USG Sha Zukang and Sustainable Development – Rio+20
The Journey to Rio+20
“The challenge of implementation remains as daunting today, in the aftermath of the financial, food, and fuel crises and climate change,” said Mr. Sha Zukang as he reflected on the status of progress since the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, in Stockholm and the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.
In his statements to the Expert Meeting on the Green Economy in Geneva in October 2010 and to the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun in December 2010, Mr. Sha, speaking as Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD 2012 – Rio+20), reminded delegates of the journey already covered.
He explained that Rio+20 will focus on two themes: a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and an institutional framework for sustainable development.
“A green economy provides the missing entry point to accelerated progress;” he said, “it offers new avenues and opportunities for pursuing the integration of the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development.” Mr. Sha added that “there is general agreement that renewable energy and energy access are central to it.”
Looking to the future, Mr. Sha declared that “green economy approaches need to support sustainable growth if they are to advance development goals and eradicate poverty. Investments in green economic sectors need to be productive investments, creating decent jobs which offer paths to skill and knowledge development, capacity building and enhanced technological cooperation.”
Trade and Sustainable Development Implications
Turning the focus to trade, the Under-Secretary-General acknowledged the important role it has played in promoting global economic growth.”
“Trade is what greases the wheels of the global economy. Not only does it raise welfare of both producers and consumers – through higher wages and lower prices – but it also facilitates the transfer of technology,” Mr. Sha said, adding that “the question we ask ourselves today is how to ensure that trade greases the wheels of a green economy.”
Mr. Sha called for “an open multilateral trade regime with enhanced market access for developing countries,” saying this was “crucial both for accelerating their development and for ensuring the sustainability of that development.”
“The Earth Summit in 1992 first identified the linkages between trade, environment and development. Let’s now, with our 20 years of experience, assess how trade can support the transition to green economies,” Mr. Sha concluded.
Driving Change – the way forward
Mr. Sha addressed the Green Korea Conference in September 2010, commending Korea and China for having the foresight to implement economic stimulus packages that promoted green growth. He said these initiatives “represent true progress in the mindset of policy makers.”
“Perhaps the most significant way to advance change is through green policies,” said the Secretary-General of UNCSD, suggesting countries consider “the levying of taxes on unsustainable production and consumption patterns that cause pollution.” to “subsidize renewable energy projects.”
Mr Sha also urged governments and the private sector to “invest in research and development, especially with regard to energy initiatives” noting that “current expenditures, public and private, lag behind what is required.”
Looking ahead to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, he concluded that “the objective of the Conference is to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assessing the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and addressing new and emerging challenges.”
It takes the whole UN family
In his address at the high-level meeting involving the Principals of the Executive Committee of Economic and Social Affairs (ECESA) and of other relevant UN entities at UN Headquarters in November, Mr. Sha invited the whole UN family to be proactively involved in the preparatory process of Rio + 20.
“DESA needs the broad engagement from other secretariat Departments, Regional Commissions, Funds and Programmes and specialized agencies in order to provide effective, efficient and coordinated support for the preparation and organization of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20),” Mr Sha said.
Mr. Sha explained that collaboration within the UN has already led to specific initiatives. He said, “DESA, UNEP and UNCTAD have organized expert meetings on green economy, with inputs from other organizations, including ILO, IADB, and civil society and business stakeholders.”
Concluding his statement Mr Sha said, “We had gotten off to a good start and we will continue along the path of collaboration. It is no exaggeration to say that it takes the whole UN family to support a successful UN Conference on Sustainable Development.”