• Date submitted: 28 Oct 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Member State
  • Name: China
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Education (1 hits),

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National Submission of the People?s Republic of China on the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012

October 2011

The UN Conference on Environment and Development held in 1992 was an important landmark in international development cooperation. Over the past 20 years, the international community has made much progress in promoting sustainable development and in the implementation of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Agenda 21, the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development and the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (?Johannesburg Plan of Implementation?), as evidenced by the deepening of international and regional cooperation in various forms in the field of environment and development, and the births of many relevant international treaties. Developing countries have made tremendous efforts to promote sustainable development, and made some strides in poverty eradication and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). More than a hundred countries have adopted national sustainable development strategies, with active participation of the governments at various levels, the business community, NGOs and the general public. The concept of sustainable development is now accepted worldwide.

Nevertheless, the long-standing problem of lack of implementation in the field of sustainable development continues to exist; there is a huge imbalance in the economic and social development of different regions; the trend toward ecological degradation and environmental pollution has yet to be fundamentally reversed; and timely achievement of the MDGs remains a daunting task. Developing countries are confronted with difficulties such as serious shortages of finance, technology and capacity building. The international financial crisis, climate change, food and energy crises, natural disasters and a host of other challenges have added to the burden of developing countries in their efforts to pursue sustainable development.With the impact of the international financial crisis continuing to ferment and the instability and uncertainty of the world economic recovery getting more acute, the world sustainable development endeavors are faced with a more complicated situation and severe challenges.

The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012 will provide an important opportunity for the international community to promote global cooperation in sustainable development. Amidst the difficulties encountered by the global economy and international development cooperation, Rio+20 should send a positive, clear and strong signal on reinvigorating international cooperation, integrate economic development, social progress and environmental protection, take effective measures to overcome the difficulties and problems facing developing countries, strengthen the development pillar of the United Nations, and inject new vigor and vitality into the global sustainable development agenda.

1. Prospect for the Conference

--- The Conference should encourage countries to strengthen their political will and pledge to fully implement the consensus reached during the UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002. The Conference should also make a comprehensive assessment of the progress made by the international community in sustainable development, examine the weaknesses and deficiencies, and work for new progress in international sustainable development cooperation, bearing in mind the set goals and by way of effectively dealing with new problems and new challenges, especially the practical difficulties and new challenges facing developing countries.

--- The Conference should adopt an action-oriented, pragmatic approach, and work out concrete and specific plans of implementation. In particular, it should reaffirm that developed countries should need to materialize financial support, technology transfer, capacity building and other means of implementation, and make real efforts to promote the global sustainable development agenda.

2. General principles guiding the Conference

--- Adhere to the principle of integrating the three pillars, namely, economic development, social development and environmental protection. The Conference should focus on the objectives of sustainable development, harmonize economic, social and environmental factors, and push for all-round, balanced, coordinated and sustainable development.

--- Adhere to the principle of ?common but differentiated responsibilities? and other principles established during the Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro. Sustainable development is the shared responsibility and mission of the international community. International cooperation is the only way leading to sustainable development. International cooperation should be based on equality and mutual respect, take full consideration of the disparity in the stage and level of development between developing countries and developed countries, recognize the difficulties and problems plaguing developing countries, and effectively help developing countries achieve sustainable development.

--- Adhere to the principle of diversified modes of development. As countries differ in their development stages and levels as well as national conditions, there is no one-size-fits-all mode for sustainable development. It is important to respect the right of countries to choose independently their modes of sustainable development, and their own ways and paths of development suited to their national conditions, and ensure that they have enough policy space.

--- Adhere to the principle of government-driven, with broad participation of various stakeholders. In the process of promoting sustainable development, government plays an irreplaceable role. In the meantime, the extensive and in-depth participation of the civil society, private sector, business community and other major groups are also necessary.

--- Adhere to the principle of consensus. The Conference should be action-oriented and consensus-based. The principle of consensus should be fully reflected throughout the process of conference preparation and convocation, as well as negotiation of the outcome document. The views of all parties, especially those of developing countries, should be well-taken in a spirit of mutual respect, friendly consultation, seeking common ground while shelving differences, and broadening consensus.

