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GC Today - 16 February 2009

Coverage of the Day's Proceedings:

Governing Council Opening Plenary

Delegates at the 25th session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC-25/GMEF) convened on 16 February 2009 for the opening ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya.

GC-24/GMEF President, His Excellency Roberto Dobles, Minister of Environment for Costa Rica, welcomed delegates and noted several achievements including the completion of the 2010-2013 UNEP Medium-term Strategy (MTS). Angela Cropper, Deputy Executive Director of UNEP, read a message on behalf of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Secretary General Ban stressed the importance of the GC process and said he would look to it for leadership in the months ahead. Inga Klevby, Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat, explained that cities are a driving force for global trade, but that they also generated the bulk of waste. UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said that UNEP challenges the myth that, when the economy is in crisis, environment and social issues take a back seat. The Right Honorable President of the Republic of Kenya, His Excellency Mwai Kibaki took part in the opening, calling for greater vigor in addressing current environmental problems.

During the ceremony, the plenary elected Dr Oliver Dulić, Minister of Environment for Serbia as GC-25/GMEF President.

Nobel Laureate, Wangari Maathai, attended the event which also included a high-energy performance from the African Sakata Acrobats and an excerpt from Yann Arthurs-Bertrand’s film, “Home”.

Green Olympics Exhibition

Director General of Beijing’s Environmental Protection Bureau, Shi Hanmin, at the exhibit opening

An exhibition on the Greening of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China was showcased by the Beijing Organizing Committee at UNEP's Governing Council. The exhibition featured huge posters and videos depicting environmental actions that were implemented to make the green Games. The posters are on sustainable transportation, solid waste management, energy and water conservation, vehicle emission control, environmental monitoring, green construction, industrial restructuring and regional cooperation.

The opening ceremony was presided by the Deputy Minister of Environment Protection of China, Ganjie Li, and the main speakers included Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, His Excellency Ming Zhang, Chinese Ambassador to Kenya, and Hanmin Shi of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau. Achim Steiner applauded the efforts of the Chinese Government and BOCOG for hosting green Games. The Ambassador and the Deputy Minister both expressed their appreciation to UNEP for the support and technical assistance provided to the organizers on the greening of these Games. The occasion attracted delegations from various countries attending the Governing Council as well as UNEP staff.

Unveiling of Polar Bear Sculpture

As the sun set on the opening evening of UNEP's Governing Council, Professor Yuan, a world renowned Chinese sculptor and artist, presented the UN Gigiri compound with a sculpture of a polar bear and her two cubs. The sculpture represents a powerful message: fight climate change for all of nature, for the majestic polar bears, for the wild spaces, for ecosystems and, ultimately, for us.

Executive Director Achim Steiner spoke about Professor Yuan, his beautiful gift and the importance of his work. Following the unveiling of the polar bear, Professor Yuan also presented a miniature version of the sculpture that will be used as this year's trophy for the UNEP Champions of the Earth awards.

Professor Yuan is also an ardent environmentalist and has supported and been involved in several lake pollution control projects in China. He was also the Director of the Organizing Committee for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Landscape Sculpture Design Contest.

© UNEP 2008