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Policy Statement by Klaus Toepfer at the GC Closing in Dubai

9th Special Session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme/Global Ministerial Environment Forum

9 February 2006 – I would like to send my congratulations to His Excellency Sheik Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.

Congratulations to your country for organizing this international environment meeting.

The first time in West Asia.

Congratulations for the successful Zayed International Prize for the Environment ceremony.

Where Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, received the Global Leadership award.

Again congratulations to all those involved and to the people of the United Arab Emirates for their warmth and hospitality.

Thanks to Rachmat Witoelar, President of UNEP’s Governing Council.

And to Dr Yahya Jammeh, the President of the Gambia, and to President Leuiberger of the Swiss Federal Council of the Swiss Confederation.

And congratulations too to all the governments and ministers who took part.

For your engagement. For your wisdom.

Congratulations to all those who navigated us to a successful outcome of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).

Some say the Dubai Declaration is not enough.

But we have our first step.

We have a foundation upon which we can build.

It puts us on track to meet the 2020 target of the World Summit on Sustainable Development’s (WSSD) Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have said already that this great city of Dubai has become a cross roads.

Where east meets west and north meets south.

The 9th Special Session of UNEP’s Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum meets at another important cross roads.

Where environment meets economics.

Where the urgency of balancing development with the Earth’s life support systems—ecosystems—is being finally understood.

Where developed, developing and rapidly developing countries know that environmentally degradation is THE bottleneck for economic development.

Where the environment is losing its silk scarf image. Where it is understood that it is not a luxury.

But a prerequisite for fighting poverty.

The Bali Strategic Plan on Technology Support and Capacity Building echoes to this.

Thanks again for the support of the President of the Gambia and the other five African presidents who here and in recent weeks have made Bali their vision.

These six countries, where we are piloting Bali, are where UNEP is cutting its teeth.

Where, step by step, we are concentrating efforts.

Focusing on how to strengthen countries’ ability to deal with the economic and environmental challenges of today and tomorrow.

Bringing our motto—Environment for Development—alive.

Fundamentally linked with Bali is the renewed commitment to the Environmental Management Group.

I can inform you that only a few weeks ago we held a high level meeting of United Nations bodies and the Multilateral Environment Agreements.

The proposals arising have been part of the discussions in this week’s Committee of the Whole.

Here governments have offered their wisdom and their proposals on broadening capacity building.

Needless to say, the future development of the EMG is also closely linked with the discussions on reforms of International Environment Governance.

These come as a result of the 2005 World Summit in New York and will be taken forward in the coming months.

I sincerely hope this will lead to a further strengthening of the environment pillar of sustainable development

So that the environment can make its full and rightful contribution to peace and stability in the world.

In realizing the Millennium Development Goals.

In delivering the World Summit on Sustainable Development’s (WSSD) Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

There are numerous reasons behind the renaissance in global environment policy.

Energy and Health—Energy and Climate Change

Nowhere more is this witnessed than in the field of energy.

On the supply and on the demand side.

We urgently need more energy for development.

There is no specific target for energy in the Millennium Development Goals.

But we know it is at the centre of all these eight targets.

Over one and a half billion people in developing countries are without access to electricity.

We must bridge this divide.

But the current structure of energy is not sustainable.

Some eighty per cent comes from fossil fuels.

And much of this is wasted.

The planet and its people are paying a high price for this inefficiency.

An oil price of $50 plus costs the developing world its entire Overseas Development Aid.

Air pollution cripples the lives and kills millions around the globe.

The Anthropogenic Brown Clouds forming over many Continents reduce sunlight and affect weather patterns.

In Asia, up to 10 per cent of sunlight may be blocked.

May be affecting agricultural production.

In the developing world it is the women and children who suffer most.

Inefficient burning of biomass makes indoor air toxic.

Women and children spend long hours looking for fuel wood for cooking when they could be at school.

Inefficient use of energy is also costing dear in terms of climate change.

Last year weather-related natural disasters cost more than $200 billion.

Only some days ago British scientists warned that the Greenland ice cap is now in danger of melting.

So it is good that our discussions are being held in Dubai.

