The Second Preparatory Meeting of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Side Event on UN-wide Contribution to Supporting Countries to Make a Transition

Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of The 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Colleagues,

It is my pleasure to participate in this event, in my capacity as Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio 2012).

I wish, first of all, to thank my colleague, Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP, for the invitation.

Mr. Steiner asked me to provide a few thoughts on how the UN’s work on green economies can contribute to the overall UNCSD process; and also to say a few words on the Green Economy Report recently published by UNEP.

Let me start with the latter.

I see the Green Economy report as an important substantive contribution to the preparations for Rio 2012. A key message of the report is that relatively small investments in strategic sectors, such as renewable energy… sustainable agriculture… energy efficiency in buildings and sustainable transport… and low carbon mobility, will lead to higher long-term growth and improved environmental outcomes. And we can do this with no negative impact on employment in the long run.

From the perspective of Rio 2012, the impact of a shift to a green economy on the poor is very important. The report also notes this, and finds that the poor would indeed benefit from a shift to a green economy. This is due to increased investments in basic services for the poor, as well as in the natural assets from which the poor often derive their livelihoods, such as agriculture, forests and fisheries,

Furthermore, it finds that the green economy is expected to create jobs in labour-intensive sectors.

Importantly, the report provides a price tag. Financial needs for investment in a green economy would only amount to some two percent of world output, per year, for the next 40 years.

To support developing countries as they transition to green economies, the report proposes the creation of an international fund, as well as other financing mechanisms.

One of the virtues of the Green Economy report is that it offers a benchmark for additional analytical and policy contributions, from both within and outside the UN system.

This brings me to my second point: how the UN system’s work on green economies can contribute to the UNCSD process.

As you know, the General Assembly resolution identified two themes: a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development.

What Member States expect from us, and expressed at the first meeting of the Preparatory Committee last May, is clarity on what the transition to a green economy will imply for development prospects, trade and the competitiveness of different countries.

What are the expected benefits and costs of transition, and how will they be distributed?

They would also like to know what international institutions such as those supporting trade and development assistance, including in the UN system, can do to facilitate an equitable transition.

As we progress towards the Conference, all the components of the UN system will be able to contribute additional studies and reports that explore these issues further.

The ultimate goal for the UN system should be the ability to present a concrete menu of policy options that assists all countries in the transition to a green economy.

I stress “a menu of policy options” as there is really no “one-size-fits-all” solution in this transition.

We also need to ensure that there is a supportive international policy and institutional framework in place.

I am encouraged that this effort has already started under the auspices of the UN Environment Management Group. I commend UNEP for convening the Issue Management Group on the Green Economy.

Through this group many UN organizations are collaborating on a report that addresses how the UN can support countries’ transition to a green economy. I look forward to the results later this year.

Let me also mention the joint study produced by DESA, UNEP and UNCTAD for this meeting of the Preparatory Committee, entitled “The Transition to a Green Economy: Benefits, Challenges and Risks from a Sustainable Development Perspective”.. While the views expressed in this report are those of the experts, we hope it will help shed new light on the interface of the green economy and macroeconomic policy.

Ultimately, transitioning to a global society that is more responsible and respectful of future generations in the use of natural resources, can only succeed if we all act together.

This is why, all voices should be heard.

The UN system has to lead by example. We need to be open-minded and explore new concepts, like the green economy, in all their dimensions and ramifications. We need to know if green economies can point the way towards achieving universal human development, while respecting the earth’s ecological limits.

As I see the level of interest and productivity in the UN system on this topic, I am optimistic about the outcome of the Conference.

Even if we may all come at it from different perspectives, we are all looking in the same direction.

I thank you for your attention.

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