|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-third General Assembly
17th & 18th Meetings (AM & PM)
GLOBAL CRISES OFFER CHANCES TO USE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AS ENGINE FOR COMMON
PURPOSES, MEETING INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT GOALS, SECOND COMMITTEE TOLD
Today’s threatening global challenges offered great opportunities for the international community to make meaningful commitments and unite to meet internationally agreed development targets by using sustainable development as an engine for common purposes, several speakers said today as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) began its general discussion on sustainable development.
A genuine partnership for prosperity must be established to assure the main pillars of sustainable development -– economic growth, social development and environmental protection -- on a long-term basis, said Indonesia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). As countries strove to weather the current turmoil in the global markets, they must not neglect other problems. Sidelining the energy and food security crises, as well as climate change, so as to focus exclusively on the financial and economic storms would not result in a sustainable economic recovery. To ensure durable recovery, efforts must focus on long-term sustainable growth.
Bringing that to realization, however, would require reforms, he said, calling for an inclusive, transparent and fair international financial architecture to drive human- and green-centred development as a keystone of sound sustainable growth. Moreover, reforms should recognize that sustainable development could not thrive without food security. Meanwhile, States must continue with reforms to manage and prevent natural disasters from reversing years of gains in development. The focus must be on strengthening capacities, investing in disaster risk reduction, and predictable and stable financial instruments relating to disaster risk reduction.
Echoing those sentiments, the representative of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said action to address the multidimensional challenges of sustainable development must be taken simultaneously in relation to the three pillars. Further implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development required greater emphasis on sustainable patterns of consumption and production, with developed countries taking the lead, in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. The fundamental challenges identified at the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit remained and, in some cases, had worsened. The Rio-plus-20 Summit should provide the necessary political impetus for the range and level of action required to bridge the implementation gap.
Emphasizing that developmental needs could not be ignored, Singapore’s representative said sustainable development was all about ensuring that economic growth and development today were compatible with the ability of the next generation to meet their needs tomorrow. Countries could not turn a blind eye to the cost that progress could exact on the environment, which was already in a precarious condition. As States deliberated on their options, they should bear in mind that there was no single “silver bullet”, and that individual Governments must strike the right balance for themselves. In the current global economic slowdown, Member States should not be tempted to “put the development ahead of the sustainable”. Developed countries, in particular, should scrutinize their track records in meeting their targeted reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and consider seriously what they must do for a successful post-2012 climate change framework.
Similarly, France’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the very objective of sustainable development was ensuring that meeting current needs would not compromise progress for future generations. Loss of biodiversity went hand in hand with land degradation and climate change problems, and greater cooperation and coordination at global and national levels in those areas would contribute to sustainable development policies. Climate change unquestionably required a global response, and combating desertification must also rank among the international community’s top environmental policies. The present situation endangered the very existence of hundreds of millions of people, threatening to undermine the stability of the most fragile States, especially in Africa.
The representative of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of the least developed countries, said that while that category was the least responsible for climate change its members must, ironically, bear the major brunt of the consequences. They were ill-equipped to cope with the changing environmental circumstances, and, despite their high vulnerability, their particular needs were overlooked in international policy responses and solutions. Developed countries must make unilateral, meaningful and unconditional commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and advanced developing countries should make comparable commitments. A post-Kyoto agreement was necessary to protect the most vulnerable group of countries.
The Committee also heard the presentation of several sustainable development-related reports for its consideration. They were introduced by Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs; John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; Yvo De Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity; Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification; Habib El-Habr, Director of the United Nations Environment Programme Regional Office for West Asia; and Juanita Castaño, Chief of the United Nations Environment Programme New York Liaison Office (on behalf of UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner).
Also taking part in today’s debate were representatives of Kenya (on behalf of the African Group), Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group), United States, China, Belize (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Sudan, Colombia, Russian Federation, Morocco, Myanmar, Israel, Philippines, Namibia, Kazakhstan, Algeria, Japan, Ethiopia, Norway, Malawi, Libya, Maldives, Benin, Thailand, Belarus and Switzerland.
A representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also made a statement.
The Second Committee will meet again on Tuesday, 28 October, to conclude its debate on sustainable development and 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).
Committee members had before them the Secretary-General’s report on the Oil slick on Lebanese shores (document A/63/225), which charts progress in implementing General Assembly resolutions 61/194 and 62/188 on the 2006 oil spill and builds on information presented in the Secretary-General’s 2007 report on the subject.
The report states that the international community’s response has been swift, but it also notes the need for continued support for Lebanon by Member States and regional organizations, non-governmental organizations and the private sector in order to create an eastern Mediterranean oil spill restoration fund, and for adequate compensation by the Government of Israel.
Also before the Committee was a Letter dated 14 March 2008 from the Permanent Representative of the Sudan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary General (document A/63/66), which contains the Arab Ministerial Declaration on Climate Change adopted by the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment in December 2007. The Declaration constitutes a basis for future action and reflects the Arab position on how to address climate change concerns.
The Secretary-General’s report on Implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (document A/63/304) gives an update on strategic partnerships and other activities of Governments, the United Nations and major groups to advance implementation of sustainable development goals.
According to the report, multiple challenges arising from the food and energy crises, as well as climate change, are adversely affecting the most vulnerable populations and impeding progress towards attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development targets. There is an urgent need to help developing countries expand agricultural and food production, improve market access for their produce, and increase public- and private-sector investment in agriculture, agribusiness and rural development. Improving energy access for the 1.6 billion people without electricity and the 2.4 billion lacking modern energy services for cooking and heating is crucial for achieving the Millennium Goals.
The report calls for integrated, coordinated approaches to alleviate the impact of the crisis, urging stakeholders to deepen their commitments to sustainable development, on Governments to contribute to the Commission on Sustainable Development’s Trust Fund for Developing Countries, and on donor Governments and financial institutions to fund developing nations’ efforts to overcome barriers and constraints in agriculture, rural development, land drought, desertification and Africa.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on the Follow-up to and implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (document A/63/296), which highlights recent initiatives to mainstream and monitor implementation of the Mauritius Strategy into the development plans of small island developing States, including through regional and national action and international support from developed nations, international organizations and the United Nations system.
The report states that a one-day meeting for small island developing States held during the May 2008 review session of the Commission on Sustainable Development focused on challenges and constraints facing those States due to drought, desertification, sustainable land management, rural development and agriculture. Support for national sustainable development strategies in small island developing States will continue in the Pacific, and similar projects in other regions will be actively explored, as will implementation of the Mauritius Strategy.
Committee members also had before them the Secretary-General’s report titled Towards the sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea for present and future generations (document A/63/297), which provides an update of regional and international support for sustainable management of coastal and marine resources, disaster prevention, preparedness, mitigation, management, relief and recovery, as well as giving an account of national and regional activities to protect the Caribbean Sea from degradation and the loss of marine biodiversity as a result of pollution from ships, illegal dumping or the accidental release of hazardous waste and dangerous chemicals.
The Secretary-General’s report on the Implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (document A/63/351) notes that, in light of recent major disasters in Asia, more must be done to invest in and systematically implement disaster reduction. Disaster statistics, continued environmental degradation, climate change and the growth of unplanned urban areas illustrate the urgent need to scale up efforts and resources for implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters in order to reach its goal of substantially reducing disaster losses by 2015.
