|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
29th & 30th Meetings (AM & PM)
Some 400 Million People Could Join Ranks of Slum Dwellers by 2020 Unless Urgent
Action Is Taken to Reverse Trend, UN–Habitat Tells Second Committee
One out of every three people residing in cities around the globe lived in a slum, and unless the problem was dealt with, another 400 million people would join their ranks by 2020, Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today, as it continued its consideration of sustainable development.
Despite those dispiriting statistics, she expressed optimism, quoting President Barack Obama of the United States, who said that World Habitat Day gave the world an opportunity to raise awareness and offer ideas on how to make the planet a better place “for ourselves and our children”.
President Obama had also expressed commitment to work with the United Nations and international partners to help more families find safe and secure places in which to live, she said. It was encouraging that after many years in obscurity, the Habitat Agenda now received recognition from such high places, Ms. Tibaijuka said.
She made the remarks during an introductory statement on human settlement issues as she introduced a number of related reports for the Committee’s consideration. She said that climate change, compounded by the global economic crisis, had accelerated the rate of urbanization and presented further challenges.
A representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) agreed that climate change might cause mass displacement of people and that, consequently, there was a need to create comprehensive policies in that area. Member States must figure out additional funding in terms of migration and climate change, and close legal and operational gaps.
In negotiating a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, she said, it was to be hoped that the negotiators would take into account the humanitarian consequences of climate change, including provisions for protecting and assisting those who may move as a result. Addressing the interwoven challenges of climate change, environment and migration required a holistic approach covering all types of environmentally induced population movements.
With respect to sustainable development in Africa, Ethiopia’s representative said the continent had the world’s most fragile ecosystems and was extremely vulnerable to catastrophic events brought about by small changes in global temperatures. “ Africa will be hit first and will be hit the hardest,” he said, noting that intense and frequent droughts and flooding already caused havoc on the continent, threatening to reverse development gains. Worsening hunger, water shortages, desertification and diminishing agricultural yields were likely, he said, conjuring up a future characterized by massive migration and conflict over scarce resources. To mitigate those problems, a meaningful outcome at the upcoming Copenhagen Climate Conference was crucial. “The fate of our planet is indeed in our hands,” he said.
The representative of Côte d’Ivoire emphasized that “climate change is not a point of view -– it’s a reality”, adding that it was ironic that the developing world faced the gravest threat while it had contributed next to nothing in creating the problem. The impact of climate change would be felt most keenly in Africa, where it threatened to undermine attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. He said his country had begun several research projects to attenuate the effects of climate change, including investment in environmental research and a rigorous reforestation programme titled “ Forest for Everyone”.
Bolivia’s delegate warned that global greenhouse gas emissions would increase by 45 per cent by the year 2030 compared with 1990 levels. Deserts already comprised 40 per cent of the Earth’s surface and meteorological data showed that glaciers from Ecuador to Tierra del Fuego were shrinking rapidly. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) they would totally disappear in 20 to 30 years.
The representative of Barbados said that sustainable development was one of the most important priorities on the United Nations agenda. “The prospect of a world in which global temperatures rise by 2° Celsius is frightening,” he said, pointing out that at current levels, his country was already experiencing intense hurricanes, rising sea levels, coastal erosion, water stress, coral bleaching and many other threats.
Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, said the current rate of extinction was estimated at 1,000 times higher than the natural rate. “We may be on the brink of the sixth mass global extinction of species in the history of the world, and the first to be generated by human beings alone,” he warned. Citing estimates, he noted that if that rate of loss was unchecked, 1.3 billion hectares across the world -– about 1.5 times the size of the United States –- would completely lose its original biodiversity levels by 2050. To meet that challenge, countries must work together. He concluded by quoting an African proverb: “If you want to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
Mr. Djoghlaf also introduced the Secretary-General’s note on implementation of the environmental conventions, transmitting the reports of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa, and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
Also taking part in today’s discussion were representatives of Switzerland, Congo, Cuba, Austria, Venezuela, Syria, Israel, Cameroon, Japan, Sri Lanka, Iran, Malawi, Niger, Costa Rica, Russian Federation, Republic of Korea, Pakistan, Norway, Monaco, Bahrain, Sudan, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Myanmar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Zambia, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Australia and Malta.
A representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See also made a statement.
Representatives of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) also addressed delegates.
Introducing a number of draft resolutions for later action by the Committee were the representatives of Egypt, Azerbaijan, Sudan and the United States.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday 4 November, to conclude its debate on sustainable development.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met today to conclude its general discussion 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).
Before the Committee was the report of the United Nations Secretary-General 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), which describes the Programme’s progress over the last year towards institutional strengthening and activities to implement the Habitat II outcome. It identifies achievements and challenges, charts the way towards achieving sustainable urban development in an increasingly urbanized world, and provides an overview of the outcome of the twenty-second session of UN-Habitat’s Governing Council, including the recommendations emanating from its dialogue on affordable housing finance and the proposal that the General Assembly convene a third United Nations conference on housing and sustainable urban development in 2016.
The report (document A/64/260) discusses partnerships to attract investment in low-income housing; land and property rights of women as well as their access to finance; improving land and property administration; innovative housing finance mechanisms; and urban safety and the prevention of urban crime. In addition, it reviews progress on national, regional and global implementation of the Habitat Agenda and its 2008-2013 medium-term and strategic and institutional plan; the World Urban Forum; and the recently-created ministerial meetings on housing and urban development in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean. It also presents observations on United Nations financial and budgetary matters.
Also before the Committee was the Report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (document A/64/8) on the Council’s twenty-second special session, held from 30 March to 3 April and a note by the United Nations Secretary-General (document A/64/317) transmitting his report on Coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document E/2009/80).
The latter report presents an overview of major developments in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda during 2008 and the first half of 2009, and notes that increasing awareness on the part of the international community has led to a growing responsiveness to the relevant issues. The report also reviews the contributions of the strategic and institutional plan to the implementation of the Habitat Agenda within the context of system-wide reform. It concludes that in order to effectively follow up on these advances, the Economic and Social Council should make a “robust” decision to adopt and promote sustainable urbanization. The report calls for a third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development in 2016.
Introduction of Reports
AHMED DJOGHLAF, Executive Secretary, United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, introduced the United Nations Secretary-General’s note on implementation of the environmental conventions (document A/64/202), which transmits the reports of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (UNCCD), and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
Speaking about the upcoming International Year of Biodiversity, 2010, he said that if climate change was a problem, biodiversity formed part of the solution. Unprecedented biodiversity loss threatened the health of the planet with the current rate of extinction estimated at 1,000 times higher than the natural rate. “We may be on the brink of the sixth mass global extinction of species in the history of the world, and the first to be generated by human beings alone,” he warned.
Citing estimates, he said that if that rate of loss continued unimpeded, 1.3 billion hectares across the world -– about 1.5 times the size of the United States –- would completely lose its original biodiversity levels by 2050. To meet the challenge of biodiversity loss, countries must work together. He concluded by quoting an African proverb: “If you want to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
The Committee then continued its general discussion of sustainable development.
SÉGOLÈNE ADAM ( Switzerland) said a new high-level event on sustainable development could be an opportunity to give new impetus to common approaches and solutions for addressing pressing ecological, economic and social challenges. A clear, shared vision of the scope and expected outcome of the event were needed to ensure its success. A solid, constructive preparatory process must be put in place, she said.
