear almost unavoidable given the need for space and other demands
made by nature. These conflicts can only be avoided through plantation
forestry and intensification of agriculture.

The knowledge base for realising this scenario is currently much too narrow.
In order to preserve a typical example of all ecosystems, there must be a
knowledge of what types of ecosystems exist and what their features are. This
demands much greater knowledge than that required for the previous scenario.
Given the very patchy current knowledge, a strategy which takes the objectives
of this scenario seriously could mean that protected areas will initially
demand even more space. The conflicts with other land uses already signalled
will then increase proportionately.

In the Preserving scenario a great deal will be invested in protecting natural
areas in order to preserve as much of the natural environment as possible. A
very large area will have to be given protected status, and this will be very
expensive. Not only will the initial costs be high, but monitoring and
maintenance of the protected status - already a very weak point at the moment-
will also cost a great deal of money. Moreover, it will only be possible to
meet the demand for timber and timber products through a large-scale shift to
plantation forestry, reducing even further the area available for agriculture.
This scenario thus relies heavily on a world-wide spread of the techniques
needed for high-production agriculture. The cultural, political and economic
obstacles could be considerable.

Clearly, this scenario also places heavy demands in terms of advances in
knowledge. Not only will the productivity of agriculture and forestry have to
be radically increased, but solutions will also have to be found for the
harvesting of raw materials and energy from the protected areas. While
exploitation of natural areas is not ruled out, it will not be possible on a
large scale and no significant disruption of the natural ecosystems will be
permitted. This can only be achieved through the use of highly advanced
environmentally and nature-friendly techniques. The availability of water in
the natural areas must be left essentially intact; this means it will not be
possible to draw water on a large scale from nature reserves, for example for
irrigation. This limitation alone will lead to major conflicts with
agriculture and other human activities.

2.4.5               Evaluation

The concept of sustainability in the relationship between man and nature can
be interpreted in a variety of ways, each of which is normatively determined.
This implies that adopting a given position means other positions are
perceived as unsustainable. For example, if sustainability is interpreted as
the preservation of the existing unspoiled nature and diversity of species,
scenarios such as those worked out under the titles Utilizing and Managing
will be seen as 'blasphemous' in view of their acceptance of the loss of
certain species. Conversely, supporters of the latter positions will see the
Preserving perspective as unsustainable because of the high price which has to
be paid to preserve natural areas and because of the limited area allowed for
world food provision.

In the Councils opinion, however, these scenarios highlight important
directions for choices. The continuing impoverishment of nature and
interesting natural features force a stand to be taken on whether this process
should be allowed to continue unchecked. If not, the question unavoidably
arises as to what sort of protection is needed: selective or non-selective. If
it is felt that non-selective protection is not desirable or is no longer
possible, the question of the selection criteria to be used arises. What sort
of plants and animals should be protected, why and at what cost?
Sustainability is not a philosopher's stone which, once found through
scientific effort, automatically produces answers. Mankind will have to make
the choices itself; scientists can elucidate the choices which have to be
made, but cannot make them.

The choices which have to be made are also not self-evident. Even if agreement
is possible on the choice dimensions, at what levels must efforts be made in
order to be able to talk of sustainability? The measures currently being taken
- including through international agreements - are necessarily first steps.
But how far must the following steps go? If the discussion on sustainability
is to become more substantive, greater clarity on this question is essential.
It became clear in the foregoing section that the specifications chosen here
are based on anything but firm foundations. Nonetheless, such provisional
choices can clear the ground for continued discussion.

The discussion surrounding sustainability also depends on the temporal
context. At the moment it is still possible in many areas to consider the
various sustainability options alongside each other. As domestication and the
concomitant impoverishment of nature progresses, however, in tandem with ever-
increasing competition between claims made on the available space, the need to
make a choice becomes more and more urgent. This need is already present for a
number of highly threatened animal species, and there are even some species
which now only exist in museums.

The scenarios give a first impression of the consequences of the choices
assumed here. However elementary, it would appear impossible to rule out
completely realisation of any of the scenarios. The problems, particularly in
Asia and Africa, will be enormous, especially in the case of the Preserving
scenario, but also in the Utilizing scenario. The assumed amount of space set
aside for nature is greatest in the Preserving scenario and, given the
population growth on these continents, there will be a need for an enormous
increase in agricultural productivity. If self-sufficiency and food production
is the aim here, productivity will need to increase by a factor of between
four and six. Moreover, this agricultural activity must not significantly
erode the natural areas. This is an enormous task, though not an impossible
one on the basis of the theoretically achievable productivity increase which
was discussed in the section on world food provision. Achieving such an
increase in agricultural productivity will, however, demand major economic and
social changes.

This alone will not be enough, however. A worldwide commitment to conserving
the existing unspoiled natural environment demands a consensus on the need to
protect this environment against the exploitation of production assets
occurring in it. The international political structures needed to achieve this
do not exist at the moment, and such structures would represent a far-reaching
infringement of the sovereignty of the states concerned. This is a problematic
issue for all states, but particularly for those states which have only
recently gained independence. The standpoints voiced at the 1992 UNCED
conference by developing countries regarding the protection of their natural
environments illustrates this point.

Moreover, a high proportion of as yet relatively unspoiled nature occurs in
countries with limited prosperity and high population growth. The inclination
to exploit the production assets located within these natural areas will
accordingly be great. The Managing scenario, in which interesting natural
features within natural areas are protected, will therefore have a better
chance of being realised in these locations. Mass international tourism
represents a strongly increasing source of income for these countries.

The margins on other continents are wider. In Europe, for example, the spread
of agricultural knowledge is such that it would be possible in the short term
to reduce the acreage of agricultural land with a concomitant increase in the
area of protected natural areas. There is a high awareness of the value of
nature in these countries, which may well be connected to the level of
prosperity achieved, and possibly also with the far-reaching degradation of
the natural environment which has already taken place there. Nature and
interesting natural features have become scarce. The prosperity of these
countries also means that the resources are available to give these issues a
higher priority. Here, too, however, changes in land use would mean a radical
erosion of interests and lead to great resistance. Agriculture in the European
Union, for example, is subsidised to the tune of 70 billion dollars US
annually. If this amount were capitalised (over a term of 25 years at 7%), and
applied to natural areas (say US $ 3,000 per hectare) then this would make it
possible to purchase 230 million hectares of land, ten times the area
suggested in the WRR report Ground for choices as being eligible for a
European ecological main structure 49/. A large sum would thus remain for
purchasing natural areas elsewhere. Of course these figures need to be put
into perspective somewhat - for example, the present subsidy also helps to
maintain employment and natural areas also have to be managed. Nonetheless,
the calculation indicates that a shifting of priorities towards a much larger
acreage of natural areas need not be hampered by a lack of resources.

2.5                 Raw materials

Society makes large-scale use of mineral resources as a means of generating
prosperity. This raises the question of whether the earth possesses sufficient
natural resources to continue supporting a prosperous society as we know it ad
infinitum. This question becomes even more pertinent when placed against the
background of the progressive increase in prosperity and a fair
intergenerational distribution. The desire to improve prosperity is not
restricted to the West, but is also particularly strong in regions where
economic development has not yet reached Western levels. These are also
precisely the regions where population growth is high and where a large claim
on the earth's natural resources can therefore be expected - a claim which is
likely to far exceed that in the West.

The threatened exhaustion of mineral resources was signalled in the early
1970s by the Club of Rome 50/. The sombre findings of the first report to
the Club have been modified somewhat over the years; substitution by less
scarce raw materials and more effective use and recycling can considerably
push back the scarcity horizon. Nevertheless, the exhaustion of natural
resources has remained an important topic on the agenda of the environmental
debate. Damage to the environment due to the extraction of raw materials and
pollution from production and consumption are also becoming increasing focuses
of attention.

All these aspects - exhaustion, environmental damage and pollution - deserve
attention in the bid to achieve sustainable development. They will be
discussed here on the basis of case studies on copper (exhaustion and
environmental damage) and chlorine (pollution).

2.5.1               Copper

Copper is a scarce metal and has been chosen as a representative example of
the problem of exhaustion and the environmental damage caused by its
extraction. Copper is a good conductor of electricity and heat and is easy to
work. Because of these almost unique properties - only matched by the much
scarcer silver - copper is widely used in electrical applications. Aluminium
is sometimes used as a substitute, but is less suitable for many electrical
applications. Given the increasing share of electricity in the final energy
supply, use of copper for electrical conduction is likely to remain
significant, in spite of the existence of substitutes for a range of
applications. This means that exhaustion of copper is a real possibility.             Reference scenario

World copper consumption amounted to 10.9 million tonnes in 1989. 8.9 million
tonnes of this was primary copper while the remaining 2 million tonnes was
derived from secondary or recycled copper. A recycling reservoir is currently
available containing more than 173 million tonnes of copper in the form of
discarded products or products still in use 51/.

The world copper intensity (i.e. the use of copper per unit of economic
production) has risen considerably since the start of the last century in step
with rising prosperity. There was a reversal in this trend around 1960, when
the world copper intensity began to fall (see Figure 2.10). This 'demateriali-
sation' is a phenomenon which can be observed for many raw materials; it is
due in part to a changing sectoral structure in the West, where the services
sector, which consumes lower quantities of raw materials than some other
sectors, has grown at the expense of manufacturing industry. Substitution by
other materials and increased effectiveness of material use have also helped
to push down the material intensity.

In contrast to the industrialised West, the copper intensity in the Third
World is rising and, since the 1980s, has in fact exceeded that of the
developed economies. If we assume that per capita income will increase in line
with the trend - by 2 per cent in the developed economies and by 3.25 per cent
in the Third World - the copper intensity (Fig. 2.12) can be extrapolated in a
consistent line with the reference trend in per capita copper consumption
(Fig. 2.11). A peak in copper intensity will occur in the Third World in the
middle of the next century which is comparable with the peak in the West in
the 1950s. Rising prosperity in the southern hemisphere will lead to an
increase in demand for raw materials; since these are precisely the regions in
which the population is set to undergo explosive growth, a substantial claim
on the earth's natural resources can be expected.

Figure 2.10         Copper intensity

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:   WRR, based on A. Madison, The world economy in the twentieth
century, Paris, OECD, 1989, and 'Metals output and prices - A historical
perspective', Mining Annual Review, London, 1985.

Per capita consumption of copper is reaching saturation level in the Western
economies, and it is likely that it will also approach this level in the Third
World in the longer term. Consequently the same saturation level has been used
for the reference trend in the Third World as for the developed economies.

The question of how long the copper intensity in the Third World will continue
to increase, and to what level, is of particular relevance for the exhaustion
of copper. Taken together with economic growth, the trend in copper intensity
indicates the development in copper consumption. Clearly, the cumulative
consumption cannot be greater than the total copper resources. As Table 2.27
shows, the economic stocks are currently estimated at less than 500 million
tonnes, though the ultimately extractable stocks could well be several times

If the above reference trend in per capita consumption is related to the three
variants of the United Nations' population forecast, the following picture of
cumulative consumption in the reference scenario emerges.

Figure 2.11         Reference trend in per capita copper consumption in North
                    and South

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Figure 2.12         Reference trend in copper intensity in North and South

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:   WRR.

Table 2.26          Cumulative copper consumption in the reference scenario
                    for the three population trend variants (in million of

                                        2040                2090
     low                                1200                3500
     medium                             1325                4750
     high                               1475                6400

Source:             WRR.

According to the reference scenario, cumulative copper consumption in the year
2040 will far exceed what are currently considered to be the economic
reserves, whichever population trend variant is used. Consumption in 2090 also
far exceeds the technical reserves shown in Table 2.27, i.e. the maximum
reserves which can ever be extracted according to current technical insights.
In the high population variant, consumption is three times that level.

A trend in copper consumption in line with the reference trend is not only
problematic in the sense that it could lead to exhaustion of world copper
reserves. The extraction of copper is usually also accompanied by severe
pollution of the environment: heavy metals are released into the environment
and surface water is polluted. The more extraction concentrates on ores with
lower metal content - as the richer ores become exhausted - the more the scale
of this pollution will increase.

The exhaustion of raw materials is one of the cornerstones of the concept
'environmental utilization space'. For its determination it is necessary to
know what reserves of raw materials are available. On the basis of this 'raw
materials utilization space', limits are then set for social activities which
make use of the raw material concerned. The extent of the raw material
reserves is anything but clear, however, and copper forms no exception.
Although the extent of the 'known' reserves has been determined with some
degree of certainty, the extent of any additional, as yet undiscovered
reserves is unclear. While there is some evidence on which to base statements,
it is insufficient to remove the uncertainty. Table 2.27 gives an impression
of the occurrence and reserves of a number of metals.

Table 2.27          Estimated occurrence, reserves and extraction of metals

          Mass     Geological  Technical  Economic  Annual  Typical
          share    reserve     reserve    reserve   extrac-   ore
          in       [10e12      [10e6      [10e6     [10e6   content
          earth's  tonnes]     tonnes]    tonnes]   ton]      [%]
iron      5.4       1,392,000  2,035,000   93,100   510      55
aluminium 8.1       1,990,000  3,519,000    5,200    18      30
manganese 0.1          31,200     42,000    2,200     8.5    30
copper    0.005         1,510      2,120      456     8.2     2.0
zinc      0.007         2,250      3,400      157     6.6     4
chromium  0.01          2,600      3,260      780     4.4    30
lead      0.001           290        550      123     3.4     5
nickel    0.008         2,130      2,590       45     0.8     1
tin       0.0003           40         68       10     0.18    0.3

Source:   The Council on Environmental Quality and the Department of State,
The Global 2000 Report to the President, Washington D.C., 1980.
Bureau of Mines, Minerals Yearbook, Volume I, Metals and Minerals,
Pittsburgh, US Department of the Interior, 1989.
A. Brobst and W.P. Pratt (eds.), United States Mineral Resources,
Geological Survey, Professional Paper 820, Washington D.C., 1973.

The geological reserve - the total occurrence of an element in the earth's
crust - of copper is estimated at 1.5 x 1015 tonnes. Virtually all of this
occurs in the form of solid solution, in which the copper content is extremely
low. Given current technology and prices, therefore, only reserves of a
certain size and with ore contents above a certain level are extractable.
These 'economic reserves' of copper are estimated at 456 million tonnes.
Technological breakthroughs could have a major impact on what are considered
economically extractable reserves, for example making it possible to extract
copper from ores with a lower content and thus leading to an increase in the
reserves. A striking example of such a technological breakthrough is the
extraction of copper from porphyritic sedimentations, which became possible at
the start of this century. Whereas before this time these sedimentations were
seen as a geological curiosity, they now provide more than half the world's
supply of copper. The possibility of similar developments in the future can
certainly not be ruled out. This becomes even more important if the size of
the technical reserve is compared with the economic reserve - a difference of
a factor five.

This uncertainty regarding the copper reserves makes spreading the exhaustion
over time, in a way which takes account of the interests of future
generations, a problematic issue. Even if exhaustion of all stocks in the
short term is avoided, it remains unclear at what rate the reserves can be
used responsibly in an inter-generational context. The speed with which the
copper reserves are used up therefore implies a risk for the options open to
future generations.

It is not only the available quantity of copper which is relevant for future
generations, however. The consumer demand which can be covered by that copper
in the future is also important. Technological developments mean that the
entire field of applications and substitution possibilities is constantly in a
state of flux. For example, technological advances could enable the same
functions to be performed in future using less copper. Not only could copper
be used generally more effectively, it could also be replaced in some
applications by a different, less scarce metal such as aluminium in high-
voltage cables. Copper contained in discarded products or products which are
currently still in use could also be recycled. Just as with the extent of the
copper reserves, however, the degree to which more effective use, substitution
or recycling could lead to real savings is anything but clear.

