30 October 2007
General Assembly
GA/EF/3190

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly

Second Committee

17th & 18th Meetings (AM & PM)


city planning will determine pace of global warming, un-habitat chief


tells Second Committee as she links urban poverty with climate change


Executive Director Introduces Human Settlement

Reports amid Continuing General Discussion of Sustainable Development


Given the inextricable link connecting urbanization, urban poverty and climate change, the way in which the world’s growing cities were planned and managed would largely determine the pace of global warming, Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today.


As she introduced reports relating to the Committee’s agenda item on human settlement matters, Ms. Tibaijuka said the urbanization of poverty was now the biggest development challenge.  With half the world’s population now residing in cities, and one billion slum dwellers living in life-threatening conditions, 2007 marked a turning point in human history.  In addition, cities were responsible for 75 per cent of global energy consumption and 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.


She said seizing the opportunity to reduce the vulnerability of cities to the effects of climate change should be a priority alongside improving the living conditions of the most vulnerable urban populations.  Policymakers, planners, environmental specialists and citizens must now join forces and place cities and urban issues at the forefront of the sustainable development agenda.


Ms. Tibaijuka introduced the reports of UN-HABITAT’s Governing Council on its twenty-first session, the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the UN-HABITAT, and a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report on the coordination and implementation of the Habitat Agenda.


The Committee then resumed its general debate on sustainable development, with several speakers indicating that climate change had devastated the lives of millions and natural disasters had set back development efforts.  There was an urgent need for the international community to support developing countries by providing them with the tools to cope with and overcome not only the global warming effects ravaging their lands, but also to bolster their economies and environmental protection measures to build a truly sustainable future.


Thailand’s representative said the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism must be carried out with respect to the needs of developing countries and for their benefit.  Just as important in reducing the risks posed by uncontrollable events was disaster preparedness and response.  The 2004 Asian tsunami had proved that early warning systems and knowledge-building were vital and in order to boost those efforts, Thailand had contributed $10 million to the Multi-Donor Voluntary Trust Fund for Tsunami Early Warning Arrangements in the Indian Ocean and South-east Asia.


While challenges remained, Thailand had already taken steps towards sustainability, he said.  Sustainable development was deeply entrenched in its national agenda and the philosophy of a “sufficiency economy” had been fully integrated into its policies.  That philosophy had already promoted sustainable agricultural practices to ensure food security for farmers, persuade locals to conserve forests as a means to secure its economic, social and ecological value, and promote sustainable energy development.  In addition, it had inspired more prudent financial practices to prevent a repeat of the 1997 Asian financial crisis.


Ethiopia’s delegate said a more concerted effort was needed in Africa to push developing countries further towards sustainable development and to avert climate-change crises.  In 2006 alone, flash floods had killed more than 700 people in Ethiopia, economically affected 670,000 others, displaced another 242,000, drowned many domestic and wild animals and damaged thousands of hectares of farmland.  Too many obstacles stood in the way of sustainability, including conflict, insufficient investment, limited market access opportunities, supply- side constraints and unsustainable debt burdens.  Falling official development assistance (ODA) levels and the impact of HIV/AIDS had exacerbated efforts to meet the challenges of sustainable development.


Ecuador’s representative pointed to the Hyogo Framework for Action and the work of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction as tools that could translate words into action.  The convening of the Global Platform for Disaster Reduction in Geneva in June had been a step towards improving coordination among international actors in reducing disaster risk, providing a forum that allowed the sharing of experiences and good practices that could lead to new actions in implementation of the Hyogo Framework.0


Japan’s representative stressed the importance of concerted action in support of vulnerable countries, particularly small island developing States and least developed countries, which contributed the least to climate change but were the most seriously affected by it.  Adaptation, especially in the areas of disaster reduction and preparedness, must increase the resilience of communities increasingly exposed to extreme weather.  Those activities should align with the Hyogo Framework for Action, adopted at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in 2005.


Also taking part in today’s debate were representatives of Jordan, Kenya, Nepal, India, Kyrgyzstan, Guatemala, Norway, Philippines, Belarus, Peru, Côte d’Ivoire, Malta, Ukraine, Sri Lanka, Brazil, San Marino, Zambia, Republic of Moldova, Algeria, Armenia, Monaco, Venezuela, Mozambique, Mexico, Malawi, Iraq, Uganda, Kazakhstan, Libya, Niger, United Arab Emirates, Republic of Korea and Serbia.


Other speakers included representatives of the International Organization for Migration, Inter-Parliamentary Union, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).


The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday 31 October, to conclude its debate on sustainable development and take up the implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the UN-HABITAT.


Background


The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met today to conclude its general discussion on sustainable development.  (For background, see Press Release GA/EF/3189 of 29 October.)


It was also expected to take up its agenda item on implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).


Before the Committee was the Report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) (document A/62/8), which gives an account of that Council’s twenty-first session, held from 16 to 20 April in Nairobi.


Annexed to the report is a list of the decisions and resolutions adopted during the session, a message from the Secretary-General, and summaries of opening statements by the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Prime Minister of Bahrain and the President of Kenya.


Another annex provides a summary of a policy statement by UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director on the session’s special themes, the 2008-2013 Medium-term Strategic and Institutional Plan and the 2008-2009 work programme and budget. 


Also annexed are summaries of the Council’s panel discussions on financing, affordable housing and infrastructure, the Council’s dialogue on the role of planning in urban poverty reduction, financing pro-poor housing and urban development and creating an agenda for local poverty-reduction action.


The Committee also had before the Secretary-General’s report on the Implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) (document A/62/219), which highlights the major results achieved during the reporting period under Millennium Development Goal 7 and reviews progress in programme implementation.


According to the report, the issues facing human settlements are real, complex and urgent.  Member States should create a conducive environment for realizing the main goals of “shelter for all” and “sustainable urbanization” by, among other things, providing necessary support and resources to kick-start the implementation of the Medium-term Strategic and Institutional Plan for 2008-2013, with its $15 million budget for 2008-2009; and revitalizing broad-based national UN-HABITAT committees with a view to mainstreaming urban poverty reduction into national development strategies.


Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General on Coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document A/62/339), which transmits the report on the coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document E/2007/58) to the General Assembly for consideration at its sixty-second session.


