Remarks by Achim Steiner, Executive Director, UNEP to the Informal Council EU Environment Ministers - Green Economy Mon, Apr 22, 2013

A green economy transition can also assist with perhaps the greatest social change so many countries are facing today-unemployment, including youth unemployment.

Dublin, 22 April 2013-Honourable Ministers, ladies AND Gentlemen,

I have been asked to make some remarks on the Green Economy, where we are and where this important pathway-enabled multilaterally at last year's Rio+20 Summit-is evolving.

I think the answer is extremely positive and the international response extremely encouraging-not just in respect to buy in by developing and developed countries alike to the broad policies and principles of this transition.

But the response of the United Nations and the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, the EU and numerous other organizations and institutions in respect to providing support and plugging policy and knowledge gaps as we learn more about how different economies might respond.

We are indeed living in a post Rio+20 period where the questioning and querying of some countries in the build up to the Summit last year has in many ways ended.

During UNEP's first universal membership Governing Council that took place last February, this enthusiasm for the green economy was on full show-indeed the view that the meeting would suffer from 'green economy fatigue' proved groundless, to the contrary.

Indeed China-who perhaps had previously some reservations within the forum of the G77-actually put down a draft decision which was adopted at the meeting positively supporting the green economy.

And it was intriguing to see some once strongly opposed nations debating the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication not in respect to whether it is relevant, but more how best to tailor it to national circumstances.

The appetite for UNEP to also continue to collate, gather and communicate to member states inspiring examples and actions in support of a green economy transition is also high.

Many of the other initiatives and actions agreed or launched at Rio+20 and which are now being taken forward also support these overall green economy aims and aspirations.

• Sustainable procurement by countries and cities for example with Brazil having requested assistance by UNEP under its Sport and Environment initiative to embed this in cities linked with the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

• Widening the uptake of corporate sustainability reporting globally being spearheaded by Brazil, Denmark, France and South Africa with support from UNEP and the Global Reporting Initiative.

• The 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production and its various strands and themes.

At UNEP's Governing Council-now re-named as the UN Environment Assembly of UNEP-four UN agencies also launched PAGE: the Partnership for Action on the Green Economy.

The four UN agencies - the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), theInternational Labour Organization (ILO), theUnited Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) - will provide a comprehensive suite of green economy

services that will enable around 30 countries to transform their national economic structures to meet the growing demands and challenges of the 21 st century.

It will grow and expand work on green economy advisory services with countries including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Mali, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Peru, Philippines, Russian Federation, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa and Ukraine.

Mongolia, the globe's fastest growing economy and the main global host of this year's World Environment Day under the food waste theme Think Eat Save: Reduce Your Foodprint, is the latest to seek assistance.

It is a nation aspiring to green its mining industry to its energy sector including developing an Asian renewable energy super grid with countries including Japan and has requested support under the two themes of green development and green civilization.

Last week a small UNEP team, working with partners from UNDP and others, met with Mongolian ministries in Ullan Bator in support of a plan by the government to introduce green economy legislation on 5 June.

Honourable ministers,

UNEP is translating the green economy across its work and sub programmes.

It is also part of the supportive analysis that is assisting the transition including as it relates to the European Union under the Agenda for Change direction for the coming years.

Earlier this month I had the privilege to take part in the launch of the Moving towards a Common Approach on Green Growth Indicators with the OECD and the Green Growth Knowledge Platform.

• This joint initiative has now been joined by ten other international organizations and research groups, such as UNDP, ILO, UNIDO, and the African Development Bank, to name just a few, and will serve as an effective means of promoting international collaboration and coordination in the generation of green growth research and knowledge.

UNEP has also established a small Secretariat with the World Bank, the OECD and the Global Green Growth Institute to coordinate our efforts to identify and address major knowledge gaps in green economy theory and practice

UNEP, along with partners at the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning, the Chinese Ministry of Environment, and Fujian Normal University, organized the inaugural "International Workshop on Green Economic Transformation and Environmental Competitiveness Indicators" in March in Fuzhou.

There is much more I could mention in respect to the sense of dynamism and the sheer welter of activities taking place seemingly weekly in respect to forging forward on the green economy pathway within the context of national priorities and circumstances.