There is also a good deal of uncertainty regarding the long-term consequences
of disruptions to the ecological system as a result of economic activities.
This is because there are different ways of interpreting the resilience of the
ecological system. What is clear is that the extraction and processing of raw
materials have a negative ecological impact. For example, many metals occur in
sulphur-containing mineral ores. If these are processed without precautionary
measures, there is an enormous release of acidifying substances into the

Similarly, mining activity has led to the pollution of entire river systems
and large tracts of farming land have become so severely polluted that they
are sometimes totally unusable. This has led to all manner of health problems
in highly polluted mining areas and to a life expectancy which is lower than
in other areas with a comparable socio-economic profile. Mining activities
have also had a dramatic effect on the living conditions of many people,
particularly in vulnerable regions such as the zinc mining areas of Colombia
and the copper mines in Chile. This aspect of raw materials extraction has
been attracting increasing attention in recent years.

Environmental pollution as a result of mining is not a new phenomenon:
throughout the centuries the extraction of metals has had a severe impact on
the environment. The scale of modern mining is so much greater than in the
past, however, that the pollution has increased to regional or fluvial levels.
The scale of mineral extraction will not only continue to increase in the
future, but will also become steadily more difficult. When attempts begin to
extract copper from lower-content ores, for example, larger quantities of
mining waste will be created. The ore seams will become less accessible,
necessitating the removal of larger quantities of earth. It remains to be seen
whether technical solutions exist or will be found which are capable of
adequately mitigating this problem.

On the basis of current knowledge it is practically impossible to make well-
founded statements regarding the quantity of copper available to the present
and future generations. There are too many uncertain factors to enable an
objective indication to be given of the 'permitted use'. As argued in Chapter
1, much depends on the perception of the risks involved.             Action perspectives

The first difference between the action perspectives is the importance they
attach to the risk of a copper shortage resulting from a combination of the
available reserves, savings and recycling. Where the risk of shortage is
perceived as serious (Preserving and Saving), the advocated trend in
consumption is dictated, partly from an intergenerational point of view, by
the idea of finite reserves whose limits are in sight. Technological advances
are not considered adequate to reduce consumption to such an extent that the
threat of scarcity is removed; in order to achieve savings, behavioural change
is considered necessary.

Where the risk of shortage is seen as less serious (Managing and Utilizing),
the desired consumption trend is governed by rising exploitation costs due to
the exhaustion of the richer ore reserves. There is less concern regarding the
possibility of finite reserves. Great faith is placed in the ability of
technology to reduce raw materials consumption, primarily through an increase
in raw materials productivity - i.e. the production of goods and services for
which a raw material is used as input, calculated per unit of that raw

Just as important as the reserves of raw materials are the specific natural
features which could be damaged by the extraction and circulation of those raw
materials. Given the uncertainty regarding the resilience of these natural
features, they are treated differently in the various action perspectives. The
Utilizing and Saving perspectives recognise the erosion and pollution
associated with mining, but rely on the ability of technology to provide
solutions. The Managing and Preserving perspectives perceive these ecological
risks as being even more important. The Managing scenario seeks a solution in
far-reaching environmental measures governing extraction, while Preserving
refrains from extraction in vulnerable locations. The differences between the
action perspectives are summarised in Table 2.28.

Table 2.28          Action perspectives for sustainable raw materials

                        Slow fall in raw          Rapid fall in raw
                        materials intensity       materials intensity
Careful extraction          Utilizing                 Saving
Restricted extraction       Managing                  Preserving

Source:   WRR.             Translation of action perspectives into scenarios

The Utilizing scenario does not assume that raw material reserves are
infinite, but is based on the idea of decreasing ore contents which make the
reserves more difficult to extract. Although this has always been the case,
major technological advances have to date meant that no significant cost
increases have occurred in spite of the falling contents of copper ores. If
technological developments were unable to prevent an increase in the costs of
extraction from less rich ores, however, then sustainable development is still
possible if the productivity of copper increases at the same rate as the
extraction costs. Extra efforts in the Utilizing scenario make an increase in
copper productivity of 0.5 per cent relative to the reference scenario a
feasible proposition.

Although subsequent generations will have less high-grade copper ores at their
disposal, they need not necessarily be at a disadvantage, provided sufficient
investments are made in order to reduce future consumption 52/. It is
already possible to substitute copper with less scarce raw materials. In addi-
tion, technology can contribute to an increase in the productivity of copper
consumption. Depending on the rise in extraction costs, the level of recycling
will also increase substantially - from its present level of 18 per cent to
more than 50 per cent by the year 2090 in this scenario. While the costs of
extraction could increase fourfold by the end of the next century, recycling
could limit this to a threefold increase in the present costs per tonne of

Finally, increasing scarcity of copper will be translated into rising copper
prices. This will lead to copper being used only for the most essential
functions, in turn leading to a reduction in demand for copper. Exhaustion
need not then occur.

A complicating dimension however is the present and future economic
development of the southern hemisphere. Rising affluence is accompanied by
increased use of raw materials. The potential claim on world copper reserves
by southern nations, with their high population growth, is accordingly large.
It will also be necessary to pass a raw materials-intensive 'hump' before an
equally satisfactory raw materials-extensive consumer pattern is achieved in
the South as in the North. In order to prevent this leading to scarcity,
progressive technological development in the extraction, productivity and
recycling of copper is desirable now (Fig. 2.13).

Figure 2.13         Per capita consumption of copper in Utilizing scenario

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:   WRR.

In 1990 the cumulative total of copper extracted from the earth's crust to
date was around 350 million tonnes. In the Utilizing scenario this cumulative
extraction rises to 1,175 million tonnes in the year 2040 and to 2,550 million
tonnes in 2090. 8.9 million tonnes of primary copper were extracted in 1990.
In the Utilizing scenario this rises to 22.6 million tonnes in 2040, peaks
shortly afterwards and then enters a downward trend, reaching 26.1 million
tonnes in 2090.

The view of copper scarcity in the Saving scenario is dominated by the idea of
finite raw materials reserves; the ecological risks associated with raw
materials extraction are not given great importance. The ultimately
extractable reserves of copper are estimated at 1,500 million tonnes. Although
the exhaustion period for copper, related to the economic reserves, has
remained constant over the years, this is no guarantee that the trend will
continue in the future. There are even a number of factors pointing to the
reverse trend. For example, the majority of the copper reserves are concen-
trated in a limited number of locations, which are gradually becoming
exhausted. While it is true that new reserves are continually being found, the
period between the start of explorations and the start of production is
steadily increasing 53/. These exploration efforts will have to be
continually stepped up. In addition, there is little reason to assume that
there are still large undiscovered reserves of poorer ores in the earth's
crust. The assumption that these reserves are many times greater than the
richer ores has never been objectively confirmed. Although technological
advances have removed many obstacles to copper extraction in the past, if the
practically extractable reserves become exhausted, there is no technology
which can maintain production levels. The measured economic scarcity is
therefore a delayed indicator of an impending physical scarcity.

As copper will always be an essential input in the economy, the extraction of
this metal must therefore decrease, and this decrease must proceed at the same
rate as the decline in the copper reserves. The exhaustion period - the number
of years within which the reserves become exhausted at a given constant level
of extraction - will remain the same throughout the years. The Saving scenario
opts fairly arbitrarily for an exhaustion period of 50 years.

The question is how to achieve the envisaged decrease. The main impact of
technological developments will be in facilitating more effective use of
copper, for example through a further reduction in the copper intensity.
Overall, however, it cannot be said that technological developments are moving
in the direction of lower use of copper. In the industrialised nations, for
example, the copper intensity has been falling for some time, but the steady
rise in prosperity means that per capita consumption has not fallen. At best
it can be said that technological development will enable the various poten-
tial uses of copper to be better identified so that there will be a certain
optimisation of the use of copper. Provided a sufficient level of technology
transfer can be achieved, this will also enable a similar level of prosperity
to be achieved in the Third World as in the developed economies today, though
with a markedly lower per capita copper consumption.

In addition to achieving a copper productivity which exceeds the trend, a high
degree of recycling will also have to be encouraged. The maximum achievable
level of recycling is set at 75 per cent by 2090 in the Saving scenario, a
figure based on an assumption of leakages of the order of only 10-15 per cent
during both collection and recovery. Even if recycling takes off in this way,
however, the level of primary copper extraction will remain high because of
the strong growth in demand for copper in the Third World. It is thus far from
certain that technological changes will be capable of reducing the level of
extraction, and this scenario therefore treats a concomitant reduction in per
capita copper consumption as essential.

If an ultimately extractable reserve of 1,500 million tonnes of copper is
assumed and an exhaustion period of at least 50 years, the permissible per
capita consumption if sustainable development is to be maintained is shown in
Figure 2.14.

Figure 2.14         Maximum permissible per capita consumption in Saving

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:   WRR.

Of the initial copper reserves of 1,500 million tonnes as estimated in 1990,
625 million tonnes remain in 2040 and 200 million tonnes in 2090. The level of
extraction in 1990 amounted to 8.9 million tonnes. The maximum permissible
extraction according to the Saving scenario is 15.3 million tonnes in 2040,
falling to 5.0 million tonnes in 2090.

Like the Utilizing scenario, the Managing scenario does not accord great
importance to the risks of copper scarcity; improved extraction technology
will enable the exhaustion horizon to be extended in time. The scenarios
differ in their view of the relationship between man and the environment,
however. Protection of the environment and nature is of prime importance in
the Managing scenario and must be accorded great importance when making
economic judgements.

The costs of primary copper are made up not only of extraction costs but also
of the costs of environmental protection measures. As the copper content of
ores reduces, environmental costs per tonne of copper increase
disproportionately. Greater amounts of earth have to be moved, so that the
disruption of the natural environment and the level of pollution become ever
more serious. A very cautious attitude to the extraction of new finds will
therefore be adopted in the Managing scenario.

The costs of extraction, including the environmental costs, could be ten times
the extraction costs in 1990 by the year 2090 under the Managing scenario.
However, the high level of recycling - 79 per cent in 2090 - keeps the costs
of the copper supply down to four or five times their present level.

Future generations must not be saddled with the costs of present-day
extraction practices, in the sense that they are restricted by high costs from
benefiting from the available natural resources to the same extent as today's
generation. The productivity of copper usage will therefore have to increase
sufficiently to compensate for both extraction costs and environmental costs.
It is assumed in this scenario that such a balance has been achieved when an
additional increase in copper productivity of 0.75 per cent annually relative
to the reference scenario is realised.

Once the southern hemisphere is over its raw materials-intensive 'hump', this
condition could be ameliorated and compensation could be found in less raw
materials-intensive but equally satisfactory consumption patterns. The results
of these assumptions for copper consumption are shown in Figure 2.15.

The cumulative extraction, which amounted to 350 million tonnes of copper in
1990, reaches a level of 1,025 million tonnes in 2040 under the Managing
scenario and a peak of 1,750 million tonnes in 2090. The 1990 level of
extraction of 8.9 million tonnes increases to a peak of 15.9 million tonnes in
2040 before falling to 10.1 million tonnes by 2090.

Figure 2.15         Per capita copper consumption in Managing scenario

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:   WRR.

The Preserving scenario also treats the risk of scarcity as the major world
problem. The ecological risk associated with the extraction of metal ores,
though also treated as serious, has only a regional scope. In a worldwide
culture in which local environmental risks are avoided, however, a world
shortage is inevitable, since the reserves will then not be exploited, or not
fully, because of environmental considerations. The costs of extraction could
also rise because of the need to take all manner of environmental measures.

Under the Preserving scenario, the reserve potential must not exceed the
carrying capacity of the environment. The extractable reserves of copper are
therefore limited in this scenario to 750 million tonnes. As in the Saving
scenario, the ratio between extraction and remaining reserves is set at a
minimum of 50 years and the maximum achievable level of recycling at 75 per
cent. The permissible sustainable per capita consumption resulting from this
is shown in Figure 2.16.

Figure 2.16         Maximum permissible per capita consumption in Preserving

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:   WRR.

Of the initial primary copper reserves of 750 million tonnes available for
extraction in 1990 under the Preserving scenario, 250 million tonnes remain in
2040 and 80 million tonnes in 2090. The level of extraction in 1990 was 8.9
million tonnes. In this scenario the maximum permissible extraction in 2040 is
6.3. million tonnes and in 2090 2.1 million tonnes.

Summary of key figures
The main features of the scenarios are ranged against each other in Table
2.29. To aid a correct interpretation, it should be borne in mind that the
maximum permissible consumption is given for the Saving and Preserving
scenarios; this could imply a very abrupt modification of the level of

Table 2.29          Summary of scenario results

Unit:                   Per capita                Per capita
kg Cu per capita        consumption               recycling

                        North        South        North       South
Year:     2040
          Reference     8.78         3.26
          Utilizing     6.83         2.54         2.6         0.53
          Saving        7.40         2.80         6.27        1.05
          Managing      6.03         2.24         3.85        0.76
          Preserving    4.90         1.80         5.56        0.93
Year:     2090
          Reference     8.97         7.59         
          Utilizing     5.43         4.60         2.94        2.03
          Saving        3.20         2.70         3.27        2.15
          Managing      4.22         3.57         3.87        2.68
          Preserving    1.70         1.40         1.81        1.19
Unit: mln. tonnes Cu
Year:                   1990         2040         2090
          Utilizing     8.9          22.6         26.1
          Saving        8.9          15.3          5.0
          Managing      8.9          15.9         10.1 
          Preserving    8.9           6.3          2.1
Cumulative consumption for central population projection variant after 1990
Unit: mln. tonnes Cu
Year:                   2040          2090
          Utilizing     825           2200
          Saving        875           1300
          Managing      675           1400
          Preserving    500            670

Source:             WRR.             Evaluation

The cumulative consumption of primary copper exceeds the levels of
what are currently regarded as economically extractable reserves in
all scenarios, though to a considerably lesser extent than in the
reference scenario. All scenarios therefore speculate on developments
which lead to an increase in the economic reserves, mainly through
improved extraction technology. This speculative nature of the
scenarios is brought into sharper relief when it is borne in mind that
all scenarios assume a rise - sometimes a very sharp rise - in the
recycling of copper.

Each of the definitions of sustainability set out in the action
perspectives therefore entails considerable adaptations on the supply
side. In addition, changes in the demand for copper are also
desirable. While the policy in this area is still in its infancy, it
could enable a number of relatively painless successes to be achieved
in the coming decades. Extending the environmental technology policy
could have a positive effect, for example through the promotion of

The scenarios reveal that a high level of recycling help to moderate
sharply rising extraction costs. The promotion of recycling can
therefore be seen as an insurance against severe shortages. This
promotion need not only take place through technology policy; the
introduction of a policy-based residual value could also have a major
positive impact on recycling, and is also desirable from the point of
view of waste policy.

Substitution technology also deserves attention. There are real
opportunities for substitution. For example, the use of copper is
being concentrated more and more on the conduction of electricity,
whereas the geologically much less scarce aluminium could also be used
for this. Substitution of copper by aluminium is currently hampered on
many fronts by a series of technical drawbacks. In many respects,
therefore, this is an example of an insufficiently developed
technology. Research aimed at increasing the usability of aluminium
for electrical applications is potentially one of the greatest
contributions to avoiding a severe shortage of copper. All scenarios
of a sustainable society are based on the need for a declining per
capita consumption of copper. This decrease will have to take place
first in the developed economies and later also in the southern
hemisphere. Only after the raw materials-intensive 'hump' in those
countries has been passed, will there be scope for the per capita
copper consumption to fall. There are different ways of reducing this
consumption, for example through technology or via changes in consumer

The finite life of products creates a continuing substitution demand
for raw materials. One way of stemming this demand is to increase the
life of consumer durables. This could be achieved, for example, by
protecting products more effectively against external influences which
shorten the life or by intensifying maintenance and repair activities
during the period of use. Low-maintenance product designs go some way
to meeting this need. Institutional barriers which frequently stand in
the way of the labour-intensive maintenance process could also be
demolished. It is notable, for example, that the tax system leaves the
discarding of raw materials relatively untaxed whilst taxing
extensions to the period of use.

