Remarks by Achim Steiner at the 14th Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) Wed, Sep 12, 2012

Arusha, 12 September 2012 - Vice President of the Republic of Tanzania, H.E Mohamed Gharib Milal,

Honorable Mr David Sagara, Minister of Environment and Sanitation of the Republic of Mali and President of the African Ministerial Conference of the Environment,

Honorable Dr. Terezya Huvisa, Minister of State for Environment of Tanzania and

Vice-President of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment,

Honorable Ministers and Heads of delegations,

Members of Parliament,

The Regional Commissioner of Arusha,

Your Excellences, Ambassadors and Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

My colleagues, United Nations Heads of Agencies,

Representatives of International Organizations, Civil Society and private sector,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Firstly let me thank the Government and the people of Tanzania for hosting the 14th session of the African Ministerial Conference for the Environment (AMCEN) and inviting me to address this august gathering.

Tanzania is a country rich in heritage and natural resources and has adopted many policies and practices to sustainably manage these for current generations and generations to come.

Next month in Hyderabad, India at the meeting of the Convention of Biological Diversity, UNEP, IUCN and other partners will officially launch the findings of the Protected Planet report 2012.

It shows that Tanzania now has close to 620 protected areas, including eight World Heritage Sites.

Indeed, both this and previous reports have underlined that it is in Africa and other parts of the developing world where some of the biggest and most rapid increases in new conservation areas are taking place.

They can represent important gains for livelihoods from sectors including tourism, and can maintain biodiversity up to healthy agriculture -linked to the productive ecosystems held in many protected areas.

I was delighted to see that in 2012 Tanzania is also progressing strategies in respect to Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation.

This is under UN-REDD hosted by UNEP, UNDP and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN with support from countries including Norway.

Financially supporting countries like Tanzania and other African members of UN-REDD+ for example the Democratic Republic of the Congo and recently Nigeria-to maintain forests is in the interests of both developing and developed countries.

It is one positive aspect of the UN climate change negotiations and offers multiple benefits from combating global warming to improving water resources and generating jobs in natural resource management.

In short, it is a good example of a pathway towards an inclusive Green Economy being embraced across the globe, including in Africa, as one inspiring pathway towards a sustainable 21st century.

But you don't need to go to the Internet to access the Protected Planet report to know how well Africa, including Tanzania, is doing in respect to protected areas-this meeting is taking place just a few kilometres from what is an iconic location worldwide and a magnet for tourists.

Namely: the Kilimanjaro National Park, within which is Africa's highest and perhaps most famous mountain.

Your Excellencies,

Honorable Ministers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We meet just a few months after the Rio+20 Summit held in Brazil and days before the opening of the 67th session of the UN General Assembly where member states will take forward the Summit's outcome document-the Future We Want.

Let me congratulate Africa for its excellent leadership and accomplishments in the run up to, and also at, Rio+20.

Africa, perhaps more than any other continent, spoke with the clearest and most compelling voice on the advancement of the sustainable development agenda, including the inclusive Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

And the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development, including this continent's perspective on the future of the organization I lead, the UN Environment Programme.

A special thank you to the Republic of Congo for the successful leadership as Africa's Spokesperson and Political Coordinator for Rio+20.

And also to Kenya, which played an important role as the chief negotiator in the negotiation processes towards Rio+20.

Indeed to all of the countries in Africa that worked tirelessly and with vision and determination to make Rio+20 a moment for cautious optimism.

The outcome of Rio+20 disappointed and frustrated many 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.

However 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 without Africa, I am sure that the gains at Rio+20 and the potential enshrined in the outcome would have been far more modest.

Your Excellences, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I believe the energy, enthusiasm and vision shown before Rio+20 by Africa now needs to be deployed during the coming months in New York as member states work out how best to implement the outcomes.

The process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals to complement the Millennium Development Goals post 2015 is an opportunity to shape this continent's sustainable future.

Why? Because the consumption and production patterns of developed countries need to become more efficient and to be decoupled from economic growth in order to reduce their impacts on Africa and the world as a whole.

Governments are also looking at a new indicator of wealth that goes beyond the narrowness of GDP.

