Sustainable development and the process of economic reform require concern for the environment to be integrated into virtually all policy-making by government ministries and agencies. Environmental policy should be the concern of the entire government. Environment ministries have a particular responsibility to ensure that this principle is put into practice. The level of integration needs to be assessed in national environmental performance reviews. Further, all levels of government need to set an example and reduce the adverse environmental impact of their own activities. Environmental assessment provides an effective means of integrating environmental considerations into all levels of decision-making by administrators.
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.
Article 2 of the Amsterdam Treaty (1977) provides that it will be the European Community's task to promote the harmonious, balanced and sustainable development of economic activities, environmentally-friendly growth, a high degree of convergence of economic performance, a high level of employment and social protection, the raising of the standard of living and quality of life, economic and social cohesion and solidarity among Member States.
The Action Plan [Sustainable Netherlands], developed by Friends of the Earth Netherlands, envisages production and consumption in an industrial society when kept within the limits of environmental space. Environmental space is the sum total of what the Earth can provide (present and future generations) without over stressing its carrying capacity. If the Netherlands reduces carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 60% by the year 2010, reduce the use of mineral resources by 80 - 90%, reduce the use of fresh water by 40%, reduce the use of timber by 60% and reduce the use of agricultural land by 45%, while at the same time making the maximum use of already-existing technologies, then it is possible to maintain a reasonable standard of living in the Netherlands, but not at the cost of other countries.
2. Economic growth provides the conditions in which protection of the environment can best be achieved. Environmental protection in balance with other human goals, is necessary to achieve growth that is sustainable. Business shares the view that there should be a common goal, not a conflict, between economic development and environmental protection, both now and for future generations.