Time to Make Environment and Economics Team Players
Markets Need to Work With Earth’s Life Support Systems to Achieve Development Goals
Nairobi, 15 June 2006 --The new head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) took up office today with a call to all nations to put the environment at the heart of economic policies.
Achim Steiner, the 45 year-old former Director General of IUCN-the World Conservation Union, said:” For too long economics and environment have seemed like players on rival teams. There have been a lot of nasty challenges and far too many own goals. We need to make these two sides of the development coin team players, players on the same side”.
“We then have a chance to achieve the fundamental shift of values and reach a new understanding of what really makes the world go round. Until recently the goods and services provided by nature have been paid only lip service by traditional economic accounting. Thus the land, the air, the biodiversity and the world’s waters have been frequently treated as free and limitless,” he added.
Mr Steiner said a whole stream of reports over the past year or so, including the UNEP supported Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, were underlining the “enormous wealth of nature’s services”.
“They also underline that far too many are becoming limited as a result of abuse, poor management and over-exploitation,” he added.
Mr Steiner said one of his main challenges over his coming first term as UNEP Executive Director was to end this “antagonism between economic and environmental policy”.
He said he would be focusing on how markets and economic incentives and international treaties and agreements can be made to work in a way which is “pro environment, pro poor and thus pro sustainable development”.
“Economic issues that touch on the environment are all too often pushed out of environmental conventions. Meanwhile, environmental issues are generally left standing on the touch line, little more than spectators and rarely asked to play a real role in the great economic game. Everyone, not just those in the developing but also those in the developed world stand to lose out if this continues,” said the new UNEP Executive Director.
Mr Steiner, the organization’s fifth Executive Director since it was set up in the early 1970s, said there was every reason to be positive: “There is a real tide of opinion that is now running in the direction of environmentally sustainable economies upon which we must and should sail”.
“A new mood that increasingly recognizes that, while money may make the world go round, what makes money go round is ultimately the trillions of dollars generated by the planet’s goods and services—from the air cleaning and climate-change countering processes of forests to the fisheries and the coast line protection power of coral reefs”.
He said among his many targets, aimed at making UNEP even more relevant to the challenges of the 21st century, was that of achieving stronger and more streamlined ties with other UN organizations, civil society and the private sector.
”The challenges are so immense that, only by working together in mutual self interest, can we realize internationally agreed goals and deliver a stable, just and healthy planet for this and future generations,” said Mr Steiner, a Brazilian-born German national whose previous experience includes being Secretary-General of the World Commission on Dams based at the time in South Africa.
He described the UN Secretary General’s High-level panel on UN system-wide coherence in the areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance and the Environment and the UN General Assembly’s informal consultations on the institutional framework for the UN system’s environmental activities- chaired by ambassadors from Mexico and Switzerland- as “real opportunities that we must all seize”.
“For the first time in two decades environment and the institutional architecture are receiving the highest levels of attention. We have a golden chance to reform the institutions and structures that deliver global and regional environmental policy. It is a chance we must not let slip away,” said Mr Steiner.
He said he was delighted to be taking the helm of an African headquartered organization: “My self and my family are no strangers to this wonderful Continent with its diverse history and culture and hospitable people and beautiful landscapes. So I am delighted to be returning to live here. I believe that Nairobi in East Africa is an excellent location for a global environment agency”.
“I am fully committed to ensuring that UNEP’s headquarters becomes ever more a world class facility on a par with cities like New York or Geneva. Africa and the developing world deserve nothing less,” said Mr Steiner.
“I also want to ensure that, at the end of my first four year term, UNEP becomes an ever brighter beacon of intellectual leadership, scientific assessment and an energetic catalyst for the deep and meaningful policy reforms and revolutions so urgently needed world-wide,” said Mr Steiner.
Notes to Editors
Achim Steiner was elected by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 March 2006 to be Executive Director of UNEP.
He succeeds Klaus Toepfer of Germany who stepped down after just over two terms and eight years as UNEP ED on 31 March 2006
Mr Steiner’s biography and other resources can be found at www.unep.org
For More Information Please Contact Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, Office of the Executive Director, on Tel: +254 20 762 3084; Mobile: 254 733 632 755, E-mail: email@example.com
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UNEP News Release