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Remarks by Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director at Equator Initiative 2010

New York, 20 September 2010 - Distinguished guests, Let me first congratulate the 25 - and the five special - winners we applaud tonight.

Your remarkable contributions are part of an eight year-old pipeline of extraordinary projects showcased and supported by the Equator Initiative since 2002.

Some people ask me what does a Green Economy looks like at a national or local level?

Well they need look no further than this evening's winners-projects that deal with multiple challenges, but which are cost-effectively delivering multiple opportunities in the real, 21st century, world.

Projects that also underline that a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient, employment-generating economy is not a prescription.

But a broad concept that needs tailoring to national circumstances- because every country and community is different.

Indeed, diversity of ideas and diversity of implementation is precisely what is needed in a world of complexity.

You cannot and should not boil down sustainable development to a tick list of do's and don'ts, or a straight jacket available in only one size.

Sustainable development will never be amenable to simple solutions or quick fixes.

So in celebrating our winners, we celebrate that diversity - diverse solutions to common, but also unique problems that are rooted within cultural and social parameters as much as economic and environmental ones.

And that is precisely what are winners exemplify - diverse and dynamic answers to drivers of environmental change manifested locally but with global resonance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Science tells us that biological diversity confers strength to an ecosystem.

These diverse projects can, if embraced and scaled-up by policymakers and through partnerships with the private sector and NGOs, assist in delivering greater resilience in a vulnerable world.

A world where the over-simplified models of the past - be they of agriculture or of industrial production; energy generation or urban planning - will not serve the needs and legitimate aspirations of a planet of six billion people, rising to nine billion by 2050.

Ladies and gentlemen,

the Equator Initiative awards are always important.

But they take on even greater significance in 2010 - a key year in terms of the Millennium Development Goals.

And the UN's International Year of Biodiversity.

The awards and the winners are living proof that despite several sobering realities - a new climate change deal is yet to be agreed; nations have failed to reverse the rate of loss of biodiversity and the achievement of the MDGs is in still too many areas uncertain - transformative action is happening across the globe.

Indeed far more than many might think.

Today, as part of the Green Economy initiative, we launched a new report on the MDGs spotlighting in many ways companion policies and projects to tonight's winning ones.

China's strategy on renewable energy that generated 300,000 new jobs in 2009 alone

Or Costa Rica's development of a national park network that is generating significant returns in terms of eco-tourism while boosting incomes and reducing poverty among people living in and around these parks.

Meanwhile, governments are showing leadership in ways that can support the grassroots efforts of our Equator Initiative winners.

In terms of biodiversity, governments gave a green light earlier in the year to the establishment of an Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems - it could become a key bridge between emerging science and a genuine response.

In Nagoya, at the upcoming meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity there is a real prospect that agreement on an International Regime on the Access and Benefit Sharing of Genetic Resources can be taken forward.

For the first time a international structure could be soon in place that will reward developing country communities for their sustainable management of genetic resources which lead to new breakthroughs in for example pharmaceuticals or crop developments.

Earlier this year the Government of Norway signed a $1 billion agreement with the Government of Indonesia, to reduce emissions from deforestation.

Later this year in Cancun, the UN climate convention can also take important steps forward that echo to the twin challenges of global warming and forest loss by operationalizing Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation or REDD+ globally.

Meanwhile this week the entire UN system will announce its cooperative commitment to the biodiversity agenda under the framework of the Environmental Management Group.

I could mention many more positive steps.

Ones that can bridge the energy, creativity and diversity of grass roots and community action with the equally urgent need for governments to put in place diverse and dynamic standards, market mechanisms and incentives to further catalyze corporate and community-led change.

The world has perhaps never faced such a time as it does today - a time of multiple challenges captured in many ways in the aims and targets of the MDGs.

Emerging too as a result of unchecked climate change and rapidly being glimpsed as a result of the rapid loss of biodiversity and nature-based resources.

But equally there has never been a time of so much enterprise and engagement in attempting to re-focus economies.

And to factor sustainability and a new understanding of wealth into national, local and global development paths.

In the past, diversity may have been synonymous in some minds with divergence - our Equator Initiative winners underline that this is a misconception.

For diversity is not a danger towards decisive action but indeed humanity's very strength.

It is a way in which all nations can bring their unique ideas and experiences, reference points and skills to bear on the common challenges.

Ones that unite monks in Cambodia; fishermen in Fiji and pastoralists in Kenya with everyone here tonight - indeed everyone gathering in halls and in households and farmsteads and factories across the globe.




Further Resources

UNEP: Green Economy Initiative

Equator Initiative

UNEP: International Year of Biodiversity

UN Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)


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