Remarks by Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director at the World Environment Day Environment and Conservation Conference
'Building the Missing Links in the Sustainability Agenda-A Green Economy Approach'
Kigali, 3 June 2010-His Excellency Bernard Makuza, Prime Minister of Rwanda; Ambassador Stanislas Kamanzi, Minister of Natural Resources and Minister of Infrastructure; distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be here in Kigali to address this conference as part of World Environment Day (WED) celebrations 2010.
When I learnt that Rwanda would be hosting the main global celebrations for WED, it put a swift spring into my step.
For this is a developing country that is putting natural or nature-based resources at the heart of its development path.
Rwanda is also an economy that has embraced the concept of a Green Economy and the principle of sustainability.
It is a country that is rapidly evolving the view that the environment is not a tax on its development, a mortgage on its future or a constraint on employment-far from it.
President Kagame has- not least in his inspiring address last year to African minister of finance and environment- made it clear that environment underpins Rwanda's development and the prosperity of its people if not this Continent..
UNEP is pleased to be a partner in that journey working to assist the government in its Economic and Poverty Reduction Strategy through the UN Development Assistance Framework.
UNEP and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) co-chair the UN Country Team's environmental theme group and are involved in the cleaner production centre; waste management initiative and ecosystem restoration projects.
The UN family here in Rwanda will strive even harder to ensure that our delivery reflects the urgency and the determination of this country to realize its Vision 2020.
Economics-a Missing Link
Ladies and gentlemen we meet in the UN's International Year of Biodiversity.
The year when the world was meant to have substantially reversed the rate of loss of biodiversity.
This, as the Convention on Biological Diversity's recently launched Global Biodiversity Outlook-3 underlines, has not happened.
WED is a peoples' day-a day when communities and citizens to local authorities and companies-can express their support and their desire for an improved environment through actions on the ground.
The public in the end give politicians the license to operate-this is the day when their voice, requesting a new and transformational engagement with the natural world, needs to be heard.
This is year too when, as part of this international year, the international community needs to recommit to achieving the unfulfilled target and indeed go beyond.
How can decision-makers preside over a 60 to perhaps 65 per cent decline in ecosystems and their services?
How can we be facing an inordinate decline in something as fundamental-the source of protein for one billion people-as fish stocks?
I would suggest that the 'missing link' in the debate has been economics.
Biodiversity is certainly more than dollars and cents or euros, rupees or Rwandan francs.
But in a world where an economy's performance is measured in GDP or GNP, we need to underline the bottom line to ministers of finance and trade and to economic advisors, local authorities and corporate chiefs.
Need to make clear to not just the environmental and scientific community, but to Presidents, Prime Ministers and other responsible leaders the extraordinary losses the world is sustaining as a result of the mismanagement of nature's goods and services.
Need to relay the message too about the inordinate economic but also environmental and social opportunities of sustainable management of natural assets.
Later today, as a contribution to this debate and on the eve of WED proper, UNEP and partners are launching a key report-Dead Planet: Living Planet: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Restoration for Sustainable Development.
The report, underpinned by hundreds if not thousands of studies and highlighting over 30 case studies on where ecosystem restoration has been tried, underlines two key points.
Namely that sustainably managing ecosystems is the number one priority-in the short to medium term only up to around 44 per cent of the services that once were there can be recovered.
Long term perhaps most of them can be brought back, but no-one knows for sure.
The second key point is despite this, investing in the rehabilitation of lost or degraded and damaged ecosystems is crucial and provides a significant rate of return.
Indeed according to this new report, well-planned restorations may provide cost benefit ratios of 3-75 in terms of return on investment.
The level of return varies with each ecosystem and to a certain extent is linked to the degree of difficulty and perhaps insufficient scientific knowledge and experience.
The report for example suggests that some of the highest rates of return come from restoration of grasslands, woodlands and forests.
Coral reefs too be precise are more expensive to restore-again, science and pilot projects are needed here.
Meanwhile some greater precision on this issue will come later in the year when The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)- which UNEP hosts and which is funded by the European Commission and nations including Germany, Norway and the UK-publishes its landmark report.
Ecosystem Restoration-Case Studies
Direct case studies cited in the WED report include:-
Restoring degraded grasslands and lands around river systems in South Africa's Drakensberg Mountains.
It estimates that the project will bring back winter river flows to vulnerable communities amounting to close to 4 million cubic metres of water, cut sediment losses and store carbon.
Cost-$4.5 million or Euro 3.6 million over seven years and annual management costs of Euro 800,000 annually.
Return-up to $7.4 million (Euro 6 million) a year while generating over 300 permanent, natural resource management jobs and 2.5 million person-days of work during the restoration phase.
