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Achim Steiner's Statement at the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries

Delivered by Bakary Kante, Director, Division of Environmental Law and Conventions, UNEP

Istanbul, 9-13 May 2011 - Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We meet nearly 12 months before the UN Conference on Sustainable Development 2012-which will be 20 years after the Rio Earth Summit of 1992.

Those intervening years have witnessed quite remarkable but also sobering changes economically, socially and environmentally in many parts of the globe.

Geopolitically, the world is also markedly changed with the rising influence of economies such as that of China, the summit's host country Brazil alongside India and South Africa.

The growth in global GDP has lifted millions out of poverty-but science is underlining that the path of economic growth since Rio 1992, and indeed before it, is coming with a price tag.

A cost that is increasingly born by the poor and the vulnerable on this planet including in many of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

From climate change, to the loss of biodiversity and from rising land degradation to increasing scarcity of freshwaters, environmental change is translating into escalating social and economic impacts and scarcities.

We know that we need to grow our economies in order to lift more people out of poverty and find decent jobs for the 1.3 billion young people underemployed or unemployed-especially in the developing and in particular in the Least Developed Countries.

But that growth needs to become far more intelligent on a planet of around seven billion people, rising to nine or ten billion in 2050.

If not, the risks, shocks and unpredictability of food, fuel and other commodity prices witnessed over the past two to three years are likely to become ever more extreme and socially challenging.

The two major themes of the Rio+20 Conference next year are a Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and an international framework for sustainable development.

In respect to the first theme, UNEP a few months ago presented its report Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication.

It outlined what investing two per cent of annual global GDP might achieve across ten sectors if backed by the right creative and forward-looking public policies.

The conclusion, involving experts and economists from around the globe, is that it is possible to catalyze growth and employment while keeping humanity's footprint within ecological boundaries.

In other words the transition to a green economy can produce positive social and environmental outcomes if the appropriate enabling policies are in place.

The report also makes it clear that this is as much a developing as a developed country agenda and one as relevant to a more market or more state-led economy.

A separate but related initiative-known as The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity and hosted by UNEP-found that not only are we losing up to $4.5 trillion in natural or nature-based capital annually.

But that the goods and services that forests and freshwater systems, to coral reefs and soils provide can represent close to 90 per cent of the GDP of the poor.

Indeed when you look at the conclusions of these two streams of work, both aimed at informing and delivering catalytic change in Rio next year, one is struck by the fact that it is the developing economies and perhaps more importantly the LDCs which have most to gain via such transformations.

Why? Because many LDCs are rich in the kinds of natural resources which other economies have damaged or degraded or simply used up-resources that will become increasingly sought after in a resource-constrained world.

A transition to a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy is in part aimed at sustainable management of those resources and in better valuing their economic importance for inclusive growth and development, and in national but also global markets.

Meanwhile many LDCs are in the early stages of industrialization and energy access-a Green Economy would reward countries and the products and services they generate which have lower environmental impacts.

Full Release

The experience, expertise and creativity of LDCs need to be an important voice and imperative for the world when it meets in Rio, 20 years after the Earth Summit



Further Resources

Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-IV)

UNEP: Green Economy Initiative


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