|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Commission on Sustainable Development
16th & 17th Meetings (AM & PM)
Deputy Secretary-General Stresses Need for Adherence to Collective Decisions
as Commission on Sustainable Development Begins High-Level Segment
Only through collective dedication and adherence to the decisions taken by the Commission on Sustainable Development — which required commitments by Governments and all partners — could sustainable development be achieved, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said today as the Commission held its high-level segment on obstacles and constraints to implementation of the agenda pertaining to themes of its current cycle. The high-level segment runs until Friday, 14 May.
She said that the areas of concern during the Commission’s current session —transport, chemicals, waste management, mining and the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns — were integral to achieving overarching objectives. They were also directly linked to climate change, efforts to restore weakened economies and the drive to reach the Millennium Development Goals, she said, adding that the Commission was an important step along the way to the September Millennium Development Goals Summit, which would provide an opportunity to agree on actions.
Pointing out that the lack of progress on Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation had made the task before Member States much harder, she said there was, nonetheless, a growing awareness of sustainable development, and world leaders had become increasingly comfortable with the term. There were many opportunities to prepare the ground for the Rio +20 Conference in 2012, which would serve to renew political commitments, identify where States were falling short, address new challenges and set out a concrete plan of action, she said.
Also speaking during the high-level segment, Hamidon Ali (Malaysia), President of the Economic and Social Council, highlighted the link between the themes under consideration and those that the Council would be discussing at its 2010 Annual Ministerial Review and Development Cooperation Forum. As such, sustainable development provided a key element of the overarching framework for the Council’s work on development, addressing the economic, social and environmental dimensions in an integrated manner.
He said the Commission was uniquely placed to take on the multidimensional challenges presented by such Millennium Goals as environmental sustainability, reducing child mortality, reducing maternal mortality and improving maternal health, because the very aim of sustainable development was to apply an integrated approach. There was no doubting the need for renewed commitment to achieving the Goals, and the Commission provided an effective platform for bringing together Governments, the United Nations system, the scientific community and major groups, with the aim of fostering dialogue among them.
In a similar vein Leslie Kojo Christian (Ghana), Vice-President of the General Assembly, stressed that sustainable development was a bridge not only between present and future generations, but also among developed and developing countries, civil society and the private sector.
Delivering a statement on behalf of General Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki, he also emphasized that the Commission’s current deliberations were most relevant to the challenges of today, and its substantive outcomes would feed into the Preparatory Committee for the Commission’s 2012 session, which would provide an opportunity to renew the highest-level political commitment to sustainable development.
Opening the meeting earlier, Luis Ferraté Felice, Commission Chairperson and Minister for the Environment of Guatemala, emphasized that, collectively, the Commission could create the conditions and carry out the actions to achieve higher economic growth, improved welfare and true protection of the natural goods and services that sustained life on the planet. Clearly, its eighteenth and nineteenth sessions could strengthen conventions and enhance existing good practice, particularly in the areas of transport and the integrated management of chemicals and waste.
The opening session of the high-level segment also heard from Gerda Verburg, Chairperson of the Commission’s seventeenth session and Minister for Agriculture and Food Quality of the Netherlands; Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker, Co-Chair of the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management; and Ashok Khosla, President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
As the high-level segment continued, speakers highlighted the link between sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals, and the critical need for an integrated response in facing global challenges, including the sustainable use of finite natural resources and the need to strengthen the Commission’s leadership role to help in those endeavours.
Nepal’s representative, in particular, emphasized on behalf of the least developed countries that the interlinked nature of the issues before the Commission should be taken into account in light of the multiple global crises and the commitment to reach the Millennium Goals by 2015. Special attention should be given to those struggling to meet the Goals, since that was relevant to their physical survival.
Chile’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, stressed that developed countries bore the brunt of responsibility and should therefore take the lead in moving towards sustainable patterns. Words must be translated into action, he said, calling for tangible outcomes and a closing of the implementation gap.
Also participating in the high-level segment were Ministers, Deputy Ministers, senior Government officials and other representatives of Yemen (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Lebanon (on behalf of the Arab Group), Spain, Italy, Gabon, South Africa, Ireland, Ghana, Nigeria, Sweden, Venezuela, Mozambique, Japan, Egypt, Republic of Moldova, Saudi Arabia, Namibia and India. A representative of the European Union also made an intervention.
In the afternoon, the Commission held two simultaneous round tables, one on “Sustainable production and consumptions: lessons learned from the implementation of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns”, and the other on “Managing mining for sustainable development”.
The first round table featured presentations by Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker, Co-Chair of the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management and dean of the Bran School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California; Kaarin Taipale, Chair of the Marrakech Task Force on Sustainable Building and Construction; and Mohan Munasinghe, Chairman of the Munasinghe Institute for Development in Sri Lanka, Director-General of Sustainable Consumption Institute at the University of Manchester and Vice-Chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Acting as moderators of that round table were Co-Chairs Sherry Ayittey, Minister for Environment, Science and Technology of Ghana, and Stefania Prestigiacomo, Minister for Environment and Protection of Land and Sea of Italy.
Taking part in the interactive dialogue on that topic were the representatives of Singapore, Spain (on behalf of the European Union), Barbados, Cameroon, Iran, Poland, Germany, India, Israel, Finland, Nigeria, Egypt, Indonesia, United States, Thailand, Ecuador, South Africa, France, Philippines, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Sudan, Argentina, Russian Federation, Cuba and Guatemala.
A representative of the International Labour Organization also participated in the discussion.
Also participating were representatives of the following civil society major groups: youth and children, and farmers.
The panellists in the round table on managing mining for sustainable development were Samuel J. Spiegel of the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge; Kathryn McPhail, Senior Programme Director at the International Council on Mining and Metals; and Roderick Eggert, Director of the Division of Economics and Business at the Colorado School of Mines. Rachel Mayanja, Assistant-Secretary General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, also made a contribution.
Co-Chairs Susan Shabangu, Minister for Mineral Resources of South Africa, and Lászlo Borbély, Minister for Environment and Forests of Romania, acted as moderators.
Participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Indonesia, Estonia, Chile, Belgium, Cambodia, Nigeria, Australia, Peru, India, Turkey, Argentina, Guatemala, Ghana, Kenya, Mongolia, Thailand, Gabon, United Republic of Tanzania, Finland and Sudan.
A representative of the Observer Mission of Palestine and a representative of the European Union also spoke.
Also making interventions were representatives of civil society major groups, including women, indigenous peoples, business and industry, children and youth, non-governmental organizations, and workers and trade unions.
The Commission will meet reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday 13 May, to continue its high-level segment.
The Commission on Sustainable Development met this morning to begin its high-level segment on obstacles and constraints to implementation of the agenda pertaining to themes of the current cycle. (For background information on the Commission’s eighteenth session, see Press Release ENV/DEV/1123.)
LUIS FERRATÉ FELICE, Chairperson of the Commission’s eighteenth session and Minister for the Environment of Guatemala, said that, as a Minister, he took political decisions to achieve enduring and long-term development, but he was above all a scientist and academic, which led him to take decisions on the basis of reliable information and broad consultations with the communities involved. Having been involved with the United Nations since the 1972 Conference on the Protection of the Human Environment in Stockholm, he had seen changes generated by humanity.
