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Stronger UNEP for stronger post-2015 goals

Pekka Haavisto
Minister for International Development, Finland

UNEP represents the international attention that the environment and future generations need from us. I am proud of my own years in UNEP, 1999–2005, when I had the privilege of directing its post-conflict activities in many fragile states. The Finnish Government has also kept UNEP as one of its priority organizations for voluntary contributions.

Therefore, I was particularly pleased with the mandate given by the Rio+20 conference to strengthen UNEP. Universal Membership of UNEP’s Governing Council and the establishment of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) are important steps forward.

Strengthening UNEP also implies a need for additional resources and the decision by the UN General Assembly to increase its regular budget contribution is very welcome. As a sign of confidence in and support to UNEP’s work, Finland is almost doubling its contribution to the Environment Fund, to 6 million euros this year.

The Rio+20 conference was a significant milestone in moving the world towards sustainable development. It set the world in motion to develop Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and a universal development agenda. This agenda must ensure sustainable development and work to end extreme poverty.

Finland has emphasized the need to mainstream environmental sustainability in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. All development needs to be inclusive and happen within ecosystems’ capacities. Halting environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity, shifting to sustainable consumption and production patterns and urgently addressing climate sustainability are prerequisites for a sustainable future for our planet.

In this context, one cannot overlook the relationship between conflicts and the environment. Serving as the co-chair of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS), together with Minister Emilia Pires from Timor-Leste, I am faced with the devastating effects of conflicts – and wonder if they could be reversed. Instead of oil wars could we have peace based on fair and sustainable use and protection of natural resources? Could the environment be one tool in peacemaking?

I feel that the potential that natural resources have in conflict resolution and longer-term state building is not yet fully exploited. Therefore, developing good and transparent governance of natural resources is imperative in the mobilization of domestic revenues of fragile states. Managing revenues, including natural resources, and building capacity for accountable and fair service delivery is one of the principal goals of the IDPS.

In addition, the work that UNEP has done with the support of Finland within the Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding programme has great potential to provide concrete input into this area. This need to focus on good and transparent governance involves all actors, not only governments.

Climate change truly is one of the defining factors of our times, and Finland has been active in securing financing for efficient climate action in developing countries where the poorest are the ones who most suffer. Climate finance is one of the major issues in the ongoing negotiations on a new agreement for adoption at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Paris in December 2015.

The international architecture for climate finance is quite complex. Too fragmented, one could argue. However, with the establishment of the Green Climate Fund we have a great opportunity to streamline and considerably increase the multilateral funding for climate action. It takes time to get all the necessary operational and administrative modalities in order, but I hope to get the foundation of the fund ready as soon as possible in order to start its initial capitalization. Finland stands ready to contribute its fair share to this and be an active partner in the activities of the fund.

Innovative sources of financing have been topical over the last years, and in this respect Finland is at the forefront. In March 2013 the government decided to allocate all of the revenues from the auctioning of European Union emission allowances to developing cooperation, including of climate finance. Already in 2013, Finland has allocated approximately 50 million euros through this mechanism, and we have plans to allocate up to 90 million euros in 2014.

The first UNEA, in June 2014, comes at a critical juncture of the SDGs and post-2015 process. UNEA provides an excellent opportunity to send a strong message to the high-level political forum and to the post-2015 negotiation process about the crucial importance that environmental sustainability has for maintaining the carrying capacity of our planet and ensuring well-being for present and future generations.

UNEP has the comparative advantage and mandate to be the leading authority on the environmental dimension of sustainable development globally as well as within the UN system.
Therefore UNEP, under the guidance of UNEA, should also play an important role in the implementation and monitoring of the environmental aspects of the post-2015 framework. In order to achieve this, better coordination among international institutions working on issues related to the environment is needed.

The Rio+20 outcome document provides for strengthening UNEP's engagement in key United Nations coordination bodies. UNEP has also been given the mandate to develop system-wide environmental strategies by the General Assembly. The development of such strategies could help in better addressing the division of labour within the UN system on environmental matters and dealing with identified implementation and policy gaps.

UNEP is encountering growing expectations from the global audience. To guide its future work, it is important to crystallize the role UNEP has in the wider sustainable development setting and capitalize all its potential. The assessment work of UNEP, including the work of the scientific panels it is hosting, is crucial when providing evidence-based information for decision makers.

In the post-2015 context, UNEP should have a key role in supporting monitoring and reporting on environmental issues. Furthermore, UNEP should continue to facilitate mutual collaboration and implementation of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). This is important also from the post-2015 perspective as the objectives of major MEAs address sustainable development at large.

Moving towards sustainable consumption and production (SCP) patterns is a key challenge globally, and UNEP has a pivotal role in this work. SCP is fundamentally about fulfilling basic needs in a sustainable manner. The sustainable provision of materials, energy, food, water and shelter are central to ensuring that one billion people are lifted out of absolute poverty and that the well-being of many others is improved.

With our joint efforts, we are able to overcome the fundamental impediments for achieving sustainable development. We need universal goals for post-2015. UNEP can have a crucial role in defining our way ahead.

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