The United Arab Emirates is a member of the global community.

It has ratified the Kyoto Protocol.

On both climate change and on air pollution there is action.

In December in Montreal we got back the political will to fight global warming.

• Kyoto countries agreed to work on action beyond 2012

• Non Kyoto countries signaled growing commitment in the underlining Convention

• The Clean Development Mechanism to be beefed up and streamlined.

• New possibilities to include energy efficiency in the CDM

• No one questioned the science of climate change

• Governments backed adaptation

Renewables like wind and solar are also making important in-roads.

Over 40 countries now have targets for renewable energy supply.

China has set a target of 20 per cent electricity from renewables by 2020.

The economies of many developed countries are far less energy intensive than 30 years ago.

But we must go much further and much faster.

We need far greater gains in energy efficiency, in cleaner fossil fuel generation in new technologies.

There is also still so much ‘low hanging fruit’ to harvest.

I could cite numerous examples but here is one.

Electrical appliances like TVs collectively consume large amounts of electricity needlessly.

If they consumed just one Watt we could save between five and ten per cent of total electricity in developed country homes.

Biogas from dung is a real success story in India—incidentally a country with a ministry for non-conventional fuels!

It is cost effective. It reduces in door air pollution.

Let’s make biogas a reality elsewhere-wherever it is used.

Micro hydropower in Nepal is now electrifying homes for 15,000 families.

It is cost effective. Let’s replicate this too.

Civil Society

Micro credit schemes have something to do with civil society.

Civil society is also seeing a renaissance in its engagement wit the environment.

An example is the trade unions.

Organized labour and environmentalists once viewed each other with suspicion.

That is now behind us.

Last month in Nairobi we met and signed the Workers Initiative for a Lasting Legacy.

This is fully under the UN Compact, the initiative of the Secretary General.

I can only thank wholeheartedly Narbona Ruiz, the Spanish Environment Minister.

She did a great job at this event.

We will live up to this growing commitment of all sectors of civil society.

Industry and Business

We have another success story to tell.

One that relates to fuels and to energy.

One that proves that industry is also serious about air pollution.

The Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles agreed to phase out leaded petrol in sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2005.

Ladies and gentleman this has been done.

Now we must reduce the sulphur content of transport fuels in the developing world.

It is simply unacceptable that the developed world has sulphur levels of a few tens of parts per million.

Unacceptable that developing world fuels are commonly many thousands of parts per million.

Industry and business also want to be partners in the fight against climate change.

The Environmentally Sound Technology Exhibition underlines this.

Welcome to the companies here like General Electric.

Let us take these partnerships forward in mutual self interest.

UNEP’s Finance Initiative recently commissioned a legal opinion on corporate social responsibility.

It concludes:” Institutional investors have a far greater opportunity—and in some cases legal obligation—to incorporate environmental, social and governance issues in their investment decision-making than is traditionally believed”.

In other words, social and environmental issues, have something to do with the bottom line.

Something to do with performance and thus share price.

Energy and Water

I said it has been good to be in Dubai.

The economic miracle here could not have occurred without water.

And water here means desalination.

We need new technologies for energy generation.

We also need them to produce water in a less energy intensive way.

Improved desalination technologies could therefore play their part.

Their part in halving the number of people without access to clean and sufficient drinking water.

So can better recycling and water saving technologies from the home to the field.

In helping to meet part of the Millennium Development Goals.

Water technologies should be taken forward at the next World Water Forum in Mexico in March.

Ecosystems, Energy and Tourism

Another reasons for the renaissance in global environment policy is science.

I mentioned earlier the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

More than 1,300 experts have concluded that 60 per cent of our life support services are in trouble.

Many of these ecosystems are the basis for tourism.

Tourism is the world’s biggest industry.

Tourism has been high on our agenda here.

In the past the economic value of ecosystem services has been all but ignored.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment has changed this.

More research is also coming through.

Let me cite one figure from a new report by UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

It notes that a coral reef may be worth up to a million US dollars a square kilometer.

The value comes from the maintenance of sandy beaches up to their value for divers and other tourists.

