UNCTAD side event on “Building Green Economies: Moving from negotiations to Capacity building – UNCTAD’s technical cooperation responses to the Rio+20 Summit”

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

Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be with you today.

As Secretary-General of Rio+20, my hope has always been that Rio+20 would advance implementation of sustainable development with concrete proposals and commitments. 

The focus of this side-event, “moving from negotiations to capacity building”, is very much in line with this expectation.

Yesterday, we reached agreement on a strong outcome document, which Heads of State and Government will be adopting at the conclusion of the Conference.

Make no mistake – this is a proud moment for all of us.

Yet, a successful conclusion to a negotiations process is only part of the agenda. 

The rest is implementation.

In part, this means capacity building for developing countries.

Simply put, capacity building is an essential precondition for developing countries to transition to a green economy, within the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. 

They need knowledge, tools, and skills in a number of areas.

For example: 

  • improved knowledge and statistical capacity on employment and market trends;
  • assessing and accounting for social and environmental factors and costs;
  • and using trade to advance, rather than hinder, a green economy.

We all agree that trade is central in the transmission of green goods and services.

And as already noted by UNCTAD, trade can be used as an important tool in a pathway towards a development-led transition to a green economy. 

A green economy however, does not just mean trading green goods and services.

The potential trade risks of a transition to a green economy — protectionism, conditionality, subsidies — are long standing issues. They are not unique to the green economy.

However, discussions on a green economy do bring renewed focus to these risks. 

But we must remember a key point: trade in itself is not intrinsically good or bad for development.

Rather, it is the distribution of gains and losses from trade how trade impacts the use of natural resources and the environment that determine how much trade benefits us.

Right now, every country is asking similar questions.

How can we grow in a less energy- and material-intensive manner? And how do we shift from high-carbon to low-carbon energy?

Technologies will be an important part of the answer; and therefore, the international transfer of technologies – primarily through foreign trade and investment – will be critical. 

Resolving the core issues I mentioned – protectionism, conditionality, subsidies – should be at the heart of trade policy formulation processes.

Many of these issues have been covered in the DESA, UNEP and UNCTAD joint publication on The Transition to a Green Economy: Benefits, Risks and Challenges from a Sustainable Development Perspective.

This report was released at the 2nd Preparatory Committee meeting earlier last year.

Suggestions for next steps are also covered in our joint Rio+20 Issues Brief on Trade and Green Economy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We know the issues and we know the challenges and constraints. 

But let me reemphasize a key point: developing countries need trade-related technical capacity.

Without it, a development-led transition to a green economy will not be realized.

In fact, all the political commitments secured in inter-governmental negotiations would simply be wasted opportunities. 

And that is not why we are here. That is not why we have invested our time and energy over the past two years. 

As the Secretariat-General for the Conference, I have said many times, and will say again here: Rio+20 Conference is about ‘implementation’.

What we do when we leave Rio is just as important – if not more so – than what we say while we are here.

You are already setting your sights on the future…on supporting implementation of the Conference outcome.

And we need more of this.

I congratulate UNCTAD and the organizers for this side event, and wish you all a fruitful discussion.

Thank you.