There are various other approaches aimed at increasing raw materials
productivity. For example, the usage intensity of copper has a direct
impact on its productivity. By raising the usage intensity of products
containing copper, the usefulness of these products can be increased.
Ways of increasing this intensity include measures designed to favour
the use of consumer durables rather than the possession of them, for
example through user pools or hire schemes.

Copper productivity can also be increased through material savings.
Technological development makes it possible to perform the same
function with less and less material. The trend towards
miniaturisation is also of importance in this respect. Economic
stimuli can also play a role in the implementation of material

Finally, copper productivity can be increased by substituting copper
with other materials. Known examples include the replacement of copper
with aluminium in high-voltage cables and car radiators. Technological
development in the substitution options is steadily reducing the use
of copper to applications in which no alternatives are available or in
which the alternatives lead to a higher cost price. A rise in the
price of copper increases its marginal productivity.

Per capita use of raw materials can also be reduced through a policy
aimed at changing consumer preferences. Such a change is generally the
result of a response to changed scarcity ratios. It is also possible
that changes in lifestyle, other than those arising from the
demographic structure or income distribution, have an influence on the
per capita consumption of copper. If this is the case, the possibility
of trying to influence the choice of a particular lifestyle could be

In contrast to energy, for example, a raw material such as copper is
not consumed directly. The demand for copper is derived from the
demand for goods and services for which the metal forms an input. A
copper-saving policy driven by the price mechanism therefore has only
an indirect influence on consumer preferences.

A policy focused on limiting leakages from the raw materials chain, in
other words achieving the highest possible level of recycling, acts on
two fronts. First, the returns on collection must be increased with a
view to preventing the loss of copper-containing products for collec-
tions. In principle there are various ways of achieving this. A price
stimulus in the form of a returns system is highly effective for some
product groups. Secondly, the returns on recovery itself must also be
increased; this is largely a technical issue; the product design must
make recovery possible. Moreover, the processes used to recover raw
materials can also be improved.

Such measures cannot be carried through in an isolated, national
context. Technological developments are increasingly taking place on a
global scale, and international coordination and collaboration are
indispensable in this field. On the other hand, the removal of
institutional barriers to facilitate recycling or extend or intensify
the use of raw materials, for example, is more a matter for national
policy initiatives.

2.5.2               Chlorine             Introduction

The pollution aspect of raw materials use is illustrated by chlorine
and chlorine products. There are various reasons for devoting explicit
attention to this raw material. The present-day affluence of modern
economies is based to a large extent on chlorine, with roughly 60 per
cent of consumer goods containing chlorine or made using a chlorine-
dependent process. Examples include plastics (PVC), washing powder
additives, non-stick coatings to frying pans, insulation materials,
rainproof clothing, glues, medicines, herbicides and pesticides and
compact discs.

Much attention has been devoted to chlorine in the environmental
debate in recent decades. Chlorine compounds such as
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and substitutes such as HCFCs, chlorinated
pesticides such as PCBs (polychlorobiphenyls), dioxins and furans, are
important factors in the environmental issue. Household waste
incineration plants located in Leeuwarden, Leiden and Zaanstad
recently had to be closed because of unacceptable emissions of
chlorinated dioxins.

There are many innocent chlorine compounds, the most important being
common salt. In this section, however, the compounds that are harmful
to the environment are the main topic of discussion.               Environmental impact

The production and consumption of goods involving the use of chlorine
can have consequences for the environment. The production of chlorine
is based mainly on the electrolysis - decomposition using electrical
current - of salt. Some electrolytic processes use environmentally
harmful auxiliary substances such as mercury and asbestos. The
production methods used in the Netherlands are relatively modern and
clean, however: almost half the chlorine production takes place using
membrane electrolysis. In addition many chlorine compounds have their
own environmental impacts. Most of these problems have been known for
some time.

Influence on biological and physical processes
Chlorine (in gaseous form) is of itself aggressive: low doses lead to
irritation of mucous membranes and skin, while high doses are quickly
lethal. Gaseous chlorine can form highly explosive mixtures with
certain substances, such as hydrogen, acetylene, ammonia, phosphorous
and powdered metals. Intensive sunlight is sometimes sufficient to
ignite these mixtures. Its high reactivity means that chlorine rarely
occurs in nature except in compounds, though heating chlorine-
containing products can release gaseous chlorine and other chlorine

A number of organochlorine compounds are carcinogenic to humans and/or
animals in the event of chronic exposure above a certain level; they
may also encourage mutations or damage organs or systems in other
ways. Some physical processes, such as the formation of the
stratospheric ozone layer, also appear to be strongly influenced by
the presence of chlorine. It is thought that only a few p.p.b.v.
(parts per billion volume) of chlorine are sufficient to cause severe
damage to the stratospheric ozone layer.

Chlorine is a reactive element which bonds rapidly with almost all
other elements and with itself. The strong intramolecular bonding
means that many chlorine-containing compounds have a long life under
practical conditions. This stability can be regarded as positive
during the period of useful application, but can sometimes have an
adverse effect during the remainder of the life of the compounds.

Cumulative behaviour
Several chlorine compounds are lipophilic, i.e. easily absorbed by
animal and/or vegetable fats. This property, combined with the high
persistence, can lead to accumulation in food chains. A well-known
example of this is the insecticide DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane). This
substance has now been banned in many countries, though is still used in a
number of places in the world. Even in countries where its use has been banned
since the end of the 1970s, DDT is still present in the food chain. The
concentrations fall only slowly: in animal fat tissue by roughly 6 per
cent per year (half-life approximately 10 years) 54/.

The use of persistent and cumulative chlorine compounds has been
greatly reduced in recent years. This does not mean, however, that
problems involving persistence and accumulation are completely a thing
of the past. The chlorine compounds used today still give rise to some
problems in this respect.

Transformation into harmful decay products
In addition to the stability, decomposition also creates problems in
some cases. There are various examples of rapidly decaying and
relatively harmless chlorine compounds which are converted into highly
persistent and harmful decay products. Undesirable transformation
plays an important part in several environmental problems involving
chlorine. Examples include the photolithic decay of halogenated
carbohydrates to form ozone-depleting halogen radicals. Another
example is the conversion on combustion of virtually harmless chlorine
compounds into dangerous chlorinated dibenzodioxins and dibenzofurans.
Transformation into harmful substances is difficult to predict fully
and usually occurs in environments over which there is virtually no

Increased susceptibility to disturbance
The susceptibility of biological and physical systems to external
disturbances can be significantly increased by the presence of certain
substances, and the same appears to apply for certain chlorine
compounds. Examples include the increase in carcinogenity of
benzopyrene in the presence of small and in themselves probably
relatively harmless quantities of tetrachlorodioxin; the increased
sensitivity of the ozone layer to aerosols in the presence of chlorine
radicals; the greatly increased lethality of viral infections in seals
in the presence of PCBs; and the immunotoxocological effects of
dioxins in humans which can lead to higher susceptibility to disease.
Combination effects such as those referred to above have a non-linear
action, so that the total impact is greater than the sum of the
individual effects. There is a great deal of uncertainty regarding all
these combination effects.

Environmental effects such as those described above are not
exclusively the result of industrial activities. Several halogen
compounds synthesised by man also occur freely in nature, and the
presence of natural organohalogens is in fact greater than originally
thought. Moreover, harmful halogen compounds can also arise in non-
industrial activities such as household waste incineration, the
burning of fuel oil at sea, the burning of open fires and barbecues.

The use of chlorine compounds and production process involving the use
of chlorine can thus cause environmental problems. On the other hand,
they can also help to reduce environmental problems. For example, the
high chemical reactivity and selectivity of chlorine have made it
possible in a number of cases to save significant amounts of energy.
Another example is the production of the paint pigment titanium
dioxide, in which the transition from the sulphate process to the
chlorine process has produced substantial environmental benefits such
as a drastic reduction in the discharge of heavy metals and plaster
and a fall in the amount of solid waste of more than 90 per cent.

In a number of cases the environmental effects of using chlorine has
also been significantly mitigated. Over the last two decades, for
example, substantial improvements have been made in the production of
chlorine and chlorine compounds. This has led to a drastic reduction
in the emission of harmful substances, with some companies cutting the
discharge of chlorohydrocarbons into water by a factor of more than
100. A range of measures have also been introduced to further reduce
the risk of accidents; in the production of PVC, for example, there
was only one industrial accident in the whole world in the period
1970-1979, resulting in four victims; in the period 1980-1989 there
was also one accident, this time with 17 deaths. The same applies to
the transport of elementary chlorine. Chlorine is a highly reactive
substance, but the efforts of various groups - chlorine safety groups
and sector organisations, chlorine help agencies, railway
organisations and public authorities - have reduced the transport risk
to a very low level. Not a single accident has occurred in Western
Europe during the large-scale transport of chlorine since the Second
World War. Only 20 per cent of the total chlorine production in the
highly industrialised North-western Europe and North America is
transported between companies above ground - mainly using special
block trains - and this fraction is falling further.             Uncertainties

There is almost universal agreement on the economic importance of
chlorine. It would be difficult to do without chlorine as a raw
material in the very short term. In time, however, substitution should
not be impossible for the majority of applications. According to some
observers there are already existing alternatives for many chlorine
products, which would be perfectly capable of meeting the economic and
technical requirements either now or after a certain amount of further
development in the near future.

On the other hand, various groups also argue for a complete ban on
chlorine. An integral chlorine policy would then have to be focused on
finding substitutes for chlorine as quickly as possible or banning the
use of chlorine as a raw material. This argument is justified on the
basis of the major risks associated with the use of this raw material.

And yet there are still considerable uncertainties regarding the
precise environmental effects of chlorine compounds. Little is known,
for example, about the actual harmful effects of the present
generation of organochlorine pesticides on flora and fauna and about
their possible ecological consequences.

The use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) will cease in a few years' time
under international agreements on their rapid elimination.
Nevertheless, the role played by CFCs in the creation of the Antarctic
hole in the ozone layer and the depletion of stratospheric ozone
elsewhere in the world has still not been fully proven. There are
probably also other causes, and there is still uncertainty regarding
the reinforcing effect of aerosols, for example those originating from
volcano eruptions.

Several chlorinated dioxins and furans are known with great certainty
to be extremely harmful in high doses. There is once again great
uncertainty regarding the effects of chronic exposure of humans to low
doses, however. It is particularly difficult to provide evidence based
on epidemiological grounds. The great variation between animal species
means that results obtained with test animals cannot simply be assumed
to apply to humans as well. Statements regarding risks and uncer-
tainties also demand far-reaching differentiation in forms of
production and application. This is a totally different situation than
for a raw material such as copper, where the problems can be indicated
with relative ease, such as scarcity - although the future scale of
this scarcity is also surrounded by uncertainty - and the
environmental consequences of extraction.

Given the many applications of chlorine and the great differences in
environmental consequences, there is little point in drawing up a
reference scenario for chlorine. Instead, a description has simply
been given of possible action perspectives which estimate the risks of
production and consumption for the environment and society. There has
also been no translation of these action perspectives into scenarios,
since this is only useful when carried out for each specific

Notwithstanding these limitations, there are extremely good reasons
for including chlorine in this report. Presentation of the action
perspectives is important since it enables an indication to be given
of how great the uncertainty is and illustrates the complexity of the
considerations which play a role in sustainability. The public debate
is marked by a polarisation for and against chlorine. The existence of
a more differentiated picture can perhaps break through this simpli-
fication.             Action perspectives

The description takes account of the above differences between
chlorine products. Since a complete description of all important
activities or products involving chlorine is impossible, the
discussion of the various perspectives focuses on the following
issues: production and transport, PVC, pesticides, CFC substitutes and

Table 2.30          Four action perspectives for sustainable use of chlorine

                           High consumption       Low consumption
Careful management         Utilizing, 'More       Saving: 'Frugal
                           with chlorine'         with chlorine'
Transition to              Managing:              Preserving:
 alternatives              'Alternatives for      'Avoiding
                           chlorine'              chlorine'

Source:             WRR.

The Utilizing action perspective assumes a high capacity of the
environment to recover, a high optimising capacity on the part of the
market, a high problem-solving capacity for technology and a high
capacity to adapt on the part of humans. On the basis of these
assumptions, there is no need for excessive anxiety in the interaction
with nature. It is unnecessary constantly to aim for zero emission
levels. When formulating norms, account should be taken of the natural
background levels of harmful substances, while the relative importance
of the risk must be kept in view. A 'trial-and-error' approach, with
rapid corrective action where necessary, can keep the problems within

The Utilizing perspective puts great faith in technical production and
transport solutions for achieving acceptable environmental risk
levels. The improvements achieved in this respect in the recent past
illustrate the feasibility of this view. The restructuring and
industrialisation of Eastern Europe and Asia will lead to an expansion
of the chlorine industry in those countries. In order to keep the
accompanying risks within reasonable limits, it is very important that
the environmental protection measures taken by the chlorine industry
in the West should also be applied there. Investments by Western
industry and targeted exchange of knowledge can make important
contributions to this aim.

PVC is regarded in the Utilizing perspective as a particularly durable
plastic which, if used carefully, is also highly environmentally
friendly. When mixed with certain additives, PVC is resistant to many
forms of attack and can be used for a broad spectrum of applications.
It also has a good price/performance ratio. The production processes
are advanced and meet stringent emission standards. Production in
large plants facilitates optimum energy efficiency.

Careful management of PVC demands the use of modern production tech-
niques, the careful collection of PVC waste, polymer recycling of the
high-grade waste fractions and monomer recycling or advanced
combustion with recovery of energy and hydrochloric acid in the case
of the low-grade fractions. Better additives need to be developed for
certain applications. The introduction of new PVC formulations must
allow for recycling. The recycling of PVC requires not only technical
solutions; further measures also need to be taken on the logistical
front and a sufficiently large and reliable market needs to be

Although broadly speaking chlorine-containing pesticides have greatly
improved in recent decades, the Utilizing perspective recognises that
the control of disease and plagues, with whatever agent, can give rise
to problems. For the time being, however, pesticides and herbicides
are a necessary evil in a world where many people have to be fed and a
healthy life must be assured. Expansion of the use of chlorine-
containing pesticides and herbicides therefore appears likely. Large-
scale exports of chlorine-containing agents which are banned in eg.
members of the European Union still take place to developing
countries. The inherent open use of pesticides and herbicides, i.e. a
form of use in which the substances are freely released into the
environment, threatens to increase particularly in the southern
hemisphere, where highly stable, broad-spectrum and highly toxic
agents are still used.

Chlorofluorocarbon compounds (CFCs) have made a major contribution to
prosperity and welfare. For example, chlorine-containing refrigerants
have made a great contribution to improving the health status of
humans. They have reduced the deterioration of foods and led to a more
sustainable use of agricultural products. Although the causal link has
still not been proven, the risk of depletion of the ozone layer is not
imaginary and, given the nature and scale of the potential
consequences, the necessary decrees to substitute CFCs were drafted
rapidly, a reflection of the flexibility with which such developments
can occur. HCFCs and HFCs are good substitutes for the majority of
applications. They facilitate a rapid reduction in the use of CFCs and
make it easier to achieve an orderly transition to other substitution
techniques. Hindering the use of H(C)FCs leads to delays in the
reduction of CFC use, with all the concomitant adverse environmental
consequences. The majority of H(C)FCs have been subjected to extensive
toxicological tests and do not appear to carry the risks of some other
substitutes. They also often score from an energy point of view.
Several H(C)FCs are of the 'drop-in' type, while a number of other
substitutes require completely different capital goods and products.
This could lead to an unsustainable waste of capital and materials.