The high-level event could assess implementation of the outcomes of previous major conferences on sustainable development, identify and address existing gaps in the international regime concerning environmental, economic and social challenges, critically assess the existing structures governing environment and sustainable development, and make proposals to improve efficiency in each of the three pillars of sustainable development. The preparatory process would be decisive for the potential success of a 2012 high-level event. It must be adequately fine-tuned to make the event transparent and inclusive.
The Commission on Sustainable Development was not the appropriate preparatory body for the high-level event, she said, noting that the Commission already had an established multi-year work programme. The importance of combating climate change and successfully concluding the ongoing negotiation process under the auspices of the UNFCC could not be overemphasized. Tangible progress in disaster risk reduction was needed as was implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action. The coming year would be important for combating biodiversity loss.
EMILE ANGE MILO MBOU-MYLONDO ( Congo) said climate change had been a subject of considerable reflection over the past few years but beyond talk, it was important not to dither. The upcoming Climate Conference in Copenhagen had the potential to fulfil expectations and become a milestone on the path towards sustainable development. Congo was particularly concerned about the preservation of forests and had joined the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD) because the Government realized that desertification could become a great problem. REDD represented the “cornerstone” of the partnership between Africa and developed countries.
Climate change compounded the problem of deforestation and could lead to catastrophe in Africa, he said, emphasizing that there was a growing awareness of the problem among African leaders. Countries must come together and work to develop a global policy response. They must also strengthen capacity-building through partnerships and increase the use of clean energy. Furthermore, the developed countries should lend their support to African agriculture, especially in light of the Millennium Development Goals. The international community in general should provide appropriate resources to aid sustainable development and protect the common heritage of humankind.
NADIESKA NAVARRO BARRO ( Cuba) said the Artic ice was melting at such a speed that the region would experience its first completely ice-free summer by the year 2040. Huge masses of ice in Greenland and the South American glaciers were melting daily and carbon dioxide was concentrating in the atmosphere at 380 parts per million, a level higher than the natural concentration of carbon dioxide over the last 650 years. The Institute for Spatial Studies of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) calculated that the planet’s average temperature had grown 0.8˚ Celsius since 1980.
The consumer society of the industrialized world was threatening the survival of humankind, she said. Phenomena such as global warming, sea-level rise, indiscriminate cutting of forests, attempts to use food as fuel for automobiles in rich countries, and the irrational use of water, were gravely threatening the planet. The worst was that if everything continued unchanged, the situation would become increasingly grave. Production and consumption patterns in developed countries were speeding up climate change, and those patterns must change.
Developing countries could not achieve the objectives of Agenda 21 when the developed world lacked the political will to transfer technology and resources for capacity-building, she continued. A greater focus was needed on genuine international cooperation, based on the principles of solidarity and mutual benefit, to implement Agenda 21, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the 2005 World Summit Outcome. International space for action must be established and the Copenhagen Summit could be an appropriate venue for that. Cuba also supported Brazil’s proposal to hold a conference in 2012 to commemorate 20 years since the Rio Summit.
TILAHUN WOLDEAREGAY ( Ethiopia) said there was no doubt that the entire world was impacted by climate change, adding that “ Africa will be hit first and will be hit the hardest”. With the most fragile ecosystems in the world, the continent was extremely vulnerable to catastrophic events brought on by only small changes in global temperatures. Intense and frequent droughts and floods already caused havoc in Africa, threatening to reverse development gains. Falling agricultural production, in addition to worsening hunger, water scarcity, desertification, massive migration and conflict over scarce resources, were among the anticipated problems.
He said his country was highly dependent on agriculture for its survival, adding that the sector was dominated by small farmers using rain-fed and traditional practices which made them extremely vulnerable to climate change and shifting rainfall patterns. Consequently, Ethiopia had experienced cycles of drought that brought poverty to many households and each year and worsened hardship.
To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change the international community must act collectively, he stressed, noting, however, that African countries would need both financial and technical help. Developed countries, which had created the crisis in the first place, should pay compensation to help the continent adapt. However, it was incumbent on all countries to ensure success at the upcoming Climate Conference in Copenhagen. “The fate of our planet is indeed in our hands,” he said in conclusion.
TILAHUN WOLDEAREGAY ( Ethiopia) said there was no doubt that the entire world was impacted by climate change, adding that “ Africa will be hit first and will be hit the hardest”. With the most fragile ecosystems in the world, the continent was extremely vulnerable to catastrophic events brought on by only small changes in global temperatures. Intense and frequent droughts and floods already caused havoc in Africa, threatening to reverse development gains. Falling agricultural production, in addition to worsening hunger, water scarcity, desertification, massive migration and conflict over scarce resources, were among the anticipated problems.
He said his country was highly dependent on agriculture for its survival, adding that the sector was dominated by small farmers using rain-fed and traditional practices, which made them extremely vulnerable to climate change and shifting rainfall patterns. Consequently, Ethiopia had experienced cycles of drought that brought poverty to many households each year and worsened hardship.
To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change, the international community must act collectively, he stressed, noting, however, that African countries would need both financial and technical help. Developed countries, which had created the crisis in the first place, should pay compensation to help the continent adapt. However, it was incumbent on all countries to ensure success at the upcoming Climate Conference in Copenhagen. “The fate of our planet is indeed in our hands,” he said in conclusion.
KURIAKOSE BHARANIKULANGARA, Observer for the Holy See, said the question of energy, both renewable and non-renewable, had become a key issue facing the international community. A durable and comprehensive energy strategy must be developed to meet the world’s needs in the short and long term, ensure energy security, protect health and environment, and establish concrete commitments to address the problems of climate change. The promotion of new and renewable sources of energy, besides being central to such a strategy, was of great importance in guaranteeing long-term comprehensive development, capable of extending to different areas of the planet.
Progress in the field of renewable energy was extremely important for poverty eradication, he said, adding that cooperation in that field should ultimately be oriented towards poverty alleviation and be adjusted to economic and fiscal instruments, as well as to regional and international cooperation, information sharing, transfer of technology and best practice in the field. While developing countries had more than 40 per cent of installed renewable power capacity, more than 70 per cent of existing solar hot water capacity and 45 per cent of biofuel-production capacity, low-carbon technologies often incurred very high initial expenses.
Availability of and access to such technologies for poorer people was essential for development, he said. Improving access to energy required better infrastructure, which could be ensured by appropriate legal and institutional frameworks, requiring the involvement of local institutions, he said. Additionally, identifying appropriate resources should take into account the long‑term human and environmental costs. Common renewable-energy initiatives should also be based on “intergenerational justice” since today’s energy consumption patterns impacted future generations.
ALESSANDRO MOTTER, Liaison Officer, Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), noted that people were still divided on the matter of climate change. There were those who appreciated its dangers and wished to do something about it regardless of the cost, and those who worried about the bottom line and the short-term cost of action. How quickly they had forgotten the lessons of the Stern Report -- that the long-term cost of inaction would far outweigh the cost of action today. The fact that several parliaments had been supportive of strong carbon dioxide‑reduction commitments, often with interim targets, was laudable, but such agreement remained very contentious in several legislatures.
