Durban, 2 December 2011-Distinguished delegates, members of the United Nations family, ladies and gentlemen,
Three years ago, UNEP launched a Green Economy Initiative, as nations around the world struggled with successive food and fuel price surges and persistent environmental challenges, compounded by a deep financial and economic crisis.
The basic thrust behind the Green Economy thinking is that the economic models of the 20th century are unlikely to assist in achieving the multiple goals the international community has set ranging from combating climate change to supplying freshwater, sufficient food and overcoming poverty.
In November 2011, UNEP issued the report, Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication.
Commenting on the report, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said: "With the world looking ahead to the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012, the UNEP Green Economy report challenges the myth that there is a trade-off between the economy and the environment. With smart public policies, governments can grow their economies, generate decent employment and accelerate social progress in a way that keeps humanity's ecological footprint within the planet's carrying capacity."
South Africa's Green Economy initiative
We are delighted to see that the principles, vision, goals and arguments put forward in the green economy report are gaining traction across capital cities world-wide and that South Africa is showing strong leadership in this area.
Indeed, South Africa has responded to this call for a global green new deal by allocating, significant portions of its fiscal stimulus to green economic sectors able to foster an economic recovery conducive to more economic and environmental sustainability, social inclusion, and poverty reduction.
The Republic of South Africa launched a $ 7.5 billion fiscal stimulus for period 2009-2011 with a primary focus on investments that create more decent jobs, and related to this, investments in infrastructure.
Nearly $ 1 billion has been earmarked for investment in railways, energy efficient buildings, and water and waste management.
South Africa went further to articulate concepts and principles of a Green Economy into its budgeting process.
H.E. Pravin Gordhan, Finance Minister, noted in his 2010 Budget Speech that "Green economy initiatives will create new opportunities for enterprise development, job creation and the renewal of commercial and residential environments" and that this must play a part in South Africa's new growth path."
In May 2011, UNEP was pleased to join the Department of Environmental Affairs, Economic Development, Science and Technology and other government departments and stakeholders at the Green Economy Summit in Johannesburg.
That Summit, as you know, demonstrated an inter-ministerial engagement that, in our view, is indicative of the seriousness of the resolve to foster a new dynamics towards sustainability.
As the host of the UN conference on climate change – COP 17, South Africa announced this week the launch of a Green Economy Accord with the ambitious goal to create 300,000 new jobs and to significantly expand the country's renewable energy generation.
This engagement we are seeing in South Africa has started to resonate in other corners of Africa, from Nairobi to Accra, from Dakar to Kigali.
Over the last two years, African Governments have adopted numerous declarations, resolutions and consensus statements by Ministers of Environment, Ministers of Economy, Finance and Development, and at the level of the African Union Summit, reaffirming African views and perspectives on green economy.
As the world embarks on the road to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), it is critical that the political momentum at global and regional level is translated into engagement and action at national level.
We believe South Africa and other African countries are well positioned to play a key role in this process, building on their national sustainable development strategies and the low-carbon development path that some countries such as Rwanda are taken.
South-South cooperation has proven to be successful in many areas where rapidly developing countries can share their experiences with the other developing countries.
UNEP's Support to National Green Economy Initiatives in Africa
However, for such inspirational goals to materialize, countries will need to be supported in their national efforts. And international cooperation can pay an important role.
UNEP and other agencies within the United Nations system are keen to bring our support to regional and national initiatives on Green Economy.
We are committed to work together with Governments, and to build critical partnerships with other agencies, the private sector and civil society to support processes of transformative change that we see taking shape around the world.
This support is taking the form of policy advice and macro-economic assessments to better understand the full range of opportunities and challenges of a Green Economy in specific country and regional contexts.
It also occurs through facilitation of national consultations on Green Economy, which can be informed by international experience in other regions and countries of the world.
We stand at a critical juncture.
One that represents a major opportunity to reshape our economic thinking, revamp processes of reform, and reframe the approaches to development such that its delivers more effectively on the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainability.
The body of analytical work and knowledge that is being generated within UNEP, the broader UN family and the network of partners will be made available to support the process that you have started here in South Africa.
We are delighted to engage further with you in this journey, and look forward to working closely so that collectively, we can deliver on the promises of the Green Economy.