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Opening Speech by Amina Mohamed, Deputy Executive Director, at UNEP-ICLEI event

Opening Speech by Amina Mohamed, Deputy Executive Director of UNEP

at the UNEP-ICLEI event, Global Town Hall, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 18 June 2012

Dear Lord Mayors, members of the private sector,

Delegates, Colleagues, Ladies and gentlemen,

Good Afternoon,

Thank you for coming to this side event jointly organized by UNEP and ICLEI with support from SEE.

Our distinguished friends from ICLEIare fresh from their World Congress in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte.

And I look forward to learning at first-hand how it went and the inspiring outcomes that were generated in support of a positive outcome at Rio+20 and beyond.

I also would like to welcome lord mayors from Malmo and other cities including Mr Zhang Jianfei of Changsha for joining us today.

Mayor Jianfei I look forward to hearing of your extraordinary work in restoring Lake Donting.

I would like to take this occasion to express our special thanks to Mr. Liu Yimiao, the president of China Entrepreneur Union, for his organization's substantive support to UNEP's activities in Rio.

And I am also delighted that Mr. Zhou Qiang,a UNEP Champion of the Earth in 2005from Hunan Province where he is influential on promoting a green development path there has found time to join us too.

Honourable delegates,

We gather as events towards the Rio+20 Summit move into high gear.

If world leaders meeting here 20 years after the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, needed any reminding of the urgency of positive action, then UNEP's Global Environment Outlook-5 launched on 6 June provided it.

Of 90 key environmental goals, only four have shown really transformative progress including phasing out of ozone depleting substances and phasing out leaded petrol.

The rest have either show some or limited progress, others are way off track and for some we do not have even the data to know when things are getting better or worse.

The challenge here in Rio 2012 is to enable the Green Economy?or perhaps one might say provide the policies, financial underpinning and political leadership to scale-it-up and accelerate those transformations underway in almost every part of the globe.

With more than half the world's population now living in cities, we know that addressing the urbanization issue is one important pathway towards a low carbon, resource efficient and job-generating Green Economy.

This event is focusing on China and Chinese cities?we all know intuitively and pragmatically that what happens in China will have an impact on the world.

In the last 20 years, China's urbanization rate has reached over 46%. The number of cities in China has now reached 655, with 122 cities that have over 1 million populations.

Yet as in the rest of the world, we are thankfully not starting from ground zero.

Under Premier Wen Jiabao China now is promoting the concept and working towards Green Development including in its cities.

There are many examples of positive change in Chinese cities from the promotion of solar heating systems to the public transportation networks in Shanghai and Beijing?the latter part of the positive legacy of the last summer Olympics where UNEP was a proud partner.

The opportunity here at the event is to perhaps look at some of the big ticket items on the table at Rio+20 and see how they can relate and support a positive urban agenda.

One powerful and potentially transformative outcome may be a commitment by governments to embrace with even greater commitment sustainable public procurement.

Public procurement represents up to 19% of GDP in OECD countries and even higher proportions in developing countries, making every purchase an opportunity to drive markets towards green innovation and sustainability.

By some estimates if central government and local government spending is above a key threshold it has the potential to tip the whole economy into the sustainability space.

What are the opportunities here, for example in cities including Chinese cities selectively purchasing goods and services that are sustainable such as green electricity or certified timber, in order to fast track a Green Economy transition.

I am aware that ICLEI has been very active in this field and is working with UNEP on a Sustainable Public Procurement Initiative to be launched in a few days' time here in Rio.

But what are the hurdles and blockages to such action and policy-making?

It is likely that Rio+20 will launch a process towards a new indicator of wealth beyond the bluntness of GDP?an indicator that brings human well-being, social factors and environmental issues into the ups and downs of a country's progress.

China is among a small group of countries who have piloted new indicators of progress?the experience of China and others could provide insight into this potential outcome.

And finally, Rio+20 is likely to take forward the concept of Sustainable Development Goals as a more responsible and uniting way of bringing the world together in common cause.

What contribution can cities make including Chinese cities in terms of refining and shaping those goals?

Again thank you for coming to this side event in the UNEP Pavilion. I look forward to a stimulating and productive debate.