To help transcend political differences and mobilize parliaments worldwide on the issue, IPU had organized a major debate during its 120th Assembly in Addis Ababa, he said. During that debate, a resolution on “climate change, sustainable development, models and renewable energies” had emerged. It showed considerable consensus on several policy approaches. The resolution showed that much could be done to mitigate climate change simply by going for the so-called “low-hanging fruit” first -- cost-effective targets for which there was already considerable public support.
He said such targets included the achievement of greater efficiencies and conservation by re-thinking the urban landscape to facilitate public transit, home building codes to induce retrofitting, school curricula to educate people about the environment from a young age, and agricultural methods to apply universally methods like organic farming, among others. The resolution also recognized that a shift towards renewable energies and away from fossil fuels was essential to stemming climate change. That shift would require active Government participation and more investment in research on and development of new technologies.
ANKE STRAUSS, International Organization for Migration, said rising sea levels, deforestation and natural disasters had impacts on where people lived, on food production and health. There was a risk that climate change would prompt mass displacement of people, both internally and internationally. Consequently, there was a need to address existing gaps in policy in that area, and it was necessary to build policy coherence on the national and international levels.
She said there was a need for dialogue among countries on how to close existing and future legal, operational and capacity gaps in terms of climate change and migration. It was also crucial to figure out how to allocate additional funding. The International Organization for Migration encouraged the development of a comprehensive and proactive approach to the problem, which should be considered in the context of human security. It was critically important to understand that environmental migration was a challenge with many dimensions and therefore required an interdisciplinary approach.
In negotiating a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, she said, it was to be hoped that the negotiators would take into account the humanitarian consequences of climate change, including provisions for protecting and assisting those who may move as a result. Addressing the interwoven challenges of climate change, environment, and migration required a holistic approach covering all types of environmentally-induced population movements. Regional and global cooperation was needed, not just to reach across countries, but also across disciplines, incorporating climate science, geography, migration, development studies and health. For its part the International Organization for Migration would continue working to develop a comprehensive and proactive approach to addressing the migration-related consequences of climate change from a human-security perspective.
MAUDE FROBERG, Communications Manager, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said mainstreaming disaster risk reduction into development work remained a top priority. A recent mapping project showed that 113 national societies had improved safety and resilience for 13 million in 2009 alone. Community-level action worked, she said, adding that because community members were the first to respond to disasters, they must have the power to make the right choices.
She said the need for climate-change adaptation was urgent, and the forthcoming Copenhagen Conference presented an opportunity to minimize human suffering. Governments must capitalize on the occasion and approach the negotiating table with forward-looking solutions. Disaster-response systems must be strengthened and climate-change adaptation must include risk reduction, preparedness and response. It should be fully integrated into longer-term risk reduction, sustainable development and poverty-reduction strategies.
Vulnerable communities could only survive if they received timely and clear‑weather information, she emphasized. The second session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction called for strengthening community-level action, and IFRC had taken that forward within its global network. She stressed the importance of strong partnerships with all stakeholders and the need for a significant increase in investments. Investing more today could reduce adaptation costs, which were estimated to have reached $250 billion per annum by 2020.
AMBER BARTH, Programme Officer, International Labour Organization (ILO) New York Office, said that against a backdrop of rising unemployment, poverty and inequality, as well as the collapse of enterprises and the retraction of global economic output, it might be tempting to forego investing in the economy until it rebounded. However, investing only in good times was a false dilemma and it was now time to redress that imbalance and recognize that investing in a green recovery was the beginning of a longer-term programme of structural change.
She said Governments and organizations representing employers and workers from ILO’s 183 member countries had adopted the Global Jobs Pact last June, urging a shift to a low-carbon, environmentally-friendly economy that would help to accelerate a job-rich recovery. ILO’s Programme on Green Jobs, which countries including China, India and Brazil had joined, recognized that action on climate change mitigation and adaptation would help in creating a high-employment economy that would reduce energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. The promotion of green jobs held the promise of a triple dividend: sustainable enterprises, poverty reduction and a job-centred economic recovery.
The myth that action on the environment was bad for jobs must be dispelled, she stressed, adding that well-designed, environment-related investments were beneficial for employment overall. The so-called “green sectors” could be expected to create more jobs than those lost in other sectors. Shifts in the labour-market structure leading to job losses would require coherent policies and direct investment to assist those losing jobs due to climate-change adaptation and those whose jobs might be lost in the transformation to a low-carbon economy. The concept of the social-protection floor would be a useful policy construct in the time of transition, and should be considered in Copenhagen. Where coherent sustainable policies had been established, hundreds of thousands of green jobs had been created, outweighing job losses in emission-intensive sectors. ILO encouraged broader and continuous efforts to put the world on track for a lasting recovery from crisis.
RICHARD KENNEDY, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), said renewable energy was becoming a global success story. A significant milestone had been reached in 2008 when added power capacity from renewable sources of energy in both the United States and the European Union had exceeded added power capacity from conventional power, including gas, coal, oil and nuclear. Renewables represented more than 50 per cent of total added capacity. That had been done by providing policy support to developing countries, by helping build the capacity of national institutions and personnel in the field of renewable energy for rural electrification and productive uses. Those activities had been informed by renewable-energy projects throughout the developing world.
The United Nations system had an important role to play in promoting energy access in developing countries, he said. UNIDO and United Nations Energy had recently been working with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Secretariat, West African countries and United Nations agencies to develop a large energy component for the GEF Strategic Programme for West Africa. The Vienna Energy Conference had highlighted the need for a comprehensive approach to energy, given the varying needs of countries and the importance of energy in addressing global climate change. A second conference, the Global Renewable Energy Forum, had been convened in Leon by the Government of Mexico and UNIDO, bringing together 2,500 policymakers, civil servants, scientists, non-governmental organization representatives and experts from more than 70 countries.
ANDREAS BRANDSTÄTTER (Austria) said that the June International Energy Conference titled “Towards an Integrated Energy Agenda Beyond 2020”, held in Vienna and organized by UNIDO, the Austrian Development Corporation and the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis, had brought together some 800 participants from 93 countries. Representing policymakers, civil servants, scientists, energy experts, United Nations Organizations and non-governmental organizations, they had discussed energy issues and related development challenges in the context of the global financial and economic crisis. The Conference had explored mechanisms for greater international cooperation and the role of the United Nations in energy.
He said the Conference had adopted several key recommendations. It had called for the creation of energy-development goals for energy access and set 2030 as the target year for achieving them. It had also developed a detailed implementation road map, with interim targets and milestones, and created mechanisms for the rapid dissemination of best practice and capacity-building. The Conference had called for the creation of energy-efficiency targets and mechanisms for identifying and disseminating best practices and capacity-building; identification of technologies needed to address climate change, energy access and other technologies to monitor developments; strengthening “UN-Energy”, chaired by UNIDO, and providing it with a support structure that could be based on the recently-launched Global Energy Assessment, among other things.
JORGE VALERO ( Venezuela) said his country had begun to develop a new economic development model based on sustainability, and its environmental dimension was based on protection and restoration, taking into account the specific characteristics of each region. The plan included a broad range of activities that were all in harmony with nature. Although Venezuela was an oil‑producing country, it had a very ambitious environmental agenda.