He said his field work in different regions of the world and his experience in the national decision-making process on the social and environmental issues of a poor country vulnerable to natural phenomena and social injustice had given him the opportunity to cooperate with the most vulnerable groups, especially indigenous peoples. That had given him a broader outlook, enabling him to meet challenges and difficulties at the national, regional and global levels. The biggest challenge had been reconciling social and environmental interests with economic and political interests, he said, noting that it was a challenge common to everyone.
Collectively the Commission could create the conditions and carry out the actions to achieve higher economic growth, improved welfare and true protection of the natural goods and services that sustained life on the planet, he said. The means of implementation were the mechanisms to make that effort viable and effective, especially for the five topics on the agenda. What remained clear was that the Commission’s eighteenth and nineteenth sessions could strengthen conventions and enhance existing good practice, particularly in the areas of transport, integrated management of chemicals and waste. Inviting members to make proposals that would lead to implementation, he stressed the need for action, since the resilience and renewal of natural goods and services had reached a critical point, resulting in unrecoverable losses.
At the same time, income indicators no longer revealed territorial vulnerability or national socio-environmental risk, he said. Therefore, solutions to the current crisis must be accompanied by indicators that showed the real vulnerability, such as human development, including taking into account the ecological footprint and environmental liabilities, as well as vulnerability indicators derived from climate change. In that sense, he said, the product of the Commission’s deliberations for the rest of the week would include an important input for the high-level meeting to be held in September to review progress and pending tasks for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
ASHA-ROSE MIGIRO, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that areas of concern at the current session were integral to achieving overarching objectives. Those areas were directly linked to climate change, efforts to restore weakened economies and achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Preparations for the Millennium Development Goal Summit were gathering momentum, she said, stressing that the Goals were a commitment to the world’s most vulnerable people, and were being achieved on deadline. The Summit was an opportunity to agree on actions, and the Commission was an important step along the way.
Agenda 21 remained the guide to a sustainable future, she said, pointing out that the lack of progress on Agenda 21 and on the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation had made the task before Member States much harder. There was nonetheless a growing awareness about sustainable development, and world leaders were increasingly comfortable with the phrase. The unprecedented participation of so many Heads of State at the 2009 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen was a result of that, she said.
She said Rio +20 would be an opportunity to renew political commitments to sustainable development, identify where States were falling short, address new challenges, and set out a concrete plan of action. Clear leadership was needed from Governments, civil society and from within the United Nations to make it a success, she said, adding that there were a number of opportunities to lay the ground for Rio between now and 2012.
Taking up the areas of focus in the current session, she said there was an increasing demand for transport, which was undermining efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. There was a need to devise and roll out policies that supported rapid transit schemes and cleaner fuels and vehicles, among other things. As for waste management, she said industrialization and economic growth had vastly increased the amount of waste produced, and Governments were struggling to cope. It was necessary to embrace the “3 Rs” — reduce, re-use and recycle.
Turning to chemicals, she said the world knew too little about their impact on human health and the environment, adding that more research and a global agreement on chemical use were needed. Regarding mining, she said it supported millions of people in developing countries, but often left communities without a sustainable future, either environmentally or economically. It was vital to enforce environmental health regulations, she said. On sustainable consumption and production, she said the issue encompassed all the topics under consideration during the session. It defined the foundation of any green economy.
She said the current session should pave the way for concrete decisions next year, which would themselves feed into a successful Rio outcome in 2012. To reach the objectives set forth, commitments by Governments and by all implementing partners were needed in order to implement the Commission’s decisions. Only through collective dedication and adherence to those decisions could sustainable development be achieved, she stressed. The promises had already been made to one another and to the planet, and they should be kept.
HAMIDON ALI (Malaysia), President of the Economic and Social Council, said that sustainable development provided a key element of the overarching framework for the Council’s work on development, addressing the economic, social and environmental dimensions in an integrated manner. The themes under consideration during the current cycle — transport, chemicals, waste management, mining and the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns — were also linked to the themes that the Council would be discussing at its 2010 Annual Ministerial Review, namely “Agreed Goals and Commitments in regard to Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women”, and in the Development Cooperation Forum — “Development Cooperation in Times of Crises: New Commitments to Reach the MDGs”.
He said there was no question that women were agents of change and must be supported in that fundamental role if progress towards achievement of the Millennium Goals was to be accelerated. Women were disproportionately vulnerable to toxic chemicals from industrial activities and mining, and did not participate adequately in decision-making processes. Lack of basic transport infrastructure also affected women, he said, noting that about 1 billion people lived more than 2 kilometres from the nearest all-weather road. As for women in mining, additional measures were needed to protect them, he said. With their entrepreneurial spirit, women in many countries were recycling and/or using waste, thus creating livelihoods for their families, he said, noting that sustainable consumption and production was very important to women. Awareness and education on the choices they could make would make a difference in the lives of their families, especially children, and prevent a number of health problems.
There was no doubting the need for renewed commitment to achieving the Millennium Goals, he said. Sound management of chemicals and waste could contribute to environmental sustainability (Goal 7); sound use of chemicals could reduce child mortality (Goal 4); and the development of transport infrastructure could help reduce maternal mortality and improve maternal health (Goal 5) as well as support universal primary education (Goal 2). Such multidimensional challenges required an integrated approach combining economic, social and environmental solutions, he said, pointing out that the Commission was uniquely placed to take on that challenge, since the very aim of sustainable development was to apply an integrated approach. The Commission provided an effective platform for bringing together Governments, the United Nations system, the scientific community and major groups with the aim of fostering dialogue among them.
LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN (Ghana), Vice-President of the General Assembly, delivered a statement on behalf of Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki, saying the sixty-fourth session had been characterized by a wide range of challenges. The energy, food and financial crises threatened to deepen structural problems, including poverty, trade imbalances and environmental degradation. The Assembly had underlined that the Commission was the high-level body responsible for sustainable development, and it was crucial that States continue to support its work.
Citing Assembly resolution 64/236 (2010), he recalled that it stressed the key importance of sustainable development to the overarching framework for the work of the United Nations. The global community was responsible for establishing mechanisms to speed economic development and achieve internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, he said, adding that the upcoming September Summit was of crucial importance.
He stressed that the world had sufficient technological capacity to ensure that no one went hungry, fell victim to preventable disease or had to sacrifice human dignity to meet their basic needs. Against that backdrop, 2 billion people were living in abject poverty around the world. The Commission’s deliberations on transport, waste, mining, chemicals, sustainable development and the 10-year framework were most relevant to the challenges of today, and its substantive outcomes would feed into the Preparatory Committee for the Commission’s 2012 session, which would provide an opportunity to renew the highest-level political commitment to sustainable development. In closing, he said sustainable development was a bridge not only between present and future generations, but also among developed and developing countries, civil society and the private sector.
GERDA VERBURG, Minister for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Netherlands and Chairperson of the Commission’s seventeenth session, highlighted the urgent need for an integrated response in facing several challenges, including the sustainable use of finite natural resources. In effect, much more must be done to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, she said, stressing the vital need to strengthen the Commission’s leadership role. The question of how to feed the world’s ever-growing population in 2050 was one of the biggest challenges, given changing dietary patterns which steadily increased demand for food, and price increases caused by the growth of the non-food agriculture sector.
