Science, Policy, Business Forum
– As delivered –
Statement by H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, at Closing Plenary of Science, Policy, Business Forum
President of the UN Environment Assembly His Excellency Dr. Edgar Gutiérrez
Executive Director of UN Environment Programme Mr. Erik Solheim
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Congratulations on your fruitful deliberations over the last two days on the theme “Science for Green Solutions”.
At the United Nations, we often speak about breaking down silos. This forum is doing just that: removing artificial barriers between science, policy and business.
Today our advances have been accompanied by setbacks. These threaten our very existence. But it doesn’t have to be this way. My first point is that, development need not lead to environmental destruction.
Coherence between what science tells us, the policies that governments make and the actions of the business community are essential.
Science has predicted environmental degradation for many years. Likewise, indigenous knowledge has warned about our neglect of the environment.
Government policies must be informed by science and be in the interest of people.
But it is not just about governments. There is overwhelming agreement that all “stakeholders” must be involved in the solutions. This includes the private sector.
It is short-sighted for businesses today to just look at their bottom line. It is no longer business savvy to place profit above planet. World markets tell us that sustainable consumption and green solutions are the right way to go.
Secondly, we have had many benchmarks of success. The Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement have put our aspirations on paper. But these declarations will be empty unless we urgently act on them. We are yet to do what we pledged to do.
We have examples of what can happen when we act on our commitments. The success of the Montreal Protocol is a shining example of what we can do when we work together. Decades ago science warned us about the growing hole in the ozone layer and the need to curb our use of ozone depleting substances. We weaned ourselves off the damaging aerosols and other products that contributed to this problem. This involved concerted efforts from governments, businesses, the scientific community and people on the ground.
In fixing our ozone layer problem, we switched to substances that magnified the warming of our climate. Through the Kigali Amendment, we have committed to climate-friendly solutions to this problem.
These are all benchmarks of success for the international community. But the true measure of success is the impact on our people and our planet. For this impact to be felt – we need to turn our commitments on paper into action.
Thirdly, despite our commitments, many people are still being left behind.
At the same time, pollution is affecting human health and well being.
The facts are alarming. Over 12 million lives are lost each year due to environmental causes. 4000 children die every day because of polluted water and inadequate sanitation. 3 million people die yearly from exposure to pesticides. Poor air quality leads to the premature death of about 7 million people each year.
These statistics represent the work ahead. For each statistic, there is a human being who just wants a decent life on a sustainable planet. The science community, policymakers and private sector must not let these people down. I commend the United Nations Environmental Programme for using its convening power to get these critical players together.
Science, policy and business sometimes seem worlds apart. But each of these groups has a stake in our environment. We must continue to talk and listen to each other. Our survival depends on it.
Finally, we must ask ourselves: how can we make progress?
In my experience, the most powerful tool is dialogue. Today we see this dialogue between critical groups: science, policy and business.
I hope to provide an opportunity for dialogue through my event on financing sustainable development goals. This event will be convened in June. The Sustainable Development Goals have very significant resource implications. We cannot depend on governments alone to mobilize these funds. Private sector funding is critical. But we need to match private sector funding with much-needed projects and to facilitate innovative financing.
Young people are also critical to our success. At COP 23 in Bonn, I met with an engaging group of young people who are working hard to save our planet. I was impressed with their involvement in the climate negotiations and in their communities.
Youth will inherit the earth. And they stand to suffer the worst of yesterday’s shortsighted decisions. But they are also researchers, innovators and business people who are solving our environmental problems. They are the voters who are holding our governments accountable.
I will convene an event focusing on youth and education on May 30th next year. The main aim of the event is to bring the United Nations closer to young people so that they can shape discussion and policy on the most pressing issues. Not the least of these issues will be our quest for a sustainable planet, climate change and beating pollution.
Another key area where we need green solutions is water and sanitation. Next March we will launch the decade on water for sustainable development. I invite all of you here to participate.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today we are at a crossroads. Environmental issues challenge us today but also hold solutions. We must choose the path of sustainability.
Science, policy and business sometimes seem worlds apart. But each of these groups has a stake in our environment. We must continue to talk and listen to each other. Our survival depends on it. We can come up with green solutions when we put our heads together.
In all of this, our focus must remain on people. From people in small island developing states who are at the frontline of the war on climate change. To the indigenous communities whose livelihoods are threatened by deforestation. To the child who cannot breathe freely due to air pollution. We do not need any more reason to act urgently.
I thank you very much.