Remarks by Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director to the UN Habitat Governing Council 24th Session Mon, Apr 15, 2013

It is not by chance that with less than 1,000 days to go to the target date for achieving the poverty related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), we have a common ambition to step up a response in respect to MDG-7-on environmental sustainability.

Nairobi, 15 April 2013-Honourbale delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be given the opportunity to address the UN Habitat Governing Council.

UNEP and UN-HABITAT not only share the same location here in the developing world, in east Africa, in Kenya.

We also have a shared purpose in respect to sustainable development as it relates to the urban and the wider nexus between people and the natural and built environments.

It is not by chance that with less than 1,000 days to go to the target date for achieving the poverty related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), we have a common ambition to step up a response in respect to MDG-7-on environmental sustainability.

MDG-7 has goals on water and on biodiversity and protected areas but also on improving the lives of millions of slum dwellers representing a clear combination of some of our two institutions' mandates.

While MDG-7 has scored some successes, the ambitions as they relate to one shared concern-sanitation-are not being fulfilled with the same level of speed and confidence as for example the provision of safe drinking water.

Ban ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General has made action on sanitation among his priorities in the run up to 2015.

Improving sanitation is both a challenge and an opportunity-more latrines and in some cases water sewage treatment works can help make the difference.

But there is also a link with improved natural 'infrastructure' from working with and restoring wetlands as natural water purification systems that also act as flood prevention, water storage and fisheries networks as well as being crucial to biodiversity including migratory birds.

The capacity to safely utilize waste water as a resource was the focus of a recent UNEP, UN-Habitat and other partners report entitled Sick Water?-it underlined that allowing waste water to simply pour away down rivers and sewers is not only compromising public health and damaging river and marine environments.

It is also an extraordinary waste of nutrients and fertilizers for use on farms and forests and as such could, if harvested, save farmers money and boost sustainable development.

Over 50 countries now utilize waste water for such purposes, expanding this through policies and training could reap multiple harvests in many others.

  • Benefits in line with the work of UNEP and many others on a Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication which weaves the opportunities manifest in investing in sustainable cities throughout its sectoral analysis.

Honourable delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

Our joint cooperation covers the short term horizons but also a far longer term landscape.

Cities are in many ways at the heart of the Green Economy and the themes and initiatives underpinning the 10 Year Framework of programmes for Sustainable Consumption and Production-both of which are being taken forward as a result of the Future We Want outcomes of Rio+20.

There are many ways of crystalizing these two comparable and mutually supportive areas, but perhaps the keys are resource efficiency and decoupling of economic growth from natural resource use.

Joan Clos and I, along with Gino Van Begin, the Secretary-General of ICLEI-local governments for sustainability- will this week share the podium to launch and debate a new report by the UNEP-hosted International Resources Panel on cities.

The report- City-level Decoupling: Urban Resource Flows and Governance of Infrastructure Transitions-underlines how some cities are addressing this challenge from Melbourne in Australia to Cape Town in South Africa.

The overall aim of this stream of work is to address the panel's earlier assessments indicating that without decoupling the consumption of natural resources will triple by 2050.

Many of the outcomes of Rio+20 and the cooperation between UNEP and UN-Habitat take this challenge and this opportunity on from all sides-issues, many of which were at the heart of an exchange of views and ideas between myself and the UN-Habitat Executive Director last month aimed at evolving our joint work to an even higher level.

These range from corporate sustainability reporting, taken forward by countries including Brazil, Denmark, France and South Africa with support from UNEP and the Global reporting initiative.

To the Sustainable Public Procurement Initiative (SPPI), the Global Initiative for Resource Efficient Cities (GI-REC), and the Principles for Sustainable Insurance.

Next month, and in advance of World Environment Day 5 June, ICLEI will host a resilient cities conference with a central theme being food and food security.

Both UN-Habitat and UNEP are attending where we want to bring to the attention to mayors and others the new global campaign launched with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN-Think Eat Save: Reduce Your Foodprint which is also the global theme of WED 2013.

The loss and waste over at least one third of the world's food is an ethical and economic issue but also an environmental one.

It is about the waste of energy, soils, water and fertilizers from food that never makes it from the farm to the fork.

Cities have a key role to play here and a key opportunity to reduce greenhouse emissions including from food thrown away into landfills.

An analysis by ICLEI's from its register of city greenhouse gas emissions carried out at UNEP's request indicates that a small but significant portion of these can be cut if we can reduce food waste-so Gino I hope you and your alliance of cities will join our campaign.

And in doing so demonstrate in partnership with the UN in cities to governments, companies and citizens globally that an inclusive new UN climate change treaty by 2015 is do-able and currently a missing link towards the Future We Want.

Honourable Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In mentioning 2015 let me also finally mention the urgency of the world agreeing a meaningful set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to build on the MDGs.

The SDGs do offer an opportunity to bring the North and South into common targeting setting goals and underline that assisting the South towards a sustainable future is equally about the nations of the North reducing their environmental footprint.

MDG-7 was, as many of you may know, something of a last minute, afterthought by the architects of the MDGs at the time.

Rio+20 and its explicit articulation that environment is a key dimension- not an afterthought or a passenger to the Future We Want and the Future We Need-underlines the imperative to incorporate environment on an equal footing with the social and economic in the design of the SDGs.

I am sure this a vision that many of you share as governments, the UN, civil society and others advance the discourse and direction of this important process towards a transformational post 2015 development agenda.

Honourable delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

Over the past five years, UNEP and UN-Habitat have together been achieving a great deal. These include:-

The development of a shared position on critical issues such as cities and climate change, particularly through the joint Work Programme with the Cities Alliance and the World Bank.

Through this Joint Work Programme UNEP, UN-Habitat, World Bank, and Cities Alliance produced the Knowledge Centre on Cities and Climate Change (K4C) and the Global Protocol for Community Scale GHG emissions.

In Myanmar, UN-Habitat is working in partnership with UNEP to support the country's environmental priorities.

The two agencies also have a joint national environment officer serving as the focal point for joint work on the preparation of a tool to allow the UN Country Team to mainstream urban environment concerns under the UN Development Assistance Framework.

Our joint and maturing relationship is also working in areas such as non motorized transport, air pollution and sustainable mobility among many other areas of common interest and concern.

UNEP's Governing Council in February urged both of us to work ever more closely together in common cause-I am sure UN-Habitat's Governing Council here in Nairobi will strengthen this cooperation further.

Cities are the powerhouses of ideas, creativity, culture and commerce-they can also be the incubators and powerhouses of a sustainable century.

Thank you

comments powered by Disqus