DON PRAMUDWINAI ( Thailand) said sustainable development was his country’s national agenda and the philosophy of a sufficiency economy had been integrated into Government policies.  The principle of a “middle way” promoted economic development in line with globalization as well as moderation, responsible consumption and self-immunity from adverse internal and external changes.  The sufficiency economy complemented the three pillars of sustainable development -- economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability.  It promoted sustainable agricultural practices to ensure food security for farmers, persuaded locals to conserve forests so as to secure their economic, social and ecological value, and promoted sustainable energy development.  It also inspired more prudent financial practices in order to prevent a repeat of the 1997 Asian financial crisis.


However, challenges remained, including the need for concrete action to address climate change, he said.  The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol were central to multilateral cooperation.  The Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism must be carried out in accordance with the needs of developing countries and for their benefit.  It was also important to be prepared to respond to disasters and to reduce the risk of developing countries risk to the threats posed by uncontrollable events.  The 2004 Asian tsunami had shown the vital importance of preventive measures, including early warning systems and knowledge-building.  Thailand had given $10 million to the Multi-Donor Voluntary Trust Fund for Tsunami Early Warning Arrangements in the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia and welcomed Sweden’s donation of $2.5 million as well as new contributions from the Republic of Korea and Nepal.


BAKER ABU ASSAMEN (Jordan) said climate change threatened to devastate the lives of millions, and was interrelated with desertification, loss of biodiversity and poverty.  Desertification was a major environmental, social, cultural and economic problem for many countries, including Jordan.  Awareness of the challenges posed by climate change was continuously growing.  As more people learned about the related problems, they would respond better by adopting the concept of sustainable management of natural resources, including the fulfilment of the needs of the current generation without exploiting the ability of coming generations to meet their own.  Jordan was among the leading countries in protecting biodiversity, and had adopted a National Energy Efficiency Strategy, which would achieve sustainable economic development and reduce harm to the environment by addressing the increasing dependence on renewable energy technologies by opening a national energy research centre.


TAKAHIRO SHINYO ( Japan) said climate change was an imminent and multi-faceted challenge to life on the planet, requiring concerted action.  A post-2012 climate policy framework must have the participation of all major emitters.  It must be flexible and diverse, taking into account the circumstances of each country and promoting environmental protection and economic growth.  Adaptation, especially in the areas of disaster reduction and preparedness, must increase the resilience of communities increasingly exposed to extreme weather.  Related activities should align with the Hyogo Framework for Action, adopted at the 2005 World Conference on Disaster Reduction.


He stressed the need to support vulnerable countries, particularly small island developing States and least developed countries, which contributed least to climate change but were the most seriously affected.  Minimizing emissions from deforestation was vitally important for mitigation, as was the need to implement land-use management and initiatives like the Non-legally Binding Instrument on Forests, agreed upon in April.  International environmental governance was crucial in effectively addressing growing environmental problems.  The Millennium Goals called for nations to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to drinking water by 2015, but the midpoint results were lagging.  Japan encouraged all Member States, relevant organizations and stakeholders to increase awareness and promote action at all levels.


ZACHARY MUBURI-MUITA ( Kenya) said his country was committed to sustainable development in guiding sector-specific plans and strategies, including Vision 2030.  Maximum results, however, required continued policy guidance on various sustainable development-related themes.  Increasing the global share of energy resources was vital to meeting the challenge of ensuring sustainable development.  An agreed outcome of the Commission on Sustainable Development’s fifteenth session would have gone a long way in shaping work in that regard.  The next thematic cluster -- on agriculture, rural development, land, drought and desertification -- would generate a more meaningful outcome in both the review and policy sessions of the Commission’s sixteenth and seventeenth sessions.  Africa was among the regions most vulnerable to climate change and was already facing a wide range of threats, including frequent and severe droughts and flooding, in addition to the increased spread of diseases like malaria and cholera.


He said a successful outcome of the thirteenth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the third session of the meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, to be held in Bali, must contain an adaptation strategy with sustained funding for the most vulnerable countries, particularly those in Africa.  Desertification and land degradation continued to pose serious challenges to sustainable development, which not only threatened biodiversity, but also livelihoods, poverty eradication and attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.  The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification was an important tool in battling deserts, which must be tackled from all angles, and Kenya regretted that the eighth Conference of the Parties in Madrid had failed to agree on a budget for the 2008-2009 biennium.


RODRIGO RIOFRIO ( Ecuador) said disaster reduction must be considered a pillar upon which sustainable economic growth could build and a very important issue that the United Nations should urgently address.  Ecuador counted on the international community to provide developing countries with technical and financial support to release the necessary resources to build national capacity in a sustainable framework.


He said his country considered that the Hyogo Framework for Action and the work of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction had been strengthened in part by the convening in June of the Global Platform for Disaster Reduction in Geneva in June.  That meeting had been a step towards improving coordination among international actors to reduce disaster risks through a forum that allowed the sharing of experiences and good practices that could lead to new actions to implement the Hyogo Framework.  Because Ecuador was located in a region vulnerable to disasters, and had faced their adverse effects over the last few years, the country was firmly committed to all measures to translate the Hyogo Framework into reality.


HARI PRASAD THAPALIYA ( Nepal) said that despite the growing awareness of the significance of promoting sustainable mountain development, mountain regions continued to face enormous challenges in meeting the Millennium Goals and bolstering sustainable development.  Scientific studies had shown that the retreat of mountain glaciers resulted in the depletion of precious freshwater reserves that could affect the lives of millions of people living downstream.  Poor mountain communities would be the hardest hit, and hit early, by climate change.  Mounting vulnerability to natural disasters, the loss of biodiversity and cultural heritage, weak and obsolete infrastructure and crippling poverty had exposed poor mountain communities to isolation and socio-economic marginalization.  Mountain regions needed special consideration and support to overcome their infrastructural weaknesses, bridge the technological gap, address food insecurity and strengthen their capability to adapt to climate-change related vulnerabilities.


He stressed the need for adequate funding for environmental services and for investment in public rural infrastructure.  Regarding innovative financing, debt-for-nature swaps and payment for environmental services could be instrumental in promoting community-managed environmental conservation.  Local job creation in the business and non-agricultural sectors was critical to ensuring sustainable livelihood and poverty eradication.  Successful mountain development required coordinated development collaboration among all stakeholders.  Information sharing, the exchange of best practices, a focus on environmental education and the training of local communities in waste and watershed management, protecting biodiversity and seeking community-based solutions were critical.  Nepal called for regional and transboundary cooperation to improve policy coordination, facilitate research and information analysis and learn from the past.


GENET TESHOME ( Ethiopia) said climate change in his country had already caused severe weather variability, loss of pastoral land, severe droughts, increased soil erosion and shifts in agro-climatic zones.  In 2006 alone, more than 700 people had lost their lives, 670,000 were economically affected and more than 242,000 had been displaced by flash floods.  Many domestic and wild animals had drowned and thousands of hectares of farmland had been damaged.  Sustainable development was about ensuring a better quality of life for all. 