He said the global crises had been created by the effects of an irrational economic model, noting that not much was mentioned in the United Nations Secretary-General’s report about the true reason for the increase in oil prices, such as the speculative practices of the developed world. All countries had suffered the impact of climate change and although the developed world was mostly responsible for that calamity threatening humankind, those countries bearing the greatest responsibility still refused to take the necessary steps to mitigate the effects of climate change.
OSAMA ALI (Syria) said paragraph 4 of General Assembly resolution 63/211 on the oil slick on Lebanese shores called on Israel to assume responsibility for the damage to countries directly affected, cover the costs of environmental restoration and return the coastline to its original state. The United Nations Secretary-General’s report on the matter stated that Israel had yet to assume its responsibility and pay adequate compensation. However, it did not even mention that Israel musts assume its responsibility to pay prompt and efficient compensation to Syria.
The report did not fully reflect the mandate entrusted to it under paragraph 4 of Assembly resolution 63/211, which had been endorsed by the majority of Member States during the Assembly’s sixty-third session, he said. The report, issued pursuant to that Assembly resolution, was intended to closely consider mandates embodied in the resolution, which had been adopted after exhaustive and delicate negotiations, he said. Syria’s view on the report was included in document A/C.2/64/10, which stated that the Assembly should send a stern message to Israel that the Assembly rejected and condemned its irresponsible conduct. It should also state the Assembly’s request that Israel assume its responsibility for the environmental degradation caused by the spread of the oil slick.
URI RESNICK ( Israel) stressed the need for an effective and comprehensive strategy to address the challenge of sustainable development, adding that his country had learned from its own experience the crucial role that agro-industrial innovation could play. Providing modern agricultural techniques to the hardest hit areas played a key part in any strategy to help developing countries achieve self-sustenance. Because of its arid climate conditions, Israel had gained much experience with agricultural research and development, especially with regard to the management of water and soil resources.
Noting that his country had devised novel methods which had enabled it to develop advanced agriculture in arid regions, he called for increased investment in continued research and development, and for the development of mechanisms to transfer and share knowledge. In Israel, scientists, Government institutions and the private sector worked side by side in a mutually-reinforcing cooperation that accounted for the country’s agro-technological advances. Israel remained firmly committed to sharing its knowledge and experience in the global effort to attain sustainable development.
ALAIN WILFRIED BIYA (Cameroon), aligning himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China as well as the Africa Group, said that a recent Conference of Parties to the anti-desertification Convention would be decisive in getting a legal instrument on that subject off the ground. It could also form part of the conclusions to emanate from the forthcoming Copenhagen Climate Conference. Legal instruments were inextricably linked to long-lasting development.
He said that, over the years, the Sahel zone had been deteriorating due to drought and growing farmland, although its soil was increasingly less fertile, all of which had caused a persistent decline in agricultural production over the past 20 years. Meanwhile, Lake Chad was rapidly drying up, which was becoming a cause for concern throughout the region.
A huge forest in the south of Cameroon was also posing further conservation and resource-extraction challenges, he said, adding that his country had initiated a national environmental- and forest-development plan to kick-start a regional reforestation campaign, encourage long-lasting and environmentally-friendly forest management, and monitor access to natural resources. Cameroon had joined a sub‑regional commission on Lake Chad and on Central African forests to launch a plan of action that would combat deforestation and desertification.
Hailing regional and international efforts to combat desertification and include sustainable-development strategies in national policy, he urged more international support on curbing water shortages. As for climate-change debate, he said it would only be fair for the international community to compensate developing countries that had made conservation efforts in that regard.
NORIHIRO OKUDA ( Japan) said that solving the problem of climate change would entail vast financial resources, in particular to support adaptation efforts by vulnerable developing countries and small island States. In that respect, Japan was prepared to provide more financial and technical assistance than in the past, in accordance with the progress of international negotiations. While public financial assistance and technology transfer were critically important, a mechanism must be created that would not only ensure the effective use of public funds, but also facilitate the flow of private investments to meet the financial needs of developing countries.
With respect to biodiversity he recalled that the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that 30 per cent of the planet’s species would be at increasing risk of extinction if the current global warming continued. The International Year of Biodiversity in 2010 was a good opportunity to re-ignite efforts to reduce the current rate of biodiversity loss. Japan was set to host the tenth Conference of Parties to the biodiversity Convention, and was committed to contributing fully to the establishment of ambitious, realistic and action-oriented post-2010 biodiversity targets.
Turning to disaster risk reduction, he said the subject constituted an important pillar of adaptation to climate change. The intensifying scale and frequency of hurricanes, floods and other water-related catastrophes were causing a serious threat to human security, in particular for the most vulnerable communities. The Hyogo Framework for Action must be further promoted and implemented as a useful guideline to increase the resilience of communities to natural disasters in general. Special consideration should also be given to the development of small island States, and least developed countries, in light of the negative effects of climate change.
CARLA ESPOSITO GUEVARA ( Bolivia) said that in the 20 years since the adoption of Agenda 21, very little had been achieved from the point of view of the South. Hunger was increasing in developing countries and the number of people living in extreme poverty would rise from 915 million to 1.2 billion in 2009, which was 55 million to 90 million more than the number anticipated before the economic crisis. Global greenhouse gas emissions would increase 45 per cent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. Deserts already comprised 40 per cent of the Earth’s surface, and there were 869 species on the list of endangered species.
Meteorological data showed that glaciers from Ecuador to Tierra del Fuego were shrinking fast, she continued, adding that they would totally disappear in 20 to 30 years, according to the IPCC. The current socio-economic model encouraged exploitative practices and the depredation of natural resources, and was destroying Mother Earth. There was no accounting that recognized that loss. Even greenhouse gas production was being turned into a lucrative market for speculation.
The climate change crisis showed the importance of the indigenous principles that human beings were part of an interdependent system of plants, animals and water requiring respect and care, she said. The 1982 World Charter on Nature and the 1992 Rio Declaration recognized that human beings were part of Mother Nature. Without the environmental pillar of sustainable development, the social and economic pillars could not exist. Nature had value in and of itself, independent of human beings. It placed life at the centre of development. Unbridled growth would eventually lead to disaster.
PALITHA KOHONA ( Sri Lanka) said climate change impacted everyone, especially developing countries, and a paradigm shift towards green development was needed. Although big industrialized countries were primarily responsible for carbon‑dioxide emissions, it was the small developing countries which were most vulnerable to changing weather patterns. Consequently, developed countries should off-set their carbon debt by financing adaptation costs in the developed world. The developed countries should also make bold cuts in emissions levels, based on per-capita emission criteria.
With regard to deforestation, he said appropriate incentives must be provided to help countries maintain their forests. Sri Lanka maintained a 20 per cent forest cover –- a resource that was open to exploitation -- and practical measures should be provided to preserve them. Sri Lanka called for a carbon value to be assigned to forests so that they could be traded in the global carbon market. As for disaster management, the country had made significant progress in developing a systemic and scientific approach after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which had devastated Sri Lanka.
AHMAD RAJABI ( Iran) said energy played a significant role in achieving sustainable development and was important for economic development. Clean, renewable energies could play an effective role in partially fulfilling demand for energy, rural development, job creation and environmental protection. According to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook, emissions and oil demand would continue to grow rapidly over the next decades even when taking into account the technological progress expected under existing policies, the diversification of energy resources and a shift to cleaner energy resources.