According to the report, the number of people killed by natural disasters is 13 times higher and the economic costs are double from July 2007 to June 2008 compared to the same period a year earlier. During that period, a total of 364 natural disasters, among them Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and the Sichuan earthquake in China, affected more than 212 million people. From 2000 to 2007, disasters related to hydro-meteorological hazards, particularly floods and storms, increased by 8.4 per cent annually on average, and their annual average cost exceeded $80 billion.
That trend points to a growing problem of increased vulnerability related to environmental degradation and other climate risks, particularly for the poorest countries, the report states, citing examples of countries, including Bangladesh and Iran, where disaster risk reduction, including response preparedness, has saved lives. While several donor countries are further integrating disaster risk reduction into their development and humanitarian funding programmes, resources for implementing the International Strategy are insufficient.
The report gives an overview of progress in implementing the International Strategy, in response to General Assembly resolutions 62/192, 61/199 and 61/200, and considers trends in disasters and disaster risks, and the development of coordination, guidance and resourcing through the International Strategy system.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on Products harmful to health and the environment (document A/63/76-E/2008/54), which contains the views of eight Member States -- Argentina, Australia, Finland, Guyana, India, Mexico, Philippines, and Switzerland –- as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), on the continued usefulness of the “Consolidated List of Products Whose Consumption and/or Sale Have Been Banned, Withdrawn, Severely Restricted or Not Approved by Governments”.
It concludes that, as noted in the 2007 triennial review of the list, the secretariats of legally binding chemical conventions signed in Rotterdam, Stockholm and Basel have been able to provide much more accessible and detailed information that could be included on the list, thereby rendering it redundant. The Secretary-General has already proposed that the list, currently issued by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, be issued instead by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO), which have substantive expertise on chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
According to the report, the lack of response from any relevant intergovernmental entity dealing with the issue, except FAO, and the few, and not particularly positive, responses from Member States, shows the list’s diminishing value compared to that of more than 20 years ago. The Economic and Social Council should consider recommending the elimination of the mandate of regularly updating the list, as contained in Assembly resolution 37/137 of 17 December 1982.
Also before members was the Secretary-General’s note on Implementation of United Nations environmental conventions (document A/63/294), which transmits the Report of the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference, held in Bali in 2007, and its follow-up, the report of the Secretary-General on implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa, and on the outcome of the observance of the International Year of Deserts and Desertification; and the report of the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The report of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change contains the outcome of the thirteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention and the third session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.
In his report on implementing the desertification Convention, the Secretary-General recommends that the General Assembly underline the importance of the Convention when addressing climate change issues, and envisage that the post-Kyoto arrangement duly takes into account the potential of land not only as a carbon storage reservoir, that the sustainable management of land contributes to adapting to climate change, mitigating its effects and strengthening the resilience of affected developing countries. Further, he suggests that the Assembly advocate for the Convention as a long-term instrument that the international community can use to produce more food for more people by reclaiming dry and degraded land.
In his report, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity recommends that the Assembly endorse the draft resolution submitted by the Conference of the Parties (decision IX/33, annex) and convene a special high-level event on the eve of the sixty-fifth Assembly session to mark the International Year of Biodiversity in 2010. The United Nations should fully support the event, and all Member States should observe the Year and establish national committees in that regard.
Also before the Committee was the Report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (document A/63/25) on the Council’s tenth special session, held from 20 to 22 February 2008.
A Letter dated 3 September 2008 from the Permanent Representative of Tajikistan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/63/347) transmits the Dushanbe Declaration, adopted at the close of the International Conference on Water-Related Disaster Reduction, held in Dushanbe from 27 to 28 June 2008.
A Letter dated 6 October 2008 from the Permanent Representative
of Namibia to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/C.2/63/3) transmits the Windhoek Ministerial Declaration on Development Cooperation with Middle-Income Countries, adopted at the Third International Conference on Development Cooperation with Middle-Income Countries, held in Windhoek from 4 to 6 August 2008.
Introduction of Reports
SHA ZUKANG, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the implementation of the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (document A/63/304); on the Follow-up to and implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (document A/63/296); and Towards the sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea for present and future generations (document A/63/297).
In a time of deepening globalization, he said, the national economies, financial systems and ecosystems of the world had never been more linked. That interconnectedness among the economic, social and natural worlds underpinned the three-pillar framework of sustainable development. To grow the global economy, address social inequities and protect ecosystems, it was imperative that States continue to implement an integrated, holistic strategy. The main themes of the report on Agenda 21 were the interconnectedness of the world and of the challenges ahead; the need for integrated solutions and broad participation in implementation; and the need for a more robust global partnership for development.
He said that while the global financial system must be stabilized, countries must also invest in the protection of ecosystems, which underpinned future prosperity; cleaner technologies, including cleaner energy technologies; plant science and agriculture; and future leaders -– supporting more education for sustainable development. It took financial, natural, technological, scientific, and human capital to achieve a sustainable world.
JOHN HOLMES, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (document A/63/351), saying its key message was that despite progress to reduce and mitigate natural disasters, the world was not on track to achieve the Hyogo Framework of Action. The loss of lives resulting from the impact of disasters continued to escalate. As compared with the previous report, the number of people killed was 13 times higher and the economic costs had doubled.
He said 147 countries had yet to establish national platforms to implement the Hyogo Framework and that 56 countries lacked official focal points in that regard. The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction was working closely with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and others to release a global assessment report on disaster reduction every two years. The next report would be launched in 2009 in Bahrain, and the Secretary-General was in the process of selecting a new Under-Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction.
YVO DE BOER, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, introduced the Convention’s report on the United Nations Climate Change Conference and its follow-up (document A/63/294), saying that, while progress had been made at the August negotiating session on climate change in Accra, Ghana, it was of critical importance that States parties move into the next stage of negotiations at and after the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznań, Poland, due to take place in six weeks. An enormous amount of work needed to be covered if the 2009 Conference in Copenhagen was to work well and be truly ambitious.
He said there were at least three political essentials to be met for an ambitious deal to be agreed in Copenhagen: clarity on the nature of commitments; clarity on how to mobilize the necessary financial resources for adaptation and mitigation; and clarity on the institutional arrangements needed to deliver on both adaptation and mitigation. The current global financial crisis was not a justification for delaying action on climate change. Clean industry and investment had proven that they offered secure and long-term profits and returns. The financial turmoil might actually be seen as an opportunity to deal in a fundamental manner with some of the closely related issues, while addressing both the financial and climate change crisis together.
AHMED DJOGHLAF, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, introduced the Convention’s report (document A/63/294), saying the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, held in May, had launched a new approach to addressing the loss of biodiversity, compounded by the potential effects of climate change. It provided an opportunity to build on the momentum made since the setting six years ago of the Millennium Goal on environmental sustainability, and to reduce substantially the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.
He said the decisions adopted by the Conference of the Parties and the Convention’s Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety ushered in a new era of enhanced commitment to and implementation of the three objectives of those agreements through the active engagement of all stakeholders. The General Assembly should bring its moral authority to bear so as to give impetus to the decisions already adopted and energize the United Nations to cooperate in preparation for the International Year of Biodiversity in 2010.