Change is happening.
- The Turkish city of Istanbul has increased the number of people served with wastewater treatment over 20 years from a few hundred thousand to over nine million-95 per cent of the population-by rehabilitating and cleaning river banks, relocating polluting industries, installing water treatment works and re-establishing river-side vegetation.
- In Vietnam, planting and protecting nearly 12,000 hectares of mangroves has cost just over $1 million but saved annual expenditure on dyke maintenance of well over $7 million.
- In Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, strict law enforcement has helped restore the critically endangered mountain gorilla population back to a slight increase in the Virungas National Park - and is generating large revenues from tourism
- Restoration of over 500 hectares of mangroves in India's Andhra Pradesh region has cost $3 million over seven years but has increased the population of edible crabs and fodder for livestock thereby boosting local incomes while increasing biodiversity such as otter and birds.
- Coastal ecosystems in Biscayne Bay, Florida have been restored for annual benefit worth $1.7 million a year
Banning unsustainable fishing methods; re-introductions of native fish species and re-planting of native aquatic grasses have transformed the once highly polluted and degraded Lake Hong in China.
- Since 2003, water quality has improved dramatically, rare birds like the Oriental White Stork have returned after 20 years and fishermen and woman have seen incomes triple.
Among the case studies is a re-afforestation project in an area of Tanzania called the Shinyanga region just south of Lake Victoria.
Until recently it was nick-named the Desert of Tanzania as a result of deforestation and the conversion of woodlands into croplands.
However an 18-year project aimed at creating village based, woodland, enclosures has reversed land degradation and improved rural livelihoods.
- Some 350,000 hectares of ngitili, the local world for enclosures, have been planted covering well over 800 villages and 2.8 million people.
- Studies by the Tanzanian government and the group IUCN highlights multiple improvements such as better diets and food security and less time spent by women searching for fuel wood.
- The cash benefits of the restoration alone are estimated at about $14 per person per month, some $5.50 higher than the national average.
Under the UN's climate agreements, countries are moving to pay developing nations to conserve rather than fell forests.
Known as Reduced Emissions for Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD), this could lead to an estimated halving of deforestation rates by 2030.
By some estimates this could cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 1.5-2.7 billion tones or Gigatones annually at a cost of just over $17 billion to $33 billion/year, but with a long term benefits estimated at $3.7 trillion in present value terms.
Under the Scolel Te Project in Mexico, some 700 farmers in 40 communities have planted over 700 hectares of trees on degraded land to sequester carbon receiving tens of thousands of dollars from the carbon offset markets-which in this case is linked with offsetting Formula One racing and the World Rally Championship.
So ladies and gentlemen, through work such as this, the economic importance of biodiversity and ecosystems are emerging-the missing link is perhaps being forged.
And via the work of TEEB and the Green Economy Initiative, an array of fiscal measures, smart market mechanisms and other instruments are also being assembled as ways of catalyzing and embedding a response.
Smart Market Mechanisms-Not So Smart Market Mechanisms
This work is equally shinning a bright light on some of the less smart, market mechanisms that persist and contribute to degradation rather than sustainable management.
Ones one might suggest that underpin the schizophrenia of today's economy, inherited from a former time.
The Green Economy report, like the TEEB report to which it links, will be published later in the year and will cover 11 key sectors.
Last month, during the Rio+20 Prep Com in New York, we launched a 'sneak preview' and preliminary data on three sectors including fisheries.
Fisheries, as we all know, are perhaps the most acute example of humanity's unsustainable management of natural assets.
- Only around 25 per cent of commercial stocks-mostly of low-priced species-are considered to be in a healthy or reasonably healthy state.
The preview report points to subsidies.
It estimates that of the more than $27 billion-worth of fishing subsides, only a few billion can be considered 'good' in respect to the fact that they invest in the sustainable management of fish stocks via measures such as marine protected areas.
The rest can be classed as 'bad' or 'ugly' as they invest in the technologies including unsustainable numbers of vessels to catch fish.
Yet if just $8 billion were invested in the right way, what would be the return?
In turns out that investing around $8 billion a year in rebuilding and greening the world's fisheries could raise catches to 112 million tonnes annually.
It would also trigger benefits to industry, consumers and the global economy totaling $1.7 trillion over the next 40 years.
Other benefits of fisheries subsidy reform as set out in the report are:-
- Raise total income of fishing households, including those engaged in artisanal fishing, from $35 billion to around $44 billion a year
- Ensure that a large proportion of the estimated 520 million people, including dependents, who directly or indirectly make their living from fishing and fish processing industries continue to do so
- Conserve and indeed improve the supply of protein to the estimated one billion people who directly rely on fish
Fisheries subsides are not the only ones out there.