Global warming, climate change and huge droughts were serious threats to human life, he said, adding that renewable energy and rational use of fossil fuels were important options for tackling those challenges. Enormous investment was needed to bring new production capacity online and to build new, upgraded infrastructure in energy exploration, production, transportation, distribution and compensation. That would be particularly required to transport energy supplies to market, especially in the case of natural gas.
He said his country had taken steps to optimize energy consumption and promote hydropower as well as renewable-energy production and consumption. Iran encouraged the private sector to invest in new and renewable energies, provided subsidies, and supported manufacturers of technology development as well as university research on the subject. There was a need to diversify energy sources, to develop and transfer advanced and clean-energy technology, to deploy affordable and efficient technologies, to increase efficiency in energy infrastructure, and to ensure affordable technologies for oil-producing and exporting countries.
JENNIFER MJUWENI ( Malawi) said sustainable development was a central component of her country’s national development agenda, which was linked to internationally-agreed development targets, including the Millennium Goals. Within Malawi, however, poverty, population growth, urbanization, the spread of HIV/AIDS and serious environmental threats undermined sustainable development.
To combat poverty, she said, the international community must take into account the specific needs of each of the least developed countries, many of which -– like her own –- depended on a rural-based, rain-fed agriculture sector. Given that traditional form of agriculture, Malawi was particularly vulnerable to climate change, and the Government had sought to help small farmers develop sustainable agricultural practices.
Since climate change was inherently a global issue, it should be tackled in the context of the international sustainable development agenda, she said. Malawi hoped for success at the upcoming Climate Conference in Copenhagen as a global binding consensus was needed to confront the challenges ahead. In conclusion, she called for the developed countries to fulfil their official development assistance (ODA) commitments towards the least developed countries in terms of financial resources, technical expertise and environmentally-sound resources.
IBRAHIM SIDI OUMAR ( Niger) said desertification, climate change and biodiversity loss were real threats that spared no one and no nation. They were major obstacles to efforts by developing countries to achieve the Millennium Goals. Despite some progress since the Rio Summit, there was still a long way to go in that regard. Underscoring his country’s commitment to sustainable development, he said that because Niger was located in the heart of the Sahel, where desertification was spreading and soil quality poor, most of the population depended on natural resources for survival. Conservation of those resources was of crucial importance.
He said his country had signed and ratified all the Rio Conventions and the Government would make every effort to give them full effect. It had set up a National Environmental Council for Sustainable Development, which was responsible for coordinating and monitoring national policy. An Executive Secretariat had been established to prepare and implement the Council’s decisions. The Government has also created committees to address climate change, biodiversity loss and desertification.
The Government was taking vulnerability to climate change and adaptation very seriously, he said. It had set up a databank on greenhouse gas emissions and conducted a full report on socio-economic measures to adapt to climate change. It had also published articles on greenhouse gas emissions, and completed a study regarding the need to build capacity for mining, agriculture, water resources, sanitation, environmental conservation and combating desertification. It also had launched agricultural, forestry and land-grazing projects.
CHRISTOPHER HACKETT ( Barbados) described sustainable development as one of the most important priorities on the United Nations agenda. As a small island developing State, it was an imperative for his country given its small size and economic dependence on the environment. From the perspective of a country already affected by climate change, a rapid and coordinated response to the global economic crisis provided a good model for climate-change intervention, especially since climate change had already devastated millions of lives.
Additionally, adaptation costs -– estimated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at $86 billion -– were a mere fraction of the military expenditures of developed countries, he said. The money was available and it was just a question of establishing the right priorities. The upcoming Climate Conference in Copenhagen presented an opportunity to agree on an ambitious and comprehensive outcome that would protect the most vulnerable States. “The prospect of a world in which global temperatures rise by 2˚ C is frightening,” he said, noting that, at current levels, his country was already facing intense hurricanes, rising sea levels, coastal erosion, water stress, coral bleaching and many other threats.
JAIRO HERNANDEZ-MILIAN ( Costa Rica) said that one of the Committee’s goals was to achieve balanced and sustainable economic development, a difficult undertaking given the numerous challenges facing the world, including global warming and scarce resources. It was important to remember that it was the developing countries that were most at risk and crucial to introduce a new international order to transfer knowledge, resources and technology.
With regard to the upcoming Copenhagen Climate Conference, he said a successful outcome depended on the courage of each country. Costa Rica for one had sought to mitigate the effects of climate change by establishing ambitious goals and planned to be carbon-neutral by 2021. That goal had been made possible by the elimination of military spending, and already almost 100 per cent of Costa Rican energy consumption was drawn from “green” sources such as the sun, water and wind. It was important to confront present and future difficulties head-on because the world owed that to future generations.
MIKHAIL SAVOSTIANOV (Russian Federation) said the May session of the Commission on Sustainable Development had developed and adopted a set of important decisions aimed at ensuring sustainable agriculture as well as strategic decisions aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals, eliminating poverty and countering environmental deterioration. He lauded the key role played by UNEP in addressing global environmental challenges as well as the results of the twenty‑fifth session of its Governing Council. However, its capacity was far from being exhausted.
The United Nations Forum on Forests had contributed to the development of a sustainable forestry process, he said. The outcome of its eighth and ninth special meetings focused on key forestry-management issues that were useful in combating climate change. The Russian Federation supported the work of the Open‑ended Intergovernmental Expert Panel on seeking mutually-accepted solutions for long-term sustainable forestry management. The Russian Federation would continue to take steps to strengthen the ability of its forests to absorb carbon dioxide.
Stressing the importance of continuing to seek solutions to the global problem of maintaining biodiversity and combating desertification, he also underscored the importance of international cooperation in that regard. A global platform for reducing natural disasters was the most appropriate forum. While lauding the results of the second session of the Global Platform for Disaster Reduction, he warned against having climate change replace and marginalize other elements of the Hyogo Framework for Action. The Russian Federation supported balanced funding for the various Hyogo priorities, he said.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
The representative of Egypt then introduced a draft resolution on permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources (document A/C.2/64/L.12).
Under the Committee’s agenda item on information and communication technologies for development, the representative of Azerbaijan introduced a draft titled “Building connectivity through the Trans-Eurasian Information Superhighway” (document A/C.2/64/L.11).
The representative of Sudan, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, introduced a text titled “Development cooperation with middle-income countries” (document A/C.2/64/L.13) under the agenda item on globalization and interdependence, while the representative of the United States introduced a draft titled “Creation of a global culture of cybersecurity and taking stock of national efforts to protect critical information infrastructure” (document A/C.2/64/L.8).
Statement by Executive Director of UN-Habitat
ANNA KAJUMULO TIBAIJUKA, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), introduced the United Nations Secretary-General’s reports on implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and strengthening of UN-Habitat (document A/64/260); and on coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document E/2009/80); and the report on the twenty-second session of UNEP’s Governing Council (document A/64/8).
She said that while considerable progress had been made on the implementation of the Habitat Agenda, climate change, compounded by the economic crisis, had accelerated the rate of urbanization, presenting further challenges. About 1 billion people were currently living in slums and squatter settlements around the world, and the problem was most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, one out of every three people residing in cities lived in slums, and unless the problem was dealt with, another 400 million people would join their ranks by 2020.
