Agenda 21 requires that nations participating in the quest for a more sustainable social, environmental and economic future develop national strategies for their sustainable development. The UK Government bases its vision of sustainable development on four broad objectives:
- Social progress which recognises the needs of everyone;
- Effective protection of the environment;
- Prudent use of natural resources; and
- Maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment.
The UK Sustainable Development Strategy recognises that everybody has the right to a healthy, clean and safe environment. This can be achieved by reducing pollution, poverty, poor housing and unemployment. Global environmental threats, such as climate change and poor air quality must be reduced to protect human and environmental health. The use of non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels should not be stopped overnight, but they must be used efficiently and the development of alternatives should be used to help phase them out. Finally, everybody has the right to a good standard of living, with better job opportunities. Economic prosperity is required if the UK is to prosper. For this, we need a workforce equipped with suitable skills and education within a framework to support them.
The UK Sustainable Development Strategy recognises the need for a new, more environmentally sound approach to development, especially with regard to transport, energy production and waste management. The Government wishes to allow economic growth to continue, but more sustainably, to ensure that the costs of growth do result in excessive environmental deterioration or social injustice. Changing the way we think about development is an important part of the UK Strategy. The UK Strategy is a catalyst for change. Its ten guiding principles are summarised below:
- putting people at the centre;
- taking a long term perspective;
- taking account of costs and benefits;
- creating an open and supportive economic system;
- combating poverty and social exclusion;
- respecting environmental limits;
- the precautionary principle;
- using scientific knowledge;
- transparency, information, participation and access to justice;
- making the polluter pay.