- The lion's share of the nearly $300 billion fuel subsides support fossil fuel production and consumption with little evidence that these benefit the poor and the very poor.
- But which tend to benefit the middle class, equipment makers and the fossil fuel industry while aggravating inefficiencies; contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and thus climate change-a key challenge for biodiversity and ecosystems over the coming decades
By far the largest amount is spent by developing economies with subsidies in 20 non-OECD countries totaling $220 billion.
Global agricultural subsidies, including for fertilizers and pesticides, are of a similar magnitude to fuel subsidies.
Again not all subsides are ugly or bad.
But many fund unsustainable practices that are leading to the build up of synthetic chemicals in the environment.
And contribute to changes in freshwaters-the phenomena known as eutrophication-and the emergence of dead or de-oxygenated zones in coastal waters.
Is there an alternative?
Sustainable agriculture, including organic agriculture, is one Green Economy theme and of significant importance to Africa and indeed here in Rwanda.
But surely it is a niche activity with little relevance to poverty and sustainability-
Change is happening.
- A 2008 report released by UNEP and the UN Conference on Trade and Development analyzed 114 small-scale farms in 24 African countries.
- It found that yields had more than doubled where organic, or near-organic practices had been used. That increase in yield jumped to 128 per cent in east Africa.
And again, and in so many ways change is happening here too.
The Greening of Consumers-Missing Link
Only some weeks ago, UNEP and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), launched a study on the economic, employment, poverty reduction and environmental benefits possible through greater investment in sustainable agriculture.
The study is in the Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) region following a request from countries there for Green Economy advisory services.
What countries in this region are glimpsing, and what countries in other regions are seeing too, is not just the environmental benefits but the employment and economic ones too.
Change is happening.
- The World of Organic Agriculture: Statistics and Emerging Trends 2010, presented by the Swiss-based Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and IFOAM estimates that in 2008, 35 million hectares of agricultural land were certified according to organic standard, up from around 32 million hectares in 2007: an increase of nine per cent.
- An estimated 34% of this is in Oceania with Australia having 12 million hectares; followed by Europe and Latin America with 23% share respectively of total land under organic production.
- Eight countries world-wide-Australia, Argentina, China, the United States of America, Brazil, Spain, India and Italy- now have one million or more hectares of land under organic cultivation.
- The six countries or territories with the highest increase in land converted or in the process of being converted to organic agriculture between 2007 and 2008 are Argentina, up 1.2 million hectares; the Falkland Islands, up 414,000 hectares and Spain, up 325,000 hectares.
- China, up 300,000 hectares; the United States, up 185,000 and Kazakhstan, up 85,000 hectares.
- There are nearly 1.4 million organic producers world-wide led by India, 340,000; Uganda, 181,000; Mexico, 129,000; Ethiopia, 102,000; Tanzania, 85,000 and Peru, 46,000.
This is being driven by consumer demand, currently in the United States and Europe.
- A report by the UK-based organization Organic Monitor, also issued this year, estimates the organic food and drink market was worth close to $51 billion in 2008 with the market having grown by 235 per cent since 1999.
Consumer interest in the environment is another 'missing link'. But again one that is being forged and not just in the developed economies.
Today the polling firm Globescan, the publisher National Geographic and UNEP also launched a new survey entitled Greendex 2010: Consumer Choice and the Environment-A World-Wide Tracking Survey.
It is a comprehensive measure of consumer behavior in 65 areas relating to housing, transportation, food and consumer goods.
Greendex 2010 ranks average consumers in 17 countries according to the environmental impact of their consumption patterns and is the only survey of its kind.
Among the many interesting findings is that in terms of consumer interest in the environment, it is consumers in developing economies who are scoring highest.
In particular India, Brazil, China and Mexico, in descending order.
While consumer interest in the environment is not covered for Africa, GlobeScan's latest polling of environmental concerns does show that in the two African countries surveyed-Nigeria and Kenya- are on the rise among the public.
In 2009, 52 per cent of Kenyans and 48 per cent of Nigerians rated climate change as 'very serious' up from the year before. And up from just over 20 per cent and less than five per cent respectively in 1998
74 per cent of Kenyans and 73 per cent of Nigerians ranked crop failures due to weather as very serious, again up from the year before.
Nigerians are also more worried about water pollution than the year before. 60 per cent of Kenyans says natural resource depletion is a serious concern, again up from 2008.
These concerns are likely to be translated into consumer preferences over the years to come, if they have not already been and not just for sustainable agricultural products but clean tech ones too.