Despite those dispiriting statistics, she expressed optimism and hope, quoting a message from President Barack Obama of the United States to the effect that World Habitat Day gave the world an opportunity to raise awareness and offer ideas about how to make the planet a better place “for ourselves and our children”. President Obama had also expressed commitment to working with the United Nations and international partners to help more families find a safe and secure place in which to live. It was encouraging that after many years in obscurity, the Habitat Agenda now received recognition from such high places.
With respect to the UNEP Governing Council’s twenty-second session, she said participants had taken some landmark decisions, including the resolutions on Cities and Climate Change, Guidelines for access to basic services for all, and a request that the General Assembly convene a third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III). A resolution on affordable housing finance was also another key decision.
With regard to the World Urban Forum, she said the most recent one had been held in Nanjing, China, in 2008, attracting 8,000 participants from 155 countries. And in a clear message to policymakers everywhere, the World Urban Forum had stressed the need to ensure that the urban poor did not get left behind. Also at the Nanjing event, UN-Habitat had launched State of the World’s Cities, a flagship biennial report which reviewed the direst problems facing cities and towns across the globe and identified viable approaches to urban planning.
Looking forward, she outlined three areas linked to rapid and chaotic urbanization: poverty and the Millennium Development Goals; price volatility of food, energy and water; and climate change. “These are the red warning lights, so to speak –- the battleground for sustainable development,” she said in conclusion.
SHIN BOO-NAM (Republic of Korea) said the international community must significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to ensure that global temperatures did not rise by more than 2° C. Every opportunity should be taken to build the political will to send the message that States were seeking solutions. To move climate negotiations forward, the Government of the Republic of Korea proposed the creation of a registry of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions for developing countries. It also planned to announce its mid-term emissions reduction goals for 2020, hoping that, as a non-Annex I country, it would set an example for developing nations to make meaningful contributions to emission reductions.
Emphasizing that low-carbon growth should complement sustainable development, he said that in implementing its vision for “low carbon, green growth”, his country was enacting the framework law on green growth and, under its five-year plan for green growth, would spend 2 per cent of annual gross domestic product (GDP) on green growth programmes. In the long-term, it would be imperative that States reduce their dependency on fossil-fuel energy sources.
Regarding water issues, drought and desertification, he said his country would host the Tenth Conference of Parties to the anti-desertification Convention in 2011. Effective water-resource management was critical to climate change adaptation and the United Nations should take a special interest. It was important to explore options for a specialized, unified water-management cooperation initiative, and to convene a high-level event on sustainable development in 2012, whose agenda should feature water issues.
ASAD M. KHAN ( Pakistan) said the urgent and immediate challenge for the international community was the successful conclusion of climate negotiations in Copenhagen by agreeing to a common vision for combating the threats posed by climate change. Such a globally-shared vision should be built around three principles, the first of which was the necessity for industrialized countries to first and foremost implement their emission-reductions commitments and agree to deeper mid-term and long-term targets to avoid a climate tipping point.
He said the second principle was the need to switch to low emissions and high-growth pathways in order to meet development and climate-change challenges in an integrated manner; and an agreement on the scale of financial resources needed to meet that challenge well as recognition of the critical role that public-sector contributions could play in that regard. The challenges of sustainable development had clearly become too large and acute for any one country to tackle on its own, he said, adding that the United Nations had a central role to play in that regard, particularly by advancing the global sustainable-development agenda to meet those and other emerging challenges in an increasingly-globalized world.
DANIEL HIRSCH ( Norway) said that even with the preparations for the Copenhagen Climate Conference, he was concerned about the pace of the negotiating process. Ambitious commitments on emission reductions and financing were crucial to the success of the Conference, yet there was a need for economy-wide reduction targets by all developed countries. The more advanced developing countries should take further actions that could be measured and reported and verified. Norway called for developed countries to take on a significant share towards additional financial resources for both adaptation and mitigation activities, and to that end, had proposed to extract resources from the carbon market by auctioning allowances. In establishing a new world-wide climate regime with incentives, development and deployment of carbon capture and storage technologies would occur on a global scale.
With regard to deforestation, which accounted for more than 17 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a successful response to global warming would only happen if it was addressed on a large scale, as forests were core components of ecosystem functions, protecting biodiversity and water sources. Norway would continue to fund the protection of forests as well as sustainable forest management in developing countries. Further, biodiversity was essential to reducing poverty and tackling climate change as food security was based on biological diversity. “Biodiversity is the wealth of the poor,” he stressed, noting that since 1993 his country had convened, with the United Nations, the Trondheim Conference on Biological Diversity. The next Conference would be held in February.
Regarding Brazil’s proposal to convene a high-level event in 2012 to review implementation of the Rio conventions, he said it would need to include an agenda that was forward-looking and focused, and one that should not overlap or undermine the work of the Commission on Sustainable Development or any other intergovernmental body. Norway called for the inclusion of two topics: green economy and water, which were not properly dealt with in existing international platforms.
VALERIE BRUELL-MELCHIOR ( Monaco) said her country was determined to invest in sustainable development as part of a long-standing tradition of respect for and protection of the environment. Prince Albert had fostered policies on national and international cooperation for environmental protection and Monaco was contributing to the sustainable management of natural resources. It had proposed ethical solutions for working together towards the common goal of improving living conditions for the most vulnerable populations. Its projects were focused on soil conservation, reforestation, biodiversity, energy efficiency, protection of tuna and coral reefs. They were aimed at giving full support to implementation of United Nations conventions on environmental conservation.
It was important to allow developing States to adapt to the harmful impact of climate change and to achieve the climate commitments in Copenhagen in the spirit of the Kyoto Protocol, she said. There must be the same ambition in 2010, which would be the International Year of Biological Diversity. The General Assembly should give new impetus to the tenth meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention in Japan in 2010. As Prince Albert had pointed out during the Assembly, sufficient financial aid must be given to developing countries. Agriculture, upon which women and local populations depended, must also be given the proper importance. Economic renewal must be green, she stressed.
HAMAD FAREED AHMED ( Bahrain), describing 2008 as a disastrous year, recalled that thousands of people had died in disasters which had affected 2 billion people. Disasters had caused untold damage, and it was necessary to find the resources to reduce their impact. Such catastrophes were most prevalent in low‑income developing countries, which needed technology transfer and early‑warning systems to predict and forecast danger so they could deal appropriately with hazards.
Adaptation must be part of local programmes, he said, expressing particular concern about the plight of small island developing States. Landlocked least developed countries also had particular challenges because they suffered from economic difficulties. Countries must be able to deal with disasters appropriately, through proper mitigation and adaptation. The international community must earmark the funds necessary to reduce the impact of disasters.
In May, Bahrain had held a meeting to consider the evaluation report on disaster reduction, which was published annually. The report had been drafted as part of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, and dealt with protecting lives and property from natural disasters. There was no doubt that its 20 recommendations had not been given enough attention, he said, calling upon States to take note of it. Bahrain had set up a centre for dealing with earthquakes and floods, and in June 2009, the country had held a forum on disaster reduction to promote international action to reduce risk. Bahrain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs had announced that a centre would be set up to combat disasters, with headquarters in Kuwait.