3. Green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development

Green economy is an important instrument to achieving sustainable development. While it plays a positive role for poverty eradication and economic restructuring, it also comes with risks and challenges. Development of green economy is a long and complicated process fraught with difficulties. Developing countries, in particular, due to constraints in financing, technology and capacity building, are faced with many practical difficulties in developing green economy. The international community needs to strengthen cooperation, maximize benefits while mitigating risks, and truly address the concerns of developing countries.

--- The primary goal of developing green economy is poverty eradication. The issue of poverty bears on the rights to subsistence and development, which are essential to the people in developing countries. Poverty eradication is something that developing countries consider first and foremost when it comes to development of green economy. It should also serve as an important benchmark for formulation and implementation of policies on green economy.

--- Many developing countries are now experiencing rapid industrialization and urbanization. They are both faced with the daunting task of eradicating poverty, adjusting economic structure and transitioning to a green economy, and constrained by energy, resources and environmental factors. The success of green economy in these countries figures prominently in global sustainable development, and merits the understanding and support of the international community.

--- The international community should provide an enabling environment for the development of developing countries. It should oppose various forms of trade protectionism in the name of green economy, or making assistance conditional to the development of green economy.

--- Developed countries should take the lead in changing their unsustainable ways of production, living and consumption, embark on the path of green development, and set a good example for developing countries. In the meantime, they should make vigorous efforts to help developing countries in their efforts to develop green economy, including provision of finance, transfer of technology, capacity building, and expansion of market access. Developing countries should formulate and implement sustainable development strategies suited to their national conditions.

--- In developing green economy, countries need to draw up comprehensive jobs plans supplemented by effective social security measures to secure a decent job and stable source of income for everyone and basic living necessities for the general public, especially the vulnerable groups. The international community should assist developing countries in providing educational courses and vocational training, and reduce the social cost and compensate for developing countries during their transition to green economy.

4. Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development

To effectively promote the institutional framework of sustainable development creates favorable conditions for full implementation of Agenda 21 and JPOI, and addressing various new challenges. The institutional framework should help strike a balance between economic growth, social development and environmental protection, help increase the voice and participation of developing countries in the decision making process, and help resolve the actual difficulties of developing countries in areas such as financing, technology and capacity building.

--- It is necessary to give full play to the core leadership and coordinating role of the United Nations. The functions of the United Nations to provide policy guidance and coordination should be strengthened so as to guide, coordinate and harmonize the actions of relevant agencies, multilateral institutions and treaty bodies and engage them in the process of sustainable development.

--- The role of ECOSOC, Commission on Sustainable Development and relevant UN specialized agencies in sustainable development should be strengthened to enhance the role of the United Nations in this area and push for implementation of Agenda 21 and JPOI

--- The important role of UNEP in global environmental governance should be fully tapped, and financial and technical support to UNEP increased. Parties should seek consensus on the new functions and mandate of UNEP through thorough discussions.

--- The international financial institutions, the WTO and multilateral development banks should incorporate sustainable development into their plans and programs and work in coordination with the relevant UN agencies to form synergy and strike a greater balance between the environment and development.

--- Agenda 21 should serve as a basic framework to comprehensively strengthen governance at the international, regional, national and local levels. Countries should be encouraged to formulate comprehensive strategies, strengthen coordination among government departments, mobilize social participation and improve their capacity of implementation.

Chair?s Summary

High-Level Symposium on the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

8-9 September 2011, Beijing, China

1. The High-Level Symposium on the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development was held in Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, Beijing, China on 8-9 September 2011. It was co-sponsored by the Government of the People?s Republic of China and the Secretariat of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). Mr. Wu Hailong, Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affair of China and Executive Secretary-General of the China Preparatory Committee for UNCSD, and Mr. Sha Zukang, Under Secreatry General of the United Nations and Secretary General of the UNCSD co-chaired the meeting. Nearly 150 participants attended the meeting, including high-level officials from 35 Member States, as well as leading international experts and representatives from the UN system agencies, intergovernmental organizations and Major Groups.

2. The purpose of the Beijing Symposium was to have frank and open high-level discussions on the objective and two themes of Rio+20, with a view to formulating concrete proposals as a contribution to the preparation of the Conference.

3. Mr. Yang Jiechi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, Mr. Zhang Ping, Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission of China, Mr. Sha Zukang, Under Secretary General of the United Nations and Secretary General of the UNCSD, Mr. Jorge Martin Arturo Arguello, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations and Chair of the Group of 77 and China, and Mr. Markus Ederer, Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union to China and Mongolia attended the opening ceremony and made statements.