The Utilizing action perspective is based on the observation that more
and more indications are emerging that the problems of chlorinated
dioxins and the related furans have been exaggerated in the past.
While it is true that they are harmful substances, they are less
harmful to humans than was at first feared. Among inhabitants of
Seveso, who have been exposed to high doses of 2,3,7,8-TCDD (up to 27
ppb in serum) since 1976, the only health effect which has been unam-
biguously demonstrated is chlorine acne.

Figure 2.17         The result of a careful approach: strongly reducing con-
                    centrations of dioxin (Rhine mud deposited in the
                    Ketelmeer lake)

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:   J.E.M. Beurskens et al., 'Geochronology of priority pollutants in a
sedimental area of the Rhine river', Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry,
Vol. 12, December 1993, 1549-1566.

The indications referred to above allow a certain amount of scope in
the exposure to dioxins. There is therefore no need to aim for a zero
standard in this action perspective. Improvement of process conditions
during waste incineration, in the paper and metal industries, during
the production of chlorinated aromatic compounds and in transport
methods can enable the emission of dioxins to be reduced to a
sufficiently low level. An emission of 0.1 mg I-TEQ/m3 during
incineration is quite acceptable from the point of view of
sustainability. This very low emission level is also an illustration
of what careful management of chlorine-containing processes can
achieve in a short span of time.

The Saving action perspective supports careful management and frugal
consumption on the basis of the environmental risks. Little faith is
placed in alternatives: these have their own disadvantages and tend to
do no more than displace the problems. Moreover, many of the drawbacks
of alternatives will only become apparent at a later stage. Incidental
successes with chlorine-free alternatives must not be generalised too

The proper deployment of management technology, combined with a
commitment to completeness of licences, heavy sanctions for the
exceeding of norms, stringent standards and the perfecting of
inspection systems can considerably improve chlorine-containing
processes. Process integration can minimise the transport of chlorine
or harmful derivatives. The economic risks of taking strong action in
the form of additional costs for greater care or compulsory cessation
of activities due to a deteriorated competitive position have to be

However important careful management is, however, it is not sufficient
to reduce the environmental risks sufficiently, and demand for various
chlorine compounds therefore has to be reduced strongly.

There is no commitment to substitution of PVC. Many PVC alternatives
have an inferior technical quality and often tend simply to push the
problems to a different environmental compartment. Optimum use of the
possibilities for careful management is safer, produces more rapid
results and is a greater acknowledgement of the sustainable nature of
some PVC applications. Careful management of PVC in terms of produc-
tion, recycling and incineration also has its limits, however.
Moreover, there is a risk that increasing care will reduce the
environmental impact of PVC, but will increase the damage caused by
the management techniques. The resulting environmental impact will
therefore be equally high even with optimum care. A more frugal and
selective consumption of PVC is therefore essential. In particular,
the use of short-cycle PVC can be substantially reduced.

Careful management of existing control systems, such as elimination of
undesirable by-products, removal of harmful optic isomers, elimination
of overdoses, better formulations, delivery systems and cultivation
measures are necessary in the context of sustainability, as is a
responsible introduction of alternative methods, including integrated
forms of control. Frugal consumption of pesticide-intensive goods -
frugal in relation to the average consumption in the Western World -
is an absolute necessity. Crops, and in particular crop systems, which
require relatively large amounts of pesticide or which score badly in
some other way on an ecological front, must be avoided.

The rapid reduction in the emission of volatile chlorofluorocarbon
compounds and other compounds which attack the ozone layer is a good
thing, although it could have taken place earlier. Accordingly, the
supplies of CFCs which are still on the market are recovered in this
action perspective. Where there is a small risk of leakage, these
products are recycled or else processed or incinerated in an environ-
mentally-friendly way. Alternatives must first be thoroughly studied
for potential ecological damage before they are introduced. This
applies not only to H(C)FCs, but also to other substitutes which have
been around for longer. Where no harmless alternatives are yet
available, or where closed use of chlorine-containing substances such
as (H)CFCs is impossible, attempts will initially have to be geared to
frugal consumption levels.

Dioxins are an unavoidable result of the use of chlorine in society,
although there are also natural sources. Human activity has led to a
more than tenfold increase in the presence of chlorinated dioxins
since the Second World War, though the use of management technology
has led to a sharp fall in this 'anthropogenic' emission in recent
years. This management strategy must be pursued further. There are a
great many sources of dioxins which are probably not yet fully known,
however. Total care therefore appears a needlessly complex and
expensive matter. It is more sensible to avoid as far as possible
activities which can produce relatively large quantities of dioxins or
their precursors. The loss in affluence which will accompany this will
not be great and, where it occurs, must be accepted.

The Managing action perspective supports the use of a strategy of
care. In the case of chlorine, such a strategy is regarded as
suboptimal. A better allocation of resources can be achieved through
the use of chlorine-free alternatives.

Pressure from environmental groups, consumers and governments has led
to substantial improvements in the production of chlorine and chlorine
products, although these improvements are regarded as still
inadequate. More than once, emission reductions have in reality
entailed no more than a shift between different environmental
compartments, for example from water to soil. In contrast to
Utilizing, the Managing perspective is not based on 'ideal' situ-
ations, because emissions vary widely from company to company and from
country to country. Even modern economies are still frequently plagued
by exceeding of norms, incompleteness of licences, inadequate
sanctions in the case of infringements and subjective measurement and
inspection methods. In many cases the licences for the emission of
harmful substances are too flexible and are based more on economic
than ecological interests. There is still a risk of serious calamities
in the production and transport of chlorine. The risks must not be
measured exclusively in terms of the number of deaths over the course
of time. A transport fraction of 20 per cent of the total quantity of
chlorine produced means that 2 megatons (2,000,000,000 kg) of highly
reactive chlorine is still transported each year by road and rail.
According to this action perspective, therefore, further measures are

The production of the basic materials EDC and VCM and of various addi-
tives are still beset by problems. Emissions of hydrocarbons are still
fairly high and in a number of cases are not well documented. The
production waste which has to be dumped also contains harmful
substances. The production and use of PVC formulations leads to the
dispersion of additives in the environment, while several of these
substances have not yet been convincingly proven to be ecologically
harmless. High-grade recycling of PVC is possible only to a limited
extent. In thermal recycling, i.e. incineration with recovery of
energy, PVC has an energy disadvantage compared to most other bulk
plastics. Moreover, PVC produces large quantities of acid, and this
produces problems during incineration. The polluted fly ash and sludge
create an environmental problem. Reasonably good substitutes are
available for the majority of PVC applications, however, thus raising
the question of why risks are still run.

Sustainable management of chlorine-containing pesticides is not always
easy to achieve in practice. Their use is too open, too dispersed and
too difficult to monitor. Model situations are also not an adequate
reflection of the practical situation. The concentrations of
pesticides in surface water very frequently exceed the established
norms many times over. Extremely harmful chlorine-containing agents
are banned in some areas, but are still used. Even the agents which
are now permitted often show too little selectivity, inadequate
biodegradability, excessive mobility between environmental
compartments and/or excessive capacity to build resistance. Predomi-
nantly chemical pest control is not only hedged around with ecological
problems, but gradually also encounters economic problems. Other forms
of control, such as cultivation measures and mechanical, thermal and
biological/biotechnological control methods, are necessary. The open
use of chlorine-containing and other chemical pesticides must be

Table 2.31          Substitutes for PVC

frames                  softwood, polypropylene (pp), nylon, polyester
blinds                  wood
light fittings          pmma(polymethyl methacrylate)*,
                        epoxy*polyester, polycarbonate*, glass
roof covering           bitumen, tar, ecb (a copolymer of ethylene and
                        bitumen), polyisobutene, ethyl vinyl alcohol,
                        butyl rubber, pdm (ethylene propylene diene
                        rubber), wall cladding panels based on
                        melamine resin, polyester, pmma*
glasshouses             glass, polyethylene (pe), pet, ethylene vinyl
gutters, rain pipes,    polyethylene, polypropylene, certain metals,
 drainpipes             polyester, cellulose acetate, polybutene
drinking water pipes    polyethylene, polybutene, steel, copper,
                        reinforced concrete, cast iron
drainage and sewage     polythene, nylon, polypropene, polyester,
 pipes                  polybutene, concrete
gas pipes               steel, polyethene

Interior layout
floor covering          wood, linoleum, stone, rubber, nylon,
                        cork, jute
wall covering/wallpaper paper, wood with melamine resin
doors                   wood, steel
sections                rubber sections
curtain rails           metal, wood
bathroom interior       pet, pmma*, pp, pe, cotton
furniture               leather, wood, linen, cotton, certain metals,
                        nylon, pmma*, pet, copolymer butadiene/nylon

cable protection        pe, steel
cable sheaths, cable    rubber, pe, ethylene vinyl acetate, nylon
electrical conduits     pe, pp, nylon
sockets, etc.           polybutene, pp
appliances              polycarbonate*, polyester, pp

packaging               paper, cardboard, glass, pet, pe, pp
garden hoses            rubber, pe, pp
tarpaulin sheets        polyester, nylon, cotton
infusion/transfusion    ethylene vinyl acetate, copolymer, pp,
 material               glass, pe, pet, nylon
films for swimming      pe-film, copolymer of bitumen and ethylene,
 pools, dumps, banks,   polyisobutyl, bitumen

* if manufactured chlorine-free                   


Source:   W. Berends and D. Stoppelenburg, Van keukenzout tot gifcocktail
(From common salt to poisoned cocktail), Vereniging Milieudefensie, 1990.

The causal link between the presence of chlorine in the atmosphere and
the breakdown of the stratospheric ozone layer is regarded as
virtually proven. The Antarctic hole in the ozone layer is becoming
rapidly deeper, and the ozone layer is becoming visibly thinner in
other regions too. The vulnerability of the ozone layer to aerosols or
other pollutants has greatly increased due to the presence of
chlorine. The internationally agreed rapid reduction in the
manufacture of CFCs is absolutely essential, even though it could and
should have been set in motion much earlier. It is therefore of prime
importance to include the nations in the southern hemisphere in these
global agreements. The slow reactions mean that it will be necessary
to live with considerable depletion of the ozone layer in the next
century. The emission of other ozone-displacing substances must also
be reduced as quickly as possible. Obvious substitutes such as H(C)FCs
should be used with caution and should be limited to applications
which are of vital importance to society and for which there are no
alternatives. The use of H(C)FCs has the disadvantage that transition
costs have to be paid twice: once on their introduction and again
during the envisaged replacement early in the next century. In many
cases it is possible to avoid the use of H(C)FCs. Experience in recent
years has shown that in many areas alternatives offer more
possibilities than was first thought. The recent indications that
dioxins are less harmful in low doses than was originally thought must
be treated with caution; there are also indications that dioxins are
more harmful than first thought. On the basis of the currently
available factual data, a few practical conclusions can be drawn,
particularly as regards the scope for exposure. The current level of
exposure of humans is close to the limit which can just be regarded as
safe according to the new insights. Given the serious problems caused
by higher doses, which have been established with great certainty, no
risks can be taken. Careful process management under normal conditions
cannot always prevent major emissions of dioxins in the event of
disasters. Production processes which on investigation are found to
pose a significant risk of the formation of dioxins must be avoided as
far as possible.

In a sustainable society according to the Preserving action
perspective there is no room for open use of synthetic chlorine
compounds. The risk is too great and the manageability of chlorine-
containing product chains too small. Chlorine compounds always have a
tendency to accumulate and to break down into harmful decay products.
The opportunities to respond afterwards are too small, not least
because of major technical, economic and social delays. Reference can
be made to the deepening and continued existence until well into the
next century of the hole in the ozone layer, the now irreversible
long-term leaching of pesticides into the groundwater and the
presence, about which virtually nothing can now be done in the short
term, of highly stable organochlorine compounds in chemical waste
dumps and other, less sharply localised, deposits. Organochlorine
compounds are found in polar bears at the North Pole and in penguins
at the South Pole. Apart from the fact that many chlorine compounds
are of themselves directly harmful, they also increase the
susceptibility of physical and biological systems to other disrupting
factors. The increased susceptibility of the stratosphere to volcanic
eruptions and the cancer-promoting effects in animals are examples of
this. It is high time that open use of synthetic chlorine compounds -
in particular the organic compounds - was rapidly reduced. According
to the Preserving action perspective there is only one way of
achieving this, namely a restructuring of the chlorine industry. The
improvements which have been made to the chlorine-containing
production systems are more an indication of what was wrong in the
past than what is right now. The environmental problems resulting from
production and transport have been played down too much. The risk of
disasters is greater than suggested in the Utilizing perspective, for
example. In addition to directly demonstrable effects, there is a much
larger group of people after a disaster who have a fear of later
effects. This 'welfare loss' should be taken into account according to
this action perspective. Even normal discharges such as those of
inorganic chlorides have adverse effects, in that they lead to
substantial water pollution in a number of locations. In several cases
a much greater reduction in the discharge of harmful substances and an
increase in safety is necessary in order to achieve a sustainable
situation. The efforts needed for this are likely to be great, whereas
the effectiveness of the measures is not guaranteed. It would in many
cases be more sensible, safer and more economical to switch to
chlorine-free processes and products.

Environmentally-friendly production, incineration and recycling of PVC
has not yet been achieved, in spite of all the efforts and progress
made. The production of carcinogenic vinyl chloride and other
substances which are needed for PVC formulations are not yet entirely
problem-free. Recycling companies generally face difficulties. The
presence of chlorine in PVC creates problems both during recycling and
incineration, and these push up prices markedly. Despite all the
attempts, integral chain management has still not been achieved.
Reasonably good substitutes are available for many PVC applications;
in some cases these substitutes have a technical disadvantage, but
this must be accepted for the time being. The ecological - and in due
course the macro-economic - advantages of avoiding PVC are considered
greater than this drawback.

Figure 2.18         CFC use: a hole in the ozone layer until well into the
                    next century

                                        (Not available on the Internet)

Source:   WRR, based on data from M.J. Prather and R.T. Watson, 'Stratosphere
ozone depletion and future levels of atmospheric chlorine and bromine';
Nature, Vol. 344, 19 April 1990, and S. Solomon, 'Progress towards a
quantitative understanding of Antarctic ozone depletion'; Nature, Vol. 347, 27
September 1990.

Pesticides are causing more and more damage to humans and animals.
Accumulation and leakage to other environmental compartments is
building up a substantial inheritance for future generations. Soil-
bound residues - sometimes amounting to as much as 60 per cent of the
consumption - are often highly persistent (100 years) and have the
character of a time-bomb. The number of annual victims of inadequate
safety measures and 'occupational accidents' is high. The concentra-
tion of pesticides in surface water exceeds the permitted norms by a
large margin; in the case of dichlorvos, for example, these norms are
very frequently exceeded by a factor of almost 100,000. Drinking water
also contains excessive amounts of pesticides. It is of great
importance to switch to more environmentally-friendly alternatives
quickly. The 'welfare loss' which this could initially cause in the
Third World must be compensated by the wealthy nations.

Global estimates suggest that a reduction in the stratospheric ozone
layer of 8 per cent would lead to around 2 million additional cases of
cancer annually throughout the world. There are also many other
serious effects. Less mobile organisms, in particular, such as plants
and algae, will be greatly affected by increasing UV radiation. Rapid
reduction on a world scale of all halogen compounds which contribute
to the depletion of the ozone layer - in addition to CFCs, for example
also tetrachlorocarbons, methyl chloroform (solvent) and methyl
bromide (pesticide) - is therefore considered an absolute necessity in
this action perspective. Rich countries must support the less wealthy
nations in eliminating chlorine compounds. Available alternatives must
be quickly deployed throughout the world.