KAMAL BASHIR KHAIR ( Sudan) said the financial crisis and global economic slowdown had placed additional constraints on the ability of developing countries, particularly the least developed and African countries, to achieve growth while posing serious threats to the progress in sustainable development. Action to address the multidimensional challenges of sustainable development should be taken simultaneously with efforts targeting the three pillars of sustainable development -– economic development, social development and environmental protection. Those goals should be promoted in a complementary and consistent manner on the national, regional, and global levels.
He said his country was suffering the negative impacts of climate change and its inherently fragile ecosystem, on which the vast majority of its population depended, suffered from recurrent drought and floods. That had led to a pressing need to address the national priorities of food security, water supply and public health. Discussions in the context of sustainable development and environmental protection should therefore be held in an integrated, coordinated and balanced manner. The Climate Change Convention and its Kyoto Protocol remained the central multilateral framework for cooperative action to address climate change.
On the national level, he said, the overall goal of Sudan’s National Adaptation Plan of Action had been to identify urgent and immediate activities to address climate change and variability in the context of national development priorities. The action plan focused on agriculture, water resources and public health in order to address challenges and the country’s rapid population growth, which had risen from 14 million in 1973 to 40 million in 2009. Natural disasters also had negative effects on economic growth, social development and environmental protection. It also affected national production and productive assets, infrastructure, education, public health and natural resources, leading to unemployment, displacement, price hikes, environmental degradation and the spread of epidemic diseases.
BYRGANYM AITIMOVA ( Kazakhstan) said that on the international level her country had agreed, under the Pozan decision, not to exceed its 1992 greenhouse gas emissions during the years 2008 to 2012. Furthermore, Kazakhstan was a low‑carbon economy under Annex I to the Kyoto Protocol and was prepared to reduce emissions in the post-Kytoto framework. However, the country should define its own assigned amount units and be included in Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol. In doing so, Kazakhstan would be able to create a system for generating national quotas and prepare for the post-Kyoto regime. She requested support for Kazakhstan’s proposal regarding the inclusion of an amendment to Annex B on the provisional agenda for the Copenhagen Conference.
Referring to Copenhagen, she said her country shared “the common dream that the united world could use this opportunity to transform climate crisis into opportunity”. Kazakhstan’s delegation to the Conference planned to engage fully on core issues aimed at establishing comprehensive systems that would create a low-carbon environment in the post-Kyoto period. Kazakhstan offered to help develop an international adaptation system in which advanced countries with technological resources would participate in the implementation of the national adaptation strategies of developing countries. On the national level, the Government was working to improve existing technologies while incorporating alternative sources of energy. With great potential in renewable-energy sources such as the sun, wind and biomass, among others, Kazakhstan was preparing to establish regional centres for energy efficiency and renewable resources.
SERGEI SERGEEV ( Belarus) said that one priority for discussion must be the energy supplies of Member States, a large-scale issue which should be considered within the United Nations system. Belarus had made significant contributions to tackling climate change both domestically and globally, and had continually striven for a practical impact. More attention was paid to the problem of climate change these days and he praised the constructive proposals advanced by fellow Committee members.
With respect to the upcoming Copenhagen Conference, he expressed hope that the outcome would facilitate an international-cooperation regime for the post‑Kyoto period. A main focus should be expanding the number of participants in the discussion on climate change to ensure that it had a truly international character. Further research on new and renewable energies was also needed, and should be coordinated by the United Nations. Developing countries and those with economies in transition should have equal access to high-tech solutions.
U MYINT LWIN ( Myanmar) said that, like other developing countries, Myanmar had incorporated the principles of sustainable development into its development policies. It had adopted the Myanmar Agenda 21 in 1995, with the objective of achieving economic and social development while protecting the environment. Half of the country was covered with forests and overall national environmental policy was focused on the forest sector. A new forest policy had been adopted in 1995 to promote sustainable forest management.
To prevent deforestation, Myanmar was taking measures to counter adverse encroachment on forests for agriculture, housing and industry, he said. To deter uncontrolled use of fuel wood, plantations of fuel wood had been established in communities surrounding forest areas. Myanmar was focused on expanding agricultural production and rural development to reduce poverty and provide food security. It had expanded the acreage under cultivation through reclamation of fallow land, wetlands and virgin land.
The country had also encouraged double and mixed cropping, and given farmers the necessary inputs, including high-yield seeds and strains, agriculture loans and know-how, he said. Myanmar was implementing a Border Area Development Plan, 24 Special Development Zone Plans and an Integrated Rural Development Plan with a view to reducing poverty in remote-border areas that lagged behind other regions in development, in order to effectively address the disparity between urban and rural areas. The Government had also taken steps to develop the energy sector.
IVAN BARBALIC ( Bosnia and Herzegovina) called for an examination of how to enhance collaboration between developed and developing nations, and underlined the need for stronger support in capacity-building and technology transfer. It would be hard, if not impossible, for developing nations to combat climate change without the long-term international cooperation, which was relevant to both clean fossil fuel and renewable-energy technologies. It was also important to educate people on the “historic” push towards clean energy, and more resources should be committed to youth-education programmes. Bosnia and Herzegovina had signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol, but was not a State party to Annex 1 of the Climate Change Convention, and thus was not obliged to cut emissions in the first‑commitment period, 2008 to 2012.
As was known, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s hydropower-energy potential was huge, and more than half of its land was covered with forests, an excellent source of biomass energy, he said. According to 2007 research the country’s wind-energy potential was 900 to 2,000 megawatts. As for solar irradiation, the country was among the more favourable locations in Europe. Moreover, the Government had signed the Energy Community Treaty with nine other South-east European nations, its first post-1990s binding treaty, which would help foster the creation of a South-east European regional energy market, in line with the European Energy Market framework. It was clear that Bosnia and Herzegovina had a high potential to produce energy and was committed to developing renewable-energy sources.
HANNA PROROK ( Ukraine) said her country was particularly concerned about permanent environmental problems given its own history. Ukraine still struggled with lasting environmental problems from the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, which undermined sustainable development throughout the entire country. Climate change and its effects, such as extreme weather, had also affected Ukraine’s forestry and agriculture.
It was clear that climate change was the most pressing item on the international agenda, she said, praising the United Nations Secretary-General’s attention to the issue. She reiterated a proposal by President Victor Yushchenko to create an international document describing common norms and obligations on the environment. Ukraine itself had made substantial efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which it planned to reduce by 20 per cent by 2020 and 50 per cent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. But such reductions should be calculated differently for different countries, taking into account the relative prosperity or poverty of each.
WINNIE CHIBESAKUNDA ( Zambia) said the global crises were a wake-up call for all to change the development paradigm and follow a sustainable path that balanced social, economic and environmental imperatives. However, they should not be used as an excuse to divert attention from the sustainable-development agenda. The fate of Agenda 21 and the outcome of the Johannesburg World Summit were similar to those of other internationally-agreed initiatives in that there was weak implementation due to a lack of adequate and predictable financial resources, capacity-building and technology transfer, but the sustainable agenda was too delicate to ignore.
