Remarks by Mr. Achim Steiner to the World Urban Forum VI Thu, Sep 6, 2012

Naples, 6 September 2012


Honorable mayors

Distinguished representatives

Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you for inviting me to address the close of the World Urban Forum.

Congratulations to UN Under-Secretary General and UN Habitat Director Joan Clos and his team for successfully organizing this 6th WUF here in the historic Italian city of Naples.

We meet three months after the Rio+20 Summit and days before the UN General Assembly debates and discussions on how to implement the outcomes under the Future We Want.

Let us be honest about Rio+20-it was a disappointment and a frustration for some given the science, the day to day reality of often simply surviving as individuals and as families, the analysis of where development is currently heading for seven billion people and the inordinate opportunity for a different trajectory.  And opportunities do exist, in particular in the environment and urban context, opportunities that we need to scale up to effectively deliver the needed transformative change towards sustainable development.

However UNEP is convinced that there were also many, many positives from Rio+20 and if nations, companies, cities and communities can move forward on the positive elements of the Summit's outcome it may assist in one day realizing the Future We Want and the future we need.

Indeed UNEP looks to you, the mayors and urban leaders of 2012, as among our natural allies in achieving these aims given that half the population now lives in cities to reach out by 2050 about 80% of the world’s population with all the well documented implications and impacts locally and globally on resource use and consumption.

Why do I say natural allies?

Well many cities are for example already adopting measures that reflect their interest in a transition to an inclusive Green Economy-an inclusive Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication that is today,  as a result of the heads of state’s decision in Rio, an important tool towards achieving a sustainable century.

UNEP is structuring its response to the challenges related to Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication through a Partnership for a Green Economy (PAGE), in close cooperation with various UN agencies and countries. PAGE will build on the existing green economy advisory services with over 20 countries and expand them into areas such as capacity building and research.

Given the impact and influence of urban areas on national economies and given the long standing role of cities as pioneers and as incubators of new ideas and pathways, I would be delighted to explore how cities can engage more widely and more deeply with this partnership.

And indeed Joan, I look forward to exploring how UN-Habitat can assist given its pivotal role and in the context of our Joint Partnership Framework, as a mechanism that brings together our two agencies. Our joint work is a direct illustration of the linkages between how urban development is related to environment, and how urban environmental management is related to what happens outside the cities.

I also welcome your excellent initiative in organizing a high level interagency meeting in which more than 25 UN agencies actively participated. We all look forward to follow-up steps to further consolidate the one UN response to urban challenges in the context of the Habitat agenda as highlighted in the Rio outcome document. One good example is the “Sustainable Energy for All Initiative in which the cities will definitely have a crucial role, mainly when considering their role in energy use and consumption, about 75% with related CO2 emissions.

Rio+20 also adopted the 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production. Sustainable buildings and construction will be one of the initial five programmes under the 10YFP which UNEP’s Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative (SBCI), along with all relevant public and private partners. We look forward to also developing a special programme on cities to which we obviously count on UN-HABITAT close cooperation and support. Such programme could be articulated around urban planning and resource efficiency jointly led by UNEP and UN-Habitat.

Many of you will be familiar with the sectors identified ranging from tourism to agri-food-again huge opportunities to build joint action via existing initiatives or new ones born at Rio+20 such as the Global Initiative for Resource Efficient Cities.

It aims at mainstreaming resource efficiency and sustainable consumption and production into policies and tools at the city level through local government, private sector and other key stakeholders. We do believe that such Initiative complements well the work done by UN-HABITAT and could provide an important support to the mayors in better managing their cities through an improved understanding of the resource flows, needs and use.

Also, one of the most extraordinary realities of unsustainable consumption and production is the way the world wastes and loses food from farm to fork.

UNEP is planning to launch a major global campaign in this field, uniting many of the inspiring national initiatives already underway in developed and developing countries.

UNEP would be delighted to engage cities globally on this and to explore, from your perspective what would be indicators of success-halving the levels of organic waste going to landfills perhaps or catalyzing a billion or two billion people to compost by 2014?

There is a powerful moral argument for acting here but also an equally powerful environmental one-every wasted apple, every lost bail of wheat represents a waste of energy and of water, soil and chemicals plus their associated impacts on the atmosphere, the air, the land and freshwaters.

It is also about wasted opportunities in respect to livelihoods and economies in terms of domestic food supplies and exports.

Many cities have a major role to play on catalyzing sustainable procurement-the evidence is that if spending by governments including local and regional governments is more than around 23 per cent of a total economy, it could if ‘greened’ tip the entire economy into the sustainability space.

The International Sustainable Public Procurement Initiative, again launched by UNEP and partners at Rio+20, offers a pathway towards achieving this transformation.

And again together we are stronger.

Many cities are important financial centres in their own rights either through stock and related financial exchanges or because of the pension funds linked to local government employees.

As such cities can also have an important influence on sustainability reporting by corporations-a further outcome of Rio+20 and the focus of another new initiative from there backed by Brazil, Denmark, France and South Africa in collaboration with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and UNEP.

The experience of cities north and south will be crucial in assisting governments to formulate and shape the new post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

And the issue of beyond GDP-defining a new indicator of wealth-can also be informed and sculpted by the pioneering initiatives many cities have already undertaken and the economist and researchers that live and work in often urban-based universities and places of higher education.

Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

Rio+20 also underlined how cities need to develop further integration with populations and major stakeholders in order to accelerate and scale-up sustainable development.

UNEP is at similar cross roads-40 years after its establishment in 1972, governments agreed to strengthen and to upgrade the environment programme of the UN.

They also agreed to universal membership, improved resources and requested ways to advance the participation of major groups including cities as part of the strengthening and upgrading process.

UNEP would welcome your inputs and ideas on how this might be achieved-how through UNEP your experience, knowledge and transformational policies and pathways can assist environment ministers in the choices they will be making towards the Future We Want.

The Road from Rio+20 can be an exciting, transformative one or a very bumpy one dogged by detours and cul-de-sacs-the defining difference will be in part the partnerships forged in the past and the new ones forged over the past few months.

Rio+20 was different-the engagement of the private sector and the engagement of mayors and civic leaders being two clear examples.

New avenues have opened up that perhaps may make enough economies re-envision wealth in a far more sustainable way in order to reflect the realities of a world in which seven billion will in four short decades be over nine billion people.

New calls are being made to join and to integrate our efforts.

I believe Rio+20 signaled that governments are looking to us all-the UN and the private sector, local government and women, farmers and scientists to get the world on track.

Together we are stronger and together we can ensure that the aims and aspirations of Rio 1992 and Rio 2012 mature from a patchwork of success to the comprehensive transformation we all know is needed.

In short we are talking about how to envision a pattern of urbanization that can decouple economic growth from resource use and environmental impacts; that can generate good and decent green jobs; that can ensure that the footprint of urban areas are shrunk so as to conserve the economically and socially vital ecosystems of rural areas upon which we all depend for livelihoods and life itself and that health, welfare and mobility win over slums, grid lock and division.

I am sure everyone in this room is committed to a fundamental and positive pattern of sustainable urbanization, in particular through improved resource efficiency.

I can assure you that UNEP and UN-Habitat share your vision-now it is also time to share our technical, scientific, analytical, intellectual and leveraging potential to make it happen.

Thank you very much.

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