Exposure to high doses of chlorinated dioxins affects the skin
(chlorine acne, keratosis, abnormal hair growth), the organs (damage
to the liver, pancreas, kidneys, heart), the immune system (damage to
T-lymphocytes), the hormone metabolism, the reproductive functions,
the nervous system and the cell division process (cancer-promoting and
cancer-initiating). Little is known with any certainty regarding the
harmfulness at low doses, but no risks can be taken. Question marks
can be placed alongside the present norm. Exposure to low doses
probably increases the susceptibility to other harmful substances and
to many diseases. The total emission of dioxins is only a general
indicator of the seriousness of the dioxin problem. A differentiated
spread of dioxins poses the danger that deviating consumption
behaviour will be punished by a much too high exposure level. From the
point of view of sustainability, the exposure of the most sensitive
useful organism should be examined. Animals of prey at the end of the
food chain are at particular risk. The presence of harmful substances
such as dioxins and furans must be reduced further, and the same
applies for their precursors. This action perspective therefore
demands great caution regarding the open use of chlorine-containing
products.             Evaluation

All perspectives for chlorine involve acting in a state of uncertainty
and thus involve risks both for the environment and society. The
estimation of these risks is beset by major uncertainties, however,
and is greatly affected by differences in perception. The necessity
this sometimes involves of evaluating an extremely complex set of
factors is also indicated by Udo de Haes, for example 55/. According
to him, the commitment to a chlorine-free economy means new methods of
extracting sodium hydroxide have to be found, because this substance
is recovered from common salt together with chlorine. There are a
number of alternatives to sodium hydroxide, but according to Udo de
Haes these would involve serious erosion of the natural environment
and landscape. From an environmental point of view, therefore, the
extraction of sodium hydroxide in combination with chlorine applied in
long-cycle PVC appears to be a preferable alternative.

Simple preference charts evidently run into problems fairly quickly
with a substance as complex as chlorine. Each of the action
perspectives places a different emphasis on the various aspects of the
problem and thus arrives at different estimations of the
possibilities. In the Utilizing perspective, for example, great faith
is placed in the capacity of management technology to protect the
environment and on the operation of market forces. The perspectives
which are based on targeted frugality of use place heavy demands on
the social and political willingness to do this. It is not certain
that only social risks are at stake here; a reduction in prosperity
could lead to a situation in which the environment also suffers
serious damage.

Working from a given perspective and the associated estimation of the
uncertainties, a global opinion can be given of the other
perspectives. Seen from the Utilizing perspective, other perspectives
are accused of taking insufficient account of the social and
ecological advantages of chlorine compounds, of underestimating the
economic damage which would result from a rapid abolition of chlorine
compounds and of underestimating the economic, technical and
ecological disadvantages of alternatives. In the Managing perspective,
by contrast, the view holds that other perspectives overestimate the
opportunities for modification in the present chlorine chemical
industry and underestimate the economic costs, while the economic and
ecological contribution of alternatives is placed too far in the

There is also a good deal of uncertainty regarding the costs
associated with the perspectives outlined. The Utilizing perspective
appears most in line with present trends and could therefore score
well in terms of modification costs. There are other costs as well,
however, for example for monitoring and control. Although chlorine has
some very innocent applications, there is no escaping the fact that
chlorine compounds break down into harmful decay products. CFCs are
substances which are chemically virtually inert under normal
conditions and which have a very low toxicity. Photolithic decay of
these compounds in the stratosphere, however, presents society with a
bill which is not inconsiderable.

It is unclear how high the total costs of controlling the many
chlorine compounds and applications will be 800 million dollars have
already been spent in the United States on research into the
harmfulness of polychlorodioxins, and yet their harmfulness at low
doses is still unknown. On the basis of the present level of knowledge
it is difficult to present an objective breakdown of the costs of the
different perspectives.

Chlorine compounds exhibit great differences, and any policy will have
to take these differences into account. An environment policy which
concentrates exclusively and without any distinction on the use of the
element chlorine is of little use. A policy which is geared to
chlorine as an important area for attention and which recognises
differences and correspondences between chlorine compounds and
applications, and which if necessary seeks to achieve a reduction in
the use of individual compounds or (large) groups of compounds, is
more useful.


1/        The studies in question are as follows:
          a)        B. van den Haspel, J.P. van Soest, G. de Wit et al., Ener-
                    gie tot oneindig: concepties van duurzaamheid in vijf
                    wereldenergiescenario's (Infinite energy: conceptions of
                    sustainability in five world energy scenarios), Delft,
                    Centre for Energy Conservation and Environmental Technolo-
                    gy, 1994;
          b)        W.M. de Jong, Chloor in duurzaam perspectief (Chlorine in
                    a sustainable perspective), The Hague, W79, 1994;
          c)        T. van der Meij. J.H.W. Hendriks, C.J.M. Musters, et al.,
                    Ontwikkelingen in de natuur; visies op de levende natuur
                    in de wereld en scenario's voor het behoud daarvan
                    (Developments in nature; visions on the living nature in
                    the world and scenarios for its preservation), Preliminary
                    and background studies V87, The Hague, Sdu Uitgeverij,
          d)        D. Scheele, Duurzaamheid materiaalgebruik en de
                    exploitatie van mineralen (The sustainable use of
                    materials and exploitation of minerals), The Hague, W78,
          e)        P.S. Bindraban, H. van Keulen, F.W.T. Penning de Vries et
                    al., Sustainable world food production  and environment:
                    options for alternative developments, Wageningen, Delft,
                    AB-DLO/WL, 1993; forthcoming.

2/        See for example WRR, Ouderen voor Ouderen, demografische
          ontwikkelingen en beleid (Demographic Developments and Policy),
          Reports to the Government no. 43, The Hague, Sdu Uitgeverij,

3/        United Nations, Long-range world population projections (1950-2-
          150); New York, 1992.

4/        United Nations Population Reference Bureau, World Population
          data sheet, Washington D.C., 1992.

5/        The reference scenario presented here is largely based on two
          FAO studies: N. Alexandratos (ed.), World Agriculture: Toward
          2000; London, Belhaven Press, 1988. Food and Agriculture Organi-
          zation of the United Nations, Agriculture: Towards 2010, Rome,

6/        L.R. Brown, A. Durning, C. Flavin et al., State of the World
          1993; New York, W.W. Norton Company, 1993.

7/        P. Buringh, H.D.J. van Heemst and G.J. Staring, Computation of
          the absolute maximum food production of the world; Dept. of
          Tropical Soil Science, Wageningen, Wageningen Agricultural
          University, 1975.
          H. Linneman, J. de Hoogh, M.A. Keyzer and H.D.J. van Heemst,
          MOIRA: Model of International Relations in Agriculture. Contri-
          butions to Economic Analysis 124, Amsterdam, North Holland Publ.
          Comp., 1975.

8/        The use of grain-equivalents enables various agricultural pro-
          ducts (e.g. wheat, rice, millet and maize) to be brought under a
          common denominator.

9/        United Nations, Long-range world population projections (1950-2-
          150), Dept. of International Economic and Social Affairs, 1992.

10/       UN Food and Agriculture Organization, op. cit.

11/       L.R. Oldeman, R.T.A. Hakkeling and W.G. Sombroek, op. cit.

12/       W.S. Jevons, The coal question; London, MacMillan, 1866, p. 376.

13/       The saturation level has been estimated on the basis of figures
          for the period 1950-1990.

14/       The World Bank, Energy efficiency and conservation in the deve-
          loping world; International Bank for Reconstruction and Develop-
          ment, Washington D.C., 1993.

15/       Per capita energy consumption in the South rose by an average
          annual 4.6 per cent during the period 1950-1990.

16/       These variants are generated by the combination of the low UN
          population projection and a moderate growth in per capita energy
          consumption on the one hand and the high population projection
          with a more rapid growth in per capita energy consumption on the
          other; the coefficients of proportionate growth have been set at
          4 and 5 per cent respectively.

17/       B.J. Skinner, Earth resources; Prentice Hall Englewood Cliffs,
          1986, p. 47.

18/       World Energy Council, Energy for tomorrow's world; London, Kogan
          Page, 1993, p. 89.

19/       D.O. Hall, et al., 'Biomass for energy: Supply prospects'; in:
          Renewable energy: sources for fuels and electricity; T.B. Jo-
          hansson et al. (eds.), Washington D.C., Island Press, 1993.

20/       T.B. Johansson, et al., 'Renewable fuels and electricity for a
          growing world economy; defining and achieving the potential';
          Renewable energy sources for fuel and electricity; T.B. Johans-
          son et al., op. cit.

21/       J.B. Moreira and A.D. Poole, 'Hydropower and its constraints';
          in: Johansson et al., op. cit.

22/       A.G. Darnley, 'Resources for nuclear energy'; in: Resources and
          world development; D.J. Mclaren and D.J. Skinner (eds.), Chi-
          chester, John Wiley & Sons, 1987, pp. 187-210.

23/       World Energy Council, op. cit., p. 95.

24/       Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group I,
          Climate Change 1992, The supplementary report to the IPCC asses-
          sment; J.P.Houghton, B.A. Callander and S.K. Varney (eds.),
          Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992.

25/       J.F. Bttcher, Science and Fiction of the Greenhouse Effect and
          Carbon Dioxide; The Global Institute for the Study of Natural
          Resources, The Hague, 1992.

26/       United Nations, Long range world population projections; Two
          centuries of population growth 1950-2150; New York, United Nati-
          ons, 1992.

27/       Central Planning Office, Scanning the future: A long-term scena-
          rio study of the world economy 1990-2015; Sdu Publishers, The
          Hague 1992.

28/       Centraal Planbureau, Centraal Economisch Plan 1994 (Central
          Economic Plan 1994); The Hague, Sdu uitgeverij, 1994.

29/       A. van Hamel, M.J. Stoffers and W.J.M.L. Wong, Wereldenergiesce-
          nario's (World Energy Scenarios); Centraal Planbureau, Research
          memorandum 101, The Hague, 1993, p. 7.

30/       World Energy Council, op. cit., p. 82.

31/       M. Lazarus, et al., Towards a fossil free energy future; Boston,
          Stockholm Environment Institute - Boston Center, 1993.

32/       Central Planning Office, op. cit.

33/       L. Schipper and S. Meyers, Energy efficiency and human activity:
          Past, trends, future prospects; Cambridge, Cambridge University
          Press, 1992.

34/       L. Schipper and S. Meyers, op. cit.

35/       See: E.C. van Ierland and L. Derksen, Economic Impact Analysis
          for Global Warming: Sensitivity Analysis for Cost and Benefit
          Estimates; Paper presented at OCFEB Workshop Quantitative econo-
          mics for environmental policy, Rotterdam, 22 March 1994.

36/       J.T. Houghton, G.J. Jenkins and J.J. Ephraums, Climate change:
          The IPCC scientific assessment; Cambridge, Cambridge University
          Press, 1990.

37/       See for example: J. Sathaye and A. Ketoff, 'CO2 emissions from
          major developing countries: Better understanding the role of
          energy in the long term'; The Energy Journal, 1991, volume 12
          no. l, pp. 161-196.

38/       R.J. Bink, D. Bal, V.M. van der Berk et al., De toestand van de
          natuur 2 (The condition of nature 2); Wageningen, Informatie- en
          kenniscentrum Natuur, Bos, Landschap en Fauna, 1994.

39/       A.R. van Amstel, G.F.W.Herngreen, C.S. Meijer et al., Vijf
          visies op natuurbehoud en natuurontwikkeling (Five visions on
          nature conservation and nature development); Publications series
          RMNO no. 30, Rijswijk, Raad voor het Milieu- en Natuuronderzoek,

40/       T. van der Meij, J.H.W. Hendriks, C.J.M. Musters et al., Ontwik-
          kelingen in de natuur; visies op de levende natuur in de wereld
          en scenario's voor het behoud daarvan (Developments in nature;
          visions on the living nature in the world and scenarios for its
          preservation); Preliminary and background studies, V87, The
          Hague, Sdu uitgeverij, 1995.

41/       World Resources Institute, "World Resources 1992-93".  World
          Resources Institute in collaboration with The United Nations
          Environment Programme and the United Nations Development Pro-
          gramme, New York/Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1992.

42/       Ibid.

47/       M.I. Soul, B.A. Wilcox, C. Holtby, 'Benign neglect; a model of
          formal collapse in the game reserves of East Africa'; Biological
          Conservation; vol. 15, 1979, pp. 259-271.

48/       E.C. Wolf, On the brink of extinction; conserving the diversity
          of life. Worldwatch Paper 78, Washington D.C., Worldwatch
          Institute, 1987.

49/       WRR, Ground for Choices; four perspectives for the rural areas
          in the European Community; Reports to the Government No. 42, The
          Hague, Sdu uitgeverij, 1992.

50/       D.H. Meadows et al., The Limits to Growth, New York, University
          Books, 1972.

51/       Bureau of Mines, Minerals Yearbook, Volume I, Metals and mine-
          rals; Pittsburgh, US Department of the Interior, 1989.

52/       J.M. Hartwick, 'Intergenerational equity and the investing of
          rents from exhaustible resources'; American Economic Review
          (66), 1977, pp. 972-942.

53/       D.P. Harris, 'Mineral exploration and production costs and
          technologies - Past, present and future'; in: Resources and
          world development, D.J. McLaren and B.J. Skinner (eds.),
          Chichester, John Wiley & Sons, 1987, pp. 423-442.

54/       For example, the content of DDT measured in eels (river Rhine)
          in 1991 averaged 20 g/kg product, and in cod liver (southern
          North Sea) 300 g/kg product. DDT is also found in mothers' milk
          (970 g/kg fat, 1986, West Germany); (Algemene Milieustatistiek
          ['General Environmental Statistics'], 1992, pp. 185-187;
          Chlorine Dialogue Paper, VCI, 1991, 15).

55/       H.A. Udo de Haes, Zijn alle ketens te sluiten? (Can all chains
          be closed?), inaugural lecture, State University of Leiden,

3.        Towards a policy agenda

3.1       Introduction

The existence of divergent action perspectives focused on
sustainability does not alter the fact that public choices have to be
made. The essence of the political process is to arrive at a
consensus, in spite of all the diversity of opinion, on the aims for
which the government should strive. It was pointed out in the previous
chapter that this consensus cannot be given a single interpretation in
terms of the action perspectives. The consequences of the Utilizing or
Preserving perspectives, for example, are mutually exclusive in the
various areas. This inevitably means a differentiation per area, and
this again accentuates the inherent need to make choices.

In this chapter the WRR will make its own choices. Clearly this
involves a departure from the analysis and the introduction of the
WRR's own preferences and considerations, alongside which others are
of course also possible. However, if the WRR adopts its own stance on
the basis of the analysis presented, this could stimulate further
discussion on these issues.

Before elaborating this standpoint further, the Council would refer to
the importance of a factor which is not specific to the various action
perspectives but which is highly relevant for an assessment of them,
namely the development in the world population. The various population
scenarios have a far-reaching impact on the energy supply, the world
food supply, the amount of space to be set aside for nature and the
use of raw materials. This finding is in line with that of many other
future projections in these areas and represents a plea for an active
population policy, particularly on the part of the developing
countries. However limited the results of this may be in the short
term, its significance in the very long term is great.

The problems resulting from rapid population growth are concentrated
particularly in East and South Asia and North Africa. The signals are
not entirely negative, however. The rising prosperity in the densely
populated Asia could be the trigger which helps create conditions
favourable to a fall in the population growth. It is not only growth
in material wealth which is involved here, but also a range of other
factors related to affluence, such as good health care, educational
facilities, social facilities and a changing position for women. For
these reasons, too, the developing prosperity in these regions is to
be welcomed, however disadvantageous it may seem to be for prosperity
in the West.