Actions to be taken in the fields of agriculture, rural development, land, drought, desertification and Africa offered both short- and long-term solutions, she said. Agriculture — which lay at the heart of the climate change agenda — was now viewed as part of the solution rather than part of the problem, as it promoted economic growth and development, as well as a reduction of rural poverty in developing countries. Additionally, since agriculture was responsible for 14 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions and 20 per cent of deforestation, any strategy to keep global warming below 2° Celsius must include reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon from agriculture and forests as a key component.
She said the implementation of several actions decided during the Commission’s seventeenth session required coordination among stakeholders at the global level, the promotion of partnerships at the country level, the combination of scientific knowledge with local experience, and the extension of support to farmers, particularly women, in the form of capacity-building and access to resources. She suggested the creation of a task force to assist with implementation and underscored the need for a shift in ideas, pointing out that old solutions did not sufficiently address new challenges.
ERNST ULRICH VON WEIZSACKER, Co-Chair of the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management, said the Panel had published one report thus far and, this year, it would publish several others, one of them on metals. Decoupling was particularly important to the Commission’s agenda, he said, and stressing that the North-South dialogue must distinguish between relative decoupling — which was the agenda for developing countries — and absolute decoupling, that for rich countries.
Presenting his personal views, he said developing countries were on the upward slope of the Kuznets Curve, which posits that economic inequality increases over time while a country is developing, and inequality begins to decrease after a certain average income is attained. Relative decoupling would mean cutting the curve short on the way to prosperity. In terms of carbon dioxide emissions, there was no Kuznets Curve, he said, adding that it had to be created and countries helped along it to become rich. “We shouldn’t give up”, he added.
Describing one quarter of a kilowatt-hour as a “powerhouse” that could be used to power Mount Everest, he said the point was that it could be used for a lot more than its present application. He also described several technologies that could replace those used today: geopolymer cement could be used instead of regular cement, a “dinosaur” technology; bicycle-centred cities could develop in place of car-centred ones; and business travel could be cut by establishing more tele-presence groups. That was only a window into the technologies that characterized the twenty-first century, he said.
ASHOK KHOSLA, President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), said the Commission had an unusual opportunity to examine the more strategic issues confronting the world today. “The world we live in seems to be heading in the wrong direction,” he said, pointing to the financial meltdown and issues of alienation and terrorism. While the mess created by the breakdown in global financial or political arrangements would be cleaned up, that was unlikely in the case of with the world’s natural systems. Some had suffered long-term impacts, many of them permanent.
Indeed, the immediate, dramatic and violent seemed to elbow out of consciousness the slow, invisible and intangible, he said. So it was with the climate and biological diversity, issues that must set the context for addressing other key matters. The global economy was using 40 per cent more resources than the earth produced, while farmers and ordinary citizens were on the “firing line” in the battle against the destruction of life support systems, without Governments giving the highest priority to saving those critical resources.
After 60 years of international development and $1 trillion in development assistance, the number of poor people had risen by a factor of three, he said, warning that the Millennium Development Goals were unlikely to be achieved. Such issues needed enabling means like investment in schools, training and a holistic vision. No solution would work unless it included population in its calculation, he said, pointing out that there was a strong correlation between well-being and the smallness of families. That was also true across and within countries. The world’s resources were finite and the global population’s demand for them must be contained within that finite boundary, he emphasized.
ABDULLAH M. ALSAIDI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said recent global crises had highlighted shared vulnerabilities and underscored the need for greater international cooperation to eradicate poverty, achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and reverse the mounting pressure on the earth’s ecosystems. It was therefore important to commit to sustainable development with a sense of urgency. The five themes of the Commission’s current cycle were interlinked with each other and with other sustainable development themes, including those of past and future cycles and forthcoming high-level events.
Discussions in the Commission would contribute substantively to the achievement of Agenda 21 and the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, by 2015, he said. It was also critically important to address gaps and constraints in implementing Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Programme of Implementation in order to identify the way forward. The Group of 77 attached great importance to the thematic issues on the Commission’s agenda in the context of the three mutually reinforcing and interrelated pillars of sustainable development, which must be considered in an integrated manner.
Addressing the three pillars required a comprehensive approach to international trade, finance, debt, energy and technology, he continued, emphasizing the importance of continuing efforts for an early conclusion of the development-oriented Doha Round of trade negotiations, mobilizing development assistance to developing countries and ensuring that investment and trade policies were fair and structured to promote and facilitate the transfer of environmentally sound technologies to developing countries on affordable and cost-effective terms.
He said the Commission’s next session should examine the range of financing options for multilateral funding the management of chemical and hazardous waste, in order to ensure access to such financing. There was also an urgent need to intensify the fight against poverty and to drastically improve efforts to reach internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. The Group was also deeply concerned about the dumping of potentially toxic electronic waste, and felt that the electronics companies concerned must increase their efforts to collect and responsibly treat their waste.
The Group of 77 and China also wished to emphasize the need to build a 10‑Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production, based on the work already done in that area, he said. The Framework must address the gaps and challenges faced by developing countries in the area of sustainable consumption and production, he said, adding that the Group of 77 recommended the establishment of an open-ended ad-hoc working group under the aegis of the United Nations as a possible way forward.
JANEZ POTOČNIK, Commissioner for the Environment of the European Union, described development as the “midwife” of sustainability, and sustainability as the “life-support system” for development, saying that the description underscored the importance of an integrated approach to the challenges of poverty, hunger and environmental degradation. He urged the Commission to focus on using the long-term potential of transport to improve living standards. It was also in everyone’s interest to promote the “waste hierarchy” — the prevention of waste before re-use — followed by recycling, recovery of energy and disposal as a last resort.
In the area of mining, he said that improved governance and transparency in respect of income from that sector would contribute to its sustainable development. The message that had emerged from last week’s expert-level discussion on chemicals was that, unless managed soundly throughout the life-cycle, chemicals could negatively impact environment and health. He cited REACH — the new European Union chemicals system — as an example of good governance.
He said he also recognized the importance of implementing the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, and expressed the European Union’s full commitment to moving the sustainable consumption and production agenda forward. Improving the environmental performance of products throughout the life-cycle could deliver social and economic benefits, he said, adding that domestic and global experience had shown the real benefits of sustainable consumption and production.
Europe 2020, the recently adopted 10-year economic strategy, included resource efficiency among the seven flagship initiatives proposed to promote sustainable growth, he said. Similarly, a well-structured process, with a clear mandate, should be set up to begin work on a proposal for the 10-year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production. Resource efficiency also meant greater reliance on eco-innovation across the whole economy, as well as the introduction of environmental technologies. About 3.4 million people, or 1.5 per cent of all employed Europeans, were directly employed in the European Union’s eco-industry, he said.
GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA (Nepal), speaking on behalf of the least developed countries and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the lack of basic transport infrastructure and affordable access to transport services had contributed to the state of poverty in least developed countries, and they were consequently lagging behind the pace required to meet many of the Millennium Development Goals. That lag was also directly related to agriculture development and the improvement of food supplies, which were the biggest challenges in the least developed countries.
He said improper management of chemicals could cause health and environmental risks, pointing out that the majority of people in least developed countries were more vulnerable to such risks. Waste management and education on the negative impact of mining on communities were important for everyone, he said, emphasizing the critical importance of sharing best practices and information, as well as ensuring adequate financial support, since least developed countries lacked the necessary technology and sources to deal with such challenges.
