29 April 2011
Economic and Social Council
ENV/DEV/1205

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

Background Release


United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development to Determine Options

 

for Managing Waste, Impacts of Growing Global Consumer Culture

 


Nineteenth Session, 2-13 May, Potentially Vital Building Block for ‘ Rio+20’


In its last session before the “Rio+20” Conference in 2012, the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development will meet from 2-13 May to recommend policy options aimed at promoting more efficient, equitable and safer use of the Earth’s resources.


The Commission’s decisions could provide the vital building blocks for next year’s Rio+20 meeting — formally the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — which will give countries an opportunity to move towards greening their economies while continuing their poverty reduction efforts.


With much of the world facing rising commodity prices and the increasingly negative impacts of soaring consumption, the 53-member Commission’s nineteenth session will consider policies to promote sustainable consumption and production, improve the safety of chemical usage, and enhance waste management, transport and mining practices.


According to Trends in Sustainable Development, a report issued by the Division for Sustainable Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the unsustainable — and inequitable — use of resources is already pushing many of the world’s ecosystems beyond the “tipping points” from which they cannot recover.  Climate change, biodiversity loss, increased land degradation and growing scarcity of fresh water resources are among the most immediate challenges.  Under a business-as-usual scenario, with 15 per cent of the world’s people using 50 per cent of its global resources, it is estimated that two planets would be required by 2030 to support the population.


Commission Chair László Borbély, Minister for Environment and Forests of Romania, said the tremendous impacts of recent crises “have highlighted the importance we must place on cooperation, consensus building, communication and the involvement of relevant stakeholders in policy decision-making in international fora”.  “Economic growth is the prerequisite for societal development,” he stressed. “Yet it need not be ‘development at all costs’ but one that is well balanced, that takes into consideration the environment and its resources, their capacity to regenerate, or the possibility of replacing them with other resources, reducing pressure on ecosystems.”


Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the issues under the Commission’s consideration are relevant to the concept of a green economy, and many of the challenges before the Commission relate to unsustainable urbanization.  “Within the next 50 years, many people living in extreme poverty will reside in mega-cities,” he noted.  “This will pose a huge challenge for municipal services such as transportation, water and sanitation and solid waste collection.”


Rio+20, to take place in June 2012, will mark the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of Agenda 21, the blueprint for sustainable development, agreed upon at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the “Earth Summit”), also held in Rio de Janeiro.  It will review the progress made since the Earth Summit and give countries an opportunity to determine the future of the Commission, which was established in the wake of that Conference.  The decision will be part of a larger discussion on how the global community will manage sustainable development and environmental challenges.


Close to 1,000 representatives of Governments, non-governmental organizations and other parts of civil society will attend the Commission’s two-week meeting in New York.  They will be joined in the second week by ministers attending the High-Level Segment, which begins on 11 May.  The ministers will participate in a “multi-stakeholder dialogue” and in ministerial round tables on the issues under consideration.


More information on the Commission’s nineteenth session can be found at www.un.org/esa/dsd.


Portions of the session will be webcast live at www.un.org/webcast.


Media representatives without United Nations credentials who wish to attend meetings should contact:  Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, United Nations Department of Public Information, tel.: +1 212 963 6934 or 6937; Fax: +1 212 963 4642; or website:  www.un.org/en/media/accreditation.


For further information or interviews, please contact:  Dan Shepard, Development Section, Department of Public Information, tel.: +1 212 963 9495; e‑mail:  mediainfo@un.org.


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For information media • not an official record