We must continue to strengthen our Global Programme of Action to reduce sources of pollution to the coastal environment.

We must build on the Millenniun Ecosystem Assessment and sharpen the economics.

We must go further.

We must prove that investments in rehabilitating damaged and degraded ecosystems give you a ‘Big Bang for Your Buck’.

Some countries already know this.

India announced at the recent Delhi Sustainable Development Forum that it will restore and repair up to 500,000 degraded water bodies.

The announcement was made not by the environment minister but the finance minister.

Spread the word around.

More sustainable use of energy will help here too.

All roads lead to energy in the end.

Acidification of forests is becoming a growing problem in parts of Asia.

Last year we released findings from our Global Environment Outlook Year Book.

‘Dead zones’, oxygen deprived areas of ocean, are becoming more common and more persistent.

Sewage and fertilizers have a part to play.

But so too do nitrogen compounds from burning fossil fuels.

Nitrogen is also harming other ecosystem services such as heaths and grasslands.

So we must take forward the International Nitrogen Initiative.

Climate change, a result of our wasteful use of energy, is partly to blame for land degradation and the loss of soils.

Desertification is a major challenge and too often forgotten.

You may be able to rehabilitate a wetland or a polluted river.

But it can take millennia to recreate soils lost to the wind, droughts or erosion.

I hope we can turn the corner on this in this International Year of Deserts and Desertification.

The United Arab Emirates is a major tourist destination. It knows that value of its ecosystems.

Being here also reminds us of the importance of ecosystem services beyond their dollars and cents.

The late Sheik Zayed, whose name graces the Zayed Prize, is rightly praised for ‘greening the deserts’—for directly fighting land degradation.

He is rightly praised for his captive breeding programmes for animals like the Arabian Oryx.

Sheik Zayed drew inspiration from his faith and from his cultural identity.

I share the vision of His Excellency Sheik Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum when, on the evening on the ceremony, he called for a dialogue amongst civilizations.

The Future

I too have pause for thought over the future.

I have a five month old granddaughter.

I also wonder about the kind of world she will see when she is my age—when she is close to 70 years old.

There is every chance that, with political will and the unleashing of human ingenuity, she should be optimistic.

Seventy years ago wind power was wind mills.

Photovoltaics were a theoretical possibility. Not a reality.

There are other technologies waiting in the wings that need a push.

For example geothermal, wave power, tidal and ocean thermal energy conversion.

The efficiency of fossil fuel power stations is leaping forward.

We have new possibilities with carbon storage and carbon sequestration.

We also have economics on our side.

We have the new reality among the rapidly developing countries that environment is THE bottleneck to further economic development.

From Thailand to China new strategies like to Circular Economy are being born.

Let us therefore use out time this week creatively.

To return to our capitals we renewed vigor and commitment to solving the energy and environment crisis.

To echo with concrete actions to the renaissance of environmental policy.

In doing so, I think it is worth while to reflect on the words of Albert Einstein, the scientist, philosopher and genius.

He was once questioned by a student as to why Einstein was asking them the same set of questions.

“Because,” Einstein said, “I have a new set of answers”.




Further Resources

Arabic version

GC IX Official Website
Official UNEP website for the Ninth Special Session of the UNEP Governing Councill/Global Ministerial Environment Forum

Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM )

Johannesburg Plan of Implementation
World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg 2002)

Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity Building

UNEP & the Millennium Development Goals

Energy Branch

More resources on energy issues

Climate Change
Kyoto Protocol

Seventh Global Civil Society Forum
Dubai , 5-6 February 2006

Labour and the Environment

WILL 2006 - Trade Union Assembly on Labour and the Environment

UN Global Compact

GEO Year Book 2006
Outlines the state of the global and regional environment, with a special focus on energy and air pollution.

Chemicals Branch
The Chemicals Branch is the focus for all UNEP's activities to ensure the sound management of hazardous chemicals, and is the main catalytic force in the UN system in this area.

Tourism Branch
Together with the World Tourism Organization (WTO/OMT), UNEP is the main focal point on sustainable tourism for CSD and the Convention on Biological Diversity.


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