The overarching policy goal of sustainability was to enable future generations to enjoy a good quality of life as the environment continued to support the rising living standards of the present generation, he said.  Efforts to achieve sustainable development had been hindered by conflict, insufficient investment, limited market access opportunities, supply-side constraints, unsustainable debt burdens, declining levels of official development assistance (ODA) and the impact of HIV/AIDS.  The support of the industrialized countries was therefore vital.


He said development partners must continue to free up enough resources and boost external aid to allow developing and least developed countries to have fair access to international markets for their goods and services.  Those measures could help developing and least developing countries’ success in their efforts to reduce excessive exploitation of resources, enhance the empowerment of local communities, introduce green and clean technologies and meet the Millennium Development Goals.  Ethiopia expected to see more tangible action from the international community in implementing the Kyoto Protocol and other green initiatives, and in turning commitments into action.


LUCA DALL’OGLIO, Observer for the International Organization of Migration, said a mutual understanding on an inclusive terminology was crucial and the task was made complex by multi-directional links connecting environmental change, human security, conflict and migration.  To that end, IOM proposed the definition that, “environmental migrants are persons or groups of persons who for compelling reasons of sudden or progressive change in the environment … are obliged or have to leave their habitual homes or choose to do so, either temporarily or permanently, and who move either within their country or abroad”.  Such a working definition would encompass people displaced by natural disaster as well as those who chose to move because of gradual but steadily deteriorating conditions.  It would also recognize that the scale of migration resulting from gradual changes was likely to be greater than displacement resulting from individual events, and that both internal and international displacement were possible.


Extreme environmental events and gradual changes in habitat presented enormous implications for human security, including risks to public health, he said.  The human security of environmental migrants could also be undermined by environmentally-generated conflict.  A number of principles and approaches already used in other migration contexts could and should be evaluated to assess how they applied to environmental migration.  Early planning and action were essential to orderly environmental migration and could in some cases limit mass or forced migration and its impacts on human security.  Comprehensive and evidence-based policy, as well as sufficient budgetary support for long-term planning, were needed.  Effective management of environmental migration was essential to ensuring human security, health and well-being and to facilitating sustainable development. 


ANDA FILIP, Observer for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), recalled that the main theme at that body’s Assembly last April in Bali had been “Global warming: 10 years after Kyoto”.  Delegates from more than 100 parliaments had recommended courses of action on climate change and the Assembly had adopted a political declaration on climate change, calling on parliaments do all they could to enhance cooperation on the basis of common but differentiated responsibilities, with a view to achieving the objectives of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and the Kyoto Protocol.  They had pledged to raise the issue in their respective parliaments and to question Ministers about preparations for the thirteenth Conference of Parties to the UNFCC and the third Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in December.  IPU had sent a letter to all the world’s parliaments urging them to debate the issue and build political momentum and support to implement an effective international response to climate change.


Encouraging parliaments to mainstream global warming issues into their agendas and to deliver measurable progress in terms of good policies and legislation, she said progress was sought in both mitigation and adaptation.  IPU would encourage closer cooperation and networking among parliaments, their specialized committees tasked with debating and legislating questions related to climate change and grassroots organizations at the constituency level.  Information received on those efforts would provide the substance for a first report on parliamentary action that would be tabled at the next IPU Assembly early next year.  IPU had mapped its own carbon footprint and was preparing to devise energy-saving solutions and reduction targets.  It had begun to make provisions in the operating budget for the purchase of carbon offsets in order to help defray the environmental costs of official travel.


SALEEM SHERVANI ( India) said a heightened focus on global warming and climate change in the General Assembly and other forums earlier this year had highlighted the need for urgent action and reinforced the importance of an integrated approach to sustainable development, covering its three pillars of economic development, social development and environmental protection.  The effective implementation of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation emphasized the importance of addressing international good governance, international finance and trade, and technology and investment patterns.


Developing countries had to bear a disproportionate share of the negative impact of climate change and environmental degradation, but lacked the means to tackle those challenges, he noted.  India hoped, that at the upcoming Bali Conference, developed countries would commit to and implement sharper emission reduction targets.  New and additional funds were needed for developing countries and their adaptation efforts must be given greater international support through capacity enhancement.  But that support should not divert funds meant for development, which was the best form of adaptation.  Efforts to address climate change must not foreclose the growth imperative of developing countries.


NURBEK JEENBAEV ( Kyrgyzstan) said mountain ecosystems supported particular life forms and were rich in biodiversity, natural resources, flora and fauna.  They needed particular protection against the negative effects of climate change.  The recent global mountain summit had heightened international political interest on the needs of mountain dwellers and it was important to strengthen support for mountain communities and help them achieve socio-economic development.  International cooperation for sustainable development in mountain countries was vital.


Various General Assembly resolutions stressed the importance of international partnerships to maintain and restore the habitat of mountain dwellers and maintain their cultural heritage and ecological security, he said.  The Secretary-General’s report aptly stated that despite greater awareness and the holding of the International Year of Mountains five years ago, many problems remained unresolved and the challenges of poverty reduction and sustainable mountain development had not yet been adequately addressed.  Progress had been made, but more remained to be done.


The Secretary-General’s recommendations on sustainable mountain development were very constructive, he said, but it was necessary to expand international partnerships with the broad participation of civil society and regional and subregional actors.  Cooperation could be seen in the Alpine Convention, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and other agreements.  It was also important to increase financing and use innovative financial mechanisms such as debt-for-nature swaps.  In 2009, the Second Global Mountain Summit would be held to take stock of what had been achieved since 2002.  Kyrgyzstan invited experts from the United Nations system to participate in those and other events related to sustainable mountain development.


ANA CRISTINA RODRIGUEZ-PINEDA ( Guatemala) said temperature rise, the shrinking of water bodies, sea-level rise, drought and land degradation, were exacerbating her country’s socio-economic vulnerabilities and its efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve social well-being.  It was important to help countries most affected by climate change by promoting renewable energy and the potential of forests and mountains.  Deforestation and intensive agriculture had caused land degradation and massive erosion across a large part of Guatemala, exacerbating such natural disasters such as Hurricane Stan, gravely damaging infrastructure and resulting in the deaths of 4,000 people, mainly in indigenous communities.  International cooperation to help Guatemala maintain healthy soil, tropical rainforests and mountain zones would require increased technical cooperation for programme planning, especially in indigenous mountain communities.  Much progress had been made to develop sustainable mountain communities, but more must be done nationally and regionally.