Calling upon the development community to keep the sustainable-development agenda alive by meeting the financial commitments to implementing the Millennium Development Goals, she said her country would not likely meet the Millennium target on environmental sustainability due to its population’s dependence on biomass energy. Zambia’s priority was therefore to mobilize international support to develop cleaner sources of energy, particularly since it had plentiful natural resources from which it could develop hydropower stations.
She said her country was committed to implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action, citing estimates that 75 per cent of all disasters in Zambia were attributable to weather conditions. She also voiced support for the outcome of the Windhoek High-Level Ministerial Declaration which addressed the theme of African agriculture in the twenty-first century, saying that the Zambian Government’s focus was to build capacity to assess vulnerability, early warning and emergency, as well as the integration of disaster-risk reduction into national planning.
MARIA TERESA MESQUITA PESSÔA ( Brazil) said the promotion of sustainable development was an overarching priority for attaining prosperity, social justice and environmental protection, thus guaranteeing peace and security. That was especially true in times of crisis like the current one. The integral concept of sustainable development continued to be the most relevant tool for setting priorities and devising policies to respond to the needs of human development.
Still, the thorough operationalization of sustainable development remained a challenge, she said, noting that while the process initiated less than three decades ago in Stockholm had led to an enhanced understanding of the development process, actual implementation had not followed. Globalization had failed to provide adequate answers to the challenges of sustainable development. The resources required to implement Agenda 21 had not materialized and the agenda for development as reflected in the Millennium Development Goals was threatened by the crises that the international community had by and large been unable to forestall.
She said efforts to implement the multilateral environmental agreements must be demonstrated with commitments in Copenhagen that were commensurate with common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities as well as historic responsibilities for emissions. Unless an international legally-binding regime for access and benefit sharing was finalized and the loss of biodiversity reversed, the seventh Millennium target, on attaining environmental sustainability, could not be attained. To achieve green growth or a green economy, it was essential to have adequate means of implementation, access to technology, reform of the Bretton Woods institutions geared towards promoting sustainable development, and promotion of international governance for sustainable development.
THEODORE DAH ( C ôte d’Ivoire), stressing that “climate change is not a point of view -– it’s a reality”, said it was ironic that the developing world faced the gravest threat while it had contributed next to nothing in creating the problem. Most keenly the impact of climate change would be felt in Africa, where it threatened to undermine attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. He said his country had begun several research projects to attenuate the effects of climate change, including investment in environmental research and a rigorous reforestation programme titled “ Forest for Everyone”.
Climate change was a developmental problem and it was important to increase financial flows to the developed world to mitigate its challenges. However, money for the fight against climate change should not replace ODA, but go hand in hand with that aid. With respect to the upcoming Copenhagen Conference, it was crucial to build cohesive strategies, and Côte d’Ivoire called for the creation of a financial framework for emerging economies to prepare for the effects of climate change. Every country had a different responsibility, but each also had a duty to act. Together, the international community must rethink its development model and create one that would meet the needs of the current generations without taking away opportunities for future generations.
SALEM ALDHANHANI (United Arab Emirates) said that, in light of figures indicating that 1.6 billion people in developing countries lacked access to modern energy services, and the direct impact of that on the environment and economy in those countries and the lives of their citizens, urgent action was needed to augment international efforts to confront those challenges, invest in new energy sources and promote wider, more sustainable use of renewable energy resources. Steps were also needed to ensure that the growing future demand for energy would not affect the development plans of many countries worldwide.
He said his country had depended primarily on oil as a main source of national income in promoting new and renewable sources of energy over the past decade. It had started using oil revenue to invest in enhanced energy efficiency programmes and sustainable energy sources through the exploitation of available natural renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, as well as water and geothermal sources. The Government of the United Arab Emirates had made the development of a renewable energy industry, including sustainable and efficient energy use, a top economic and environmental priority.
The Government had also set up a national committee on climate change and enacted several laws, regulations and practices to reduce the economic, social, and health implications of climate change. It was promoting awareness of the need for a clean environment and the concept of renewable energy in schools. Recently it had allocated $150 million for the Energy and Environment Research Fund. The Madar Initiative had emerged as the culmination of cooperation between the public and private sectors in promoting and investing in renewable energy sources, natural-resource conservation and application of pilot projects in clean technologies. That initiative included the building of the world’s largest hydro-energy production power plant for developing renewable energy sources.
ANNETTE ELLIS ( Australia) said durable development was linked to environmental sustainability and people in poverty were especially vulnerable to damaged environments. Development and urbanization had moved at such a high pace that they had had created environmental pressures. Among other things, water resources were growing scarce, land was degraded and some ecosystems were no longer able to support the demands of growing populations.
She said her country worked with its bilateral partners and the international community to address those challenges and had developed a strong national programme to reduce the detrimental impact on the environment. With less than five weeks to go before the Copenhagen Conference, the risks associated with climate change required urgent action. Member States should not compromise on their ambitions to restrain global warming to a maximum of 2° C or to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at 450 parts per million or lower. Bold decisions were needed and Australia encouraged other countries to work towards a meaningful outcome in December.
ADAM KUYMIZAKIS (Malta), emphasizing that sustainable development could not be addressed in isolation, said the threats of climate change were real and must be recognized as among the major challenges of the century. Like many small island States vulnerable to the negative impact of climate change, Malta was very conscious of the enormity of the challenges ahead. It was one of the few European Union member States not currently included in Annex 1 of the Climate Change Convention and had no emission targets under the Kyoto Protocol. As a symbol of its political commitment to that strategy, Malta had communicated in December 2008 its intention to join Annex 1, and submitted a formal proposal to that effect for consideration at the Copenhagen Conference. The Government aimed to achieve the goal of reducing by 20 per cent its carbon dioxide emissions by 2012, eight years ahead of the 2020 target year.
Malta was highly vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change, he said. As a Mediterranean country, it was in a transition zone between warm climate in the summer and milder climate in the winter. That had meant increasing temperatures, sea-level rise, changing precipitation patterns, water shortages, longer heat waves and an increase in intense weather. All of that could have serious repercussions on peoples’ health. Lower rainfall levels were expected to limit further the availability of water resources. The Government sought to improve the carbon footprint for water production by reducing system-wide demand through heavy investment in improvements to the distribution network and in the latest technology to improve energy efficiency of desalination facilities. New policies had been launched this year to reduce groundwater use to sustainable levels, and greater emphasis would be placed in the coming months on awareness-raising and education on water-saving measures.
MUNYARADZI CHENJE, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said the Executive Director welcomed the comprehensive report of the Joint Inspection Unit and the strategic nature of its contents and recommendations, which called on Member States to improve environmental governance and representation. At its twenty-fifth session in February 2009, the UNEP Governing Council had adopted a decision taking note of the report, as well as a complementary decision through which it had set up a regional representative group of ministers. That group’s mandate had been determined by the decision to present a set of options at the special session next February.
He said the United Nations could look more closely at broader reforms to address multiple challenges, such as in the context of capacity-building and the Bali Strategic Plan. The Executive Director supported the concept of a system-wide medium-term strategy for the environment. UNEP’s 2010-2013 medium-term strategy had been prepared as a tool to implement the programme. System-wide coherence was long overdue. Institutional changes and broad reform were not mutually exclusive, and could be addressed in tandem.
* *** *For information media • not an official record