The action perspectives and the scenarios derived from them exhibit
wide differences on other issues. Many of these issues demand radical
changes, however, and there are good grounds for implementing these
changes if the situations to which the reference scenarios lead are
studied. The nature of the proposed changes and the demands this
places on the different actors and institutions vary widely, however.
The standpoint adopted by the WRR is based in part on the following

A first consideration is that, where many different choices are
possible, there must be a commitment in principle to maintaining
maximum freedom of action. In the first place this means that
irreversible developments with potentially major ecological and/or
economic risks must be avoided. The assessment of the reversibility or
irreversibility of developments is not simple and cannot always be
seen in isolation from the costs: soil and water pollution are
reversible, but the degree to which and the timescale within which
this is possible depends on the financial efforts which those
responsible are prepared to invest. Potential disruptions to the
climate, depletion of the ozone layer or the dying out of species, by
contrast, can no longer be reversed, whatever efforts are made. The
only option is to prevent causative behaviour; once an effect has
occurred, it must either be 'sat out' or accepted.

Irreversibility need not be a problem under all conditions: for
example in the case of the exhaustion of a raw material for which a
substitute is found in time. Here too, choices have to be made; both
the exhaustibility and the substitutability of a raw material depend
on know-how and costs. The same also applies, for example, to the
increase in the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. Apart from the
uncertainty of the scale of this increase, this is an irreversible
process which need not be seen only in a negative light. Chapter 2
examined this point.

A second consideration concerns the relationship between the short and
the longer term. The horizon adopted in this report is the coming
half-century. It can be assumed that a number of developments will
greatly increase the pressure on the environment during this period.
Global developments in the use of energy, raw materials and land, as
described in the reference scenarios in Chapter 2, illustrate this
point. The adage 'time will tell' will certainly hold for some
problems. At the same time it is important to try to prevent problems
accumulating to such an extent that solving them involves gigantic
costs. As stated earlier, this is not an unusual approach in the field
of the environment; it is only when the consequences have reached
crisis proportions that there is a willingness to accept substantial
behavioural consequences. By then, however, the behaviour has become
so normal that changing it is extremely difficult, while the costs of
bringing about that change have often multiplied. It is often
necessary to switch from a reactive to a pro-active or anticipatory
policy, though the degree to which and the way in which this occurs
varies depending on the action perspectives.

Finally, the WRR considers that an attempt must first be made to make
environmental gains by changing the way in which consumer demand is
met. Only when these changes in production prove inadequate should
modification of the consumption itself be discussed. Various factors
play a part in this consideration. Reducing consumption in developing
countries is of itself undesirable, not only on social grounds but
also for ecological reasons. Changing consumer patterns in the rich
West is more appropriate. Where there is evidence of clear wastage or
extensive pollution, there is also an obvious need for change. There
are no differences between the action perspectives here. However, more
radical actions affect the deeply-rooted freedom of consumption.
Effectively controlling or moderating this consumption requires heavy
instruments, and the social risks of the consequences of their use
must not be underestimated. An attempt must therefore be made to
achieve the envisaged environmental gains through changes in which the
consumer demand is met.

Choices are made below for each area on the basis of the three
normative considerations listed above. These considerations are not
intended to be used as a litmus test, but do create a distinction when
taken together. In each case, the choices to be made involve a
weighing up of costs and benefits in an atmosphere of uncertainty,
making maximum use of available information and estimations of risks.

3.2  Energy

The reference scenario described in Chapter 2 shows a strong increase
in energy consumption resulting from economic growth in the Third
World. There is an assumption here of a trend towards saturation in
the North and a converging development in the South. If the per capita
energy consumption were to develop over the next century in line with
the reference scenario, the supplies of oil and gas would run out in
the second half of the next century, with most of the currently known
stocks of coal being exhausted around the end of that period. This
trend takes place in spite of an assumed saturation of the demand for

Under the reference scenario, world relations are radically changed by
2040; where the West and former Eastern Bloc currently use 70 per cent
of fossil energy, the positions would be reversed under the trends
referred to, with the North then accounting for 30 per cent and the
South for 70 per cent of consumption. The total consumption of fossil
energy would then be four times higher than now, however. This change
in scale and percentages will lead to radical changes in the positions
on the world energy market and will have major geopolitical
consequences. Exhaustion of energy will manifest itself first in the
regions where easily extractable supplies are located. The West, which
has to import energy, will have great difficulty in securing an
uninterrupted energy supply, even with military intervention such as
in the Gulf crisis. The energy market will then be more of a seller's
market, rather than a buyer's market as at present. Full account
therefore needs to be taken of the fact that the physical exhaustion
of energy supplies will be preceded by geopolitically determined
scarcities, particularly of oil and gas.

In addition to the threatened exhaustion of fossil reserves, the
stocks of uranium will be inadequate if an open cycle system is used.
The use of fast breeder reactors could postpone the exhaustion of
uranium stocks for many centuries, however. In theory, fast breeder
reactors, if installed in numbers which far exceed the present world
installed capacity of conventional reactors, could make a substantial
contribution to the energy supply. The use of this technology entails
substantial risks, however, which will increase proportionately if
these reactors are used on a wide scale.

Environmental problems associated with the consumption of fossil
energy will also increase enormously according to the reference
scenario. The strong increase in global use of fossil energy
(initially primarily gas and oil, later mainly coal) is accompanied by
a steadily increasing environmental impact, even where advanced
technologies are used: problems related to extraction (pollution and
landscape effects), emission of harmful substances such as heavy
metals and radioactive materials, acidifying emissions such as SO2 and
other waste problems will continue to increase.

In addition to these local and regional environmental effects, there
are global environmental risks resulting from the use of fossil fuels.
The speed with which human activity is changing the composition of the
atmosphere is unparalleled in evolutionary terms. The  change of
25 per cent in the CO2 concentration in less than 100 years is the
stuff of fables. According to the reference scenario a population
increase, the spread of prosperity across the world and an increasing
dependence on coal in the next century could lead to a five or even
tenfold increase in CO2 concentrations.

The consequences of this very rapid and large-scale change in the
world carbon dioxide balance are unknown due to insufficient knowledge
on the various feedback mechanisms, particularly from the large carbon
reservoirs such as the oceans and the subterranean biomass. It appears
highly likely, however, that this increased emission of CO2 will be
accompanied by a considerable increase in the concentration of CO2 in
the atmosphere. Such an increase need not always be disadvantageous;
the production of some agro-ecosystems can even increase as a result
of this 'CO2 fertilisation'. A rapid rise in the CO2 concentration can,
however, also cause problems, for example where natural ecosystems are
not able to adapt with comparable speed. This can lead to
impoverishment of the biodiversity. Climatic changes may also occur,
with possible temperature changes and an increase in the sea level. It
is also possible that the relative stability of the climate will
decline, though the risk of this and the social consequences of such a
change are uncertain.

The WRR feels that, in spite of these uncertainties, a change of
course is absolutely essential. Taking all the factors listed together
- the finiteness of the fossil reserves, the geopolitical scarcity
risks relating to oil and gas, the risks associated with nuclear
energy and the nature of the potential environmental problems in
connection with the use of fossil fuels - there is a pressing need for
a break with the projected strong increase in the use of fossil fuels.
The WRR takes this standpoint in spite of the existing uncertainty
regarding stocks, trends in consumption and environmental problems.
This change of course is not only desirable but also possible, because
there are promising alternatives for fossil energy in various
renewable sources of energy. Together, these renewable sources can
meet a substantial part of the total energy supply needs in the longer
term, provided the necessary steps are taken in good time. The
diversity of the generation techniques and the less severe side-
effects of renewable sources of energy constitute an important
argument in favour of the development of renewable rather than fossil

Each of the four action perspectives foresees increasing use of
renewable energy sources in addition to cutbacks - for which there are
substantial opportunities - in the use of fossil energy. This is in
spite of the fact that increased use of renewable sources will demand
storage systems to cope with discrepancies between the supply of
renewable energy and the energy demand profile. Considerable
conversion losses will also occur, pushing up costs. Developments in
the transport and storage of renewable sources of energy can and must
therefore be stimulated.

Energy from renewable sources will not be able to meet more than
15 per cent of the total supply within the next 20 years. The
technologies are insufficiently developed and the necessary
infrastructural changes too extensive. For the time being, therefore,
large-scale use of conventional energy sources will continue. There
will initially be increasing emphasis on gas, later progressively
switching to coal, the stocks of which are considerably larger than
those of either oil or gas. Economic aspects mean it is unlikely that
countries such as China will ignore their natural resources, which
have so far been explored to only a limited extent. In view of the
major environmental objections, however - increased CO2 emissions,
heavy metals, acidification, etc., as well as the erosion of the
landscape and pollution as a result of mining activities - there is a
need for further development of clean coal technology, an area where
much progress can still be made. As long as renewable sources of
energy are still being developed and their use remains limited,
commercialisation of this technology in development cooperation
projects with countries such as India and China is necessary. The
required change in energy policy can only be achieved through
cooperation with others, particularly multinationals. An increase in
worldwide use of coal is unavoidable, and an increase in the
atmospheric concentration of CO2 therefore appears inevitable.

On the basis of the considerations in the foregoing section, the WRR
has made a more specific choice within the field covered by the four
action perspectives. More specifically, the Council considers a
development comprising elements of both Managing and Preserving to be
necessary. The WRR supports a long-term pro-active policy which takes
full account of future risks. According to the results, the Utilizing
scenario provides an inadequate response to this normative
consideration. The WRR also feels that the Utilizing scenario does not
offer future societies the necessary flexibility. The degree to which
the future energy supply is made dependent on the use of coal stocks
and nuclear energy in this scenario is undesirable in the view of the

The Saving and Preserving scenarios place too great a demand on public
willingness to change, in the WRR's view. The Council feels that a
fall in energy intensity must be achieved primarily through changes on
the supply side of the energy system. This does not however mean that
the drive towards a reduction in energy consumption can be ignored; in
areas such as mobility and living comfort the WRR considers changes
both necessary and possible. However, the degree to which society
relies on nuclear energy in the Saving scenario lacks the necessary
flexibility in the Council's view.

The Managing and Preserving scenarios both focus a great deal of
effort on the development of renewable sources. The obstacles to
large-scale use of renewable energy are considerable, however, and as
stated earlier a sharp increase in the use of coal appears
unavoidable. This option will have to be used as part of the
transition to mainly renewable sources, though a great deal will then
have to be invested in technology to mitigate the environmental
impact. This will have to be accompanied by a major effort to limit
the energy intensity.

Priority in the science and technology policy - as part of an
anticipatory policy - can be shifted further in the direction of the
development of renewable sources of energy, with attention being given
to all aspects: generation, storage and transport. Given both the
promising opportunities and the urgency, it is striking that the
research funding devoted to solar energy is only a fraction of that
spent on R&D to improve the technology for fossil fuels and on nuclear
energy (fission and fusion). Increased attention for renewable sources
in the R&D policy is urgently required. A strengthening of the
development and use of fuels based on renewable energy can be promoted
by an activating energy policy on the part of the government.

The use of renewable energy sources in the Third World could be
encouraged, for example through loans from the World Bank for the
realisation of the necessary infrastructure. 

While an energy policy based on targeted stimulation of R&D can
encourage a shift in the direction advocated by the WRR, it is
debatable whether this is sufficient. As with other changes in society
which the government seeks to impose, there will be resistance in the
energy market to the proposed transition: society has to adapt to a
new structure in which existing interests can be damaged and in which
higher investment efforts are required of various groups. Energy
policy seeks to strike a balance between these 'social costs' and the
economic risks of not pushing through the transition. In any event, if
the stocks of fossil fuels should become exhausted in the future, this
will almost certainly lead to major changes with economic
consequences. Furthermore, as these economic risks become more
tangible, i.e. as the future shortage is felt more and more, social
resistance to a stimulated transition will decrease. The rate at which
this transition can take place depends on the urgency of the perceived
future shortage.

It might be expected that the market could engineer the necessary
changes itself. After all, scarcity is translated into rising prices,
and rising prices invite investments in substitutes. Thus as oil and
gas, for example, become more expensive, investments will be made in
solar energy and other renewable sources.

In practice, however, this is an overly simplistic representation of
the case. In the first place the time horizon on which individual
energy producers base their decisions is limited. More importance is
attached to short-term gain than long-term income. The result is
continuing fierce competition between energy producers to obtain the
largest possible market share, even when the scarcity of oil and gas
becomes visible. It is thus not in the interests of the producers to
limit the use of fossil fuels. The sum of individual production
decisions is therefore in conflict with a rate of use of finite
reserves which is optimal from a societal point of view.

It is not only producers who fail to react according to the book to an
imminent shortage: investors, too, show deviating behaviour. Investors
are not interested purely in the return on their investment, but also
in security. From this perspective, investments in totally new
technologies are not attractive. Investors prefer to put their money
into incremental improvements in proven technologies than into
uncertain new alternatives. Only as the scarcity becomes more severe
will investments of this sort be made. However, it is then very
debatable whether technological development will be able to take place
fast enough to accommodate the increased scarcity. The rate of
technological development frequently lags behind the rate at which a
scarcity is translated into price rises on the market. The consequence
of this is reflected in the price. For example, the continuing rises
in the price of energy following the oil crises was only brought to an
end after around 10 years by the development of energy-saving
technologies and diversification in the use of fuels.

If a transition from fossil energy to renewable energy sources is
considered desirable, intervention in the energy market thus appears
unavoidable; the market will not be capable of bringing about the
desired structural changes in time on its own.

The environmental damage caused by various forms of fuels, and which
to some extent is also caused by economic development, is another
reason for intervention in the energy market. Environmental damage at
the various levels of aggregation is not reflected in current prices.
An energy tax could give a major boost to a range of desirable trend
breaks. It could cut waste and boost technological development geared
to more economical production and consumption of energy. Alternative
energy sources would also be more favourably priced compared to fossil
energy. Bringing in such a levy in good time could mean that the
necessary innovations - which often require several decades of
development to reach market maturity - become available at the moment
that demand for them manifests itself. A gradual increase in the levy
could limit the costs of the economic transition.

Imposing such a levy in only one country would merely lead to
relocation behaviour and would thus have little point. The question
then is how the correct scale can be achieved. However unattainable
this may appear to be given the conflicts of interest in the world,
the growing economic and political interdependencies mean it is not
impossible. In its earlier report 'Environmental policy; strategy,
instruments and enforcement', the WRR indicated a possible path to
achieving this, and draws this to the attention of the government once
again here.

An active environmental diplomacy needs to be launched in order to
achieve the necessary increases in scale. This relates not only to
international discussions, but also to strategic positions for the use
of economic power, for example with respect to OPEC and the use of
transaction instruments. The existing and growing dependencies between
countries and trading blocs should be exploited during negotiations.
There is a growing readiness in the countries of North and Western
Europe to introduce a European energy tax. The influential Umweltrat
(Environmental Council) in Germany, for example, has argued that
Germany should take initiatives to encourage the European Union (EU)
to implement a steady increase in fuel prices  1/. Other most
concerned states in the EU would have to line up with such an
initiative. The EU, as a net importer of fossil energy, must convince
the countries of Southern Europe too of the threatened shortage. The
need for an active energy policy of this type is felt in many places,
and a response is needed. If full agreement can be reached within the
EU on an energy tax, an important condition will have been created to
convince others, beginning with the other OECD countries, to take
similar measures.