She said her country was attempting to balance sustainable mountain development with the protection of indigenous mountain people and their active engagement in decisions affecting their lives.  Guatemala was a member of the Mountains Alliance and, hopefully, that initiative would foster greater investment and financing in sustainable mountain development, particularly through innovative financing mechanisms, debt relief and payment for environmental services.  Guatemala was using renewable energy as an alternative fuel source and a tool to eradicate poverty, particularly in rural areas.  The Government had adopted a new Incentives Law for Renewable Energy, which aimed to promote sustainable energy generation and consumption.  The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources had just created a unit to fight desertification and drought.


OLA BREVIK ( Norway) recalled that last week, UNEP had released the latest of its flagship reports on the state of the environment, in which it recommended that the international community move the environment from the periphery to the core of decision-making.  The environment was necessary for development, which should not be pursued to the detriment of the environment.  Economic development in developing countries was imperative and it was important to find, low-carbon growth models that allowed countries to grow without repeating the mistakes and unsustainable growth paths of industrialized countries.


The Norwegian Prime Minister had recently asked the Minister for International Development also to assume the post of Minister for the Environment, he said.  That move illustrated how Norway viewed poverty alleviation and tackling climate change and environmental degradation as closely linked challenges.  The Government had also recently announced comprehensive policies on climate change and on the integration of the environment into development cooperation.


Norway would also surpass its emissions commitment under the Kyoto Protocol by 10 per cent, he said, adding that the Government had decided to cut global emissions equivalent to 30 per cent of Norwegian emissions in 1990 by 2020.  Between one half and two thirds of that effort could come through domestic emissions reductions.  Norway also aimed to become carbon neutral by 2050 by significantly reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions and offsetting the remaining emissions through the purchase of emission reductions abroad.  To ensure Norway’s constructive role in the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, the Government had finalized a white paper on prevention of humanitarian crisis.  It would include polices to step up efforts to prevent crisis caused by climate change and environmental factors.


EDUARDO MENEZ ( Philippines) said that in the past several years his country had been following the Philippine Agenda 21, a sustainable development strategy supported by Business Agenda 21, which defined the private sector’s role in implementing the strategy.  The Government’s Medium-term Philippine Development Plan 2004-2010 had five major themes relating to the environment and natural resources.  They included sustainable and more productive use of natural resources to promote investment and entrepreneurship, sustainable mining, protection of vulnerable and ecologically fragile areas, particularly watersheds and areas where biodiversity was threatened, creation of a healthier environment for the population, and mitigation of natural disasters to prevent the loss of life and property.  Philippine civil society was a key player in sensitizing and educating the general population on the benefits of sustainable development.


The Philippines had brought together Government, the private sector and civil society to improve the environment, he said.  For example, a multistakeholder partnership to help protect 8.8 million hectares of untenured forestlands had resulted in the confiscation of illegally cut and transported forest products worth an estimated 54 million pesos.  Another partnership promoted 40 ecologically sustainable technologies of bamboo propagation and plantation management, vermi-composting, tiger grass production, and mangrove planting and management.  The Philippine Government had recently enacted the Philippine Biofuels Act, which allowed for diversification into indigenous, renewable and sustainably sourced clean energy sources.


ANDREI METELITSA ( Belarus) said access to energy could be improved by expanding access to alternative and renewable energy sources.  Belarus had gone down that path, envisioning energy-saving measures and the production of new technologies so the country could benefit from renewable energy sources.  To assist in those efforts, the United Nations should improve technology transfer and introduce energy-saving technologies on a global scale.  At present, those new technologies remained in the hands of a few States and were inaccessible to many developing countries.  A few decades ago the world community decided that all humankind would be endowed with control of nuclear synthesis as an energy source, but that had not happened.  Today, the world was still trying to find new energy sources.


The problem of global climate change was reflected in the Kyoto Protocol, but more must be done to turn promises into action, he said.  Belarus was the first and only country initially to approve the Protocol’s annex B on emissions reduction, and it was committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Unfortunately, almost a year later, only two more countries, Uzbekistan and the Czech Republic, had signed the amendment.  Belarus called upon other Member States to do so immediately so as to create an important precedent for expanding participation in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.  In the future, subsequent protocols should include more flexible mechanisms for Member States to reduce emissions, thereby avoiding any bureaucratic obstacles that might impede progress.


GONZALO GUILLEN BEKER ( Peru) stressed the urgent need for collective international action to combat climate change, noting that its consequences were increasingly pressing and had negative repercussions for development and international security.  Developing countries were disproportionately affected by climate change.  Environmental degradation had increased the potential destructiveness of disasters, as illustrated by the growing number of important hydrological disasters occurring over the last 55 years.  The Earth’s warming and natural disasters were interconnected and must be addressed jointly.  Peru called for urgent action during the next Conference of Parties and for the creation of a road map to serve as a platform for future negotiations.  The magnitude of the problem required more ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the first round of agreements.


Emphasizing his country’s high expectations for the outcome of the upcoming Bali Conference, he said Peru would work towards a common platform based on the principle of shared responsibility.  Peru had participated in the Mountains Alliance, an important initiative on the urgent need to conserve mountain ecosystems.  There was a need for long-term political will and a concrete strategy for sustainable mountain ecosystem development.  It was to be hoped that the current General Assembly session would push forward objectives to create the necessary conditions for the sustainable development of communities that depended on mountain ecosystems for their livelihood and poverty eradication.  Peru’s President had participated in the recent official launch of the International Year of the Potato (2008), intended to promote that rich, nutritious culinary resource for the country’s Andean people.


THÉODORE DAH ( Côte d’Ivoire) said the cost and scope of the feared impacts of climate change could increase over time, noting that in his country temperature variations had already caused decreases in rainfall and land degradation.  All countries were affected by climate change, particularly in Africa, where they threatened poverty-eradication efforts.  Climate change went beyond being just an environmental problem.  It was a development problem and to find solutions, environmental protection must go hand-in-hand with development efforts.


Humankind could not confine itself to waiting and relying on the notion that scientific knowledge would solve climate change problems, he said, underscoring the need for determined, committed and collective international action.  Development partners must review carbon-related mechanisms and make them more accessible for adaptation to climate change in Africa.  They must continue to help countries satisfy their energy needs in cleaner and greener ways.  The Kyoto Protocol was a solid foundation for multilateral action, but there had been insufficient progress in its implementation.


