Delhi Ministerial Dialogue on Green Economy and Inclusive Growth

Concluding Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (RIO+20)


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your active participation and engagement during the past two days.

We have asked many questions, but I am glad to say that we have tried to provide concrete answers to every one.  Here in New Delhi, we have built upon previous discussions in the PrepComs, the intersessional meeting, Solo and, most recently, Beijing.

The discussion has been very stimulating and has deepened our understanding of the issues.

My Co-chair, the Minister of Environment and Forests, has presented the Chairs’ summary. It captures the salient points from our discussions.

With an eye to Rio, let me briefly share with you my observations on a few broad areas of convergence I see emerging from our discussions.       

A few messages came through repeatedly in the past two days:

First, Rio+20 must succeed; failure is not an option.  The challenges we face are too urgent, and we cannot afford to let this window of opportunity close.

Second, many of you outlined your wish list for a successful Rio+20.  Among the main messages I heard five:

1. Rio+20 is a sustainable development conference, and all parts of government and civil society should have a stake.
2. All countries, developed and developing, must stand to benefit from the agreement signed at Rio+20.
3. At Rio+20, governments must reaffirm the Rio principles, including the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, and devise a plan of action to accelerate implementation of longstanding commitments.
4. The Rio+20 outcome must strengthen integration of the 3 pillars of sustainable development.
5. The outcome must be people-centered and inclusive, taking into account above all the needs of the most vulnerable.

To which I would add a sixth and seventh:

6. The ambition of the actions agreed at Rio must match the scale of the challenges we face. Half measures will not do.
7. Financing, science and technology and capacity building will be critical to a successful Rio+20 outcome. Despite current financial difficulties and economic uncertainties, we must find a way that Rio+20 delivers the means of implementation for developing countries to green their economies.

The current financial crisis will pass. But, poverty and ecological crises will persist for generations and even worsen if we do not take decisive action. 

We also heard a number of concrete proposals on which I think we have begun to find some common ground:

On green economy, it is widely understood that it is a means to the end of sustainable development and poverty eradication. In addition, two key points seem to be gaining support:

1. The need to define guiding principles of green economy: the Honorable Minister of Environment and Forests of India enumerated eight principles, including some just mentioned above as well as:

  • allow policy space to countries to define their own strategies;
  • promote access to green technologies at affordable cost;
  • avoid green protectionism in the name of the green economy, to which we might add; and
  • work to ensure a green economy creates new market opportunities, notably for developing countries.

2. A forward-looking green economy roadmap that all countries, whatever their level of development and national specificities, can find helpful in building green economies. The roadmap could include:

  • A menu of policy options;
  • A toolkit of good practices and lessons learned; and
  • A process for reporting progress, with some means of assessment and measurement, which brings us to …

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – these have been proposed as part of a solution to the problem of weak implementation and also as a way of ensuring integration of the three pillars.

Most agreed that:

  • these warrant further consideration;
  • any agreed goals would need to be flexible and consistent with common but differentiated responsibilities; and
  • they could help countries track their progress in priority areas.

The priority areas could be agreed at Rio+20, and a process set in motion to spell out related goals and targets. This would need to be coordinated with discussion of the post-2015 development agenda.

We already have a tentative list of 7 priority areas identified by member States so far. These can serve to focus discussions on concrete deliverables at Rio+20.

While the institutional framework for sustainable development was not on our agenda for this meeting, several of you raised it. In thinking about how to strengthen that framework, we must consider what will be most effective in advancing integration, implementation and coherence. 

In this regard, a sustainable development council (SDC) has been gaining interest based on the discussions in other preparatory fora. According to those who made the proposal, an SDC could raise the political profile of sustainable development and, if given a strong mandate, could be effective in assessing progress with implementation, possibly through voluntary country reporting and review along the lines of the Human Rights Council. 

Let me turn briefly to the topics of poverty eradication and inclusive growth, food security and energy access.

We all agreed on the imperative of enhancing growth in developing countries in a way that respects ecological limits.  Economic growth remains the surest anti-poverty programme.  But, new, greener growth paths will be essential if we are to balance the three pillars of sustainable development. 

We have seen that poverty eradication programmes have the potential to support a green economy, if well-designed. And green growth policies also have the potential for creating jobs and sustainable livelihoods. But worker retraining and social protection programmes may be needed to ease adjustments and protect the vulnerable.  

We agreed that equity considerations should be at the centre of a green and inclusive economy: equity within societies, equity across countries and equity across generations. The consumption levels of the poor need to rise, while the consumption patterns of the better-off need to change. And, in making those changes, we agreed that we should open up new income-earning opportunities, not close off existing ones, for the poor.

We agreed it is important to support poor farmers, women farmers in particular, to enable them to leapfrog to an ‘ever-green revolution’.

We agreed that Rio+20 should come up with concrete actions addressing food security and sustainable agriculture. For that reason, we all share the view that ways should be found to unlock the power of information technologies as a valuable instrument for farmers to access the information they need.

We all acknowledge the importance of the world’s oceans and marine ecosystems to food security as well as to the livelihoods of many poor people. Participants have reiterated this as one of the priority areas that Rio+20 must address. 

We all note with enthusiasm the Secretary-General’s initiative on universal access to sustainable energy. We all agree that such a goal would provide a good basis for planning and certainty for investors.

We acknowledge that universal access could be made a reality by 2030, provided new business models are devised, incentives provided to the private sector and proper policies and institutions put in place.

We believe that Rio+20 could endorse a universal access goal and provide a clear roadmap to mobilize the resources and implement the measures needed to achieve it.

We also note with appreciation that the Secretary-General’s proposal contains goals for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Participants are of the view that, whatever the shape of any goals that might be agreed in these areas, Rio+20 could be the place to launch a major international initiative to scale up renewable energy and energy efficiency – together with universal access.

In closing, let me say that I am very encouraged by the discussions here. Your minds are really beginning to focus on the core issues for Rio+20 and on what we can deliver that is both ambitious and achievable.  Whenever we humans find ourselves in difficulties, we tend to focus on the short term, on getting through the crisis at hand.

We must and will get through the current financial and fiscal crisis, and we must not lose sight of the bigger crises looming if we fail to act soon, if we miss this once-in-a-generation opportunity. Sustainable development is the only option for the future.

We must continue to engage with each other in coming weeks and months in the same positive, constructive spirit all of you have shown here at this Delhi Dialogue.

I remind you – though I doubt you need reminding – of the 1 November deadline for your submissions to the Compilation text.

I would like once more to thank our host, the Government of India, for the excellent hospitality and to express special thanks to all those who have worked so hard, day and night, to make this meeting run so smoothly.

I wish you all a pleasant remaining time in Delhi and a safe trip back home.

Thank you.