4 March 2011
General Assembly

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

Background Release

United Nations Hopes Rio 2012 Can Chart New Pathways to Green, Low-Carbon Economy

as Preparatory Committee Meets at Headquarters, 7-8 March


Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang called today for collective action to address rising social tensions, ecological pressures and economic crisis, as representatives from around the world gather to prepare for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, scheduled to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012, with a preparatory meeting in New York on 7-8 March.

“Rio 2012 will be one of the most important events in the coming decade,” said, Mr. Sha, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the Rio Conference.  “It is a response to the rude wake-up call received in 2008.  First the food and energy crises, then the financial collapse and then the prolonged global recession and mounting social tensions,” he added.  At Rio 2012, countries can agree on a range of smart policies needed to green the economy, promote jobs, advance clean energy and clean water, and ensure a more sustainable and fairer use of resources.

Mr. Sha said the problems are linked.  “We cannot address them one by one; we have to address them in an integrated manner, which means, of course, sustainable development,” he emphasized.  “The sad truth is that, despite two centuries of spectacular growth on our planet, we have failed to eradicate the scourge of poverty,” he added.  “If we continue on our current path, we will bequeath material and environmental poverty, not prosperity, to our children and grandchildren.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has described the present model for economic growth as a recipe for global disaster.  “It is a global suicide pact,” he said, calling for “revolutionary thinking” and action to lift people out of poverty while protecting the planet and ecosystems that support economic growth.

According to report by the Secretary-General, released ahead of the preparatory meeting, improving the quality of life, while conserving natural resources and protecting the planet, requires a shift to an economy that rests on sound ecological and social principles.  The report states that “the main challenge facing humanity now is to sustain the process of poverty eradication and development while shifting gears”.

Another Secretariat report, synthesizing the views of more than 100 Governments, civil society groups and United Nations agencies, indicates that sustainable development priorities over the next decade include “achieving the Millennium Development Goals and other development goals; securing a global agreement on climate change; a successful finalization of the Doha Development Round of trade negotiations; and promoting a global shift to a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication”.

Additionally, a recent report, Toward a Green Economy by the United Nations Environment Programme, found that greening the economy not only produces increases in wealth, but over a period of six years, produces higher rates of gross domestic product (GDP) growth.  It also found that there is a strong link between poverty eradication and improved maintenance of the natural environment as it provides direct benefits to the poor.

Preparations for Rio 2012

Intergovernmental consultations in the lead-up to the Conference started with the Preparatory Committee holding its first meeting in New York last May.  Countries are gathering again at United Nations Headquarters on 7-8 March for the Preparatory Committee’s second session, and the third will be held in Brazil in May 2012.

At next week’s Preparatory Committee meeting, countries will further refine expectations for the Conference, with a continued focus on the two main themes:  a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and the institutional framework for sustainable development.  Delegates are also expected to discuss a timetable for drafting a negotiating document.

Rio 2012 will take place 20 years after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the “Earth Summit”, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where countries adopted Agenda 21 – a blueprint for rethinking economic growth, better protecting and managing ecosystems and creating a safer, more prosperous future for all.

For more informationand documents, including a schedule of side events, please visit:  www.uncsd2012.org.

Media Contacts:  United Nations Department of Public Information — Dan Shepard, tel.:  +1 212 963 9495, e-mail:  shepard@un.org; Martina Donlon, tel.:  +1 212 963 6816, e-mail:  donlon@un.org; and Pragati Pascale, tel.:  +1 212 963 6870, e-mail:  pascale@un.org.

Media Accreditation and Access:  United Nations Department of Public Information, Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit — tel.:  +1 212 963 2318, fax:  +1 212 963 4642; online:  www.un.org/media/accreditation.

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For information media • not an official record