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Achim Steinerís statement at the 2nd Special Session of the Committee on Science and Technology and 9th Session of the Committee for the Review and Implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification

Statement delivered by Stephen Twomlow, Senior Program Officer Biodiversity and Land Degradation, UNEP- GEF, on behalf of the UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner

16 - 25 February 2011

Bonn, Germany

Distinguished delegates

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great honor for me to deliver this statement, on behalf of Mr. Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, at this Second Special Session of the Committee on Science and Technology and Ninth Session of the Committee for the Review and Implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) here in Bonn.

Let me start by offering apologies from Mr Steiner for not being here with you in person, but as many of you will be aware UNEP as its GC/GMEF starting today in Nairobi, with a strong theme on Rio plus 20. Yes, nearly 20 years on, we are again traveling the Road to Rio and the twin themes forming the pillar of the discussions in Nairobi for the coming week echo the agenda next year in Brazil.

The Green Economy within the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and an International Framework for Sustainable Development, including International Environmental Governance (IEG).

Thus this week's meeting in Nairobi of the ministers responsible for the environment takes on special meaning and a special responsibility. It is no longer a question of if we should act, or that it would even be sensible to act, we live in an age of the imperative to act.

Rio+20 represent a real opportunity to mature and to evolve the sustainable development landscape from a 20th century of potential threats to meet a 21st century of real and all too tangible challenges-economic, environmental and social. The decisions taken over this year and next are also likely to define in whole or in part the future of both UNEP and UNCCD within the UN system and beyond.

In doing so, it will define not only the direction of sustainable development for many years to come, but the scope and contribution of environment ministers to sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Today UNEP is launching Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication-A Synthesis for Policymakers-part of a larger macroeconomic report that is being made available today on-line and for comment by governments, the private sector and civil society.

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon has already stated his intent to inject the findings into the work of the High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability that is also informing preparations for Rio+20.

Today's report, a collaborative effort with experts, UN agencies including the International Labour Organisation and civil society, is neither the final say nor is it a preliminary draft. The report is designed as a review and an analysis of where the current economic models have brought us.

These are contrasted against the 'green shoots of a green economy' that are literally sprouting across the globe, with focus on ten key sectors in developed and developing economies alike.

It cites India where over 80 per cent of the $8 billion National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which underwrites at least 100 days of paid work for rural households, invests in water conservation, irrigation and land development.

This has generated three billion working days-worth of employment benefiting close to 60 million households

The report challenges the myth that there is an inherent conflict between economy and environment not in some ideological way, but through analysis, pragmatism and evidence on the ground.

Let me share some highlights in more detail.

A Green Economy can grow the global economy at or above the current projections, but in a way that can dramatically reduce the shocks, crises, scarcities and inequalities inherent in current economic models

Emissions of greenhouse gases can be kept at or below 450 parts per million

Multiple benefits catalyzing sustainable development accrue in both developed and developing economies, but will only truly accrue if all of the ten spotlighted sectors are addressed

That overall, a Green Economy can employ and redeploy jobs from the old brown economy into greener and more decent work with the right public policy choices

To achieve this Green Economy, it is crucial to make effective use of scientific knowledge and information by bringing together advanced technologies, indigenous knowledge and traditional methods. A new body to bridge the gulf between the wealth of scientific knowledge -documenting accelerating declines and degradation of the natural world - and the decisive government action required to reverse these damaging trends was adopted by governments at the United Nations 65th General Assembly (UNGA) in December 2010. The Inter-governmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and its various roles will include carrying out high quality peer reviews of the wealth of science on biodiversity and ecosystem services emerging from research institutes across the globe in order to provide gold standard reports to governments. These reports will not only cover the state, status and trends of biodiversity and ecosystems, but will also outline transformational policy options and responses to bring about real change in their fortunes.

The IPBES is intended to achieve this in part by prioritizing, making sense of and bringing consistency to the welter of reports and assessments conducted by United Nations bodies; research centres, universities and others as they relate to biodiversity and ecosystem services. The IPBES would be relevant and can contribute toward the provisioning of information and knowledge required by policy makers to deal with the challenges of land degradation and desertification - the Parties of the UNCCD have a major role to play in helping develop IPBES.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is the most important legally binding instrument to tackle the challenges of land degradation and desertification in arid, semi arid and dryland regions. It has a special role in linking environment and development through environmental protection, land improvement and fight against soil erosion with poverty eradication through its sustainable development focus, thus contributing to the realization of the Millennium Development Goals. It also provides an important platform for partners to cooperate in addressing some of the challenges facing land degradation and desertification, it is essential this platform is represented within IPBES.

UNEP continues to be an active partner in its support for UNCCD's activities and the implementation of the ten-year Strategic Plan and Framework through ongoing initiatives and projects which contribute to combating land degradation/desertification. These include PRAIS 1, the first one line reporting process of any Rio Convention, a major achievement that UNEP has been proud to support, and hopes to continue to do so, with a combined report that includes impact indicators due in 2012.

Your deliberations and decisions taken here in Bonn, on behalf of the UNCCD, compliment the Nairobi meeting and are key-key to shaping, scripting and sharpening the issues to be considered at the numerous preparatory meetings taking place across the globe in 2011 towards the UN Conference on Sustainable Development or Rio+20. That engagement will benefit from the dialogue and directions transmitted from both Nairobi and Bonn this week.

Finally, UNEP remains committed to working with the Convention, the Parties and other partners in addressing the problems of land degradation and desertification through its own programmes and through collaborative efforts. I sincerely wish you a fruitful outcome of the meetings.

Thank You

© Samira Chalal



Further Resources

Coordinating Global Action to Combat Desertification and Land Degradation

UN Convention to Combat Desertification

UN Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification


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