4. Two sessions on the themes of Rio+20 and two panels on the objective of Rio+20 were organized. Session I on ?A green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication? was co-chaired by Mr. Keith Christie (Canada) and Mr. Chen Xue (China). Session II on ?Institutional framework for sustainable development? was co-chaired by Ms. Tarja Helena Reponen (Finland) and Mr. Ghafur Akbar Dharmaputra (Indonesia). Panel I on ?Securing renewed political commitment, and assessing the progress to date and the remaining gaps in implementation? was co-chaired by Mr. Andre Aranha Correa do Lago (Brazil) and Ms. Tania Valerie Raguz (Croatia). Panel II on ?Addressing new and emerging challenges? was co-chaired by Mr. Angel Mokara Moleila (Equatorial Guinea) and Ms. Deborah Anne Stokes (Australia).

5. Presentations were made by the following panelists: Mr. Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources of Mexico, Mr. Sheng Fulai, Mr. Martin Khor, Ms. Sarah Liao, Mr. Steven Bernstein, Mr. Munir Akram, Ms. Reneta Lok-Dessallien, Mr. Maurice Strong, Mr. Vijai Sharma, Mr. Kandeh Yumkella, and Mr. Arthur Hanson.

6. Delegates and experts had intensive and fruitful discussions in the Symposium, and made good progress towards a better mutual understanding of each other?s current thinking on the objective and themes of Rio+20. Participants have clarified areas where they seem to be nearing consensus, areas of remaining difference, as well as areas where they still need to explore ideas and proposals with open minds. The key messages emanated from the discussions are as follows:


(a) The international community is facing great challenges and difficulties in realizing sustainable development. The global financial crisis, climate change, food and energy crises and natural disasters have added to the burden on the international community, in particular developing countries, in achieving sustainable development. In this context, Rio+20 represents an important opportunity for the international community to enhance global cooperation on sustainable development. We should have a thorough review of the implementation of the sustainable development commitments over the past 20 years, show political will, formulate concrete action plans and coordinate the efforts to deliver on our commitments.

(b) Rio+20 should be action-oriented and consensus-based. The Conference needs to produce an assessment of why many commitments of the UNCED and the WSSD have not been realized to their full potential. Rio+20 should not renegotiate or retract agreed instruments, principles and outcomes of major summits on sustainable development. The outcomes of the Conference should be focused, address present day challenges, and provide the necessary political impetus for the range and level of action required to bridge the implementation gaps.

(c) The multiple crises in recent years have reinforced an appreciation of the urgency of reorienting current economic growth models. We need to rethink development together. Growth should be inclusive, equitable and strongly oriented towards poverty eradication. We have to reduce the environmental footprint of this growth with sensible policies on energy, water, agriculture, oceans, urbanization, disaster resilience and preparedness, and job creation.

The three pillars of sustainable development should be further integrated.

(d) The UNCED in 1992 and the WSSD in 2002 are two major milestones on the path to sustainable development. The Rio principles and spirit, including the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, should continue to serve as the guidance and basis for the international community to strengthen cooperation and move forward on sustainable development.

(e) There is no universally applicable model of sustainable development, as countries vary in resources endowments, stage of development and capacity.

The international community should respect the right of countries to pursue their own sustainable development paths, take full account of the specific conditions of different countries, and ensure that they have enough space to formulate effective sustainable development policies.

(f) We need to make provision for technology, finance and capacity building for the economic transformation needed for sustainable development, and support developing countries in their efforts to pursue sustainable development.

Appropriate technologies that can facilitate transformation to a sustainable world should be identified and technology cooperation and technology transfer should be strengthened.

(g) There can be a number of ways to augment financing for a green economy as a means to sustainable development. In this regard, financing needs to come from all sources, public, private and innovative sources, such as the issuance of ?Earth Bonds?. Creation at Rio+20 of a global green economy fund was also raised as a proposal for consideration.

(h) The question of sustainable development goals as part of a post-2015 development agenda was discussed from different perspectives. In coming months, we will need to address concerns and questions about how to define such goals in a way that is ambitious and feasible, that is inclusive and at the same time respects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

It was suggested that, while it may not be feasible to agree to a set of such goals at Rio+20, a process could perhaps be set in motion to discuss and define them in the period to 2015.

