Green Economy: a Pathway to Sustainable Development

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

President of the General Assembly,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I want to start by thanking the President of the General Assembly for organizing today’s debate. It is timely and its rich discussion is a significant contribution to Rio+20.

During our deliberations, we assessed the usefulness of green economy in addressing old and new sustainable development challenges. We heard about important initiatives and new partnerships to accelerate innovation. We heard about the importance of the blue economy.

We also tried to answer a number of key questions: What are the common characteristics of green economy? What are the barriers to achieving green economy? How can a country transition to a green economy? How can green economy serve as a pathway to sustainable development? And how can we strengthen our knowledge base?

A number of positive messages have emerged: a green economy can create jobs, it can improve efficiency in resource use, and it can help restore vital ecosystems. If properly designed, policies for a green economy, including access to sustainable energy, can increase long-run growth, diminish poverty and improve welfare.

We also heard a number of concerns. How can we ensure that a green economy will not lead to new trade barriers? Will not widen technology gaps? Will not erode competitiveness? And how to ensure that it will not slow growth?

Several of you mentioned today specific priorities for agreement at Rio+20 in the area of a green economy. We heard reference to a target of universal access to sustainable energy by 2030, to building sustainable cities, to a blue economy and marine resources and ecosystems, to food security and the eradication of hunger, and to sustainable consumption and production patterns. We also were reminded of the importance of building green industries as developing countries aspire to industrialize. How can a green economy roadmap and strengthened cooperation mechanisms help us advance implementation in these and other critical areas of sustainable development and poverty eradication?

These answers will need to come from Member States. But I believe green economy should be an issue that can bring together all countries rather than divide them. Today’s debate shows that we must work together to ensure that a green economy is equitable, inclusive, that it promotes new markets for all countries but particularly developing countries and that mechanisms are in place to ensure the transfer of and affordable access to environmentally sound technologies.

If countries are serious about a green economy, which I believe we are, technology transfer, concessional finance, capacity building and market access are key issues to be tackled head-on. In many ways, green economy represents a departure from the conventional approach. It raises challenges to the human and institutional capacity, as well as resources, of developing countries. It is understandable that there are concerns over how to meet this challenge. Words alone cannot resolve these concerns. We need to demonstrate real political will and commitment to partnership to help developing countries overcome barriers and obstacles in transitioning to a green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development.

The preparatory process for Rio+20 offers an opportunity to seek answers to those questions and to identify orientations for policy reforms. We need to find out how new policies in support of green economy can more effectively promote sustainable consumption and production patterns. What are the lessons learned from efforts to internalize environmental costs in market prices? How can green economy open up markets and promote trade?

In the end, a green economy should achieve dual convergence: upward convergence in living standards and human development across the globe and downward convergence in “ecological footprints” in the impacts of our consumption and production patterns on the earth’s vital life support systems.

Building a global green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is a collective endeavor. It involves all of us: the international community, the public and private sectors, civil society, local governments, and all other actors.

In coming months we have far more work to do. The challenge will be to get all countries on board. The preparatory process will pick up its pace. As Conference Secretary- General, I wish to ensure that there is broad engagement and participation in the preparatory process, here in New York, and elsewhere in country-led meetings, and in expert meetings. It is my hope that the next phase of the preparatory process will focus on finding practical solutions to the concerns raised so far.

As you know, national preparations in the form of multi-stakeholder consultations have begun. The Bureau has also initiated a process for the preparation of the outcome document. In addition, the regional PrepComs will take place during this year and several countries will host important preparatory meetings on the objectives and themes of the Conference. This is all good news. And I appreciate every one of these initiatives.

Before I conclude, I would like to reiterate my earlier statement on the need to keep the core objective of the Conference in focus: to renew political commitment for sustainable development.

As we move ahead in the preparatory process, this focus will help us identify the key elements that will be critical to our success.

Thank you.