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Remarks by Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director to Plenary of the Global Environment Facility Assembly

25 May 2010 - Honourable Ministers, delegates, Monique Barbut, Chief Executive Officer of the GEF, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to address the GEF Assembly here in Uruguay.

This is the Continent that in many ways will be at the centre of the international community's renewal, replenishment and re-commitment to the goals of sustainability over the coming two years.

Here we meet to discuss the future path of one of the central financing arms, established in the context of the Rio Earth Summit of 1992.

In Nagoya, Japan later this year member states will convene for the COP of the Biodiversity Convention. This will be followed by Cancun, Mexico where the international community will meet again to take forward the challenge, but also the opportunities of combating climate change under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Both of these are processes born at the Earth summit in 1992.

And in 2012, we will return to Brazil for the Rio + 20 summit—20 years on from a world that in some ways was just glimpsing the impact of humanity's unsustainable development path and warning of the consequences of inaction.

Today, many of those indicators have moved further into the red and we have new dials that are informing us of the seemingly overwhelming pace, scale and impact of the current development and economic growth models.

Dead zones in the world's seas and oceans for example were not a feature of Rio in 1992—they are now.

And while climate change was a key consideration 18 years ago, ocean acidification as a result of the build up of C02 alongside other emissions-related phenomena, are now part of a suite of emerging issues confronting a new generation of policy-makers and public.

This is in part as a result of the inordinate scaling up of science—we know far more today than we ever did about human beings and their relationship with the natural world.

Public awareness has never been higher; wealth in absolute or GDP terms (despite the recent economic and financial crisis) has soared and technologies including renewables once on the periphery are entering mainstream.

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