(i) Renewed political commitment is essential for increasing integration of all three pillars of sustainable development as well as for implementation. It should primarily come from governments, but other stakeholders also should be included in decision-making and assessment of fulfilment of commitments. Accountability is important for all stakeholders. Partnerships with all Major Groups and financial institutions should be strengthened.

(j) The list of new and emerging issues is long. A number of new and emerging issues were identified and highlighted for priority attention, which include: energy access, security and sustainability; food security and sustainable agriculture; water scarcity and sound water management; improved resilience and disaster preparedness; land and soil degradation and sustainable land management; and oceans and sustainable fishery.

(k) To fill implementation gaps and meet the new and emerging challenges, increasing international efforts are needed,on: promoting sustainable consumption and production, with developed countries taking the lead; knowledge and capacity sharing for replication and scaling up of successful models; empowerment of women; scientific and technological cooperation, including participation of developing country scientists in collaborative international research and development and accelerated technology transfer; enhancing capacities and participation of all stakeholders, including through strengthened Education; and closing the funding gap.

(l) Some delegates mentioned that Rio Principle 10 of access to information and justice is lacking in implementation and should be reconfirmed and strengthened at Rio+20.

Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication

(a) There is not yet a universally accepted definition of the term green economy. However, it is widely agreed that green economy is a means and can be a good instrument to achieve sustainable development. Its core objective is to achieve economic growth, social progress and environmental protection in a comprehensive, balanced and coordinated manner. A green economy should contribute to the eradication of poverty and to social inclusion. It needs to be treated as a ?bottom up? rather than a ?top down? approach, based on differing national circumstances and priorities. A green economy must help to address head-on the sustainable development implementation failures.

(b) A green economy can be seen as a new way of approaching economic decision making, one that emphasizes potential synergies between economic and social development and environmental protection, identifies new green growth opportunities and shifts investments to capture them, and treats investment in protection and sustainable management of the natural resource base as an integral part of poverty eradication strategies. Green economy should provide an opportunity to engage economic decision-makers more fully in advancing sustainable development goals.

(c) There are risks and opportunities of a green economy. We need to minimize the risks and grab the opportunities. It would be helpful if we could agree upfront on what the green economy is not, or should not be.

(d) In developing the green economy, the international community should act in accordance with the principle of mutual benefit and promote sustainable development for all. A green economy should offer new trade opportunities to all countries, and not become a pretext for ?green protectionism? or ?green conditions? in international cooperation. Least developed countries in particular would benefit from trade capacity building and facilitation to be able to seize new green product market opportunities. (e) Developing countries are facing great challenges in eradicating poverty and sustaining growth, and transition to a green economy would require further structural adjustments to their economies. In this, they need the understanding and support of the international community. The international community should create an enabling environment for developing countries to transition to a green economy. Agreement on a framework for promoting sustainable consumption and production could be a useful contribution of Rio+20 to building green economies. In that regard, developed countries should take the lead in changing consumption and production patterns and help developing countries with financial support, technology transfer, capacity building and market access.

(f) There have been proposals made for a global green economy fund, as well as questions raised about its feasibility under current global economic conditions. It is widely accepted that sizeable investment will need to flow into green sectors as well as ?greening? of all sectors. While domestic resource mobilization will play a key role, for many countries, especially the least developed countries, enhanced access to international finance will be crucial as well as new and additional resources.

(g) Discussion on a green economy at Rio+20 may contain a number of key elements, which include: a set of framing principles and caveats; a road map for countries to follow in their efforts to build green economies bottom-up; a menu of policy options for countries to consider in building green economies; a toolkit for analysis and policy choice; financial, technology and capacity building support to enable developing countries to accelerate progress along green development paths. This list is still evolving. Countries will develop more concrete and action-oriented proposals as we move towards Rio.

(h) The importance of certain sectors to transition to a green economy has been stressed, especially renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and blue economy and preservation of marine environment and resources. The latter are of particular importance to Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

(i) Social and environmental dimensions need to be built into green economy policies, such as creation of green jobs and livelihoods as well as water and energy access, food security and sustainable agriculture, and climate change. Countries need to share lessons on how green economy policies can create abundant decent jobs, as well as on how to ease any employment dislocation and adjustments associated with moving towards green economies.