SAVIOUR F. BORG (Malta), associating himself with the European Union, recalled that his country had played a part in highlighting climate change on the international political agenda when its Government had asked for the inclusion of the topic on the agenda of the forty-third General Assembly session in 1988.  It had also piloted through the Second Committee the draft resolution that had led to Assembly resolution 43/53, which declared climate the “common concern of mankind” and strengthened the mandate of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and UNEP.


He said the Prime Minister of Malta had recently proposed to the Secretary-General that the Assembly establish a mechanism, possibly a group of experts, which would report to the Assembly’s next session on the activities undertaken in response to climate change over the previous 20 years.  Its report should include elements of a possible future global strategy that avoided a fragmented approach and propose innovative measures to ensure the widest possible cooperation by States.  Together with the outcome of the Bali Conference, the report would serve as a blueprint for a global approach to climate change by the United Nations.  Malta invited the sponsors of the resolution, particularly the Group of 77 and China, to consider positively its new proposal to consolidate the Organization’s efforts in responding globally and coherently to the adverse impact of climate change, taking into account the special needs of small island States.  Malta also intended to host a centre for the training of Government officials in climate law and policy.


VOLODYMYR VASSYLENKO (Ukraine), associating himself with the European Union, said his Government, firmly committed to its obligations under Agenda 21, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the 2005 World Summit Outcome document, had approved the concept of a National Environmental Strategy until 2020.  It   sought to promote an integrated approach to sustainable development though the mainstreaming of environmental considerations into various national programmes.  The absence of an effective and comprehensive solution to the world’s ecological needs did not merely compromise sustainable development, but threatened the very existence of humankind.


Today’s ecological challenges should be addressed through concerted international efforts that complemented national ones, he said.  Ukraine proposed a permanent universal environmental organization, under the aegis of the United Nations, as a mechanism for constructive dialogue involving Governments, industrialists, scientists and civil society.  The proposed organization should provide for multiple national delegations that would include representatives of State bodies, business, ecological sciences and ecological non-governmental organizations.


MUDITHA HALLIYADDE (Sri Lanka), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said that even though her country was a low emitter of greenhouse gases, it had recognized the importance of participating in the Clean Development Mechanism for the mutual benefit of the country and the international community.  At the Second International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism held in Davos, Switzerland, earlier in October, Sri Lanka had announced its initiative, “A Tourism Earth Lung -– Towards a Carbon-Clean Sri Lanka”.  As a country that depended on long-haul travel to generate tourism income, Sri Lanka was trying to become the first carbon-neutral destination.


She said the lack of awareness about climate change-related issues, and inadequate financial resources for adaptation research and access to clean technologies, were among the difficulties that developing countries faced in responding to climate change.  They must be given the ability to achieve their development goals in accordance with the need to protect the environment.  The world must recognize the value of the forest cover that many in the developing world had inherited, and on the basis of which they must be able to engage in carbon trading.  Traditional knowledge and experience in maintaining forest cover must be acknowledged and utilized.


PIRAGIBE DOS SANTOS TARRAGO ( Brazil) said his country had actively participated in the creation of the international climate change regime and expected that it would be possible to agree on a road map in Bali for negotiations on the future of the Kyoto Protocol regime.  An agreement must be reached by 2009, with countries negotiating a time frame and quantified reduction commitments by industrialized countries for the second implementation period of the Protocol, scheduled to begin in 2013.


He said those negotiations should be conducted transparently and their outcome should guarantee the effective use of the Clean Development Mechanism and ensure that polluters paid for their past emissions.  Brazil supported the creation of targets for Annex I countries on the basis of common but differentiated responsibilities for the post-2012 period.  However, the Kyoto Protocol did not expire in 2012 and it was therefore inaccurate to refer to a post-Kyoto regime.  Those mistaken messages sent the wrong signal and were inconsistent with the magnitude and urgency of the issues at hand.


Developing countries had made voluntary efforts to reduce emissions and their additional contributions should be supported by greater financial and technological transfers from Annex I countries, he said.  Last September, Brazil had organized a high-level meeting in Rio de Janeiro on sustainable development governance that aimed to take stock of future options on balancing economic, social and environmental concerns.  The meeting had noted the importance of the United Nations leading the process of improving international environmental governance, the institutional structure of which would only be effective after a clear mandate, stable financing and political authority had been established.


MICHELA BOVI ( San Marino) said progress on new and renewable energy sources was a key aspect of removing climate change-related obstacles to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  It was very important to share experiences on new and renewable energy sources at international conferences and to involve the participation of civil society and the private sector.  San Marino was outlining a national energy plan to effectively promote the use of environment-friendly, new and renewable sources of energy.  The new legislation would substantially modify the country’s energy and environmental habits and reduce its dependence on imported energy.


Desertification was also an issue of concern, she said, adding that water scarcity was an obstacle to poverty alleviation and socio-economic development.  Education for more sustainable water use as well as effective and efficient water-management strategies should be urgently introduced at all levels.  Social policies should be based on sustainable development, environmental education and respect for the planet’s resources.  The UNESCO report on threats posed by climate change to natural and cultural sites on the Word Heritage list provided significant examples of the planet’s deterioration and destabilization.  The preservation of those resources required immediate action.


IRENE TEMBO ( Zambia) said working towards the achievement of sustainable development was no longer an option but a prerequisite for survival.  The world needed an urgent transition from the industrial and high-consumption model of economic growth to a more ecologically-based model of development.  Failure to do so would be a recipe for disaster.  Zambia was disappointed at the failure to reach consensus at the fifteenth session of the Commission for Sustainable Development and urged all States to work towards a successful outcome at the sixteenth session.


As for the upcoming Bali conference, she suggested that there was a need to make financing mechanisms operational as well as to launch both the Adaptation Fund under the Kyoto Protocol and the Special Climate Change Fund.  There was a need to establish measures to ensure the participation of all countries in the Protocol’s market-based mechanisms.  Zambia also called upon developed countries to take the lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


ANA RADU ( Republic of Moldova) said her country, a non-Annex I party to the Climate Change Convention, had reduced industrial-sector emissions by more than 25 per cent in the last 15 years.  After joining the Convention, it had created its first National Commission with the aim of taking stock of greenhouse gas emissions and drafting an action plan to alleviate the impact of climate change on the environment and on socio-economic activities.  The next step was to identify how to expand the country’s most important economic sectors and promote renewable energy to further reduce emissions.