Clearly there are practical and political bumps along the road-the current shake out of renewable energy companies in several parts of the world have been seized upon by some critics as evidence that a bubble has burst.

But all rapidly growing industries have their consolidation phases-look at the car industry of the early 20th century.

Shale fracking and the potential for more plentiful gas supplies and the sharp increase in oil production anticipated in the United States have led to some question whether the clean energy revolution in some countries can be sustained.

Yet in many countries we are seeing renewables heading towards, gaining parity or already now cheaper than fossil fuels whether there is a carbon tax or not, whether fossil fuel subsidies are in place or not.

Bloomberg New Energy made this point only as few weeks ago in respect to roof top solar in Australia and many other examples abound including here in Europe.

The Global Wind Energy Council reported last week that in 2012, wind energy capacity globally climbed by 10 per cent above 2011 levels.

And while some talk up oil, the Financial Times reported under the headline More Buck, Less Bang on 11 April of the escalating costs for many oil companies chasing fossil fuel reserves in further flung and ever deeper locations.

Companies and countries are also getting to grips with ever greater precision the 'real' costs of many sectors when you factor in 'externalities'.

Coal-fired power generation in key parts of the world; oil and crude extraction, cement making and cattle ranching are all invariably profitable activities under our current indicator of profit and loss-GDP.

But a cutting edge by the consultancy TruCost, also released in the past week or so for the TEEB for Business Coalition, estimates that if impacts like climate change, water use and air pollution are factored in all are loss making enterprises-crude and natural gas extraction just about break even.

Overall the Top 100 externalities by sector are costing the global economy an estimated $4.7 trillion a year.

One reason why the post Rio+20 work towards a new indicator of wealth beyond GDP has important resonance for the green economy transition and the choices and options countries, cities and companies will make in the coming years and decades.

Honourable Ministers,

A green economy transition can also assist with perhaps the greatest social change so many countries are facing today-unemployment, including youth unemployment.

The recent pattern on development and growth has effectively squeezed ever more productivity out of the labour force to point at which there is no more to squeeze and society is reaping a painful blow back.

The challenge of the 21st century is to squeeze resource use-to decouple economic growth from the consumption of increasingly scarce natural resources.

It is a tenet at the heart of a green economy transition alongside the generation of decent jobs in areas from clean tech to natural resource management and sustainable tourism.

Let me raise a final issue on which I would like to seek your support.

Part of our joint focus must now be on the post 2015 development agenda which is currently being discussed and defined.

The generation of a suite of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to build upon the poverty related Millennium Development Goals affords a further catalyst towards a green economy.

But only if the three dimensions of sustainable development are as well reflected in the SDGs as they were in the Rio+20 outcome-the Future We Want.

This is not for certain under the current process to generate a set of SDGs-I flag this concern to you as environment ministers because given the gains of the past 12 months or so and the sense of dynamism, a brake might prove a skid into a cul de sac rather than a super highway to a sustainable future.

Under the MDGs, goal 7 on environmental sustainability is by far the weakest-it was literally put together as an afterthought in 2000.

This cannot be the fate of the SDGs .

Given this centrality of the green economy towards both the EU's environment and its development cooperation policy, I would hope that you would also support its role in a successful post 2015 planning and path.

The joint communication of DGDevco and DGEnvironment of the EC encompassing both post-Rio and Post 2015 agenda is a welcome signal to promote an integrated approach, which we hope will be confirmed by the Foreign Ministers Council in June this year.

Honourable ministers, again thank you for inviting me to address you.

We live in interesting times with the green economy which you have so strongly supported generating a sense of opportunity globally and momentum for international cooperation and optimism that future global development need not be a mirror to or a prisoner of the past.

However, as the debate surrounding the post 2015 development agenda shows, one cannot be complacent-rather the dynamism and sense of purpose needs to be maintained now and into the future.

The green economy has been enabled and is taking some really positive strides-but it will be in its maturity that the full sustainability benefits can be reaped. For that we must work from the experimental and piloting phase to achieving scale able and transformational change.

Thank you

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