Message to Session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Nairobi, 5 February 2007
It gives me great pleasure, so soon after taking office as Secretary-General, to send greetings to the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum session of the United Nations Environment Programme.
The world has reached a critical stage in its efforts to exercise responsible environmental stewardship. Despite our best intentions and some admirable efforts to date, degradation of the global environment continues unabated, and the world’s natural resource base is being used in an unsustainable manner. Moreover, the effects of climate change are being felt across the globe, with increasing risks for human health and the loss of ecosystems. The projections contained in the latest assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tell us yet again that all countries will feel the adverse impacts. But it is the poor – in Africa, small island developing states and elsewhere – who will suffer most, even though they are the least responsible for global warming. Action on climate change will be one of my priorities as Secretary-General. I am encouraged to know that, in the industrialized countries from which leadership is most needed, awareness is growing that the costs of inaction or delayed action will far exceed the short-term investments needed to address this challenge.
It is also becoming increasingly clear, in North and South alike, that there is an inextricable, mutually dependent relationship between environmental sustainability and economic development. This means that respect for the environment, and recognition of the crucial link between environmental and economic policies, could enjoy better prospects of being put at the centre of our efforts to conquer poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
As the principal United Nations body in the field of the environment, UNEP has a key role to play in making this happen. Progress will depend on forging meaningful partnerships with civil society and the business community. Closer cooperation with UN system partners will also be crucial, and UNEP’s strengthened cooperation with the UN Development Programme augurs well for mainstreaming the environment into development planning. The UN’s environmental activities are also receiving closer attention from Member States, including through the recommendations put forward last year by the High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence. I very much look forward to working closely with you as we press forward with making this work as effective as possible, and in meeting the challenge of building a safer, more prosperous, more sustainable world. In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful outcome to your deliberations.