LUC GNACADJA, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa, and on the outcome of the observance of the International Year of Deserts and Desertification (document A/63/294).
Noting that land degradation was taking place in Europe, Asia and Central America, he said that, as a percentage of land affected, Central America was one of the most vulnerable, but Africa was still at the forefront. Research showed that by 2050, half of the world’s arable land would no longer be producing due to desertification. The challenge for States was not just to look at the atmosphere and say that climate change must be faced. Soil could make a difference in addressing climate change, and States must focus on both land and climate change to address it.
Given the intricate interrelationships linking climate change, biological diversity, land degradation, drought and desertification, the synergies among the three Rio Conventions were essential for their successful implementation, he said. The policy objectives were to utilize the ecosystem approach and services provided by them in the planning and implementation of policies, plans and programmes addressing the provisions of those three Conventions. The report enumerated a number of concrete actions aimed at delivery of the joint strategic objectives of raising public awareness, creating capacities, contributing to the improvement of the global environment, and fostering strong scientific backing for sustainable policies derived from their implementation.
HABIB EL-HABR, Director, United Nations Environment Programme Regional Office for West Asia, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the Oil slick on Lebanese shores (document A/63/225), saying it addressed the oil spill’s impact on human health, biodiversity, fisheries, tourism, Lebanese livelihoods and the Lebanese economy, as well as progress in providing financial and technical assistance to support the Government’s efforts to clean up Lebanon’s polluted shores and sea with a view to preserving its ecosystems.
In the report, he said, the Secretary-General commended the Lebanese Government’s ongoing efforts to address the impacts of the oil spill and urged the Israeli Government to take the necessary actions to assume responsibility for providing prompt and adequate compensation. The Secretary-General also commended the United Nations for its response to the emergency, and urged international and non-governmental organizations, as well as the private sector, to continue supporting Lebanon. Because the oil spill was not covered by any of the international oil spill compensation funds it merited special attention.
JUANITA CASTAÑO, Chief, United Nations Environment Programme New York Liaison Office, introduced the report of the UNEP Governing Council on its tenth special session (document A/63/25) on behalf of Executive Director Achim Steiner, noting that crises were often seen through the narrow lenses of immediate concerns, be it high food prices or high fuel prices, rather than through a broader perspective that took into account their interrelatedness with the environment. In considering solutions to address the current food and fuel challenges, for example, countries could not forget the impact that any initiative would have on the environment. States must learn to manage effectively the finite resources they held in trust for future generations. That was the very foundation of sustainable development.
She said UNEP was engaged with other United Nations agencies and stakeholders to address the challenges of climate change and the interrelatedness of poverty eradication, natural disaster risk reduction, and adaptation to climate change. Within the framework of the Medium-term Strategy 2010-2013, UNEP was focusing on six cross-cutting thematic priorities: climate change; disasters and conflicts; ecosystem management; environmental governance; harmful substances and hazardous waste; and resource efficiency and sustainable consumption and production.
Committee Vice-Chair ANDREI METELITSA ( Belarus) then drew attention of members to another report of the Secretary-General, on products harmful to health and the environment (document A/63/76-E/2008/54).
BYRON BLAKE (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said action to address the multidimensional challenges of sustainable development must be taken simultaneously in relation to economic development, social development and environmental protection. Further implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development required greater emphasis on sustainable patterns of consumption and production, with developed countries taking the lead in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. The fundamental challenges identified in Rio remained and, in some cases, had worsened. The Rio-plus-20 Summit should provide the necessary political impetus for the range and level of action required to bridge the implementation gap.
He said sea level rise, coral bleaching due to rising temperatures, and the increased frequency and intensity of severe weather events, including hurricanes and cyclones, were among the adverse impacts of climate change that were beyond the capacity of small island developing States to address effectively on their own. They underscored the vital need for support from the United Nations and the international community. The Group of 77 repeated its call for adequate resources to strengthen the Small Island Developing States Unit and revitalize the Small Island Developing States network (SIDSNet). It also supported the efforts of Caribbean States to gain international recognition for the Caribbean Sea as a special area in the context of sustainable development. The international community, including the United Nations, should help countries in the region with preservation and conservation.
While storms, droughts and floods were inevitable, they did not necessarily lead to humanitarian crises, and recognition of that fact was essential in disaster planning and mitigation, he said. Action should be aimed at the most vulnerable countries and populations and include the development of early warning systems, increasing preparedness and risk reduction. It was vitally important to achieve a successful and ambitious outcome of the ongoing negotiations under the Bali Action Plan. It was also crucial that developed countries participate in earnest in those negotiations and take the lead in addressing the implementation gap with respect to their historical responsibility to mitigate emissions, as called for under the Kyoto Protocol, and by facilitating adaptation by developing countries.
SÉBASTIEN HUA (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the very objective of sustainable development -– which should be implemented at all levels -- was ensuring that meeting current needs would not compromise progress for future generations. As implementation of the multiannual programme of work of the Commission on Sustainable Development neared its midpoint, the Commission should be further strengthened and improved so that it continued to deliver ambitious results towards poverty eradication, changing unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, as well as the protection and sustainable use of natural resources.
The world was currently not on track to meet the biodiversity targets established in Johannesburg in 2002 to significantly reduce the biodiversity loss by 2010. The European Union was deeply concerned by that unprecedented loss, and believed that vigorous efforts and further concrete action must be undertaken to achieve the global target. It was necessary to strengthen national conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, integrating, where applicable, as decided by the European development cooperation policy, those strategies and actions into development programmes. Loss of biodiversity went hand in hand with land degradation and climate change problems. Greater cooperation and coordination at global and national levels in those areas would contribute to facilitating sustainable development policies. There was also a need for an effective collaboration between the Rio Conventions in order to strengthen existing synergies among those issues.
Turning to climate change, he said it was one of the major challenges facing the planet and international community, posing serious risks to sustainable development, and putting the very existence of developing countries at risk, he said. It also made it more difficult to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. It unquestionably required a global response. Combating desertification must also rank among the international community’s top environmental policies, as the present situation endangered the very existence of hundreds of millions of people, and might undermine the stability of the most fragile States, especially in Africa. Further linking disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation would have many benefits with respect to policy coherence and the streamlining of integration efforts.
MUHAMMAD ALI SORCAR (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the least developed countries, said that while that category was the least responsible for climate change its members must ironically bear the major brunt of the consequences. They were ill-equipped to cope with the changing environmental circumstances, and, despite their high vulnerability, their particular needs were overlooked in international policy responses and solutions.
There was a need to build on the momentum resulting from the Bali Climate Change Conference so as to translate that unity into concrete action, he said. For a win-win outcome in Copenhagen, it was necessary to depoliticize the climate change discourse. Drastic measures were required to implement an ambitious cut of greenhouse gas emissions. Developed countries must make unilateral, meaningful and unconditional commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and advanced developing countries should make comparable commitments. A post-Kyoto agreement to protect the most vulnerable group of countries was necessary.
