See Side Event: China Going Green - Forum on Civil Society and Green Economy in China

Welcoming 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)

My dear colleague and friend Achim Steiner,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon,

It is my great pleasure to be here today, and I thank you all for your participation.

This event focuses on green economy and the role of business and civil society. It is very timely.

As you know, much of the negotiation since the start of the preparations for Rio has been about a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

In this regard, I want to recognize the pioneering role of UNEP and the leadership of Mr. Steiner.

Under Achim’s guidance, UNEP has undertaken much innovative research and empirical studies on green economy.  By providing Member States with evidence-based research findings, UNEP has demonstrated the critical importance of pursuing green economy, as well as recommended possible implementation strategies.

You might be delighted to hear that delegations have referred to UNEP studies in their negotiations – this is an excellent example of how UNEP’s technical work is contributing to informed policymaking.

As highlighted in UNEP studies, for a green economy to succeed, we need not only government policies, but also the engagement of business and civil society.

It is you, businessmen and representatives of major groups, who are major implementing actors on the frontline for Sustainable Development and the growth of the green economy.

Your productive investments and innovative capacities are crucial for transitioning to a resource- and energy- efficient low carbon economy.

Let me first say a few words about the role of the business sector.

The business sector has been among the first actors to embrace the concept of green economy and has often welcomed and generated initiatives on green economy activities.

Business seeks to generate environmentally sound growth, in line with overall development goals, such as job creation. It does so because it fits businesses’ bottom line. 

My advisor from South Africa, who is currently a CEO, told me that from his own company’s balance sheet, he has seen savings from use of water and energy, after introducing a green economy approach into company business processes.

The business sector is also a main driver of innovation, especially green innovation.

In the transition to a green economy, much of the additional financing will come from business.

The majority of the necessary funding for this transition will be borne by businesses, ranging from multinationals to domestic enterprises.

For developing countries with inadequate finance, poor infrastructure and small enterprises, international cooperation will be critical in terms of seed finance, technology transfer and capacity building.

So, what is the role of other major groups?

They play multiple roles.

Major groups stakeholders, such as the scientific and technological community, play an important role in sharing knowledge and information on green economy.

An increased number of NGOs are also engaged in capacity building at the ground level.

For this reason, they are also often more in sync with what is going on at local level, and can hold local authorities and the central government accountable for progress in implementation.

In fact, in China, there are now thousands of environmental NGOs working on the ground. 

These NGOs are an indispensible force for raising public awareness throughout society.

In conclusion, I would like to quote UNEP’s GEO 5 Report (GEO: Global Environmental Outlook):

And I quote: “the Earth has reached its limit. We have the concept; we have the goals; and we have the work plan. Now what we must do is to start the journey to climb up the Sustainability Everest.”

Let’s work together to reach the equivalent – the Mount Everest of Sustainability.

In two days, Rio+20 will officially begin here in Rio de Janeiro with many high-level participants.

This is the time and place for government leaders to declare their commitments. 

This is also the time for all sectors of society to launch and reinforce commitments to sustainability.

Your presence here shows that you want to be responsible stewards of the planet.

You want world leaders to hear your voice. And you want to make meaningful contributions.

As Conference Secretary General, I encourage you to share your thoughts and ideas.

The road to sustainable development can be long and intensive.

But our aims are worthy, and through committed action – each day we move closer to the future we want.

Thank you.