The interlinked nature of the issues before the Commission should be taken into account, in view of the commitment to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and the multiple global crises, he said. Countries produced goods and services to satisfy people’s needs, but special attention should be given to those struggling to meet the Millennium Goals, since that was relevant to their physical survival. There must be a paradigm shift in patterns, and it was also necessary to have the capacity to enhance efficiency, given international support and assistance.
Global crises, coupled with adverse results from climate change and increasing pollution, had caused considerable impacts on the efforts of the least developed countries to achieve sustainable development, he said, adding that they were more disproportionately affected than ever before. There was a need to develop a new, vigorous and inclusive model, and to align it with the noble goals of sustainable development while enhancing the Commission and contributing to the alleviation of poverty, he said, stressing the critical importance of a holistic approach, rather than a piecemeal one.
PABLO WAGNER, Under-Secretary for Mining of Chile, spoke on behalf of the Rio Group, saying that panellists and participants had put forward original formulas for sustainable consumption and production. Developed countries bore the brunt of responsibility and should therefore take the lead in moving towards sustainable patterns. Words must be translated into action, including in the elaboration of the 10-year Framework, he said. Recognizing the need for greater sustainability in the mining sector, he said policies and practices should improve the integration of social and environmental dimensions into mining plans.
He said countries in his region had introduced regulatory and contractual regimes that ensured stricter oversight of activities. The same could be said of regional transport, though more could be done to integrate transport policies with those for urban development and land use. Efforts had been made to restrict or prohibit certain chemicals, especially pesticides, and to dismantle illegal transboundary shipments of hazardous waste. On waste management, he echoed calls relating to the challenges faced by island communities, reiterating that they had no scope to make use of economies of scale in introducing certain waste-management technologies.
Indeed, small island States had long been recognized as a special category and it was imperative that resources be to committed to address their concerns, he said. Calling on the high-level review to produce tangible outcomes, and to seek finally to close the implementation gap, he said all such issues would require technology transfer, capacity-building and additional resources. States should never lose sight of the need to decouple economic growth and environmental degradation, he said, reiterating the aim to develop cleaner energy systems. The Rio Group would continue to diversify its “energy matrices” by increasing the contribution of renewable energy resources.
CAROLINE ZIADE (Lebanon), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group and associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, affirmed the importance of the Commission’s work and the need for continuity to achieve balance between economic and social development and environmental protection as interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars of sustainable development. The Arab Group reiterated the need to implement the international governmental commitments contained in Agenda 21, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, as well as commitments to meet other internationally agreed goals, on the basis of the Rio Principles, especially that of common but differentiated responsibilities.
The themes of the Commission’s current cycle were of great importance to the Arab Group, which had made significant progress in implementing the commitments agreed upon in Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, she said. Cooperation between the League of Arab States, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and the Regional Office for West Asia of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) had resulted in a report that showed the progress achieved in the five thematic clusters.
She said the Arab Group had exerted efforts to improve the management and sustainable development of the transport sector at the regional and global levels, by enacting and amending legislations and regulations, developing plans and strategies, and updating and developing infrastructure. The international community had a shared responsibility to protect the right of all vulnerable peoples to economic development, particularly those living under foreign occupation, she said. For that reason, the Commission must remove any ambiguity in meeting the needs of people living under occupation, without fear of political accusations. Like all other peoples, those under occupation deserved to live in dignity.
ELENA ESPINOSA MANGANA, Minister for the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs of Spain, associated herself with the European Union and voiced support for Europe’s important role in the responsible management of chemicals. Spain’s management was in line with protocols set out in European legislation and global legal instruments, she said, noting that the Government had undertaken a national plan for the application of the Stockholm Convention and was firmly committed to ensuring the success of negotiations on the Mercury Convention.
She said there was a need to consider the environmental impacts of the transport sector and to seek an integrated approach. Spain had drafted various relevant policies, including air‑quality regulations, strategies for sustainable mobility and fiscal measures for environmental criteria. Policies for developing shared public transport, and projects like the European Mobility Week were also under way.
She said her country was also working to transpose the principles of the European Framework Directive on Waste into domestic legislation, noting that the inclusion of new concepts of embracing “subproducts” and “end-of-waste” were particularly important. The “extended producer responsibility principle” and the “hierarchy principle” must be given priority. Finally, Spain firmly believed in the need to strengthen the credibility of sustainable production and consumption models by encouraging innovation, she said. To that end, it was encouraging sustainable practices in areas like green public purchasing.
STEFANIA PRESTIGIACOMO, Minister for the Environment and of Protection of Land and Sea of Italy, associated herself with the European Union, saying that the current cycle’s thematic clusters and their implementation challenges clearly highlighted the strong interdependence among sustainable development issues. True progress in sustainable transport, mining, waste and chemicals management could not be achieved without addressing the overarching objective of sustainable consumption and production patterns, which lay at the core of sustainable development.
She said there was an “incredible” opportunity to move the political agenda forward by working on the definition of a common global framework for action to promote regional and national initiatives in the field of sustainable consumption and production. Last week’s discussions had confirmed the necessity of technological improvements and efficiency gains, but that would not be enough to bring about the required scale of change towards sustainable development. There was a need to rethink current production and consumption patterns in a life-cycle perspective so as to enhance gains in all sectors, she said.
Emphasizing that Governments alone could not address the vast range of issues relating to current production and consumption patterns, she said it would only be through the involvement of citizens and the private sector, taking an integrated approach, that global challenges would truly be tackled and the possibility of change demonstrated. The role of the global consumer/citizen was essential in providing further stimulus for more sustainable solutions, she said, adding that any improvement in enhancing global governance of sustainable development was an investment in the future.
MARTIN MABALA, Minister for Water and Forests, Environment and Sustainable Development of Gabon, associated himself with the Group of 77 and China, and said his country had ratified the Kyoto Protocol, put in place a legal framework for environmental protection, and was drafting a sustainable development code. Gabon’s large mining industry had negative impacts on the environment and the Government planned to commission an environmental impact study in the sector.
Mining accounted for 80 per cent of Gabon’s exports and provided 60 per cent of the national budget, he said, adding that, in its efforts to diversify, the country had benefited from European Union support. In the area of waste management, he said his country had enacted a law to prevent pollution and protect health. On the regional front, Gabon had implemented regulations on pesticides in the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). The creation of a regional committee was proof of its will to deal with that issue, he said, adding that Gabon had also implemented rules to prevent illegal international trafficking in toxic and hazardous products.
SUSAN SHABANGU, Minister for Mineral Resources of South Africa, associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, said it was the Commission’s responsibility to reflect on what needed to be done to expedite implementation as the world experienced crises in the energy, financial and food sectors, combined with the impacts of climate change and escalating levels of poverty. The World Summit on Sustainable Development had recognized that eradicating poverty and addressing global inequality were the greatest global challenges of today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. There were indications that, while many countries had undertaken various concrete actions and made progress in certain areas, much work remained to be done in enhancing poverty reduction, improving livelihoods and booting economic growth.
Attaining the Millennium Development Goals remained critically important for developing countries, particularly those in Africa, struggling to achieve sustainable development, she said, adding that the emphasis should be on the policies and actions to promote and support economic growth while enhancing poverty reduction efforts. Promoting women’s equal access to and full participation in decision-making was crucial, she said, adding that building partnerships and strengthening cooperation, including South-South cooperation, were also critical.