And increasing political pressure as is emerging among the middle classes of the rapidly developing economies.
Climate Change-Missing Link
President Kagame and other African leaders have, along with public opinion in the aforementioned countries, singled out climate change as a priority.
Is climate 'change' happening?
The UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen left many disappointed, and quite rightly so-I am convinced that a transformational deal was do-able.
But Copenhagen did achieve something. For the first time many developing economies have set out strategies to manage emissions down, joining developed economies who have set targets.
Developed countries pledged $30 billion as a quick start and some of those funds are perhaps beginning to emerge.
Countries recently announced they would be replenishing the Global Environment Facility (GEF)-of which UNEP is one of the three implementing agencies-to the record level of $4.25 billion.
Just over a week ago, Norway announced $1 billion-worth of funding to assist Indonesia in implementing a REDD programme.
UNEP, which along with UNDP and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN comprises the secretariat of UN-REDD, is working with some 12 countries on 'REDD readiness' including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Panama and Bolivia.
As of March, over $40 million has been approved to support this process.
Is all this enough? No.
But it is perhaps a better outcome than some had supposed when the Copenhagen climate meeting ended and it is something on which the international community might-indeed must-build upon in advance of the UN climate convention meeting in Cancun, Mexico later in the year.
Science -the Missing Link
Before Cancun, we have the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Nagoya, Japan.
But before that-indeed in just a few days time-governments meet in Busan, Republic of Korea, for a third and final meeting on whether to establish an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
The is a clear need to bridge the gulf between what is happening to the world's natural and nature-based assets in an empirical sense and those who need to take the big decisions.
If governments give an IPBES a green light, this will be meeting at least one litmus test in the UN's International Year on Biodiversity-again change will be happening.
And what else? Clearly more support for REDD and REDD+-which includes afforestation and re-afforestation.
Access and Benefit Sharing
But also an agreement in Nagoya on an International Regime on the Access and Benefit Sharing of Genetic Resources-the third pillar of the CBD as yet unfulfilled.
While the GEF is the treaty's financial mechanism, flows of finance from North to the South-where the treasure trove of genetic material resides-is long overdue.
Imagine it as something perhaps akin to the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This is the landscape in which we find ourselves in 2010 on the eve of World Environment Day.
- Circumstances riven with challenges, but also opportunities.
- One where countries are in part seizing the initiative and acting to transform part of their development paths via transitions such as the Green Economy.
- Perhaps in part because the norms and standard-setting; the finance and the action on the ground-in short the environmental machinery- since the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, remains fragmented and short of the task at hand.
Where this journey's ultimate destination is remains to be seen. But go it will, either by design or by default.
The design phase is certainly upon us-in just two years time governments will meet again in Rio for Rio+20, dubbed by some as Earth Summit 2.
An International Framework for Sustainable Development within the context of poverty eradication is one theme of the preparations.
The other is the Green Economy.
In New York, last month, the debate began in earnest. There are a lot of questions, but a great deal of support from developed and developing countries alike.
Whether the transition to a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy is a complement to sustainable development or an alternative or a challenge.
Whether it is the glue that can bind the concepts of sustainable and development into a cohesive and decisive whole.
Whether it is the missing link in the search for sustainability that echoes to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
Whether it is the logical progression of sustainable development that echoes to the reality of different economies at different moments in their development paths.
All these possibilities are there and while there is traction, again the final destination remains to be seen.
But ladies and gentlemen, we are certainly at a cross roads-where the paradigms of the past surely must pass and give way to new paradigms that will define the 21st century.
The challenges of 1992, which gave birth to treaties such as the CBD, were more glimpsed than perhaps real.
They have, as all the dials on the sustainability indicator clearly are showing, taken form-but so have the legion of choices to counter them.
Let WED 2010 be a moment- of many moments in 2010- when the history books record that the world took note, seized the opportunities and deployed its collective knowledge, abundant science and technology; financial acumen and prowess, intelligence and compassion to build a global society with value-environmental, social and economic.
There are many missing links in the sustainability puzzle.
But in 2010 far less than some might presume.
Indeed change is afoot everywhere-it is merely a question of whether there is enough speed in that step and enough muscle in the leg to leapfrog over the paralysis of those who would council the status quo into a new and more equitable century.
Rwanda, with all its complicated and often difficult history, has and is departing that past. It is changing.
Today we join Rwanda's people on that journey that can take all of us far from the differences that sometimes bind us, towards common goals that will unite and free us and the generation to come.
In short, the common goal of a healthy, productive and well managed planet that can give everyone the opportunity to flourish under the theme of Many Species, One Planet, One Future.