Achieving green growth through better management of materials throughout their life cycle is central to this year’s session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-18) that began on 3 May, in New York.
H.E. Dr. Luis Alberto Ferraté Felice, the Chair of the Commission, noted that “sustainable development requires a transformation of values and principles that directly influence development strategies and lifestyles.” The meeting, he added, “will serve as the basis for mobilizing political will for identifying concrete policy actions and measures as well as partnerships to accelerate the implementation.”
Discussion at the opening focused on how best to maintain economic development while limiting the current consumption trends that cause environmental degradation.
Global consumption and production volumes are expected to continue to rise with demographic growth, severely straining ecosystems. Over 60 per cent of the world’s ecosystem services are being degraded or unsustainably used. Yet, the high rate of resource consumption has not been evenly shared. In 2005, 20 per cent of the population in the highest income countries accounted for 77 per cent of total consumption, while the poorest 20 per cent used only 1.3 per cent.
With this session, the Commission starts a new two-year cycle that will review themes of transport, chemicals, waste management, mining, and the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production.
Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, in his opening statement delivered by Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, said “We must work together on all these topics to ensure that policies and practices support sustainable lifestyles for growing populations.”
The highly volatile state of global energy markets, global financial crisis and the negative impacts of greenhouse gas emissions are all contributing factors for the challenges faced by the transportation sector.
Urging governments to promote chemical safety, Mr. Sha cautioned that “sound chemicals management is frequently accorded low priority, and is consequently under-resourced, with implications for the health and welfare of billions of people.”
He highlighted the serious environmental and social hazards faced by communities living near mining extraction sites, and noted that “adequate capacities are often lacking at national and local levels for planning and enforcing environmental, safety and health regulations.”
Noting that rapid growth and development in both urban and rural areas have increased high waste generation including industrial and hazardous wastes, Mr. Sha reminded the Commission that “the 3 R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – are the core ingredients for proper waste management both at the individual and global levels.”
They also “offer great potential to gain materials efficiency, and limit energy consumption. Recycling not only reduces the extraction and processing of natural resources, but also saves energy used for such activities,” he added.
The session will also discuss sustainable development in Small Island Developing Countries.
The Commission is expected to run till 14 May. This session is set to serve as the launching pad for discussions on the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) to be held in 2012 (Rio +20), preparations for which will take place immediately following the CSD, from 17-19 May 2010.