If the world has proved capable of achieving a mammoth agreement such
as GATT, which ultimately was created through a similar process of
negotiation, an achievement such as a worldwide energy tax, or
measures with a similar effect, must also be attainable. 'Prisoner's
dilemmas', which prevent each individual country from taking rational
action, can be broken down by the strategy outlined here. It must be
borne in mind however that such an achievement, even if introduced in
phases, cannot be realised within the space of ten or 15 years. This
once more underlines the need for an early start on the necessary

The global nature of the energy problem does not absolve national
governments from the duty to exploit its own options. The
recommendations above relating to strengthening the development of
renewable energy sources must be seen in this light. The same applies
to the policy of energy-saving. Given the proven effectiveness of such
a policy during the 1970s, there is every reason to work energetically
for such a development. The transition from fossil fuels to renewable
energy sources can be markedly influenced by a technology policy tied
into those fields where national research offers favourable prospects,
implementation of development projects and by pricing fossil energy in
such a way that threatened scarcity and environmental impact are

Incentive programmes and domestic insulation initiatives are typical
elements of a realistic anticipatory energy policy. A conservation
policy in respect of the relatively environmentally friendly natural
gas is also called for rather than the present exploitation policy.
Given the need to determine the long-term conservation aims as
accurately as possible, it is desirable to explore mineral reserves as
thoroughly as possible.

3.3       Land use

3.3.1     Introduction

Both the action perspectives aimed at a sustainable food supply and
those relating to nature and water have consequences for the division
and use of space. Focusing attention on land use can therefore also
provide an insight into the conflicts and opportunities in the three
areas referred to. The most decisive factor is agriculture. The amount
of land set aside for this determines the space which is available for
other functions, such as afforestation and nature. There are wide
differences between the action perspectives on this point.

The present land-use system is a cause of great concern, particularly
if the potential consequences of the rapidly growing world population
are taken into account. In spite of a fivefold increase this century,
the world population is confronted with fewer real food shortages than
in previous centuries. The major population concentrations of the
world (China, India, Indonesia), for example, have experienced an
unprecedented increase in food production over the last 20 years. The
food shortages, poor nutrition and malnutrition which are a feature of
Africa in particular, are less the result of inadequate farming
practices as of political instability, wars and severe poverty.

The reverse of the coin, however, is that this - of itself very posi-
tive - development has been accompanied in several places by over-
exploitation of farmland. Particularly in areas which are less
suitable for agriculture, such as parts of Africa and Western Asia,
the negative effects of farming are visible. Large tracts of these
continents face major, almost irreversible damage to the production
potential of farmland. Restoring the already eroded production
capacity is of itself a virtually impossible task, which is magnified
when added to the fact that the causes of that erosion have not been
eliminated, with the result that the usable area of farmland is
continuing to decline at the rate of 60 million hectares per year.

At the same time, a substantial expansion of farmland is taking place,
particularly in areas less suitable for farming, for which a
considerable portion of the remaining natural environment is being
sacrificed at an increasing rate. The rapidly growing world population
demands ever more space for its food production and other consumer
needs. Where land is made productive, nature generally has to give
way. In better farming regions, nature suffers through 'over-
exploitation' of farmland. 

Over-use of fertilisers and biocides is more the rule than the
exception. This endangers the habitat of many species of plants and
animals. Reversing this impoverishment of nature through human
activity does not appear simple; it may in fact be the most resistant
of the issues studied in this report. Humans have never been
particularly careful with nature, as illustrated by innumerable
examples. The destruction of ecosystems has been going on for
thousands of years. The rapidity and scale of the erosion of recent
years, however, is unprecedented.

Dependence on irrigated farming is increasing strongly, and in the
marginal farming regions is accompanied by a highly inefficient use of
water. Lowering the water table to facilitate agricultural production
can also lead to problems with the water supply due to irrigation.
Drought also influences the local flora and fauna. Large-scale
irrigation in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea, for example,
is currently leading to shortages of drinking water and drying out of
whole tracts of land. In Spain, for example, waterworks have been
built in the Guadalquivir River in order to meet the demand for water.
Four out of five litres of this water are used for irrigation. This is
causing the water level in the wetlands in the Danona National Park,
located in the river delta, to fall by some 50 centimetres per year,
while the bird population in the nature reserve - some 200 species,
including a number which are almost extinct in Europe - is under
threat  2/. From the point of view of a secure food supply, a safe
drinking water supply and the conservation of nature, it is unarguable
that these negative developments must be halted or combated. Against
the backdrop of the options described in Chapter 2, the WRR adopts the
following standpoints.

3.3.2     Food production

As illustrated in Chapter 2, there are excellent opportunities for
ensuring a secure world food supply. Even taking the high population
scenario and a 'luxury' diet - something which differs strongly from
the present diet of 90 per cent of the world population - there is no
need for a shortage of food, at least at world level. Only in the
Managing scenario, in which the Western demand for food is combined
with a locally-oriented farming industry, do global problems arise.

The general conclusion is therefore that a sustainable supply of food
at world level faces no physical obstacles. The same applies to forms
of agriculture which give priority to closing cycles at local level;
in these scenarios, too, demand can be met. In a number of regions
there is even a possibility that the demand will be far exceeded in
all scenarios. This applies in particular for Oceania, North and South
America and Central Africa.

It must be remembered when considering these findings that we are
talking here of an optimum use of land for farm production. It is
assumed that farming is carried out efficiently in all locations in
the world - something which is very far from the case in practice.
Social and/or political circumstances mean that the actual production
remains far below the potential in many locations, and it is highly
debatable whether these parameters can be favourably influenced within
the horizon set for this analysis. This may therefore lead to an
overly optimistic picture of the opportunities.

On the other hand, the calculations are based on the assumption of
production only on suitable land, so as to avoid problems of over-
exploitation and the accompanying erosion which is primarily a feature
of marginal land. On a world scale this means a reduction of at least
15 per cent in the total agricultural acreage. This is diametrically
opposed to the current trend and it is very debatable whether this
development can be achieved within the horizon. This condition may
lead to an overly pessimistic impression of the opportunities, though
two comments can be made to put this into perspective.

Firstly, there is room for a substantial reduction in the acreage
because by no means all the land which is deemed suitable for
production will be needed. In the Utilizing scenario (low population
variant), for example, this suitable land is capable of producing more
than three times the amount of food needed. This implies that a large
amount of the land does not have to exploited. Which part this is, is
not clear from the analysis presented; this requires supplementary
assumptions regarding the need for or desirability of irrigation and
the preference for production in high-yielding regions, following
which transport of food can take place.

Secondly, the average acreage needed for farming is lower on a world
scale than today, though there are considerable regional differences.
In four regions (Central Africa, North Africa, North America and South
America) the area deemed suitable for food production is greater than
at present. These regions can thus cope with an increase in the
farming acreage. This could, however, lead to increasing conflicts
with other forms of land use.

With the exception of the Saving scenario (low population variant),
all the scenarios show shortages in some regions. This implies that
allowance must be made in all scenarios for the need for international
trade flows. Moreover, in all scenarios it is mainly the regions in
Asia which show a shortage. Even given the optimistically estimated
production opportunities, there is insufficient capacity in these
regions for sufficient food production to feed their own population.
If it is also remembered that developing the necessary knowledge
infrastructure and organisation in these regions will not be without
problems (China, India!), the general conclusion that there will be
sufficient food for all world citizens clearly needs to be modified.
It should be emphasised once again, however, that the diet on which
the scenarios are based, even in its most moderate form, is much
better than the diet currently consumed in these regions. If there is
no development towards this improvement in the diet, the structural
shortages in the Asian lands may also not occur.

The starting point for all the scenarios worked out in Chapter 2 is
that both locally and globally-oriented farming must be practised
efficiently and in an environmentally-friendly way. Environmental
problems which could occur due to over-use of crop fertilisers and
biocides will thus be avoided. This principle is derived from analyses
carried out earlier by the WRR for the European Community  3/; these
showed that the use of biocides and the nitrogen surplus could be cut
by around 80 per cent. In the Third World too, the introduction of
integrated pest and disease control has had successes. Partly on the
basis of research which is stimulated worldwide by the Consultative
Group of International Agriculture Research (CGIAR), a substantial
increase in productivity has been achieved, while at the same time the
use of pesticides has been reduced in a number of locations.

Now that the consequences of the different action perspectives have
been charted, the WRR will list the considerations which lie at the
basis of its own preference.

First, the question of whether it is necessary to run the social risk
of modifying the demand for food can be examined. That there is a
social risk in trying to reduce this demand is evident. The income
elasticity of animal consumption is very low: there is a strong
income-related drive in the direction of a Western diet. Trying to
combat this trend would therefore demand a great social effort.
Moreover, calculations indicate that such an effort is not necessary:
even if high population growth is assumed, a Western diet can easily
be achieved by implementing globally-oriented farming. This will also
reduce the need to transport food, while the need for land which has
to be irrigated will also reduce. If it were also possible to
influence the extent of the population growth and thus to assume the
low variant, the room for manoeuvre would increase still further.

If it is remembered that locally-oriented farming leads to a) a
relatively greater use of land; b) a larger area of irrigation; and c)
a larger transport flow between regions, and that this is offset by a
low impact on the local environment because of the closing of cycles
at regional level, the complexity of the choices to be made becomes

In the realisation that the global nature of this analysis means that
a well-considered final view cannot yet be presented, the WRR feels
that globally-oriented farming on balance offers more advantages. The
additional obstacles associated with locally-oriented farming mean
that the freedom of choice  decreases. This prevents the highest level
of efficiency from being reached, and this is reflected in a
relatively large area of land and relatively high levels of irrigation
being used. Opting for globally-oriented farming appears more
appropriate for avoiding the problems associated with this. The WRR's
preference here is based on a food supply variant somewhere between
Utilizing and Saving.

There are also geopolitical reasons why the WRR considers it desirable
to promote globally-oriented farming. Only then can a structural
imbalance between supply and demand, and a structural dependence - and
the associated tensions - between continents be avoided. An added
advantage is that there would then be no need to transport food all
over the world in order to compensate for shortages.

As shown in Chapter 2, a globally-oriented farming industry enables
the regional food supply to be safeguarded, on the proviso that the
production conditions in a number of regions, particularly Western
Asia and North Africa, are improved. On the basis of an enlightened
self-interest, it would be to the EU's benefit to promote agriculture
in precisely those parts of the world where the population is growing
at more than 2 per cent per annum. The 'fertile crescent' in Western
Asia (Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Egypt and
the Sudan) offers potentially sufficient capacity to meet the local
demand for food, but is currently greatly under-utilised. Water is
used in a highly inefficient way; improving the efficiency of
agricultural water use is not only possible, but also very desirable.
We can speak here of the need for a 'white revolution' (more efficient
water use) following the 'green revolution' (more efficient land use)
described in Chapter 2. Here, too, environmental diplomacy on the part
of the EU offers opportunities for breaking the present undesirable
trend of declining water utilisation efficiency and threatened or
actual 'water wars'. The high dependency of a number of Middle-Eastern
countries on cooperation with the EU could act as a lever here.

On the basis of the above, the WRR advises the government to develop
globally-oriented farming further, to stimulate its introduction in
other parts of the world and to provide maximum support for
developments in those regions. This will prevent irreversible
degradation of farmland, offer good prospects for the long term, and
seek to achieve changes mainly in the productive sphere. The first
step towards this in the Council's opinion would be the large-scale
promotion of efficient farming systems in the most suitable locations.
This implies ensuring a better match of the agricultural and
environmental optimum on the one hand and the economic optimum on the
other. To this end, access to external inputs needed to maintain soil
fertility should be increased in large parts of the world. This is
only possible if the 'exchange rate' for external inputs and (food)
production is improved. The economic interdependence between North and
South must thus be focused among other things on the guarantee of
reasonable prices for products and, possibly, subsidies on certain

Industry can be encouraged to become involved in the regeneration of
farming in China, Indonesia and the CIS republics. There is a paradox
here, in that problems of under-utilisation of external inputs can be
resolved by shifting exchange rates in favour of the inputs, while at
the same time in other regions such as North-western Europe, the
exchange rate must be influenced to the detriment of the inputs.

In order to prevent over-use of external inputs, a system of levies
needs to be introduced. In its report 'Environmental Policy: strategy,
instruments and enforcement', the WRR examined ways of implementing
this. At European level there is now a willingness to curb over-use
through such a system. Agricultural systems in which inputs such as
biocides and artificial fertilisers are completely excluded can be
used in a limited number of parts of the world. Regions where there is
sufficient good farmland available, such as Europe, America and parts
of Africa, can allow themselves the 'luxury' of applying these
systems. Globally-oriented farming systems could make use of the
various external inputs in a technologically responsible way. This
places high demands on the level of training and organisational
capacity of those concerned, as well as the willingness of governments
to redress the imperfections in the market which arise from the
absence of interests focusing on environmental impact. Even then,
shortages will arise in a number of locations, and these will have to
be covered by trade flows. This in turn demands stable trading
relations on the one hand and, by no means the least important
condition, a demand which is backed up by the necessary purchasing
power. All in all, this presents an enormous challenge for the
development of world farming regions which are currently lagging
behind in relative terms. It can be done, however: it is a question of
political will. 

3.3.3.              Nature

Domestication of nature inspired by economic interest is a difficult
process to reverse, whether it concerns damage to coral reefs as a
result of tourism or the destruction of tropical forests based on a
desire to survive. In fact, the prospects are only relatively
favourable for those natural areas which are so barren that there is
little for humans to exploit - though even these regions are no longer
entirely unaffected by diffuse influences from human actions
elsewhere. Moreover, as crises arise elsewhere these regions, too,
will be exploited for the extraction of raw materials.

In most cases, nature conservation comes down to safeguarding areas
from human influence. Seen in this way, agriculture is the most direct
competitor of nature for land use. This is true not only of the
rapidly shrinking tropical rainforests, but also holds for the natural
grasslands, the wetlands and the more general disappearance of
biotopes. Forms of 'survival farming' in Africa and Asia, in
particular, result in the felling of trees, exhaustive farming of land
and erosion. Where high-production farming is practised, the original
natural environment has long since been displaced. The remaining local
natural features in these regions are threatened by progressive
erosion of their habitat as a result of land use, lowering of levels,
use of pesticides and other agricultural techniques. It is therefore
essential to promote a form of agriculture which utilises the best
technical facilities and has the least harmful side-effects.

The analyses in Chapter 2 revealed that the prospects for nature
conservation are more positive in some parts of the world than others.
In Oceania, for example, the projected population pressure is so low
that the unspoiled nature which still exists there can be preserved.
In the two American continents and in Europe, as well as in the former
USSR, the prospects for potential expansion of the protected area of
nature lie between the positive outlook for Oceania and the negative
outlook for Asia and Africa.

More generally, the preservation of as much nature as possible on a
world scale thus appears to be furthered most by the globally-oriented
farming proposed above. While there is in theory a good deal of room
for manoeuvre in most regions, the risk of marginal land being kept in
production is not negligible in practice.

Earlier analyses by the WRR in its report 'Ground for Choices' on the
future of the rural regions in the European Community showed that the
acreage currently in use for food production could technically be
reduced to the extent that the area set aside for nature, which in
most countries currently varies between zero and six per cent, could
increase to more than one-third of the total land area.