Stressing that adaptation was the key to survival and development, he said it would require national, regional and international resource mobilization. The post-Kyoto climate change agreement must not stifle the development potential of least developed countries. Development must be sustainable and environmentally friendly. Tens of billions of dollars were needed to meet adaptation needs, but the available sources of adaptation finance provided just a fraction of that amount. The least developed countries’ proposal that developed countries provide 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent of gross domestic product as new and additional funds to combat climate change deserved serious consideration. There was a need to ensure an equitable distribution of available resources and broaden the participation of least developed countries in the clean development mechanism.
A future climate change agreement must ensure that least developed countries and other vulnerable countries had access to eco-friendly and cost-effective technologies, he said. There should be a technology-transfer board, similar to the Adaptation Board, to facilitate technology transfer for sustainable development in least developed countries. Building resilience to natural disasters was critically important, as were well-concerted national, regional and global efforts. A substantial increase in investments in disaster risk reduction was urgently required to implement the Hyogo Framework for Action. Available resources for disaster risk reduction were woefully inadequate.
MARTY M. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and aligning himself with the Group of 77, said the world was at a challenging juncture. While efforts to stabilize food and fuel prices, as well as climate change, were beginning to take effect, an unprecedented global financial crisis had captured world attention. As countries strove to weather the financial and economic storm, they must not neglect other problems. Sidelining energy, food security, and climate change so as to focus only on the financial and economic crisis would not result in a sustainable economic recovery. To ensure the recovery was durable, efforts must focus on long-term sustainable growth. Advancing internationally agreed development targets, including the Millennium Development Goals, which embodied the ideals of sustainable development, formed the foundation for a durable global solution to the current downturn.
States must focus on strengthening the main pillars of sustainable development to ensure long-term economic growth, social development and environmental protection, he said. To do that, a genuine partnership for prosperity must be established. The business-as-usual attitude of sidelining environmental concerns had to be abandoned. A fresh approach to development in which environmental sustainability complemented rather than opposed development must be adopted. Bringing that to realization, however, required reforms. An inclusive, transparent and fair international financial architecture to drive human- and green-centred development was a keystone to sound sustainable growth. Moreover, reforms should recognize that sustainable development could not thrive without food security. A second Green Revolution was urgently needed to ensure global food security and promote rural prosperity.
Meanwhile, States must continue reforms to manage and prevent natural disasters from reversing years of gains in development, he said, adding that the focus must be on strengthening capacities, and investing in disaster risk reduction and predictable and stable financial instruments relating to disaster risk reduction. Reforms should also recognize the intricate interrelationships linking climate change, biological diversity, land degradation, drought and desertification. As such, the ASEAN region was deepening its cooperation on a wide range of activities, including combating transboundary environmental pollution and ensuring the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources. ASEAN had also agreed to explore the safe and sustainable use of alternative energies, such as hydropower, biofuels and solar power.
ZACHARY MUBURI-MUITA (Kenya), speaking on behalf of the Africa Group and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said integrated progress must be made in all three pillars of sustainable development. In light of new global crises, it was still crucial to finance sustainable development, and the African Group welcomed the focus by the sixteenth cycle of the Commission on Sustainable Development on the continent’s special needs. The stakes were high for the entire world, and the full and speedy implementation of commitments made at international forums was therefore essential. The Group also reiterated the call to developed countries to honour, in particular, commitments contained in the Barbados Programme of Action and the Mauritius Strategy to increase the level of financial and technical resources available to small island developing States.
Natural disasters were increasing, he noted, stressing the importance of implementing the provisions of the Hyogo Framework for Action and urging study and improvement of the capacities of developing countries to build up their resilience to disasters. To counter climate change, the Group supported the Climate Change Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. To combat desertification in African countries, it called for increased funding for the Desertification Convention. In the fight to maintain biodiversity while equitably sharing the benefits of genetic resources, it was vital to make progress on all three objectives of the Biodiversity Convention. To boost leadership of UNEP in all those areas, he expressed the hope that the latest medium-term plan would help streamline its activities, allow a better focus, and receive adequate resources along with capacity-building.
CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that although the financial crisis was a problem with immediate consequences, efforts to reduce social inequality must be strengthened at all levels, otherwise the inequality gap might grow and some achievements in poverty reduction might be reversed. As for biodiversity, 2010, the target year for reducing the rate of biodiversity loss, was two years away and there was a need to strengthen efforts and increase international cooperation at all levels in that regard. The Rio Group supported the road map for conclusion of the regime on access and benefit-sharing by the last Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. A successful agreement on that issue would not only support the three objectives of the Convention, but also help in poverty-eradication efforts.
Noting that desertification affected a quarter of the Latin American and Caribbean region, or some 5 million square kilometres, he said soil degradation was a serious problem linked to climate change. Desertification would exacerbate the vulnerability of communities and increase poverty and migration. The work of the desertification Convention and efforts to apply its Regional Implementation Annex for Latin America and the Caribbean must be supported. Climate change was among the most serious problems facing mankind, and one that no single country could solve on its own. The financial crisis was an opportunity to advance the fight against climate change, as it entailed investing in energy efficiency, promoting renewable energy sources and providing incentives to stimulate growth and the economy.
Extremely concerned by the yearly loss of lives and resources due to disasters, he said each disaster was a step backward from achieving the Millennium Development Goals and national development plans. Latin America and the Caribbean had been the second hardest-hit region last year. Given the existence of technologies for reducing the risk of disasters, there was a need to strengthen international cooperation on technology transfer. It was also important to promote the convergence of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction within national, regional and subregional disaster-management policies. The Rio Group was committed to strengthening the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.
MICHAEL SNOWDEN (United States), describing the work of the Commission on Sustainable Development as a real success story for the United Nations, said that by prioritizing and establishing clearly focused cycles, it had galvanized action and helped shape the agendas of a wide range of organizations worldwide. The current cycle -- focusing on agriculture, rural development, land, drought, desertification and Africa -– occurred at a time of heightened concern over food security. By emphasizing realistic, problem-solving activities, the Commission would help the global community improve food security in sustainable ways.
Given the Commission’s success, and in light of its schedule of cycles, he called for a close examination of the need for the Rio-plus-20 Summit. There were already many agreements governing ongoing efforts on sustainable development as well as commitments still in progress. Another summit could detract valuable attention from efforts to fulfil commitments and implement Agenda 21. It would have limited additional benefits, if any, and disrupt the Commission’s cycle or work linked to Agenda 21 that would end in 2017.
Instead, the focus should be on continuing progress towards fulfilling existing commitments and spending resources on action that directly produced results, he said. The work of UNEP and UNDP on the Poverty and Environment Initiative was an excellent example of leveraging expertise and effective partnering. It addressed sustainable development directly and built capacity on the ground. All recent positive developments, including the reorganization of UNEP and reform successes, were the initial results of efforts to improve environmental governance, which needed time to succeed.
LIU YUYIN ( China) said the recent turbulence in the international financial markets, the energy and food crises, and climate change had become major threats to world economic growth, posing new challenges to sustainable development. The international community must strengthen policy coordination, ensure food and energy security and maintain a sustained, stable and healthy economy in order to build an economic foundation for sustainable development. The international community must also continue to adhere to a holistic, balanced approach to development, promote coordinated economic and social advancement, ensure harmony between man and nature, and effectively address the issues of funding, technology and other means of implementation.