Properly and comprehensively reflecting the natural resource wealth of this continent is one way for Africa's countries and communities to be more realistically recompensed for resources that are increasingly supplying and supporting economies globally.

There are many other areas ranging from sustainable procurement by governments and local authorities of goods and services to corporate sustainability reporting by companies where Africa stands to benefit-not least as the economies of this continent rapidly grow and become players in the global marketplace.

The decision by Heads of State at Rio+20 to give a green light to an inclusive Green Economy as an important tool for realizing sustainable development and for eradicating poverty brings further opportunities.

Many countries in Africa are already evolving green economy strategies and to date around a dozen have requested advisory services from UNEP.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia two days ago announced the establishment of a Climate Resilient Green Economy Facility building on the strategy launched by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi last year.

In partnership with the International Labour Organization and governments, UNEP has just launched a Partnership for the Green Economy aimed at expanding advisory services alongside greater capacity building and research aimed at tailoring the green economy to national circumstances.

We are keen to collaborate further with more countries in Africa to maximize the opportunities of a Green Economy transition across a wider range of relevant sectors from natural resource management to transport and clean energy systems.

Your Excellences,

Honorable Ministers,

Ladies and gentlemen

It is not just in New York where the outcomes of Rio+20 will resonate and where the Green Economy has relevance.

A transition to a Green Economy can assist in fighting one of the number one challenges facing Africa, namely climate change.

But the chances of keeping a global temperature rise this century under 2 degrees C will also be significantly enhanced if a new global treaty can be secured.

The Government of South Africa deserves recognition for what it was able to achieve in Durban last year at the UN climate convention meeting.

But we are all aware that the gap between ambition and reality in respect to greenhouse gas emissions and finance, not least for adaptation, remains wide and is widening.

Thus momentum needs to be stepped up at the upcoming UN climate convention meeting, or Cop 18, taking place in Doha, Qatar later in the year.

Any delay or detour from a new treaty entering into force by 2020 could prove to be nothing short of calamitous.

UNEP will continue to support the African Group of Negotiators to ensure the continent's priorities and aspirations are well understood in Doha.

But while we work towards that new agreement, would it not be prudent to act on all fronts?

For over ten years UNEP has been working with researchers on what are today called short-lived climate pollutants.

They are substances like black carbon - produced by cook stoves, brick kilns and diesel engines - and methane leaking from gas pipes and waste tips.

Scientists estimate that collectively these short-lived climate pollutants could, if rapidly cut, deliver a global temperature reduction of around 0.5 degrees C over the next few decades while saving millions of lives and cutting damage to crops equal to about 30 million tons globally.

Moreover the reductions from many sources would be inexpensive or actually save money.

The science has now been transformed into a response involving 27 countries and organizations including UNEP.

Ghana and Nigeria are members of the new Clean Air and Climate Coalition and I would urge more countries on this continent to join.

Some nations have been concerned that this may defocus attention from the urgency of reducing carbon dioxide emissions and the UN climate convention process.

Let me assure you that the coalition is about complementary measures to those under the legally binding process.

We know that unless the world acts on C02, climate change can never be addressed - but given the urgency of the situation we need all hands on deck.

And given the speed of climate change, quick and fast action makes abundant sense in addition to the health and food security benefits.

Climate change is also having other, perhaps less well known impacts - the melting of mountain glaciers like Mount Kilimanjaro's is re-releasing chemicals, including toxic ones, back into river systems and into the food chain.

The wide-ranging issues linked with chemicals will be the subject of the 3rd session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management opening at UNEP in Nairobi next Monday.

Rio+20 reaffirmed a target, set in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, to by 2020 ensure that" chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment".

With just eight years to go, the world is not on track to meet the 2020 goal.

A few days ago UNEP launched the Global Chemicals Outlook. It showed that, for example, the estimated costs of poisonings from pesticides in sub-Saharan Africa now exceeds the total annual overseas development aid given to the region for basic health services, excluding HIV/AIDS.

Between 2005 and 2020, the accumulated cost of illness and injury linked to pesticides in small scale farming in sub-Saharan Africa could reach USD $90 billion.

There is much to do as the industry shifts production from developed to developing countries in order to maximize the benefits of chemicals and lift people out of poverty.

Better end-of-life chemicals management is one pressing area that can also support the recovery of valuable materials from waste.