(j) Countries are already undertaking initiatives to promote socially inclusive green economies. Scaling up these initiatives is a continuing challenge. Strengthened means of implementation and international cooperation can support effective scale up.

(k) Involvement of all actors, state and non-state, has been underlined as critical to building green economies and promoting sustainable development and poverty eradication. This includes active engagement of underrepresented parts of society such as women, youth, the unemployed and vulnerable.

(l) There was some discussion on indicators to measure progress towards a green economy and some thought they should be linked to measurable targets to contribute to greater transparency and accountability. However, there was no consensus on this issue.

Institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD)

(a) The core of sustainable development lies in the coordinated development of the three pillars of economic development, social progress and environmental protection. Any institutional framework for sustainable development must be centred on these three pillars in a balanced manner. Strengthened governance in all three pillars, as well as improved integration among the three pillars, is firmly on the Rio+20 agenda.

(b) The sheer scale and acceleration of global problems ? climate change, biodiversity loss, food insecurity, and economic instability ? lead to the conclusion that the existing governance arrangements are not up to the task in their current configuration. The failures are on non-implementation, nonintegration of three pillars both at the political and operational level, and on coherence between various parts of the system.

(c) The United Nations should continue to play a key leading role in advancing the process of sustainable development. Further institutional building should be aimed at enhancing the policy guidance and action capability of the UN, and helping relevant international bodies, multilateral institutions, and treaty mechanisms to take coordinated steps.

(d) There is wide acknowledgement of the need to bring coherence and coordination to the landscape of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), intergovernmental bodies, and the UN system and other international organizations.

(e) Attention has been drawn to the fragmentation and relative weakness of the environmental pillar, as well as weaknesses in the social and economic pillars. As of now, effective integration of the three pillars remains an aspiration more than a reality.

(f) Current global governance and institutions for sustainable development need be reformed and improved, taking into account both longer term arrangements and short term feasibility. Efforts should focus on mainstreaming sustainable development more effectively into the work of all relevant UN bodies, with a particular focus on the development pillar, balancing economic growth, social development and environmental protection, and facilitating the fulfilment of sustainable development commitments.

(g) The reform of sustainable development governance should be guided by a set of principles. These include: (i) agreement on core problems to be addressed;

(ii) form should follow function and substance; (iii) any reform should not only improve the integration of the three pillars of sustainable development, but restore the balance among these pillars; (iv) enhance transparency and participation; and (v) embrace complexity by simplifying administration, implementation and compliance arrangements.

(h) In broad terms, institutional reform proposals at the international level can be categorized into three clusters: (i) various proposals for enhancing ECOSOC and the Commission on Sustainable Development; (ii) options focusing on the environmental pillar, ranging from strengthening UNEP within its current structure to making it into a specialized agency to the creation of a World Environment Organization, and (iii) elevating the functions of the Commission on Sustainable Development into a Sustainable Development Council reporting directly to the General Assembly. The Symposium has helped us advance our understanding of the various proposals. Among the range of views expressed, there is a common thread concerning the need for integration, coherence, efficiency, effectiveness in promoting implementation, and flexibility to address emerging challenges.

(i) Sustainable development is predicated on integrated policy-making and implementation at all levels. If sustainable development requires broad integration into institutions, policies and programmes, it also continues to need an institutional champion and torch-bearer. In this regard, some have suggested a strengthened CSD and many others suggested upgrading CSD to a Sustainable Development Council with an enhanced mandate for monitoring progress on implementation, and the Human Rights Council was mentioned as a possible model.

(j) International Environment Governance (IEG) is an integral part of IFSD. There was broad agreement that strengthening the environmental pillar of sustainable development governance is needed, and that this involves in the first instance enhancing UNEP. Views have not converged on the best modality for doing this.

(k) Rio+20 Conference provide an opportunity to strengthen the IFSD at all levels. It should however be recognized at the outset that without strong political will and commitment, no mechanism will succeed.

(l) Delivering as one by the UN system at country level was considered a good model to strengthen coordination and integration of various facets of sustainable development in the national context. In this regard, the need for more systematic mainstreaming of a sustainable development perspective into national development frameworks such as UNDAFs was highlighted.

(m) IFSD should reflect the voice of all stakeholders, including State Government, civil society, NGOs and the private sector.

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