Developed countries, in particular, must take concrete steps to increase financing, reduce and cancel debt, curb trade protectionism, open their markets and transfer technology to developing countries, he said. The international community should pay attention to the special needs of small island developing States, strengthen cooperation and effectively implement the Mauritius Strategy. Financial assistance and technological transfer commitments must be honoured to enhance the capacity-building of small island developing States and help them achieve sustainable development.
Over the years, the Chinese Government had continuously deepened and broadened its cooperation with small island States, providing them with assistance to the best of its ability, he said. China stood ready to continue on that path. Disaster reduction must be given priority attention by all countries. The international community should continue to improve the disaster reduction and humanitarian relief cooperation mechanism; enhance natural disaster monitoring and early warming systems; strengthen developing countries’ capacity in disaster prevention, preparedness and reduction; ensure long-term, stable and predictable core funding for disaster reduction; and increase support for the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).
PAULETTE ELRINGTON (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, stressed CARICOM’s continuing commitment to ensuring that the General Assembly recognized the Caribbean Sea as a special area in the context of sustainable development. The proposal to have it recognized internationally as a special area within the context of sustainable development aimed to promote more effective regional collaboration around a particular regional resource, which was the base of much economic activity and social well-being in the region. The overall objective was to coordinate efforts to address sectoral issues relating to the holistic and integrated management of the Caribbean Sea.
She said the establishment of the Caribbean Sea Commission and the adoption of its plan of action had moved States to the point where decisive action by the General Assembly was necessary to ensure full implementation of a framework for cooperation towards the effective management of the Caribbean Sea, consistent with international law. CARICOM also placed heightened emphasis on the need for urgent action to help small island developing States address the worsening challenges resulting from the impact of climate change. The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season had been particularly devastating for them, with Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and Jamaica being the worst affected. CARICOM called on the entire international community to intensify efforts to provide, in a timely manner, much-needed humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to those countries.
The stakes could not be higher in negotiations currently under way in the Climate Change Convention, she said. Any outcome other than a comprehensive and ambitious global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide new, predictable and easily accessible financing for adaptation would be unacceptable to CARICOM and other small island developing States. The global financial crisis should not be used as an excuse for delaying action to address climate change. While CARICOM member States might have made a negligible contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, they nonetheless recognized a collective responsibility for mitigation. CARICOM supported renewable energy as an essential pillar of future mitigation, and encouraged the development of innovative mechanisms to support sustainable forest management.
NADIA OSMAN ( Sudan) said her country was very vulnerable to climate change and also faced pressing challenges to address national priorities of water sustainability, food security and health care. Its national plan of action was to identify activities to address climate change, with a focus on agriculture, water resources and public health. Its challenges included insufficient funding, weak institutional capacities, weak infrastructure and development.
The Sudan contributed less than 1 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but nevertheless it was doing its part to help reduce the global emission problem, she said. Climate change must be addressed within the three pillars of sustainable development -- economic development, social development and environmental protection -- and must be based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Developed countries also had a historical responsibility to work to cut emissions.
Noting that the least developed countries were recognized under article 4, paragraph 9 of the Climate Change Convention as the most vulnerable to climate change, she said that despite efforts made in accordance with the anti-desertification Convention, desertification remained a serious threat. The Sudan had been the sixteenth country to ratify that Convention and had acceded to the Convention on Biodiversity in 1995. As the largest country in Africa, it placed a high priority on maintaining biodiversity and had recently implemented a biodiversity action plan.
CLAUDIA BLUM (Colombia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China and Mexico and the Rio Group, said climate change constituted a global problem that should be confronted urgently under a fair and equitable perspective embodied by the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. A more decisive commitment on the part of developed countries was required, consistent with their historical responsibility. It was crucial to provide greater support to developing countries, which were more vulnerable to global warming and its impacts. The Committee should focus its work in the field of climate change on promoting the prevalence, autonomy and independence of the Climate Change Convention. Following the important decisions achieved in Bali, which had established a clear road map, States could not create side agendas.
The United Nations system had a relevant role to play in the area of the environment, she said, adding that there was a need for better-coordinated and more efficient international governance. In that regard, the work that the General Assembly could carry out to promote the strengthening of UNEP should be a priority. It was imperative to safeguard the appropriate balance among the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development. That approach was essential in order to produce outcomes that would benefit the present and future generations, while contributing effectively to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
SERGEY KONONUCHENKO ( Russian Federation) commended the results of the Global Ministerial Environmental Forum of UNEP and described the Bali Plan of Action as a real step forward in the international process to address climate change. The meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol would make a worthwhile contribution to the post-Kyoto agreement. It was important to find international endeavours to improve biodiversity. The current food crisis had made discussions all the more important. The Russian Federation called on all States to do their utmost in the international development strategy.
It was important to prevent and manage the consequences of humanitarian emergencies resulting from natural disasters, he said. The United Nations International Strategy on Disaster Reduction must ensure that the dialogue was not politicized. It must establish good working relations between the disaster reduction platform and the General Assembly. The focus should be on developing capacity to forecast emergencies. There was an urgent need to strengthen early warning systems and damage assessments, and to mitigate natural disasters, exchange information and engage in training.
SAAD BENDOUROU ( Morocco) said sustainable development was a global concept with planetary dimensions, as well as economic, social and environmental implications. In pursuit of an environmental policy predicated on the concept of sustainable development, Morocco had undertaken major reforms with respect to protecting the environment, putting in place environmental and legal institutions. It had also instituted a law on water, and created a network to monitor water quality.
In agriculture, one of the major concerns remained the development of lasting sustainable development, in quality and as well as quantity, while safeguarding natural resources and protecting the environment, he said. The Government had also put in place a new irrigation strategy. Last April, Morocco had developed a “Green Plan”, which was a pragmatic strategy to modernize agriculture and improve farmers’ incomes, among other thing things.
Morocco was prone to climate and biological problems because of its geographic location, he said. Due to the impact of natural disasters on the country’s economic and social life, it had bolstered its natural disaster risk reduction strategy. The strategy complied with the spirit of the Hyogo Declaration, and was structured in accordance with the Declaration. Morocco viewed risk prevention as a shared responsibility between the State and its citizens.
U THAUNG TUN ( Myanmar), associating himself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said economic development, social development and environmental protection were interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars of sustainable development; one could not be achieved without the others. Sustainable development could not be attained without effectively addressing the problem of extreme poverty. Thus, the Myanmar Agenda 21 aimed to ensure environmental sustainability and incorporated sustainable development policy considerations into the decision-making and policy formulation processes of the economic and social sectors.
Noting that more than half his country was “forest-clad”, he said Myanmar’s forest policy, adopted in 1995, underlined the need for sustainable forest management without impairing production capacity. Therefore, remedial measures, such as an integrated land-use policy, increased reserve forests and legislative forestry protection, were employed to counter adverse effects on the country’s forests. Myanmar had also used high-methane-generating organic fertilizers and improved material in livestock feeds to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Describing Cyclone Nargis as the worst natural disaster to have hit his country in history, he said it had necessitated relief efforts from the United Nations Preparedness Control Committee, the Central Emergency Response Fund and the Tripartite Core Group, comprising of high-level representatives of the Government of Myanmar, ASEAN and the United Nations. The only way to address climate change was through concerted international actions, based on the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities. For developing countries, that would mean new and additional resources to enable them to cope with adaptation and mitigation measures.