This is particularly relevant to electronic waste (e-waste), which is recycled or dismantled for precious metals such as gold or copper - increasingly in developing countries.

E-waste recycling in developing countries is a largely unregulated sector, where workers are routinely exposed to many harmful chemicals, such as dioxins released by burning cables.

In Ghana, the introduction of safer, more-efficient recycling technologies which avoid burning have resulted in a 45 per cent increase in the revenue received per recycled desktop computer.

UNEP is working to build awareness and capacity in Africa. Earlier this week here at AMCEN, UNEP and the OEM Alliance, which works closely with the UNEP-linked Basel Convention on Transboundary Hazardous Waste, held a workshop aimed at maximizing the benefits of e-waste and minimizing the impacts of pollution.

We look forward to welcoming delegates at the ICCM 3 meetings next week to advance the 2020 goal.

Your Excellencies,

Honorable Ministers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

A further opportunity for fast tracking sustainable development and the momentum of Rio+20 emerges next month.

As mentioned earlier, this is when the sixth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UNEP-linked Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP-11) serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Protocol (COP-MOP-6) will take place in India.

Among the important issues is the signing up to and ratification of Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing

Given this continent's wealth of natural capital in biodiversity - estimated at 40 per cent of the world's resources - and the growing role of genetic diversity in industries such as pharmaceuticals and food, making this treaty operational is an important issue for Africa.

Meanwhile, the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity as a whole can be given a major boost by early action and achievement of the Aichi targets and strategic plan agreed in Japan in 2010.

Another important area of concern is desertification. More than 40 per cent of Africa is falling under drylands, thus combating desertification is at the heart of the priorities of many countries.

Since its establishment, UNEP has promoted the importance of preventing and reversing land degradation. Over the years we have gathered a comprehensive collection of success stories in the struggle against desertification from around the world including here in Africa

Together they demonstrate that appropriate, replicable technological and policy solutions exist to address the challenges of drylands. Part of our struggle is to find ways of implementing these solutions.

Promising techniques have emerged from the Desert Margins Programme (DMP), led by UNEP in partnership with the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and with support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Communities are testing the re-introduction of extinct grass species, the deployment of rainwater harvesting, rotational grazing and the simple anti-erosion techniques as anti-desertification strategies.

We will strengthen our cooperation with the Secretariat of UNCCD and regional organizations working in the area of sustainable land management to improve the livelihoods of the poor leaving in the drylands.

In particular, I would like to emphasize that UNEP has taken steps, in collaboration with AMCEN and Pan African Agency of the Great Green Wall Secretariats, to support the initiative of conserving and managing the natural resources of drylands with a view of achieving sustainable development.

UNEP support to the Great Green Wall Initiative will be reinforced in coming years, and our ongoing discussion with the Global Environment Facility and research communities to provide a scientific base to the initiative is a step toward that direction.

Your Excellences,

Honorable Ministers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

UNEP has been privileged to serve as the secretariat of AMCEN since 1985 and we look forward to continuing this support.

We are equally privileged to work closely with the African Union Commission to fulfill AMCEN's mandate as one of the specialized technical committees of the AU.

With your support before, during and after Rio+20, UNEP believes it can provide even greater and deeper assistance to Africa and the developing world as a whole.

Africa's backing for UNEP led to heads of state agreeing to strengthen and upgrade UNEP in Nairobi 40 years after it was established, alongside an agreement that UNEP should have greater financial resources and universal membership.

Overall the ability of ministers everywhere responsible for the environment to influence the course of sustainable development will be enhanced.

Thank you for your staunch backing and unwavering guidance throughout this momentous period.

I believe that new pathways and new avenues are opening that can assist AMCEN and its sister organizations in both the developing and developed world achieve what was promised in Stockholm four decades ago and activated in Rio in 1992.

The follow up to Rio+20 needs to mark a moment of renewed commitment, greater urgency and a turning point in terms of implementation of what has already been agreed.

A fully engaged Africa at UN General Assembly and beyond can assist greatly in ensuring that the gains made at Rio+20 are not only secured, but acted upon in order to boost the lives and livelihoods of now one billion Africans and six billion others across this extraordinary world.

Thank you.

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