The themes under discussion presented the Commission with opportunities to make a visible impact on the lives of the poor, she continued. Sustainable consumption and production offered an opportunity to reflect on resource efficiency. Food security was closely tied to resource availability and costs, such as water scarcity and volatile energy prices. The challenge of the global food crisis implied the necessity of closely managing the natural resource base, she said. Moreover, at the heart of the sustainable development debate was the balance between the triple bottom line and development, particularly for the mining sector, she said. While it offered tremendous opportunities for economic growth, it was critical to promote the necessary social and environmental measures. The Rio +20 conference was of key importance in advancing discussions on sustainable development, and the review must be responsive to challenges. It must also be a constructive session that laid a firm foundation for an action-oriented programme for sustainable development.
JOHN GORMLEY, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government of Ireland, said the problems of population growth, natural resource depletion and rising poverty levels underlined the sheer scale of the challenge ahead, adding that finding workable solutions should be a priority. The global economic crisis offered an unprecedented chance to chart a new course towards a more sustainable future. A return to a “business as usual approach” was not an option, he said, stressing the need for a coherent set of tools to put the world on the road to economic recovery and a sustainable future.
A greener approach based on smart technologies and innovation was the best way forward, he said, emphasizing that a “cradle to grave” approach based on efficient natural resource use and management must be embraced with renewed vigour. Ireland was fully committed to creating a green economy and had developed an integrated policy approach, supported by a focus on research and development. In the area of waste management, a more resource-efficient approach to dealing with waste would create jobs, drive innovation and reduce pollution. It was crucial to reduce the carbon intensity of economies, he said.
The transition to more efficient transport systems was one area with considerable potential for progress, he said. There was a shared global responsibility to pursue opportunities arising from the Commission’s thematic cluster as an “interlinked unit”. All too often, economic priorities had taken precedence over environmental considerations, he said, urging a shift away from seeing those areas as being in competition. A striking feature of regional discussions was the emphasis placed on food security, he said, noting that his country had committed to spending 20 per cent of all overseas development assistance on reducing hunger by 2012, and was on track to achieve that target.
SHERRY AYITTEY, Minister for Environment, Science and Technology of Ghana, said that the “not-too-impressive” progress in achieving global and national sustainable development goals in relation to the current cluster of issues was a clear indication of collective failure to demonstrate continuous commitment to the sustainable development agenda. Efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 would elude developing countries unless they showed more resolve and exercised moderation in their lifestyles. While everyone was fully aware that attitudes and behavioural patterns were difficult to change, no meaningful progress could be made on the thematic issues without palpable efforts to reverse the current behavioural trends, she warned.
For waste management to have a positive impact on people’s lives, she said, it would be necessary to focus on reducing waste generation to a minimum, and to promote research and appropriate technology for the re-use and recycling of waste at a minimum cost. In addition, Ghana encouraged the adoption and implementation of the African Union initiative for streamlining and harmonizing mineral resource development through its Vision 2050. The country subscribed to the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative as a policy measure to ensure fair, judicious and transparent use and distribution of mineral wealth for the benefit of the entire country, particularly mining communities, she said.
There was now agreement on the major components of the Marrakech Process for supporting the implementation of regional and national strategies for cleaner and more sustainable consumption and production patterns, she said. What remained to be done was to foster greater collaboration and coordination among State institutions so as to achieve the objectives of sustainable consumption and production. She called for supportive and appropriate technologies to achieve efficiency in consumption and production patterns.
BIODUN NATHANIEL OLORUNFEMI, Minister for the Environment of Nigeria, associating himself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said his Government was implementing policies for efficient transport facilities. Nigeria had been involved in regional collaboration for sustainable transport management, and participated in the trans-African highway, he said.
He said chemical management was integral to sustainable development, and Nigeria was fully committed to implementing various global agreements, including the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. The Government had established an institutional framework and was strengthening national capacity, he said, stressing that life-cycle approaches to chemical management should be given high priority.
Nigeria was also was strengthening strategies for preventing trafficking in hazardous materials and promoting environmentally friendly chemical practices, he said. As for waste management, it was a huge challenge, and Nigeria had become a dumping ground for near-end-of-life and end-of-life technology. “We need a model,” he said, emphasizing his country’s wish to cooperate with other nations in order to benefit from programmes and decisions reached at the Commission, while ensuring that problems in those areas were properly addressed.
ELISABET FALEMO, State Secretary, Ministry of Environment of Sweden, noted the linkages connecting sustainable development with mitigation and adaptation to climate change, saying her country would continue to work for a global agreement in which all major emitting countries made commitments and developing countries took action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There was a need for both goals and concrete actions, with a particular emphasis on sustainable urban development, economic instruments and sustainable consumption as key areas, she said.
Noting that about half the world population lived in urban areas, she said developments in cities had a great impact on how climate change and other environmental threats were tackled while pursuing sustainable growth and good living conditions. Sweden’s experience was that planned and correctly managed development of cities held possible solutions to many problems, including efficient infrastructure, which affected energy usage, transport solutions and waste management.
Turning to waste management, she noted that problems today were often handled in isolation, including the separate collection of waste and the treatment of waste water in sewage plants. Seeing the whole picture and combining different sustainable solutions led to a better environment and improved well-being through more effective use of both natural and economic resources, she said. While reduction, re-use and recycling were the first priorities of waste management, certain waste could be used to generate energy, she said, pointing out that biogas could replace fossil fuels in such a manner as to minimize emissions. Economic instruments such as taxes on energy and carbon dioxide created incentives for improving effectiveness, she added.
Addressing the environmental and social challenges caused by the production and consumption of goods and services, she emphasized the need to address daily consumption choices, noting that consumers needed to be empowered, encouraged and enabled to behave in a sustainable manner. Sweden supported the 10-year framework of programmes, she said, emphasizing that it should provide a vision and set goals, time frames and concrete plans for action. Efforts for sustainable consumption and production were of key importance to creating a green economy, mitigating the negative impacts of climate change and achieving the Millennium Development Goals, she said.
JORGE VALERO, Deputy Minister for North America and Multilateral Affairs of Venezuela, associated himself with the Group of 77 and the Rio Group, as he emphasized the increasingly urgent need for sustainable development as a necessary choice for humanity. The backbone of the debate was the perverse model of economic production — the accumulation of wealth and consumption that had been historically imposed through relations of domination. The successive system-wide crises throughout the new millennium showed that the domination model was growing stale, and that it was accompanied by “anti-values” which placed the market and profits above human beings and the common good.
The prevailing economic systems wished only to guarantee maximum profits and maximum accumulation of capital, he continued. There was a pressing need for social balance through equality and equitable distribution of social benefits on the basis of greater productivity in society. The problem was that the current economic balances were based on the pre-eminence of selfish interests, which hindered sustainable development. It was vital to guarantee oxygen, water, forests and land to the whole of humanity, he stressed, pointing out that current production and consumption patterns were the culprits behind the breakdown of ecosystems and social balances.
Going on to underscore the need to overcome “anti-values” and the force of the organizations that sustained them, he said production should satisfy the basic needs of society and nature, while preventing the wastage of productive resources. There should be efficient development of public transport and genetically modified crops should be avoided, he said. He called for the shunning of advertising that promoted superfluous consumption, adding that the road to sustainable development was not be possible without resolving the structural causes that generated the prevailing social and ecological imbalances.
ALCINDA ANTONIO DE ABREU, Minister for the Environment of Mozambique, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the least developed countries, said her country supported a global integrated approach to the themes under consideration by the Commission. The Government of Mozambique attached great importance to national ownership in addressing various challenges, including poverty eradication and the Millennium Development Goals.