ELI BEN-TURA ( Israel) said urgent action was needed to ensure environmental protection and combat climate change, which threatened the sustainable development of countries around the world. Exchanging lessons learned and best practices could boost efficiency and enable countries to incorporate sustainable development principles into their national development plans. The Commission on Sustainable Development could serve as a productive venue for those efforts, with increased intersessional activities rounding out its work in that field.
He said his country could serve as a source of available knowledge and expertise for collaboration and capacity-building with other States and regions. Israel was pursuing sustainable development in water management, but its water sector was challenged by the physical scarcity of regional resources. Competition among various consumers for natural water sources had often led to deterioration and depletion. Israel had developed various affordable water management resources based on the principle of sustainable development, such as water recycling, sewage reprocessing, and the production of fresh water via desalination.
Israel was considering initiating a forum on improving synergies between the three Rio conventions, he said. The forum would aim to lend insight to the issue of synergies, train professionals in their respective fields, and serve as a focal point for experts to exchange views in the three areas. In June, Israel’s Centre for International Cooperation had signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in agriculture with UNDP Africa. It would also sign a Partnership Framework Agreement with UNDP towards a partnership for implementing the Millennium Development Goals.
LOREN LEGARDA, Senator from the Philippines, associating herself with the Group of 77 and China and ASEAN, said that since the adoption of the Climate Change Convention, sustainable development had drawn attention to environmental problems. Yet, the increasing prevalence of climate risks, climate-related disasters and a growing vulnerability among its people made the Philippines’ sustainable development goals even more elusive. Nevertheless, the country had been a vigorous front runner in translating global agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Plan of Action, into concrete actions with tangible results.
The Philippines, together with the Group of 77 and China, had submitted proposals for more responsive financing and technology transfer mechanisms under the Bali Plan, she said. By those proposals, the country hoped to rectify climate-change funding, which was “unpredictable, inadequate and inconsistent”, with commitments under the Convention. Greater focus should be placed on adaptation rather than mitigation, as adapting entailed a proactive and preventive national strategy that built the resilience of communities.
Espousing a multisectoral and participatory approach to climate change, she said voluntary endeavours, such as “Green Philippines” -- an initiative to plant 10 million trees -- were under way. The challenge now was to sustain a strong focus on climate change. In the present time of global financial crisis, there was a real risk that the new-found awareness of and concern about climate change might be eclipsed. Thus, the Manila Call for Action of Parliamentarians on Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation, adopted just two weeks ago, was a commitment to advocate for policy changes on climate change at the national and international levels. The Philippines also looked forward to complying with the Hyogo Framework for Action, but it must be transformed into an internationally binding legal instrument. The Manila Declaration for Global Action on Gender in Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction, furthermore, called on Governments to comply with international commitments on gender equality and to pursue gender-responsive strategies.
FRIEDA N. ITHETE ( Namibia) said that in the context of new and emerging global challenges, such as the food and fuel crises and the turmoil in the global financial system, the achievement of sustainable development could be facing a bleak future. Land remained at the heart of sustainable development, and unless the United Nations in general, and the Committee in particular, advocated for intensified efforts to reclaim already degraded land when combating drought and desertification, the fight against poverty and hunger could be lost. The United Nations anti-desertification Convention was therefore a vital instrument that could make a significant contribution to the achievement of sustainable development and the attainment of internationally agreed development targets, including the Millennium Development Goals.
If fully implemented, the Convention could also contribute to efforts by countries that were vulnerable to climate change, such as Namibia, to adapt to the effects of climate change, she said. Heavy rains after prolonged and devastating droughts caused untold soil erosion, which led to land degradation, and eventually turned tracts of previously arable land into deserts. The Namibian Government had identified land degradation as a serious problem demanding remedial intervention. It recognized that integrated ecosystem-management strategies were needed to effectively address the underlying causes. When dealing with sustainable development, countries must bear in mind the interconnectedness of drought, desertification, climate change and biodiversity.
BYRGANYM AITIMOVA ( Kazakhstan) said poverty alleviation was an integral component of the successful transfer to sustainable development. Today’s challenges, including the food and energy crises and climate change, affected the world’s most marginalized groups. Given the worsening financial crisis, in particular, Kazakhstan was concerned that environmental issues might receive insufficient attention, despite the Secretary-General’s efforts to prioritize them. Kazakhstan was undertaking the necessary steps to mitigate crises internally by stabilizing food and fuel prices, especially by increasing agricultural production. Furthermore, the country would follow United Nations recommendations to align national solutions with the Millennium Development Goals, while mainstreaming environmental sustainability into all socially-oriented development policies.
Like never before, she said, the role of the United Nations as an intermediary between developing and industrialized countries, as well as the Breton Woods institutions, had become crucial in furthering development financing and the transfer of innovative technologies. Considering the critical importance of energy resources, sustaining the global energy balance had also become more important than ever. Kazakhstan was an increasingly important and reliable energy supplier, but the need to take “technological leaps” was integral to that role. At the international level, Kazakhstan had adopted a National Environmental Code, in line with international practice. Being both an Asian and European State, Kazakhstan had taken measures to bridge the gap between the two different continents into a “common Eurasian practice” of transitioning to sustainable development.
Expressing her country’s gratitude to the world community for helping it to overcome environmental disasters in the Aral Sea basin and at the Semipalatinsk Polygon, a former nuclear test site, she said the consequences of those disasters still negatively effected development. Thus, Kazakhstan appealed to Member States to support draft resolutions on the aforementioned crises during the current session of the General Assembly.
SCOTT LOH ( Singapore) said sustainable development was all about ensuring that economic growth and development today were compatible with the ability of the next generation to meet their needs tomorrow. The imperative of sustainable development had never been greater than today, as the world witnessed the largest wave of rural-to-urban migration in human history. The statistics were staggering: in 1900, only 16 of the world’s cities had had a population of one million; today, there were more than 400. By the end of 2008, for the first time in history, more than half the world’s population would reside in urban areas. The strain on resources and the acute challenges for sustainable development were tremendous. Moreover, for many cities in Asia, growth rates had outstripped the development of infrastructure and more than half a billion Asians currently lived in slums.
Developmental needs could not be ignored, he stressed. Just as obvious, countries could not turn a blind eye to the cost that progress could exact on the environment, which was already in a precarious position. As States deliberated on their options, they should bear in mind that there was no single “silver bullet”. Individual Governments must strike the right balance for themselves. In the current global economic slowdown, there might be a temptation to put development ahead of the sustainable. Singapore urged all Member States not to do that. Developed countries, in particular, should scrutinize their track records in meeting their targeted emission cuts and consider seriously what they must do for a successful post-2012 framework. If they could show real leadership on the issue, they would pave the way for other countries to volunteer their own emission targets.
