Towards Rio+20

Published on 21st February 2012

In the preparatory process towards Rio+20, this twelfth special session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum provides us with another unique opportunity to help shape the discussions and outcomes of this important conference.

As President of the Council/Forum, I will ensure that policy makers, civil society, the scientific world, and the global community at large are continuously reminded about the environmental challenges that confront us today and where solutions, simply cannot wait any longer.

2012 can and should be a landmark year in which we jointly define how the governments of the world will address today's sustainable challenge. It has been 20 years since Governments and world leaders gathered in Rio de Janeiro to debate the concept and implications of "sustainable development". We know a lot more today than we knew then about the magnitude and multiple challenges before us in the context of tackling climate change, poverty, chemicals management, freshwater and oceans governance, biodiversity loss and increased pollution, just to mention a few.

Our natural resources are finite. We need economic models that boost economic growth and protect the environment. These do not need to be in contradiction, but on the contrary they must work together. In this sense, ecosystems management must be seen as an opportunity for growth, today more than ever in the context of the financial crisis that we are suffering. We must work together, public and private sector, civil society and international organizations in order to find the way out of this situation. I firmly believe that we can provide the people of this planet with the means for a dignified living without compromising a healthy environment.

This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the foundation of UNEP. The environmental movement has moved a long way from the 1960s when it began to crystallize, with Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring", as one of its major catalyzers. More than 50 years from that initial seed and we find a new and different landscape where the environmental protection is centrally placed in our society.

Allow me also to express my appreciation to civil society for its role in helping UNEP become the UN voice for environment and for delivering its message to all corners of the world. I am convinced that we need to work hand-in-hand with civil society if we wish to succeed in the path towards sustainable development for all. This is a fundamental lesson we have learned in many countries over the past few decades.

As a community, we share a common purpose and need global solutions. It is true that there have been important achievements over the past decades. UNEP has been instrumental in providing the scientific and policy foundation for environmental protection. Environmental governance continues to be on the top of the international agenda and, most recently, in the larger context of the institutional framework for sustainable development.

The entire GEO 5 process will give us an important glimpse into the state, trends and outlook of the environment. I am confident that the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which is expected to be fully operational in 2012, will turn out to be the true leading global body that we need, providing scientifically sound and relevant information to support the adoption of policies. The work of the IPCC on climate change and the green economy, guides us towards a low-carbon and resource-efficient society.

This is the final opportunity to provide input into Rio+20 and its preparatory processes. It is critical that we make our voices heard in Rio and influence the outcome of the Conference. The outcome of Rio+20 will shape the debate on environment and sustainable development for decades to come.

 Rio+20 has the task of formulating a viable framework to stimulate sustainable patterns of production and consumption that can reverse the negative trends affecting the natural environment, and at the same time proposes and facilitates new measures of sustainable development that promotes economic activity and contributes to boosting as respect for the environment.

As we face this task, it is encouraging to see that many countries, including small island developing states, view environmental investments as a source for innovation, capacity-building, socio-economic inclusiveness and growth.

As governments, we have the responsibility for ensuring a clear and stable regulatory framework. This framework is one of the pillars of environmental governance and it constitutes the first step to achieve sustainable development.

I invite you to take this opportunity to deepen our efforts to guarantee a fruitful future for all. I would like to highlight the importance of supporting those initiatives that foster cooperation between our countries with the active participation of all stakeholders.

Excerpted from Statement of Acceptance By H.E. Mr. Federico Ramos de Armas President of the twelfth special session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum.

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