Underscoring the crucial importance of energy for sustainable development, poverty eradication and the Millennium Goals, she pointed out that her country was in transition to a market economy and lacked energy resources.  It was using biofuels, biomass and renewable energy obtained by pruning orchards and vineyards, as well as from vegetable residue, wheat straw, maize stalks and cobs, sunflower and tobacco stalks, and livestock.  Unfortunately only a few of the country’s regions had the favourable winds needed to develop wind energy resources.  Still, in the last decade, the 10-fold increase in energy resources had considerably fuelled interest in renewable energy sources.


The Republic of Moldova was in the process of harmonizing legislations and standards in line with the European Union, she said.  Its current priorities were implementing the European Union water framework directive, stopping biodiversity loss, managing obsolete organic pollutants, and effectively managing land.  Several projects were under way or being formed with the support of the Global Environment Facility, the World Bank, UNEP and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).


ALICE ARMANNI-SEQUI, Operations Liaison Officer, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said the Federation had advocated and worked at length to bridge the local and global by using its community-based network to reduce disaster risk.  In Central America, it had enhanced disaster- risk analysis, planning and action by publishing and disseminating a series of relevant handbooks in a project consistent with Priority 3 of the Hyogo Framework, which encouraged the use of knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience.


She said the Hyogo Framework’s emphasis on multistakeholder collaboration made it possible for organizations like IFRC to identify strongly with the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and proactively contribute to the achievement of its priorities.  On 9 October, IFRC had launched the Global Alliance on Disaster Reduction, an opportunity for members to join resources with expertise in confronting the humanitarian and development challenges posed by natural disasters.  Such collaboration was necessary in responding to the increased incidence of natural disasters and to weather changes and patterns.


IFRC and the World Meteorological Organization had created an International Early Warning Platform that would enhance the ability to forecast weather and prepare responses to weather-related hazards, she said.  The Federation had also participated in the Results-Management Council of the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction.  Natural disasters were rising at an alarming rate and IFRC had responded to 482 of them in 2006 compared with 287 in 2004.  Another record could be set in 2007.  The economic cost of disaster had been an estimated $35 billion in 2006, a figure that would likely double over the next five years. 


MOURAD BOUKADOUM ( Algeria) said Governments and United Nations bodies should implement the Millennium Goals with sustainable development as a goal in itself and poverty eradication as a challenge confronting the world.  Actions were needed that would make an impact on those challenges.  In addition, more visibility was needed to boost investment in rural and agricultural areas and ensure food security, among other things.  Poverty eradication, improved production systems, addressing patterns of over-consumption and protecting the natural-resource management necessary for social and economic development were critical elements for sustainable development.


He said his country had applied the principles of sustainable development in consolidating its economic growth and in its own National Agricultural Development Plan.  Algeria was working towards combating land degradation and bolstering food security and had followed up on commitments made in the Rio, Millennium and other Conventions.  The country had made efforts to protect its coastal regions and other areas from environmental degradation.  It was to be hoped that the international community would redouble its efforts to stop the destruction of biodiversity, and that a concerted fight would bring about development in a harmonious, real, sustainable and global way.


LILIT TOUTKHALIAN ( Armenia) said new and renewable energy sources were vital to her small, landlocked country.  In 2005, Armenia had adopted a strategy for energy security and independence based on the use of renewable and alternative energy sources, nuclear energy, diversification of sources and regional energy integration.  Lacking much fossil fuel, Armenia had considerable renewable energy sources like hydropower, wind power and solar energy and had created favourable conditions for their development, such as tax and customs privileges for imported equipment for constructing wind energy stations.


She said the Ministry of Energy, with technical assistance from the United States Agency for International Development, the Armenian Solaren company and the American National Laboratory for Renewable Energy, had developed the “Map of Armenia’s Wind Power”.  Its preliminary had shown sufficient wind power resources to create a wind power system that could produce more than 450 megawatts of energy.  The project would be implemented in the next 15 years.


Armenia also had great solar energy development, she continued, noting that some parts of the country enjoyed almost 2,800 hours of sun per year, well above the European average.  Solar energy use in the production of thermo and electric power could substantially reduce imported energy supplies.  Armenia had all the necessary experts and infrastructure to develop renewable energy technologies.  It had adopted energy laws as well as an energy-sector development strategy that identified the country’s needs for the next 15 to 20 years in order to prioritize the use of renewable resources, which could produce more than five billion kilowatts of power, four billion of which derived from hydropower sources.


VALÉRIE BRUELL MELCHIOR ( Monaco) said the principality had worked towards reducing emissions and the use of fossil fuels, introducing biofuels in its bus system, among other things.  The Government also supported a number of projects in Africa, including efforts to harness solar heating and provide electricity.  Partnering with UNEP, Monaco had launched a reforestation project, the “Campaign for a Billion Trees”, which would capture carbon dioxide in areas around the principality and combat global warming.


She said the principality supported UNEP, adding that the predictability of financial contributions to the agency and the expansion of its scientific expertise were key elements to its success in tackling environmental challenges.  It was to be hoped that the upcoming Year of Planet Earth in 2008 would mobilize citizens around the world to combat global issues.


FRANKLIN RANGEL (Venezuela) stressed that financing to address climate change should not focus on promoting bonus mechanisms for carbon emissions sales, which would only benefit developed countries, and expressed support for multilateral cooperation and solidarity in promoting the well-being of communities, in accordance with the principle of shared but differentiated responsibilities in addressing climate change and eradicating poverty.  Venezuela called on developed countries to invoke the political will to change unsustainable consumption and production patterns, while making good on their promises to devote 0.7 of gross domestic product to ODA and to guarantee clean transfers of technology without political conditions.


The Clean Development Mechanism must be completely modified, he emphasized, adding that it did not benefit developing countries.  It had become an economic incentive that exacerbated environmental crisis as well as current production and consumption without significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions from developed countries.  Desertification also contributed to poverty and called for strategies to benefit the affected communities.  Venezuela called for an increase in voluntary financial contributions to the Global Environmental Facility to help the countries most affected by desertification, deforestation and drought.


MARIA GUSTAVA (Mozambique), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said there had been an unprecedented increase in the number of natural disasters, the impact of which was felt more in developing countries, given their lack of human and technical resources to respond and adapt.  There was therefore a need for more decisive, sustained and systematic risk-reduction action through accelerated implementation of the Hyogo Framework and for strengthening national and local capacities.  Scientific and technical knowledge to build resilience to natural disasters must also be developed further.


