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UNEP Chief on Rio+20, the Green Economy and International Environmental Governance

Rio+20 - Re-focusing the Economy and Catalyzing Global Governance and Institutional Reform

Audience: NGOs, public and private sectors, government and academia

I would like to address you on the Green Economy and also touch on something called International Environmental Governance.

And to mention as well Rio+20 -Ladies and Gentlemen -the world is again on the Road to Rio nearly 20 years after the Earth Summit of 1992 that laid the foundations for contemporary sustainable development.

But it is a world markedly changed since the days of the end of the Cold War and the notion that the peace dividend would be invested to solve multiple challenges.

The geopolitics of the world we live in are part of that change-the rise of the BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Shifting perceptions on the role and relevance of the United Nations and the emergence of the G20 are also part of that change.

Meanwhile, many of the realities that were glimpsed in the early 1990sfrom climate change to loss of biodiversity and from land degradation to increasing scarcity of freshwaters-are becoming less theory and more reality.

The prudence and the precaution to act has become an imperative-many politicians know this, the private sector is increasingly concerned as are city and provincial leaders right up to the individual citizen.

The imperative in the second decade of the 21st century is to find the means and the mechanisms for action that take us beyond the narrow and sometimes sterile debates of North and South; rich and poor and resource-rich versus resource-scarce economies.

But towards a direction that can deliver a path that will allow seven billion people, rising to nine billion by 2050 to thrive and indeed survive in some kind of cooperate competition rather than a destructive one.

The responsibility of this generation is not to reinvent sustainable development, but to help it evolve.

To take the unfulfilled promises of Rio 1992 and deliver them: that is the challenge for this generation and one that no longer should be shouldered, but must be.

We are in a world where an oil price can boomerang in as little as 12 months or so from the US$40 or so a barrel level to over US$100.

And it is a world so interlinked and intertwined economically that a drought or a flood in one nation, on one day, can next day move food and fuel markets.

And it is a world where science assesses that climate change will become an increasing threat to lives and livelihoods.

And it is a world where many sustainability challenges, from global warming to persistent organic pollutants - that respect no one's national boundaries or wealth levels - so there is abundant reason to be part of the solution rather than part of the indifference.

But in common with many countries these green shoots need watering and the question for some would be why?

In part because a transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient Green Economy makes abundant sense.

What is lacking is perhaps a sense of direction, a compass for change and a deep sense that if one embraces it, decisive and definitive change will occur.

Recently, we launched A Transition to a Green Economy in order to evaluate the risks and opportunities.

Full Release

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director UN Environment Programme



Further Resources


UNEP: Green Economy Initiative


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