BAYA BENSMAIL ( Algeria) said that despite the considerable progress made in implementing the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, the world’s vulnerable people still faced poverty, malnutrition, underdevelopment and health pandemics. The Secretary-General’s decision to set up a task force on the global food security, with the aim of scaling up agricultural production, was laudable.
Noting with satisfaction the progress made in implementing Agenda 21, she said the next session of the Commission on Sustainable Development should work to create a development strategy focusing on sustainable development’s three pillars -- eliminating poverty, changing modes of production and consumption, and protection and management of natural resources –- so as to improve living standards, particularly for the poor. Algeria was committed to advancing the Rio Principles.
She said her country’s sustainable rural development strategy since 2005 had been working at the institutional level to promote the role of the private sector in rural development. Algeria was also committed to fighting desertification, one of the greatest threats caused by climate change, and stressed the importance of implementing the Bali road map. The 2010-2020 period had been declared the Decade against Desertification and Algeria supported regional and interregional partnerships to face that challenge. It was to be hoped that the goals of the World Summit on Sustainable Development would be achieved. They were achievable, but the international community must step up its efforts to achieve them.
TAKESHI OSUGA ( Japan) said immediate actions were needed to deal with climate change. Japan had established the Cool Earth Partnership, which was funded with $10 billion and extended assistance to developing countries aiming to achieve emissions reductions and economic growth in a compatible manner. Japan also gave assistance to developing countries suffering the negative impacts of climate change, and nearly 60 of them had become partner countries thus far. Japan was determined to engage actively in assisting the efforts of developing countries through partnership programmes.
The global environment was an important issue that should be addressed from the perspective of sustainable development and human security, he said. To tackle the issue effectively, there was no doubt that international environmental governance must be strengthened further. While UNEP should play a central role in any new international governance architecture in the field, the question at the heart of the reform was how to make effective use of the knowledge and expertise accumulated within UNEP and existing multilateral environmental agreements by creating synergies and promoting coherence. The ultimate objective of the reform should be to mainstream the environment into United Nations system-wide activities, and to deliver related assistance not only to countries but also to communities and individuals in need. The promotion of education, public awareness and training was vitally important.
HIRUT ZEMENE (Ethiopia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, strongly supported the focus of the Secretary-General’s report on sustainable development, particularly helping developing countries expand agricultural production. Scaling up investments and technology transfer through the Global Environment Facility was also a key element of advancing adaptation and mitigation measures. Accordingly, the 10-year Strategic Framework of the anti-desertification Convention offered new opportunities to Ethiopia and other countries that were victims of natural calamities. A signatory to the Climate Change Convention and its Protocols, as well as the biodiversity and anti-desertification Conventions, Ethiopia had designed a National Action Plan for Environmental Protection. It was especially focused on reforestation, one of the themes of Ethiopia’s 2007 Millennium celebration.
She said the “all-too-cherished schemes” of the green revolution and alternative sources of energy focused on the former as one of the most important solutions to the food crisis, but the quest for alternative energy sources, including biofuels, was closely associated with the environment. Countries must strike the right balance between raising food production and seeking alternative energy sources. Ethiopia was experiencing conditions which affected biomass production patterns and general changes in habitats, but it lacked the capacity and financial resources to deal with such calamities. A critical focus was, therefore, raising the awareness of the rural population to combat desertification, enhance dryland farming and learn to use renewable energy. Equally important was educating all levels of society about the mechanisms available for mitigating environmental degradation and fostering the maintenance of biodiversity.
DANIEL HIRSCH (Norway), noting that climate change could seriously undermine efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, stressed the importance of ensuring that steps intended to address poverty and climate change were mutually reinforcing. The world could not choose between development and the environment. Developing countries had a right to develop, and to do that, they would require more energy. But the goal must be to achieve economic growth without increasing emissions, which would require greater emphasis on renewable energy and energy efficiency.
At the same time, it was important to be realistic, he said, adding that 30 to 50 years from now, the global energy mix would probably still be dominated by fossil fuels. Even with major technological breakthroughs in renewable energy, it was vital to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel production and use. Carbon capture and storage was one of the most promising technologies in that context. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), carbon capture and storage could ensure about 20 per cent of the global reductions in emissions that the world must achieve by 2050, about the same as cuts that could be expected to result from renewable energy. That option must be explored.
He said his country had embarked on an ambitious carbon capture and storage programme and was one of the few countries that already had significant practical experience in that area. Within a few years, Norway aimed to operate a full-scale carbon capture and storage facility. The developed world was particularly responsible for developing the technology and making it affordable. Action to stop deforestation could provide quick, relatively cost-effective emission reductions. Norway would allocate up to $500 million annually for a major greenhouse gas reduction initiative.
J. KALILANGWE ( Malawi) said the world faced many challenges, ranging from rising food and energy costs to poverty and hunger, rapid environmental degradation, climate change and global warming. The most affected were the least developed countries, whose economies were predominantly agro-based, as was that of Malawi. In that regard, the increasing prevalence of climate change and its negative effects on agricultural production was a matter of great concern to the Government of Malawi. Erratic rains, prolonged periods of drought and flash floods continued to adversely affect agricultural production and, consequently, the Government’s ability to scale up the sustained economic growth necessary to eradicate poverty and hunger.
While progress was being made in mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change at the international level, more needed to be done, particularly in doubling the financial and technical assistance given to help least developed countries fight climate change. Malawi called for adherence to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in the fight against climate change, given that the emission rate of greenhouse gases in those, including Malawi, was literally negligible. The Malawi Government was working in partnership with various development partners, including non-governmental and civil-society organizations, to address deforestation and desertification, conserving Malawi’s biodiversity and ecosystems, and protecting the environment. For example, the Government was implementing a special reforestation programme under which farmers were planting trees for carbon sequestration and other ecosystem-management services.
MOHAMED ALAHRAF ( Libya) said that in numerous resolutions, the General Assembly called for implementation of the goals and strategies set forth in Agenda 21 and at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. However, challenges in implementation remained. There was a need for financing and technology transfer to implement the commitments made in the Monterrey Consensus. The anti-desertification Convention was an important instrument to stem the loss of fertile lands, which was particularly harmful to developing countries. It was necessary to implement the 10-year Strategic Framework adopted by the Convention in order to put a stop to the adverse effects of desertification. Financial resources were required to implement plans for land reclamation and the necessary protection of natural resources. Libya was working towards that end by sharing lessons learned.
Underscoring the role of the United Nations in supporting sustainable development strategies, including through human resource development, he said the fourth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showed that the phenomenon was a reality. However, environment degradation could be stopped and concerted efforts were required to do that. Libya called for the building of capacity in developing countries and hoped progress would be achieved in implementing the Bali Plan of Action. It also stressed the importance of strategies to mitigate and manage the impact of climate change, and the need for international cooperation, exchanging experiences and developing early warning systems. Regarding the food and financial crises, they required international efforts and political will, which must be demonstrated at the seventeenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development. The session must work towards the development of effective policies in terms of agriculture, land conservation and development.
