HELECO 2003 International Exhibition and Conference on Environmental Technology
Thank you for inviting me to open this forum.
In our quest for sustainable development, and the alleviation of the poverty and environmental degradation suffered by so many in the developing world, the development and transfer of innovative environmental technologies will play a crucial role.
So too will the participation and cooperation of the private sector, so often the source of innovative technological solutions.
The theme for a sustainable future is partnerships:
• between the private sector, civil society, governments, and organisations such as the United Nations Environment Programme
• between the developed world and the developing world.
Everyone here today comes from the developed world. Specifically, from Europe.
The success of the economies of the developed world rests to a large extent on the historical—and current—use of dirty technologies and a general disregard for the environmental impacts of progress.
To the credit of many developed countries, they have significantly cleaned up their act in recent decades. Emissions of pollutants to air, land, rivers and the sea have been significantly reduced by many industries, and increasingly we are seeing the introduction of environmentally sound technologies.
• Lead in petrol has been phased out of almost all the developed world and much of the developing world;
• many countries have made their electricity generation cleaner and improved the quality of discharges from industry;
• urban sanitation and planning has improved.
As technology improves, more options become available:
• renewable energy,
• fuel efficient vehicles…..
However, in large parts of the world, poverty reigns. Development is desperately needed.
There are many people—from the powerless to the most wealthy—who are ready to cut their forests, destroy their wildlife, and pollute their environment for development.
For some it is because they don’t care.
For others it is because they have little choice. It is simply a matter of survival, even if they are mortgaging their future.
What do we have to offer these people? It is not sufficient to say: “conserve, don’t destroy” and “don’t repeat the mistakes we made.”
We have to be able to offer alternatives.
We have to be able to say: “This is how you can you can develop cleanly and sustainably, but at a pace that suits your society’s needs.”
Fortunately, this is becoming more and more possible. Technological solutions to many of the issues of sustainable development are available. And new ones are being developed all the time.
One of the functions of the United Nations Environment Programme—which has a mandate to provide leadership and encourage partnership for sustainable development—is to act as a clearing-house for anyone looking for technical and policy solutions to sustainable development issues.
This function is served in various ways by many UNEP entities and partners. For instance the UNEP OzonAction branch is helping the phase out of ozone depleting substances, while the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Sources of Pollution is a growing catalyst for solutions to marine and coastal problems.
Another major UNEP source of information about environmentally sound technologies is the International Environment Technology Centre, (which is represented here today). IETC focuses especially on two of the most pressing environmental issues that will have to be faced in coming years: the increasing pressure being put on freshwater resources, and the rapid growth in urbanisation. IETC has a number of available Internet-based information products and services—such as the environmentally sound technology database MAESTRO II and others—which I recommend you explore via the UNEP IETC website www.unep.or.jp.
(Alternatively speak to my colleagues Mr Halls and Mr Bisset.)
UNEP also has a growing programme on sport and the environment, both to educate people through the medium of sport, and to address the environmental implications of sport. That is something which will be very much on this meeting’s agenda as you look at ways of ensuring that the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens will be an advert for environmental sensitivity.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I think you are all familiar with the challenges of sustainable development, and the potential technological and policy solutions for addressing them. That is why you are here. And I am sure you will be even more informed when you leave here than when you came.
So, I won’t into the details now.
Instead, I would like to raise a couple of issues which I hope will guide some of your deliberations over the next three days.
First: the issue of developing innovative environmentally sound technology.
While end-of-pipe solutions can provide an invaluable remedy for some of the worst environmental ills, the focus must increasingly but put on cleaner production technologies and the life-cycle approach to goods and services. The root causes of environmental damage must be proactively addressed by industry and consumers, as well as by governments. It is much better to anticipate and avert a problem than to have to remedy it once it has happened.
I believe the business opportunities for developing and distributing such solutions are immense, both in the developed and the developing world. Demand is growing throughout society—from governments and consumers—as well as from industry itself, to follow a cleaner, more sustainable path. The industries that are in the vanguard of this movement will, I believe be the ones who profit most in the long-term.
Secondly, a word of caution. The need for the transfer of environmentally sound technologies—especially from the developing world to the developed world and to countries such those as in the former Soviet Union whose economies are in transition—is immense.
So too, therefore are the business opportunities.
There is no doubt that environmentally sound technologies are a good idea.
But I would like to add an extra word to the EST acronym.
In the field of development aid, there are too many examples of donors providing what appears to be a logical sensible solution only to find that they are unworkable. Examples include:
• communities rejecting solar ovens because the women who would use them are otherwise occupied during daylight hours;
• water pumps that break down due to the unavailability of spares; or
• the recent example of African countries rejecting genetically modified grain because they don’t want to jeopardise the GM-free status of their own crops.
In short, what is needed when one offers to transfer a potentially environmentally sound technological solution is sensitivity and the full participation of everyone involved—especially the end user.
Finally, there are the questions of the terms of transfer.
• What will be the impact of technology transfer on local businesses and communities.
• How will traditional technologies and economies be affected?
• What will the impact be on cultures, practices and traditions?
There is a saying: never look a gift horse in the mouth (even if it is not a gift, but a proposed business partnership!)
However, I believe it is only reasonable, when looking at the transfer of environmentally sound technology to accept the need for rigorous assessment of the environmental and cultural impacts of applying that technology.
There are no one-size-fits-all solutions.
Approached from that angle, I see enormous potential for partnerships that will be truly sustainable, that will benefit everyone involved, and provide the win-win solutions that we all need.
I applaud your commitment to sustainable development, and wish you every success in your endeavours to develop and transfer appropriate, environmentally sound technologies that will help create a cleaner, safer, and more prosperous world for all.