Sustainable resource use tops debate at key UN development body

Marine waste

13 May 2010 – Vital issues of transport, waste management, chemicals and mining are topping the agenda today of the annual gathering of the United Nations body promoting sustainable development.

The latest meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development in New York takes place amid growing concerns of the impact of unsustainable patterns of human consumption on the environment, climate, food, water and health, and seeks to help transform development strategies and lifestyles.

“The areas of focus at this session are integral to our overarching objectives,” including combating climate change and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said at the start of the event’s high-level segment, which kicked off yesterday with nearly half of the UN’s Member States in attendance.

She characterized the MDGs – the eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline – as a “commitment to the world’s most vulnerable people,” as well as a “moral and economic imperative.”

Global awareness of the concept of sustainable development is on the rise, the official said, with the concept of sustainability catching fire as a consumer buzzword.

She called on governments to promote the environmentally- and economically-friendly use of transport, waste management, chemicals and mining.

Sustainable consumption and production serve as “the foundation for any green economy,” Ms. Migiro said at the meeting, which is also being attended by representatives from more than 1,000 major groups and is slated to end tomorrow.

New reports issued by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) today warned that without intensified recycling, there will be insufficient amounts copper, aluminium and other critical metals for future use.

Global demand for metals – ranging from more common ones such as iron and copper to special, high-tech and rare earth metals – has doubled in the past two decades, and the agency expects this trend to continue.

Some metals, especially those in the commodity sector, are hardly ever recycled, but the recycling rates for others, including steel, hover at around 50 per cent, which shows that “our modern economy has proven that it is perfectly capable of developing a recycling economy around metals,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner told reporters today in New York.

With the world’s population soon to reach 9 billion, “the notion of re-using and recycling is an integral part of a different way of looking at natural resources in our planet,” he said.

The new reports – entitled Metals Recycling Rates and Metals in Society – offer “another perspective on how a transition towards a more resource-efficient, less-polluting economy is not only perfectly feasible,” Mr. Steiner said. “It is in fact essential.”

In another contribution to the sustainable discussion under way in New York, UNEP yesterday unveiled a new worldwide initiative to help tourism to reap environmental, social and economic benefits.

“The impacts of poorly managed tourism can be profound, damaging perhaps, even destroying, the natural and cultural attractions that tourists come to experience in the first place while contributing to global and regional challenges such as climate change and water scarcity,” Mr. Steiner said.

The Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism – a partnership between UNEP and the French Government – will identify successful schemes around the world and help to duplicate them in other places.

Dozens of other countries, organizations and UN agencies are also taking part in the new scheme, which will focus on areas including climate change, poverty alleviation and the preservation of cultural and natural heritage.


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