Because of its long coastal line and climatic influences in the country, Mozambique was prone to different types of natural disasters, which hit the country cyclically, she said.  Its lack of adequate infrastructures such as dams, dykes and food conservation silos aggravated the impact of disasters, making their management a cross-cutting issue that formed an integral part of the Government’s agenda.  A Natural Disaster, Prevention and Mitigation Master Plan had been adopted in 2006, a year that had also seen the establishment of the National Operative Emergency Centre.  The positive impact of those actions had been noticeable during the recent floods, cyclones and high tides.


CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) said the greatest challenge was how to translate effectively the cross-cutting sustainable development agenda into all programmes and activities.  The challenge for Mexico was how to incorporate environmental sustainability into public policy and institute better coordination as part of the National Development Plan.  Development models that did not take climate change into account resulted in loss of biodiversity, air and water pollution, environmental and health degradation due to the mismanagement of chemical substances, and desertification.


He said the failure of the fifteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development to reach agreement on policy options and actions for the implementation of sustainable development objectives illustrated the need for a critical review of the Commission’s procedures in order to avoid duplication and the loss of its already limited financial resources.  Despite the lack of agreement, however, the Commission’s discussions had been substantive and should translate into a call for the strengthening of energy efficiency, renewable energy, adaptation and mitigation.


Already facing the adverse impact of climate change, Mexico was intensifying its mitigation policies and following the guidelines of its National Strategy, he said.  The Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism was not enough.  Mexico was committed to negotiate, under the aegis of the Climate Change Convention, a new, balanced and fair climate change regime, which should include sectoral approaches, intensity indicators, and a fund with clear, inclusive formulas to help overcome funding inefficiencies, as well as new international cooperation mechanisms to provide positive incentives to complement the national efforts of developing countries.


ROSELYN MAKHUMULA ( Malawi) said that despite positive emerging trends, more must be done to bring prosperity to many parts of the world, particularly Africa where poverty was appallingly high.  Malawi supported the consideration by the fifteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development of agriculture, rural development, land, drought and desertification, particularly with reference to Africa’s least developed countries.  Agriculture drove Malawi’s economy and provided the livelihood for most of its people.


Lauding the political will shown during the recent high-level event to combat the negative repercussions of climate change, she urged industrialized nations to take the lead in reducing carbon emissions and helping developing countries to invest in new low carbon emission technologies in line with the Climate Change Convention and the Kyoto Protocol.  Only then would developing countries be able to overcome the constraints identified during the fourteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development.  Malawi called for the provision to least developed countries of appropriate and affordable technologies, which were essential in the fight against deforestation and desertification, especially in rural Africa, where wood was the only source of energy.


NAWFAL AL-BAZRI ( Iraq) said environmental resources should be used for progress, not for wars and conflict.  Because of the conflict in Iraq, sustainable development was far off and would require time, effort and money as well as a comprehensive long-term strategy.  Regional plans were needed to promote clean technology, production, consumption and technology transfer.  There was also a need for medium- and long-term plans to ensure the sustainability of water, air and ground resources and to reduce poverty throughout Iraq, which suffered serious pollution due to radiation activities and conflict.  Many abandoned radioactive sites were open and easily accessible.  In 2004, UNEP and the Iraqi Ministry of the Environment had launched a radioactive waste recycling project financed by Japan to help rid the country of toxic, particularly, radioactive waste.


Iraq was working tirelessly to join the various international conventions on environmental matters, he said, noting that the country was now a State party to the United Nations Convention on wetlands.  It was also working to join the Climate Change Convention and the Convention to Combat Desertification, among others.  Iraq had launched the Compact on Iraq on 3 March, in which the United Nations played a major role, and the country expected the international community to keep its financial commitments to help integrate Iraq into the global economy.  Iraq was doing its part by trying to fight corruption, make the oil sector more efficient and strengthen State bodies.


FRANCIS K. BUTAGIRA ( Uganda) said the search for renewable energy, such as biofuels, had serious implications for trade, agriculture and food security.  A strong demand for ethanol and biodiesel was likely to keep crop prices high.  With a virtually guaranteed domestic market for the foreseeable future, farmers in developed countries would be less inclined to make concessions in the Doha Round of trade negotiations.  In particular, non-tariff barriers such as regulations on genetically modified crops would probably continue to restrict access to potential agricultural export markets.


Noting that his country was dealing with a state of emergency from flooding in the north and east, he said the transport and agriculture sectors were the most affected.  The economic and social impacts of the floods were a big setback for development, and rebuilding the resilience of communities at high risk was a priority.  At the international level, action must focus on enhancing the capacity of the United Nations for effective humanitarian assistance when responding to disasters.   It was also important to tackle the environmental, social and economic dimensions of environmental degradation in an integrated and balanced manner.


The international community had long since agreed to give developing countries the resources they needed for achieving the goals of sustainable development, he said.  What was lacking was the political will to do it.  Among urgently needed actions were financial and technical assistance to developing countries; political commitment to increase access to available environmentally friendly technologies; the development of more innovative technologies; and the engagement of the private sector as an essential partner.


ARMAN ISSETOV ( Kazakhstan) said that with sustainable development becoming one of the major goals in the global agenda, implementation of commitments, programmes and targets adopted at the World Summit on Sustainable Development was of paramount importance, and a commitment Kazakhstan held.  The country’s main priority was to avoid over-dependence on its oil and gas and minerals sector, and to use those natural assets to build a modern, diversified, highly technological, flexible and competitive economy with a high value-added component, as reflected in its National Strategy until 2030, and the recently adopted State Industrialization and Innovation Programme until 2015.  Diversification of the economy, introduction of international technical, financial and business standards, accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), promotion of corporate governance, and greater transparency and accountability, among other things, were main “drivers of the implementation of those strategies”.


He believed that in the interest of future generations, all countries had to continue to take practical actions to confront the threat of climate change and reduce emissions.  Developed countries had a critical role to play in providing support, both technological and financial, to developing countries in order for them to engage in mitigatory activities.  Energy efficiency was a critical factor for lowering energy consumption, reducing greenhouse gases and increasing industrial competitiveness.  In this regard, the introduction of environmentally sound and energy-effective models of production and consumption was very important for sustainable development.


MOHAMED ALAHRAF ( Libya) said the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 emphasized the need to address socio-economic development and environmental protection in a holistic manner and to provide a plan of action.  The General Assembly had adopted many resolutions to implement Agenda 21 and the World Summit on Sustainable Development.  Developed countries must increase financial resources to developing countries, especially in Africa, for sustainable development in rural areas, for agriculture and for efforts to combat land degradation, drought and desertification.  Despite good efforts, the progress reached was not on par with internationally-agreed targets, including the Millennium targets.  The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification was a response to one of the most important environmental challenges facing mankind.  It was necessary to enhance and strengthen objectives called for in the Convention and thus put an end to its negative effects.


