Environment Ministers Get to Grips with Greening Global Economy at 10th Special Session of Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Monaco, 22 February 2008 - Close to 140 governments today gave the green light to evolve the environment programme of the United Nations (UNEP) into a more efficient, focused and results-based organization better able to meet the multiple challenges of the 21st century.
Environment ministers, gathering in the Principality of Monaco two months after they gathered in Indonesia to agree the Bali Road Map on climate change, approved a decision authorizing the UNEP Executive Director to utilize a Medium-Term Strategy in formulating UNEP's programme of work.
The strategy will focus the organization's activities across six cross-cutting thematic priorities aimed at strengthening and focusing UNEP's response to climate change but also disasters and conflicts; ecosystem management; environmental governance; harmful substances and hazardous waste and resource efficiency-sustainable consumption and production.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "This decision is a major milestone in achieving a consensus among the international community as well as civil society and the private sector to set new and transformational directions for this environment programme of the UN".
He said governments, meeting in Monaco for the 10th Special Session of UNEP's Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, had signaled their determination to address existing and emerging challenges by empowering the UN body responsible for the environmental pillar of sustainable development to move forward.
"I can only applaud governments and delegates for the constructive manner in which they engaged on the suite of issues before them including the Medium-Term Strategy. We have reached a consensus on the way forward for UNEP. I believe this represents growing confidence in our reforms and growing confidence in UNEP and its ability to deliver decisive results," said Mr Steiner.
He said the excellent planning and organization of the Monaco meeting had contributed to the success of the event.
"I must thank the government of Monaco and in particular its Head of State, His Serene Highness Prince Albert II. Prince Albert's commitment, inspiration and presence here at the GC/GMEF has played an important part in empowering delegates to reach such a positive consensus on the issues before them," said Mr Steiner.
He also thanked the President of the Governing Council Roberto Dobles, the Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica, whose leadership and steady hand was also key to the gathering's success.
Mr Dobles said: "Governments have come to Monaco to attend their environmental forum in the wake of a 12 month period that was truly a defining moment for the sustainability agenda".
"The reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the UNEP Global Environment Outlook-4 outlined in graphic detail the challenges but also the opportunities facing nations," he said.
"Here in Monaco that momentum, and that understanding was maintained and reflected not only in the quality of debate on the nexus between environment and economics but in the decision to authorize UNEP's Medium Term Strategy. The overall conclusion was that much needs to be done, but much is already happening and much more is possible. I am delighted to have been part of that evolution," he said.
The theme of the GC/GMEF was "Globalization and the Environment-Mobilizing Finance for the Climate Challenge" and ministers undertook wide-ranging discussions on how that might be accelerated and the barriers broken down.
In the President's summary, many of the more than 100 ministers who took part agreed that "sufficient investment capital" is available in the world to address climate change but that a "sufficiently high and long-term predictable price for carbon will be central for mobilizing that capital for the new economy.
Many also took the view that in terms of 'climate proofing' vulnerable economies to the impacts of global warming, urgency was needed to make the Adaptation Fund of the Kyoto Protocol operational.
The Clean Development Mechanism of the Protocol, which may eventually generate up to $100 billion of investment flowing North to South into clean and green energy projects, needed to be "supplemented by significant contributions from industrialized countries to meet the envisaged challenge".
Many developing countries underlined a sea change in thinking about a transition to a low carbon economy.
"Developing countries no longer need to be convinced of the advantages of green growth, but they do need financial and technical assistance in order to make the transition to lower carbon economies," the President's summary notes.
Another measure of the transformation in the market place was voiced by members of the private sector who said that renewable energy had 'shed its fringe image' and was now a mainstream business. However, there remained a 'lack of activity' on poorer developing countries including in Africa.
Many delegates stressed that "appropriate finance" that matched the ability of the poor, particular in the area of cleaner energy, was needed and that public finance may be needed to stimulate local lending.
The importance of UNEP and the United Nations in playing a role in assisting developing countries to establish the right policies, institutional frameworks and to build capacity to access finance was also recognized.
At the meeting, the governments emphasized their concern that all countries, in particular developing countries, face increased risks from the negative effects of climate change, and stressed the importance of addressing adaptation needs.
Governments also welcomed the fourth Global Environment Outlook report, which was launched in October 2007, expressing concern over the evidence of unprecedented environmental changes, and encouraging timely action to prevent, mitigate and adapt to such changes. The progress that has been made on several fronts to address the challenges outlined in the report was welcomed by governments, who also encouraged greater sharing of lessons learned and best practices.
Finally, in order to maintain the spirit of international solidarity and commitment generated by the Bali Roadmap, governments requested the UN Economic and Social Council to consider making 2010-2020 an International Decade for addressing Climate Change.
Meanwhile the meeting also show-cased the latest economic and scientific developments through a series of reports, publications and side-events including the impact of soot and the Atmospheric Brown Cloud on the climate and on the shielding of sunlight from the ground-so called global 'dimming".
Other ground-breaking reports included the UNEP Year Book and its glimpse of a 'green economy' as a result of investments in new and cleaner technologies; a preliminary report with the International Labour Organization and trades unions on 'green jobs' and a sobering study by scientists on the multiple impacts of pollution, alien invasive species and climate change on fisheries-In Dead Water.
Notes to Editors
Documents related to the 10th Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum will be posted at http://www.unep.org/gc/gcss-x/
Press releases relating to the meeting can be found at www.unep.org/newscentre
Monaco, the Host Country's web site is at http://www.unep2008.gouv.mc/pnue/wwwnew.nsf/HomeGb
For more information, please contact Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson and Head of Media, on +41 79 596 57 37; Email: email@example.com and Robert Bisset, UNEP Spokesperson for Europe, on tel: +33 6 2272 5842 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. François Chantrait, Directeur. Centre de Presse
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UNEP News Release