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The first International Student Conference on Environment and Sustainability was inaugurated at Tongji University, Shanghai, China on June 5, 2011, coinciding with World Environment Day.

The conference was co-sponsored by Tongji University and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and hosted by UNEP-Tongji Institute of Environment for Sustainable Development (IESD).

Nearly 400 young students from more than 35 countries and well-known specialists and scholars came together to discuss the latest topics, innovative technologies and creative ideas on environment and sustainable development, in light of the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) next year.

During the Opening Ceremony, Prof. WANG Guangtao, chairman of environment protection and resources conservation committee of the National People's Congress of China & chairman of the advisory board of IESD; Prof. LI Yongsheng, executive vice president of Tongji University; Dr. Young-Woo Park, UNEP regional director and representative for Asia and the Pacific; Prof. YIN Jie, deputy director of the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission; and Mr. FU Guoqing, director of International Cooperation Division of Shanghai Municipal Science and Technology Commission delivered welcome remarks. Mr. Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary-general and UNEP executive director, conveyed a video message.

Prof. Klaus Toepfer, former UN under-secretary-general, former executive director of UNEP and honorary professor of Tongji University, and Prof. ZHENG Guoguang, administrator of China Meteorological Administration (CMA), delivered keynote speeches on Climate Change and Sustainable Developent and Towards the Low-carbon Society, respectively. Prof. WU Jiang, vice president of Tongji University, chaired the Opening Ceremony.

Additionally, 10 candidates from China were awarded the 2011 Klaus Toepfer Environmental Scholarships for graduate-level studies related to environment and sustainability.

The World Environment Day also served as the joint opening for the 8th Asia Pacific Leadership Programme on Environment for Sustainable Development.

The Leadership Programme has been offered annually by IESD since 2004. This year, 26 participants representing three sub-regions of the Asia Pacific—South Asia, Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia—as well as international organizations such as UNESCO and ICIMOD, took part in this five-day leadership event. Resource persons were drawn from the Asia Pacific Regional University Consortium on Environment for Sustainable Development (RUC), for which IESD serves as secretariat.

The International Student Conference on Environment and Sustainability was  comprised of four working groups:

·         Living with Water and Forests

·         Green Economy

·         Green Mobility and Clean Energy

·         Eco-urbanism and Cultural Heritage

As a key outcome, conference participants successfully drafted a Global Youth Declaration on Environment and Sustainability. The declaration was read aloud during the Closing Ceremony on June 8, 2011, by representatives from five regions:  Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific. The declaration emphasized the role of the Conference as an “an optimal platform to promote the important role of youth in large-scale decisions,” and its connection with the 2012 Rio+20 Conference.  

The results for the poster competition were also announced during the Closing Ceremony. Prof. WU Jiang, vice president of Tongji University, recognized the nine best posters and presented the winners with certificates.

IESD hopes that this annual event will significantly contribute to enhancing environmental education efforts around the globe, including UNEP’s flagship initiative, the Global University Partnership on Environment and Sustainability (GUPES).

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