By contributing financial resources, technology transfer and capacity building, developed countries could help developing nations implement land reclamation and socio-economic development programmes and natural resource protection projects, he continued.  The international community should support efforts of the UNDP in sustainable development.  Rural development made proper housing available to the poor.  He encouraged national strategies in that regard.  Sustainable development was an important objective.  Poverty was the world’s greatest challenge.  Rural agriculture development required greater investment to increase production, and trading partners that would contribute to food security in many countries.  He thanked the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) for setting up a commission for food security.  He supported African Union plans to achieve regional economic integration.


The Committee then paused in its consideration of sustainable development to hear the introduction of reports relating to its agenda item on the implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and the strengthening of the UN-HABITAT.


Introduction of Reports


ANNA KAJUMULO TIBAIJUKA, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN-HABITAT, introduced the report of that agency’s Governing Council on its twenty-first session (document A/62/8), the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of the UN-HABITAT (document A/62/219), and a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report on the coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document A/62/339).


She said an ambitious vision and robust road map for sustainable development had been the driving force behind UN-HABITAT’s Medium-term Strategic and Institutional Plan for 2008-2013, with the goal being a world where one out of every two women, men and children, who as of this year were living in urban areas, could gain access to decent housing, clean water and basic sanitation.  In an increasingly and rapidly urbanizing world, such a vision was critical to the attainment not only of the Habitat Agenda, but also of the Millennium Development Goals.  To bolster the development of land, infrastructure and basic services, UN-HABITAT had implemented an unprecedented financing programme, the Experimental Reimbursable Seeding Operations (ERSO), which for the first time enabled the United Nations system to support efforts by Member States to scale up slum upgrading and low-income housing initiatives through innovative financing mechanisms.


While 2007 marked a turning point in human history, with half the world’s populations living in cities, she said, one billion slum dwellers lived in life-threatening conditions and the urbanization of poverty had become the biggest development challenge.  In addition, cities were responsible for 75 per cent of global energy consumption and 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.  At the same time, there was a rising consensus that immediate adaptation measures were needed to reduce vulnerability to climate change.


Urbanization, urban poverty and climate change were inextricably linked and the way in which the world’s cities were planned, managed and lived in would largely determine the pace of global warming, she said.  Reducing the vulnerability of cities to the effects of climate change should be an opportunity to improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable urban dwellers, and for policymakers, planners and environmental specialists and citizens to join forces and place cities and urban issues at the forefront of the sustainable development agenda.


Asked by the representative of Brazil about data on Sao Paulo, Ms. TIBAIJUKA said UN-HABITAT was trying to generate city-level data and expressed regret at the lack of up-to-date data on Brazil’s largest city.  Hopefully, it would be fed into a global observatory when it became available.


BOUBACAR BOUREIMA ( Niger) said that since the Madrid Conference of Parties held in September, the 10-year strategic plan and framework to enhance implementation of the Convention to Combat Desertification (2008-2018) had permitted the international community to maintain momentum on that serious environmental menace.  Adequate and predictable resources and political will, among other things, were needed to give the Convention strength.


He said developing countries had limited financial capacity and technologies, and depended on development partners for assistance to realize their national and regional initiatives.  Drought and desertification were major concerns, along with other environmental issues.  Niger had adopted a National Plan for the Environment and Development as well as a Poverty Reduction Strategy.  But the country needed the international community’s assistance to turn those plans into instruments to fight desertification and climate change, and to realize the Millennium Goals.


Ms. AL-MANSOORI ( United Arab Emirates) said environmental protection was a main development priority for her country, which had invested in tourism facilities, water and maritime resources as part of its overall environmental strategy.  The United Arab Emirates had also invested in land conservation, reforestation, well drilling and national reserves as well as research and development in animal and fish resources and projects to preserve animals threatened by extinction.


She said her country had a zero-fuel policy in all industries and had adopted important measures to use natural gas, instead of diesel, and solar energy, one of the cleanest sources of energy.  Besides using energy to desalinate seawater, the country had created the first green city, which used only renewable energy.  It had spared no effort to preserve a healthy environment and study environmental standards in its use of appropriate construction materials and energy usage.


The fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recognized the United Arab Emirates for its remarkable contributions to environmental conservation and high environmental standards, he said.  The Government was promoting the use of better statistics to remedy deficiencies in environmental data.  Further, it was working with UNDP to strengthen human capacity and funding.  Industrialized countries were responsible for reducing their share of greenhouse gas emissions and financial and economic institutions should increase their assistance to developing countries.


PARK CHUN-KYOO ( Republic of Korea) said the international community should exchange best practices regarding sustainable development.  Countries should engage in voluntary peer review exercises, while simultaneously profiting from discussion forums and international organs such as the Commission on Sustainable Development.  Hopefully, the Commission’s next session would revitalize the tradition of building consensus in the sustainable development field.


Turning to climate change, he said he expected that the Bali Conference to be held in December would establish a road map for the post-2012 framework, by advancing efforts towards a low-carbon economy.  The future framework should be comprehensive yet flexible enough to allow all nations to enlist in a shared global effort.  The framework should touch on mitigation, adaptation, financing and technology.  A strengthened United Nations Environment Programme would help nations set priorities with a strong scientific base.


JOVAN MIRILOVIC, Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister of Serbia, aligning himself with the statement by the European Union, said air pollution was very high in countries belonging to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and seemed to contribute to the region’s shorter life expectancy.  Also, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions had increased, accompanied by a decline in biodiversity.  Concerned by those trends, Ministers participating at the conference on the environment for Europe had called for improved indicator-based environmental assessments.  They also confirmed the importance of establishing a sub-regional centre for climate change monitoring in Belgrade, whose importance was also confirmed at the fifteenth meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development.  It was, however, regrettable that the Commission could not agree on an international agreement on energy efficiency.  Hopefully, the position of negotiating groups would become more flexible at the next meeting. 


He said Serbia expected to adopt its sustainable development strategy in 2008, in discussion with the general public.  It also supported efforts to allocate more funds for sustainable development of mountain regions, such as through investments in nature and wildlife-based tourism.  As a party to the Carpathian Convention, Serbia would soon table a draft law in Parliament confirming the framework convention on the protection and sustainable development of the Carpathian mountains.  A bill to ratify the Convention against desertification in countries with serious drought and/or desertification, especially in Africa, had already been sent to Parliament and was expected to be adopted soon.  The Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCC had been ratified in September.


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