The same does not hold without qualification for the world as a whole.
In large parts of the world, farming is practised in an even less
efficient way than is currently the case in many areas of the EU. A
better water supply and agriculturally sound use of external inputs
could lead to an enormous productivity gain and allow the growing
demands on the scarce nature to be combated and even substantially
reduced. This works in two ways. Firstly, the erosion of farmland
could be combated; this would prevent local attacks on nature and
specific natural features. Secondly, a larger proportion of the
acreage could be used for nature conservation, thus fostering the
preservation of species: as pointed out in Chapter 2, maintaining or
increasing the natural acreage is essential for this preservation, at
least if something more than conservation in museums is the aim. In
the scenarios for agriculture it appears that sufficient acreage is
released to meet the needs of nature conservation. In fact, around
70 per cent of the total land area of the earth is regarded as
unsuitable for agricultural production, and at least 15 per cent of
the present agricultural acreage could be converted to nature. And yet
all four scenarios forecast problems, particularly in Asia. The
productivity of present-day farming would have to be increased
threefold here in order to avoid conflicts with nature conservation

Conserving nature through efficiency increases in agriculture is dia-
metrically opposed to the image that many have of the relationship
between farming, nature and the environment, where an environmentally-
friendly, extensive farming industry operates in close harmony with
nature. Local production systems - such as those worked out for this
report - which rule out the use of a number of external inputs, can
lead to less pollution per unit area, but on average the area needed
for a given quantity of product proves to be twice as great; if no
irrigation is used, as much as three times as much land is needed.
Whatever else happens, this greater area is taken at the expense of
nature; human activity - however nature-friendly its intentions -
always takes place at the expense of original natural functions. This
makes it clear that environmental quality is a wide-ranging concept.
Seeking to meet local environmental protection standards as far as
possible conflicts with the desire to safeguard the greatest possible
area for nature conservation. The choice here, therefore, is between
environment and nature.

In order to avoid misunderstandings, it should be stressed that the
WRR does not share the view that human intervention in nature always
takes place at the expense of nature, or that man-made 'nature' no
longer deserves that name. 

Farming in the form proposed by the WRR can also be set up in such a
way that more natural features are protected than those represented by
the products themselves. This form of agriculture need not therefore
be poor in natural features.

The approach favoured by the WRR is beginning to make an inroad in
organisations concerned with agricultural development in the Third
World, such as the FAO and the World Bank. The Council recommends that
the government energetically stimulates this line of approach by these
organisations, as well as making it a feature in development
cooperation projects. The resistances which will have to be overcome
are considerable, and it will be clear that the risks of this approach
lie primarily in the area of political and socio-economic development.
In many countries there is great resistance to relinquishing the
immediate economic advantages derived from nature itself or of values
which it may one day imply for mankind which, though vital, are
currently still abstract.

The approach advocated by the Council implies the promotion of
regional ecological main structures. There are various options for
this, in Europe for example a shake-up of the existing agricultural
policies is the most important. In other parts of the world, regional
programmes will first have to be developed which are geared to
improving productivity and reducing environmental impact. Secondly, a
critical examination will be needed to decide on the sites where
agriculture must be developed.

Given the present economic relationships it is unlikely that the gen-
erally poorer exporting countries will voluntarily refrain from the
exploitation of their natural assets. Behavioural change will have to
come primarily from the importing countries, though compensation will
have to be offered here, for example in the form of 'debt-for-nature'
programmes (e.g. the planting of production forests). Technological
improvement, for example increasing the durability of softwood, could
lead to substitutes for tropical hardwoods.

The WRR's favoured approach is based on a variant between Preserving
and Saving and implies nature conservation chiefly through an increase
in the natural area. This preference is inspired primarily by
considerations relating to irreversibility, the inclusion of long-term
considerations in present action and the preference for modification
of production structures. The most important structural means of
achieving this aim is efficient use of farmland in Europe, Australia
and America, and refraining from further extension of the cultivated
area in Asia, Africa and Eurasia. This action perspective can in fact
only be combined with the Utilizing or Saving action perspectives in
the area of food supply.

Increasing the area set aside for nature offers the best structural
guarantee for a reversal of the progressive impoverishment of nature
and should provide a basis for the protection of individual plant and
animal species. Current practice places the emphasis chiefly on
protecting individual threatened species, while the processes which
lead to biotope deterioration continue with virtual impunity. From the
point of view of nature conservation, the present situation offers a
wholly inadequate solution. While it is true that a few regions have
been given protected status via treaties, their operation is often

In the Council's view the present policy will not be able to check the
progressive impoverishment of nature. As this impoverishment advances,
the question will constantly arise of which individual species of
plants and animals must be preserved. There is no unequivocal ethical
answer to this question; the selection criteria will in practice be
strongly determined by public preferences - a doubtful basis for
nature protection. Unanimity in these preferences is virtually ruled
out: one man's meat is another man's poison. Public preference is also
subject to frequent fluctuations and thus offers a weak basis for
durable protection. Even if unanimity and durability in the preference
profile could be achieved, however, the practical realisation of
protection is difficult. Often there is only a very limited scientific
insight into the biotopes required for these species and the
conditions necessary to sustain them. There is a not insignificant
risk that this route ultimately leads to the scenario referred to in
Chapter 2 as 'interesting species on a limited acreage', i.e.
conservation in museum settings.

Changing agricultural practice is an enormous task, but also a great
challenge. The advocated development will take decades to achieve;
this means that the pressure on nature will not reduce for the time
being - quite the reverse. The political priority given to nature
conservation is not great in many countries, and calls for such
protection from the West are often seen as hypocritical given the
meagre attention devoted to nature conservation here in the past. The
figures on the amount of protected nature and unspoiled nature on the
various continents (see Chapter 2) illustrate this point. If Europe
takes the lead here, for example by making serious attempts to develop
an ecological main structure, this could give a powerful boost to
calls for nature conservation.

Continuation of the present policy geared mainly to protecting species
can only succeed if the process of reducing the area set aside for
nature can be reversed. Where possible it can also encourage
governments, via treaties or otherwise, to protect valuable natural

3.4       Raw materials

3.4.1     Copper

Although a good deal of attention has been devoted to the exhaustion
of scarce metals in several studies, such as those carried out by the
Club of Rome, the policy efforts have to date been few and far
between. To the extent that serious initiatives have been undertaken,
they have moreover been motivated from the basis of the waste policy.
The idea of a threatened metal shortage does not hold strong credence.

In the area of fossil energy, too, the notion of finite reserves has
not always been so real as it is today. It was only after the first
oil crisis that the exhaustibility of energy began to be seen as a
real possibility. Although the oil crises were not caused by physical
shortages, they did confront the world with situations which could
arise as a result of such shortages. It is equally possible that a
similar shortage of metals could occur in the future.

Given the expected growth in the world population, and certainly in
view of the expected increase in prosperity in parts of the Third
World, the WRR felt it would be useful to examine the issue of the
exhaustion of scarce metals and of how policy should contribute to a
sustainable development in the use of these metals. The sustainability
approach is illustrated using copper as an example.

On the basis of existing knowledge it is practically impossible to
make well-founded statements on the ultimately extractable reserves of
the scarce metals. In the case of copper these reserves are probably
many times greater than the currently known reserves of barely 500
million tonnes, since the extent of the known reserves is totally
dependent on the explorations carried out. These explorations are in
turn geared to the reserves which are extractable given the current
economic parameters. This leads to a distorted picture of the actual
reserves present.

It is equally impossible to make predictions with any certainty
regarding the future energy-intensity of the extraction of raw
materials. In all probability the energy-intensity of extraction will
increase due to the exploitation of other ores where extraction is
more difficult. As the energy supply itself begins to demand more
resources due to the increasing scarcity of energy, this will also
have an effect on the copper supply.

Particularly in view of this latter consideration, and given the trend
in demand for copper, especially in parts of the Third World, there is
a need for change on the demand side. In the WRR's view this requires
a policy geared to recycling, saving and substitution. While this will
obviously not prevent the exhaustion, it will enable that exhaustion
to be considerably delayed.

In general, recycling is still in its infancy; on a world scale, the
recycling percentage is no more than 18 per cent. There are several
reasons for this, some economic and some institutional. As the
recycling fraction increases, the costs of recycling also rise, and
the costs of the last fraction of recycling will be more or less in
balance with the costs of extracting the primary product. This is
currently below 50 per cent, but could be raised to more than 50 per
cent of the total use by an active policy.

Recycling could be given a permanent boost by channelling the cycle of
material consumption on various fronts. Product instructions outlining
the possibilities of disassembly could push down the costs of
recycling and increase its yield. Streamlining the waste collection
system could also increase the recovery yield. Technological
developments geared to reducing leakage in raw materials' cycles
should also be strongly promoted in the WRR's view.

There are great opportunities for savings and substitution by less
scarce materials. The trend in the demand for copper illustrates the
point. The use of copper is being concentrated increasingly on the
conduction of electricity. Aluminium, which geologically is much less
scarce, could be used as an alternative for this; however,
substitution of copper by aluminium is currently hampered on many
fronts by a series of technical drawbacks. In many respects,
therefore, this is an example of an insufficiently developed
technology. Research aimed at increasing the usability of aluminium
for electrical applications is potentially one of the greatest
contributions to avoiding a severe copper shortage.

The WRR feels that the use, recycling and exploitation of raw
materials should not represent a problem for a sustainable society,
provided the following conditions are met.

Firstly, it is sensible to continuously monitor the urgency of the
exhaustion problem. Participation in international activities aimed at
cataloguing reserves and identifying trends in use are therefore
logical steps. Given these trends in use and the uncertainty regarding
the reserves, there also appears to be a need for measures to promote
the recycling of scarce metals. Such a policy would not only help to
combat the exhaustion of these raw materials, but would also help to
reduce waste flows. Curbing the growth in the use of scarce metals
would also be boosted by encouraging research into efficient use and
substitution technology.

The problem of the exhaustion of scarce metals impinges on the
economic world order and the distribution of wealth between North and
South. In large parts of the world the demand for scarce metals such
as copper will rise sharply and radically as a result of increasing
affluence, which inevitably will be accompanied by a certain degree of
electrification. For the time being the use of copper in the North is
higher than in the South, however, both in absolute terms and in per
capita consumption. The scale of consumption in the North is so large
that there are grounds for concern about the much larger scale of
copper use which will accompany the increase in material affluence in
the South. If the present low recycling fraction continues, the
quantity of primary copper needed could be a limiting factor. It is
sometimes said in this connection that the affluence pattern of the
industrialised world stands in the way of sustainable development. The
need for a change in the Western lifestyle is then pointed out. This
is the case in the Preserving and Managing action perspectives, for

Until much more powerful attempts are made to achieve savings and
substitution, the WRR is not convinced of the need for a change in the
consumer patterns based on the availability of the raw materials.
There is promising expertise available in the area of copper-substitu-
tion aluminium technology; this must be further developed. Temporary
government support could be granted to help bear the risks.

3.4.2     Chlorine

Chapter 2 focuses attention on chlorine. While this may seem a very
specific choice, there are a number of good reasons for this. Today's
affluence is based to a large extent on the use of chlorine, and the
production and consumption of this element therefore involves major
interests. Few will realise that more than 60 per cent of consumer
goods either contain chlorine or are produced using a process
involving chlorine.

In addition, rightly or wrongly, chlorine has attracted a great deal
of attention in recent decades in the environmental debate. Chlorine
compounds play a key role in several - sometimes serious -
environmental problems such as depletion of the ozone layer and
erosion of the quality of air, water and soil.

It is clear that a 'chlorine policy' is of itself of little use. More
sensible is the pursuance of a policy for specific applications
derived from the action perspectives. As regards the open applications
of chlorine, i.e. applications in which the element or product is
released into the environment unhindered, the WRR adopts the
standpoint of the Managing action perspective, opting for a
flexibility strategy. An essential component of this is the avoidance
as far as possible of harmful irreversible processes. While these can
obviously never be completely ruled out, this offers a useful
criterion for making choices. For closed applications, i.e.
applications in which the potentially harmful substances remain within
the industrial chain, the present policy is adequate.

In concrete terms, this position comes down to the following. A
substantial quantity of the chlorine produced - around 55 per cent in
Europe - is used in virtually closed applications. The majority of
these do not pose an irreversible threat to the environment and can
therefore be maintained. The definition of closed processes does need
to be tightened up: an activity - production, transport, consumption
and final processing - is referred to as closed if the regular and
accidental emissions do not exceed the natural background levels. If
emissions do exceed these levels, there must be a clear demonstration
that they are harmless.

The remaining 45 per cent of chlorine used for products supplied to
external customers (processors, consumers, etc.) largely entail open
applications. In many cases there is evidence of excess emissions
whose harmlessness has not been convincingly demonstrated. In some of
these chlorine applications closing the cycle within a reasonable term
appears quite possible: by reducing the emissions, by creating
facilities for recovery or recycling, or by convincingly demonstrating
the 'harmlessness' of these emissions. In those cases where it is not
possible to reduce the emissions sufficiently and where they cannot be
proven to be harmless, it will be necessary to eliminate the chlorine
product concerned. It is probable that roughly 25-35 per cent of the
present applications of chlorine can be eliminated over the coming
years. For the remaining applications it will probably be possible to
take steps to ensure that they can be maintained within the framework
of the outlined strategy.

An important factor here is the speed with which the above steps have
to be taken. Given the typical times necessary for change in industry,
a period of 10 to 15 years would probably enable a realistic and
correct balance to be found between economic and ecological risks.

Technology plays an important part in these recommendations by the
Council. A reservoir of technical options makes it possible within
certain limits to respond to changing circumstances and insights.
Change can be accelerated by stimulating technological development -
including both management and replacement technology - in certain
directions. Examples include techniques for further reductions in
emissions (incinerators, strippers, biological treatment plants,
advanced forms of process control, etc.) and cycle closure, research
into alternative materials and products, development of a better
destruction technology, techniques for separating the production of
chlorine and sodium hydroxide and improved techniques for preventing
and dealing with calamities.

In addition social, institutional and cultural factors all play a
role. Flexibility cannot be isolated from issues such as distribution
of responsibility, clarity regarding the objectives, the level of
communication and a sense of urgency. The right social parameters must
be created and there must be a commitment to the internationalisation
of action and information-provision (ending information shortages and
creating structures in which information is actually used). The motto
here is 'change, not a ban'.

3.5       Conclusion

In this chapter the Council has attempted to arrive at its own
interpretation of sustainable development while taking into account
the results of the analyses presented in earlier chapters. This
standpoint is limited to the extent that this report does not devote
attention to all themes relevant to sustainability. It also has a
general character; a more specific interpretation would require much
more detailed analyses than those carried out for this report. However
elementary these analyses may be, they nevertheless offer pointers for
strategic policy formation.

The fact that sustainability demands a policy geared to the long term
is self-evident. The objectives advocated by the WRR in this chapter
accordingly deviate widely in most cases from the current situation
and trends. This does not mean that they are unattainable, however. If
nothing else, history has taught us that major changes are possible
within the space of a few generations. If these changes are initiated
early enough and the necessary steps have a cumulative nature, these
tasks need not be impossible to achieve.

The approach adopted does not lead obligatorily to a certain position.
The contours of the WRR standpoint outlined earlier are based largely
on normative choices. The preference for seeking sustainability first
and foremost through changes in production methods and structures is
an example of such a choice. Although it is apparent in various areas
that modification of consumption is essential, it is also clear that
sustainability does not inherently demand total frugality. The
situation in the areas studied varies widely, however, and over-
generalisation is best avoided.

A broad view is also necessary when considering the action
perspectives contained in this report. As the scenarios showed, it is
not possible to adopt a single perspective for any length of time
across the full spectrum of all the areas studied. Conflicts
eventually arise between the objectives for the different areas, and
it is therefore not surprising that the WRR standpoint developed in
this chapter presents a mixed picture in which each of the individual
perspectives plays a role. This fact once again draws attention to the
need to make choices; the road to sustainability is not set out in
advance. In fact, this is the central message of this report.


1/        De Werkgever, 10 March 1994.

2/        F. Pearce, 'A long dry season ....'; New Scientist, volume 139,
          no. 1882, 17 July 1993, pp. 15-16.

3/        WRR, Ground for choices; four perspectives for the rural areas
          in the European Community; Reports to the Government no. 42, The
          Hague, Sdu uitgeverij, 1992.


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Date last posted: 3 December 1999 10:27:35
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