AHMED KHALEEL ( Maldives) said that although many small island developing States had made substantial strides in economic growth, social development and environmental conservation, their small size, isolation, susceptibility to natural disasters and ecological fragility meant such progress would always be precarious. Small island States were economically more vulnerable than other developing countries, largely because of their vulnerability to external shocks, dependence on international trade, and exposure to natural disasters. There was, therefore, no doubt that the current food, fuel and financial crises would have severe and widespread effects on the sustainable development of small island States and other vulnerable countries, such as least developed countries. Significant strains on their balance of payments and increases in inflation rates, amidst fears of a global recession, could hinder progress in attaining the internationally agreed development targets, including the Millennium Development Goals.
He said that despite significant development challenges owing to his country’s unique geography, small and widely dispersed population, and acute economic and environmental vulnerability, the Maldives had achieved an admirable level of socio-economic growth in the past three decades. A strong private sector-led economic performance had enabled the country to achieve one of the highest gross domestic product growth rates in South Asia. However, the Maldives and other small island developing States, while contributing least to global warming, saw their development, and their very existence, fundamentally threatened by global warming and its consequences. Addressing the injustices of climate change was an obligation of the entire international community. A comprehensive, rights-informed approach to sustainable and just development, anchored in the concept of common but differentiated responsibilities, was the logical and ethical way forward.
FERNANDE HOUNGBEDJI (Benin), noting the speed at which Western countries had been able to mobilize the political will and financial resources to mitigate the global financial crisis, said they must also address the energy and food crises as well as the climate change affecting developing countries. The solidarity shown in the Western world could and must be extended to benefit all mankind. Benin was confident that development partners would show unwavering commitment to the Rio Principles by strengthening its efforts to implement Agenda 21.
Expressing the hope that such efforts would continue to be made to help least developed countries implement the anti-desertification Convention, she said matters of desertification and biodiversity must be linked with climate change, energy needs, agricultural activities and demographics. Benin had an environmental plan of action that included sustainable development as an integral part, she said. Sustainable development required increasing political will as well as the judicial and equitable use of available resources. The World Summit on Sustainable Development had recognized that combating desertification would significantly contribute to reducing poverty.
She called for concerted action to reduce poverty and prevent environmental degradation, which would create opportunities for people to live more stable lives, and appealed for a scaling up of resources to implement the anti-desertification Convention. Benin hoped the 10-year Strategic Plan would pave the way for full implementation at all levels. Like other least developed countries, Benin was extremely vulnerable to climate change, which would probably increase in frequency, severity and degradation in arid and semi-arid regions. Developed countries must work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2012.
WORAPONG WARAMIT ( Thailand) said hundreds of millions of people had been affected by the eruption of more than 300 natural disasters in the past year. Although such natural phenomena could not be avoided, tragedies could be prevented and minimized with valuable assistance and support from developed countries to developing countries. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction could take part in linking and building international early warning system networks.
Climate change intensified the frequency and severity of natural disasters, and its impact hampered sustainable development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in developing countries, he said. Thailand, therefore, looked forward to the achievement of the first commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, as well as the agreed programme of work and action plan under the Bali road map to be adopted at the fourteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention. Moreover, sustainable development required concerted efforts and the participation of all stakeholders in a synergistic and inclusive manner.
States must also be mindful that most rural poor in developing countries earned their living in the agricultural sector and thus relied heavily on the fertility of natural resources, he said. Desertification, land degradation, floods and droughts were among the factors that trapped them in poverty. Thailand wished to encourage the strengthening of synergies at all levels of the Climate Change Convention, the anti-desertification Convention, and the Biodiversity Convention.
SERGEI RACHKOV ( Belarus) said his country had been the first to propose an amendment to Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol. That amendment had been adopted at the United Nations session on climate change in Nairobi, but only nine States had ratified it. Belarus called on all States parties to the Kyoto Protocol and representatives of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to take steps to conclude intra-State procedures for the amendment’s entry into force. Any post-Kyoto agreement must have more flexible mechanisms to allow States independently to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Otherwise there could be a recurrence of the current situation in which a State that was ready to take on such obligations was unable to do so due to bureaucratic hurdles.
He said that from 1996 to 2006, his country had been cutting greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the energy-expenditure component of gross domestic product, increasing the use of natural gas and broadly introducing energy-saving technologies. The Government of Belarus was implementing a national energy-savings programme for the period between 2006 and 2010. It was also implementing programme activities that would make it possible to reduce the energy component of gross domestic product in 2010. Further, it was introducing new technologies, including unconventional and renewable sources of energy. Belarus called for better ways to ensure the transfer of technology for energy efficiency and energy savings by the development of clear-cut standards, and for financial support for the introduction of new technologies. Belarus was also working on a proposal to hold a debate on technology and renewable energy resources during the next General Assembly.
THOMAS GASS ( Switzerland) said the Commission on Sustainable Development had the important task of making recommendations for overcoming the food crisis and minimising the risk of crises in the future. In many developing countries there was an urgent need to increase food production and invest more in rural and agricultural development. Regarding climate change, there was a need to implement the Bali road map and Action Plan, and Switzerland called on Governments to commit themselves to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Industrialized countries must make efforts to reduce emissions, and the international community must recognize that poorer countries -– often the most vulnerable to the harmful effects of climate change -– needed support.
He said the International Panel on Climate Change had established in its fourth report that all countries must adapt to the effects of climate change, and that putting the Kyoto Adaptation Fund into operation was an immediate priority. Although global warming was one of the main causes of climate change, other factors of vulnerability -- such as population growth, unchecked urbanization, the unsustainable use of space and damage to ecosystems -- must not be overlooked. It was also important to strengthen the mechanisms of the International Strategy, especially those aimed at reducing the risk of drought and increasing the security of food supplies. It was also important to strengthen UNEP so it could provide general guidelines and advice on policy, while continuing to play an important role in international environmental governance. Switzerland welcomed UNEP’s commitment to strengthen its results-based management and to promote a coherent international regime in the sphere of chemical products and hazardous waste. Its key competences and expertise in that area permitted it to make a substantial contribution to formulating the political framework for sustainable development.
GREG VICKERY, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the organization’s approach to sustainable development aimed to reduce and manage risk while increasing resilience at the community level. That approach was supported by Governments and other stakeholders by their adoption of the Declaration “Together for Humanity”, which expressed solid support for community programming and sustainable development, at the Thirtieth International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in November 2007.
Risk management, which should be part of every Government’s adaptation agenda, took many forms, particularly in light of the rapid increase in the number and intensity of extreme weather events, he said. Planting mangrove forests, as the Red Cross of Viet Nam had done, reduced vulnerability to high waves, wind and typhoons. In Nepal, the Red Cross Community Development Programme was addressing hygiene and health hazards and building the capacity of the most vulnerable, particularly women and children. By protecting people’s dignity and enabling them to contribute to their own prosperity, that work contributed directly to the race to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
He went on to stress that integrating risk management into the adaptation agenda would require changes not just in policy but also in mindset. In the humanitarian inter-agency community, there was a solid shared commitment to the Hyogo Framework for Action and the Federation was convening, with the participation of a number of United Nations and intergovernmental agencies, a task force to provide inputs on adaptation, disaster risk reduction and the overall humanitarian consequences of climate change, in preparation for Copenhagen in 2009. It would also be working to strengthen the process at Poznań, where it would seek a much stronger commitment from other actors to community-level support.
* *** *For information media • not an official record