KAZU TAKEMOTO, Vice-Minister for Global Environmental Affairs of Japan, said his country was fully committed to sound waste management and “3R” initiatives. Japan had developed region-wide cooperation through the “3R Forum in Asia”, launched last year, and had also organized the Commission’s intersessional meeting last March in Tokyo. It had discussed common issues and challenges facing developing countries; options to expand waste management services for local communities; innovative approaches and strategies for integrated waste management; and informal sector issues. Japan was prepared to host another such meeting before the Commission’s next session.
Turning to chemicals, he said his country had experienced serious health and environmental damages as a result of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and had enacted legislation in 1973 to regulate PCB-like chemicals on the basis of their hazard levels. Since then, Japan had been developing chemical management policies by adopting a step-by-step approach, from hazard-based regulation to risk-based regulation, he said. The involvement of and cooperation with stakeholders was key to successful policy development, he said, adding that international discussions were often helpful in that regard. Countries would be able to learn from each other and mainstream chemical management priorities into national sustainable development policies through the Commission.
AHMED ALANWAR, Assistant Minister for the Environment of Egypt, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, called attention to his country’s status as a role model for sustainable consumption and production. To underscore that point, he described the strategy for Cairo, which identified four areas for achieving sustainable development. Egypt sought to turn its capital city into a centre of sustainable consumption and production, especially in the area of transport, which was of paramount importance, both nationally and regionally, he said. Natural gas infrastructure had been developed and efforts were being made to improve public transport, broaden the use of clean fuels and expand the national transport network — all with a view to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating traffic problems, he said.
Explaining that Egypt’s fuel resources were not sufficient to meet demands, he said national efforts were under way to create databases and legislation to improve the mining industry. As a result of its economic growth, Egypt had increased the amount of waste it produced, and had elaborated a national strategy to deal with that issue. The Government was also working to build human resources in that area, and had established an institute for managing hazardous waste. It was a “twinning” project with the European Union, which aimed to reduce mercury pollution. More broadly, he said, Egypt had set up a centre for the clean management of chemicals and was carrying out related research. He closed by pointing out that some people were prevented by occupation from pursuing sustainable development goals.
LAZAR KIRIKA (Republic of Moldova), welcoming the Commission’s efforts to improve chemical management, said it was only through the collective efforts of the Commission, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other international forums, including regional ones, and active national measures that it would be possible to achieve the goals contained in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the Strategic Approach to International Chemical Regulation. In the period 1997-2003, the Republic of Moldova had adopted a series of legislative and regulatory acts and programme documents pertaining to the management of chemicals and chemical waste.
He said his country had also taken measures to control the transboundary transport of waste and disposal, as well as actions to address the issue of obsolete pesticides. It was also one of the countries that had adopted, in 2006, the Strategic Approach to the International Regulation of Chemicals. In 2006-2010, the country had carried out other measures, including the incorporation of strategic guidelines for dealing with chemicals and chemical waste into the national strategy. This year, with financial support, it would begin implementing a three-stage project that would result in the disposal of 1,300 tons of obsolete pesticides, he said.
TURKI BIN NASSER BIN ABDUL AZIZ AL-SAUD, General President of Meteorology and Environmental Protection of Saudi Arabia, said his country had undertaken three key projects in the area of transport which drew on the importance of connecting production areas with consumption and export areas, as well as linking tourist areas with those of concentrated population. Those projects used the latest technology to improve the movement of minerals, oil and gas, while reducing road traffic, he said. Due to the establishment of railway links between major cities, the mining sector would continue to grow, supporting all industries dependent on its output, he added.
With regard to chemicals, he said his country had achieved consistency with international strategies for chemical safety. Coherence and synergies were to ensure cooperation in addressing issues of chemical and hazardous waste — including the disposal of chemicals, illegal trafficking, responsibility and legal liability, and the provision of financial and technological support to developing countries. He also noted Saudi Arabia’s successes in the area of sustainable consumption and production, highlighting the improved efficiency of its production and consumption of energy. The country’s reduction of emissions was linked to the increased use of public transportation, the development of new energy sources and to renewable resources of cleaner fuels.
He said the scarcity of water resources was a major challenge, and efforts were being made to promote integrated management programmes. Those included the re-use of waste water and the development of drainage systems. In addition, efforts were being made to develop non-traditional sources such as dual production stations, desalination of sea water for the production of electricity and expanded use of solar energy.
UAHEKUA HERUNGA, Deputy Minister for Environment and Tourism of Namibia, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said his country’s Government was striving to reduce poverty and inequality by, among other things, providing income generating opportunities through the creation of community-based tourism enterprises under the Community-Based Natural Resource Management Programme. The Government believed that the implementation of Agenda 21 within the context of national development plans would enable Namibia to attain its Vision 2030.
Infrastructure was vital for economic growth, he said, adding that roads, railways and other communication infrastructure were integral parts of the production and consumption pattern. Equally important was access to markets and technology transfer, particularly with regard to skills development, capacity-building and financial support. Namibia, in particular, had special needs in the broadest context of sustainable development, he said, pointing to the country’s harsh environmental constraints which made it extremely vulnerable to external shocks. Food security was also of great concern, especially in view of climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation. The country was also vulnerable to climate change.
Despite those challenges, the Government’s response to ongoing flooding illustrated its intensified efforts to embrace adaptation measures, he said. The Government was finalizing a national strategy on adaptation and mitigation to climate change. It required additional financial support and technology transfer from development partners in order to implement and mainstream climate change adaptation and mitigation measures into the national development process. It also needed additional support to invest in infrastructure for education, health and other social programmes.
VIJAI SHARMA, Permanent Secretary for Environment of India, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said Parliament had established last week a national green tribunal, marking an important step for its management of chemicals. In the area of transportation, the country had changed the fuel used in the Delhi transport system and, more recently, had established a mass rapid transport system for that city.
Turning to the mining sector, he emphasized the importance of compliance and monitoring, among other things. To develop a truly green economy, India must also take steps to develop “super-efficient” products, such as ceiling fans, and take part in the trading of certified energy savings. In closing, he said global sustainable development efforts must be more responsive to the domestic discourse, noting that it was easier to break down various disciplines on the domestic front.
Ministerial Round Table on Sustainable Production and Consumption
Moderated by Commission Co-Chairs Sherry Ayittey, Minister of Environment, Science and Technology of Ghana, and Stefania Prestigiacomo, Minister of the Environment and Protection of Land and Sea of Italy, the round table featured presentations by Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP; Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker, Co-Chair of the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management and Dean of the Bran School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California; Kaarin Taipale, Chair of the Marrakech Task Force on Sustainable Building and Construction; and Mohan Munasinghe, Chairman of the Munasinghe Institute for Development in Sri Lanka, Director-General of the Sustainable Consumption Institute, University of Manchester and Vice-Chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
TARIQ BANURI, Director of the Division of Sustainable Development in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, briefly introduced the Secretary-General’s report on sustainable consumption and production, which focused on best practices and shows how the Marrakech Process and task forces work to promote action. Addressing efforts to achieve sustainable consumption and production, he highlighted the use of technology and policy to relieve the pressure on resource scarcity and promote equitable access to scarce resources, noting the need for innovation. He also raised the question of whether policy could be used to encourage producers and consumers to behave sustainably, noting that a number of policies and practices had been found to effectively make sustainable consumption and production easy.
