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Blog by Rio+20 Secretary-General, Mr. Sha Zukang
Questions relating to Rio+20 - 29 Apr 2011 As preparations for Rio+20 move ahead, I find myself answering more and more questions from delegates, colleagues in the UN family and major groups. I have decided to post these questions and answers as my blog entry for this month. Of course, these answers represent my personal views only. I will continue to share my thoughts and views in the coming months in this space. If you are interested in sharing your views and comments, please email them to email@example.com. I will try to address them in my future blogs. Thank you.
EXPECTATIONS1. What will this Conference achieve?
- I hope that Rio will produce a blueprint for a coherent pursuit of sustainable development, including:
- Renewed political commitment for sustainable development.
- Mobilization of the entire UN system in support of sustainable development. This requires strengthening of the three pillars - including social and economic, not just environmental.
- A strengthened Commission on Sustainable Development
- A strengthened UNEP.
- Guidelines on the Green Economy.
- Actionable commitments in financing and technology cooperation.
- The challenges we face now are greater than they were when they were identified at the Earth Summit 20 years ago.
- It's not that countries think these issues are any less important. In fact they believe there is more urgency to implementing sustainable development.
- They need to see their efforts going toward implementation. So Rio + 20 itself will be an example of a sharper focus on implementation - and we believe we can achieve tangible results.
- Regarding the question of 'a summit versus a conference'. First of all, let me highlight the Resolution, which states, in paragraph 20, that the General Assembly "decides to organize, in 2012, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development at the highest possible level, including Heads of State and Government..."
- So, of course, it is up to each Member State on what kind of level they wish to participate.
- Financing is critical for developing countries to transition to a green economy. So is the need for easy access to clean technology.
- Without financing, people in developing countries will have no choice but to continue to use high polluting, high emission technologies.
- That said, the financial crisis that many of the donor countries are facing will necessarily affect what is possible. The outcome of Rio will need to provide a consensus solution to these challenges.
- There are a lot of things many of us need to do differently, wherever we are. Together, we cannot continue using resources as if there is no tomorrow.
- It's been estimated that if everyone in the world lived the current unsustainable lifestyle, we would need five planets to supply those resources.
- And yet, we have only one world. Every person should have the opportunity to lead a full and dignified life - including the poor and most vulnerable.
- So, given the natural limits on the Earth's resources, we need to do things differently, not to live poorer, but to live smarter in terms of our use of the Earth's resources.
- Finding ways to reduce waste and use resources more efficiently is a major goal of this Conference.
GREEN ECONOMY5. Are there any countries that have really made the transition to a green economy?
- No countries are there yet, but several, both developing and developed countries, have made significant efforts to green their economies.
- Costa Rica, the Maldives, Denmark, and the Republic of Korea are perhaps among them.
- But other large economies have taken this onboard as well.
- Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, and South Africa are among the countries that have all made great strides in this respect, for example.
- According to the report, the financial needs for investment in a green economy would amount to some 2 per cent of GDP per year for the next 40 years.
- In this regard, I wish to highlight the importance for developing countries of easy financing for the transition to a green economy, as well as of easy access to technology.
- These challenges will remain a constant throughout the preparatory process and the Conference must find a solution to achieve such challenges.
- There is no simple answer. Technology gaps are already wide between rich and poor countries.
- Some green technologies are relatively mature and their markets are already large - like wind turbines. For these, economies of large-scale production can make a big difference to affordability. China and other developing economies are emerging as large producers, helping to force down costs and make the technologies more affordable.
- That should benefit developing countries interested in deploying renewable energy technologies, including through North-South-South triangle cooperation.
- For state-of-the-art green technologies, it may be that developed countries will maintain a technological lead for some time.
- For countries that are far behind technologically, and that cannot afford to deploy the latest green technologies, international cooperation should be reinforced to provide access to these technologies on favorable terms.
- The simple answer is this: a green economy should not raise trade barriers or be a justification for "green protectionism".
- On the contrary, countries should work to provide increased market access for green products from developing countries. Rio Principle 12 says it all: "Trade policy measures for environmental purposes should not constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade. ..."
- At Rio + 20, in the context of renewing commitment to sustainable development, countries should reaffirm commitment to the Rio Principles.
- So, any agreement on a green economy in Rio next year should adhere to the Rio Principles. There are areas of possible disagreement which will need clarification of WTO rules, including how they relate to subsidies for renewable energy.
- Developing countries also have concerns that the trade policy rules not unduly restrict policy space to develop their own domestic green industries.
- From our perspective, the report complements very much the approach taken in the intergovernmental discussions on Rio + 20 so far.
- It focuses on strategic sectors for promoting a transition to the green economy rather than focusing on definitional issues.
INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK10. What are the prospects of upgrading UNEP to the status of a specialized agency for the environment/World Environment Organization?
- There is an expectation that Member States will in Rio try to build on the work done so far on the long-standing discussions on international environmental governance (IEG).
- Several options for institutional reform are on the table, including upgrading UNEP to specialized agency. Consensus has not emerged on any particular option.
- The UNCSD will also consider role of bodies such as ECOSOC and the Commission on Sustainable Development.
- Effective integration of the three pillars of sustainable development requires a strong and capable environmental pillar.
- Therefore we need to strengthen the environmental pillar in the context of sustainable development.
- In this context, both the CSD as well as UNEP needs to be enhanced and strengthened in order to fulfil their mandates.
- IEG will be an important ingredient for a successful outcome in Rio. But the institutional framework for sustainable development theme extends beyond IEG. Both the economic and social pillars are also in need of strengthening.
- The Conference will look at strengthening mechanisms that integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development.
- That means considering the role of bodies such as ECOSOC, and the Commission on Sustainable Development.
- But it also means supporting integrated governance at national and local levels. For instance, strengthening those institutions involved in ensuring access to clean water, sanitation, shelter, and energy.
CLIMATE CHANGE13. Will Rio address climate change?
- Rio + 20 is not a climate change conference‚??that is what the UNFCCC process is about.
- Nevertheless, greening our economies can address many of the underlying causes that are driving climate change.
- For example, using energy more efficiently has major ramifications for climate.
- Switching to cleaner cooking stoves and vehicles also will have an impact on climate.
- No, not at all.
- There may be outcomes in Rio that can help the UNFCCC process, but Rio + 20 will in no way detract from the UNFCCC negotiations.
SECRETARY-GENERAL15. What is your relationship with the Secretary-General?
- The Secretary-General has designated me as the Conference Secretary-General and I am accountable to the Secretary-General and I serve under the guidance of the Secretary-General.
- One of his top priorities for 2011 is sustainable development.
- That is also our priority and we are not only thinking along the same lines. We are also supporting the Secretary-General in delivering as ONE.