Mr. STEINER said that, in light of current global realities that included widespread resource scarcity, a change in consumption patterns was now imperative. The current pattern of economic consumption and production, he said, steadily depleted natural resources, while global warming and climate change also had negative impacts. The footprint of modern consumption was enormous and would continue to grow if patterns did not change. To that effect, he noted that over 1 billion cell phones had been produced last year. The Marrakech Process gave the Commission an opportunity to develop a proof-of-concept based on the idea of “no more, no less”. Sustainable consumption and production, while proven to be possible, was being pursued in an incremental and inadequate manner. The concept of sustainability should be based on the de-linkage of economic growth from environmental degradation, including through waste.
The notion that sustainable consumption and production should be reserved only for the rich, developed countries was a misrepresentation, he noted. In a world in which resources are scarce, all countries — developed and developing alike — should be considered able to achieve sustainable behaviour patterns. For that reason, he appealed to the delegates to accelerate transitions for a more equitable approach and to act collectively. In addressing the 10-year framework, he called for work to define regulatory approaches, partnerships and financing systems in an actionable sense.
Mr. VON WEIZSACKER noted that research and science had not received sufficient attention as an agenda item, and called for a shift of emphasis to increasing resource productivity. As most precious metals had recycling rates of below 1 per cent, engineering design and production needed to be shifted towards better re-use. With regard to water, he noted that waste was high and methods to combat water scarcity, typically leading to development of new dams, were not effective. While energy scarcity was a major issue, energy squandering also needed to be considered, and research communities must address it. Financial savings associated with the use of renewable energies could be used to boost their further use. Given that, he stressed the necessity of incentives that encouraged producers and consumers to behave sustainably.
On the issue of pricing, he said that the absence of prices on energy and water led to immense squandering, asserting that subsidizing the use of resources was not effective in combating waste. In that area, tax shifts could lead to job creation; therefore, taboos about the pricing of natural resources needed to be addressed and included in the agenda in the next 10 years.
Ms. TAIPALE emphasized the importance of sustainable building and construction, noting that small additional costs associated with it would be paid back in only a few years via energy savings. Nearly 40 per cent of all energy was consumed in building and construction, she noted, which translated to roughly 30 per cent of carbon emissions. Net-zero-energy building was becoming a possibility with new construction, as technology and know-how in that area was growing quickly.
She also highlighted energy consumption through construction work and the use of specific materials, noting that the use of less energy-intensive materials or local materials could help to combat it. More efforts were needed in addressing the use, operation and maintenance of buildings, as 80 to 90 per cent of energy consumption was generated through the use and construction of buildings. The refurbishment of existing buildings — including those in slum areas — was also important, she said, noting that the focus should be on how to make them use less energy.
Efforts to reduce energy consumption in building and construction could lead to a “third industrial revolution”, with the usage of local renewable energy, local low-carbon material and decent local work, she said. Financial savings from energy efficiency and reduced carbon emissions could later be used to alleviate poverty and promote better living conditions for people, she noted. In that regard, she stressed the need to define and discuss the vision of sustainable consumption and production and the definition of a clear road map ahead for the nineteenth session.
Mr. MUNASINGHE emphasized the global risks associated with economic, social and environmental crises. Economic stimulus packages were created in large developing countries to address the financial crisis; however, a more even redistribution of funds would have been more beneficial to more people, he said, noting that there was still a momentum for change.
Thus far, countries had been addressing issues of poverty, inequity, resource conflicts and environmental degradation at a superficial level, he said. If consumption and production patterns, technology, population and governance could be addressed sufficiently and effectively in the short term, such issues could be solved in the long term. To do that, actions towards sustainable development should be taken step by step.
He stressed the need to achieve a balance between economic, social and environmental elements, citing a shift in behavioural patterns and innovation as key to sustainable consumption. We must, he said, replace unsustainable values and think globally in the long term. In implementation, there needed to be a shift from theory to practice. Rich countries, he stressed, must decarbonise, while maintaining economic growth and, in turn, developing countries must learn from the experiences of rich countries. He added that producers could play a vital role in securing sustainable consumption through methods that used price, information, psychology and advertising to encourage sustainable consumption behaviour.
In the ensuing discussion, several speakers underscored the urgent need to scale up efforts towards sustainable consumption and production, noting that change must begin in the developed countries. A stark divergence in global incomes had led to unsustainable production and uneven patterns of consumption, the costs of which negatively impacted the quality of life for the poor. Many speakers cited that imbalance as a major challenge, calling for its reversal in order to ensure sustainability. A long-term shift in consumer behaviour and consumption patterns could be achieved through both formal and informal education.
Several speakers cited the decoupling of economic growth from the use of natural resources and environmental degradation, as well as improvements in quality of life, as key goals of any strategies for sustainable development, underscoring the important role of business, partnerships and the use of science and engineering in achieving it. The 10-Year Framework, many speakers stressed, should be approached in an inclusive and participatory manner, be ambitious and have a basis in the area of sustainable development.
The Framework should also be led by developed countries, recognize the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, support poverty-eradication efforts and contribute to a fair and equitable multilateral trading system. Participants also emphasized the need for the Framework to address challenges faced by developing countries through financing, the transfer of technology and information, training and capacity-building.
Participants were split over how to proceed in preparation for the Commission’s nineteenth session, with some in favour of intersessional discussions and others opposing them.
Mr. STEINER said efforts towards achieving sustainable consumption and production should be addressed in both an economic and policy context on the regional, national and global levels so that discussions would be taken seriously.
Ms. TAIPALE, responding to questions about a financing mechanism for sustainable consumption and production, reflected on the mechanisms under development within the climate change framework, noting that major funding commitments to help mitigate climate change had been made in Copenhagen. In relation to funding for sustainable consumption, she reiterated that energy efficiency savings could be earmarked to fund poverty eradication programmes.
Mr. MUNASINGHE noted that there had been encouraging signs from large multinational corporations, underlining their efforts to reach out and move in the direction of sustainability. He called on Governments to work with them and make efforts to develop producer incentives for green, economic growth.
Ministerial Round Table on Mining
Co-chaired by Susan Shabangu, Minister for Mineral Resources of South Africa, and Lászlo Borbély, Minister for Environment and Forests of Romania, the round table featured presentations by Samuel J. Spiegel, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge; Kathryn McPhail, Senior Programme Director, International Council on Mining and Metals; and Roderick Eggert, Director, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines.
Mr. BORBÉLY said that, while mining contributed to income generation and Government revenue, it could also be a source of environmental hazard. The challenge was to develop solutions that were sustainable at the community, national and global levels, while fostering the environment, in keeping with the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. The discussion would attempt to answer questions on how to streamline mining activities into long-term national development imperatives; how to ensure good governance and cooperation in such a way as to pave the way for sustainable mining communities; and the best means to promote transparency and public accountability, managerial capacities and investment and technology transfer.
RACHEL MAYANJA, Assistant-Secretary General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said mining was essential to modern life and sustained economic growth. Good governance was vital in ensuring that mining contributed to sustainable development and included transparency among companies and Governments alike. Indeed, mining should be linked to the rest of the economy, with measures to broaden its social benefits.
With that in mind, today’s objective should be to sharpen the focus, she said, asking what were the key remaining challenges to ensuring that mining contributed to sustainable development. What steps must be taken nationally and globally to minimize its negative impacts? What must be done to improve women’s participation in mining-related decision-making? How could the development impact be maximized through partnerships, especially for local communities?
Mr. SPIEGEL launched the discussion by addressing the issue of governance strategies in artisanal gold-mining communities, noting that 80 million to 100 million people, particularly in Asia and Africa, depended on small-scale mining for their livelihoods. It was vital to ask what kinds of Government approaches were needed to manage the sector in a sustainable manner, he said, noting that an estimated 20 per cent of global gold production came from artisanal gold mining. Many people were pushed into the sector out of necessity and, in some areas, 50 per cent of the workers were women, he said. The sector operated largely outside any legal framework and Governments had not yet developed policies for it.
Efforts to develop policy frameworks had not yielded many benefits, he said. Since most Governments focused on large-scale mining, there were no assistance programmes for their small-scale counterparts. Governments must find ways to deliver training and risk mitigation, among other services, to those communities. Military or police campaigns to tackle illegal mining in many countries were rarely beneficial, if ever, he said, noting that, in many areas, mining licences were expensive and people did not know how to comply with the relevant laws. It was vital that Governments provide guidance, particularly on mercury extraction, and long-term services.
Citing a project in the United Republic of Tanzania in that context, he said it examined whether there were legal spaces that would enable artisanal miners to work. The Government had started a process of designating special artisanal mining areas, and developed guidelines to make mercury management more responsible. Other projects were under way in Zimbabwe and Indonesia, he added. To increase funds for district offices, Governments could use revenues from the large-scale mining sector to provide training and assistance to artisanal workers. “We have to be innovative,” he said, adding that the sector must be recognized as a contributor to poverty alleviation. Robust services — and legal channels to provide them — must be established.
Ms. MCPHAIL discussed three key challenges, the first of which centred on people and poverty reduction. She said responsible mining could kick-start economic growth and poverty reduction. There were rising expectations among local communities that shouldered the costs and social burdens of a mining operation. There were processes — like the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative — that allowed for greater disclosure, but human rights questions increasingly centred on how mining operations addressed the concerns of indigenous peoples.
The second challenge, the environment, had seen growing emphasis on services provided by ecosystems, she said. Questions around mine closures centred on both the financial aspects of closure and ways to integrate health, social and environmental aspects into closing down operations. As for the third challenge, partnerships, she said that, over the last five years, the International Council had worked to identify countries that had avoided the “resource curse” and enhanced mining’s contribution to social and economic development. Peru, Chile, Ghana and the United Republic of Tanzaniahad all effectively managed problems relating to land access, small-scale mining and transparency. With a governance structure characterized by efficient administrative capacity and limits to State power, positive outcomes could be achieved, she said.
Mr. EGGERT focused his remarks on “how to use mining to enhance human living standards”. In that connection, he discussed the need to facilitate the creation of mineral wealth. “We need to pay attention to mechanisms that encourage the assessment of a nation’s mineral wealth,” he said, citing policies that created an investment environment, to that end. Attention must also focus on ensuring that mineral development was efficient in its “full social sense”, and further, that mining surpluses were distributed fairly. That was an ethical issue, and a definition of what was fair could be forged through public, transparent discussion.
He also urged a focus on sustaining the benefits of mining, even after closure, asking how mineral wealth could be made permanent. One way to achieve that was by investing in education and human health. Another way was to look at the potential of savings and stabilization funds, he said, noting that, while examples abounded in the oil sector, there were not many in the mining sector. The idea was to invest a portion of income in financial assets, while using income from those assets for worthy expenditures.
Such funds could have various benefits, including stabilizing Government spending in an inherently “boom and bust” sector, he pointed out. They could also safeguard spending from temptations that often characterized political decision-making. If implemented appropriately, they could emphasize socially productive investment and allow populations to take a stake in mining activity. However, experience in creating such funds was mixed, he cautioned, noting that implementation problems had often led to less-than-satisfactory results. Nonetheless, Chile had started a copper stabilization fund in 1985, which had later been transformed into two funds: a savings fund which financed the pension system and another aimed at macroeconomic stabilization. A measure of its success was that Chile had avoided many negative impacts of the financial crisis by using stabilization funds. He also cited Norway’s decision to fund its pension system from an oil fund, and the state of Alaska in the United States, which operated a fund that paid annual dividends to all Alaskans.
In the discussion that followed, Government representatives focused on mining’s heavy contribution to the growth of gross domestic product (GDP), pointing out that access to affordable minerals was vital to the functioning of the global economy. Many speakers from resource-rich nations cited efforts to address the dual imperatives of generating income and maintaining sustainable operations, with some saying that, in order to achieve that balance, it would be necessary to limit waste and increase recycling. India’s delegate spoke about efforts to create self-contained new townships for displaced populations.
Among factors cited as key barriers to moving forward with sustainable mining was the absence of clear management arrangements, trained officials and legislative systems offering environmental protection. Additionally, the World Bank’s many models for developing countries appeared confused and required streamlining, a situation prevailing also in the laws governing the industry. One speaker emphasized that education, training and skills transfer must reach women if the mining sector was to protect their interests. Legislation must also allow indigenous peoples to participate in decision-making.
Indonesia’s delegate, pointing out that developing countries often inherited the task of environmental clean-up, stressed the need to define supply- and demand-side responsibilities clearly, especially with regard to mine closures.
Offering a positive direction, the representative of Australia emphasized that many barriers to sustainable mining could be surmounted, pointing out that his Government was working with several countries to transfer knowledge. A cooperative partnership approach and the promotion of best practices could be considered in order to help developing countries gain the most from their mineral resources, he said.
Calling attention to his country’s global activities, the representative of Belgium discussed an initiative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo through which children were taken out of mines and reintegrated into society, mainly to attend school. In that context, he called for an end to child labour in mines.
Among the several representatives of civil society major groups taking the floor, the children and youth delegate praised Belgium’s efforts, pointing out that 1 million children worked in mines worldwide, and that number was growing. “Children should come home with book bags, not mining kits, he stressed, calling for an examination of the reasons why parents sent their children into mines. Governments could improve their situation by diversifying their economies, since all too often, mine closures brought economic disaster. Alternative employment and positive social incentives, like reward funds for children attending school, should also be sought, he said.
Another speaker said the rights of indigenous people’s rights were often exploited, because they were disproportionately subjected to mining’s destructive impacts. She called on Governments, companies and investors to respect existing global standards and endorse the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Indeed, more was written about best practice than could be seen, she said, adding that it amounted to less than what was needed to uphold global standards. Stronger monitoring was required, as was a balanced body to disseminate information on mining activities. Improved mechanisms for seeking redress would speed the introduction of better practices, she said.
A representative of business and industry noted that the mining industry touched on all areas of the Commission’s thematic cluster: it was both a creator and user of transport infrastructure; it produced non-organic chemicals; it generated and used waste; and it formed part of the sustainable consumption and production process. Indeed, a life-cycle approach to mining operations was needed. The efficient use and re-use of metals was critical to a net positive return on investment. Global efforts should help countries achieve good governance over mineral endowments.
Ms. SHABANGU, Co-Chair, said in closing remarks that the discussions had brought attention to various issues, including the potential of partnerships among Governments, companies and local communities, to create change. It had also highlighted the need to strengthen the technical capacities of institutions and to focus on small-scale mining, which suffered from poor technology and a lack of financial support.
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