Remarks by Amina Mohamed, Deputy Executive Director UN Environment Programme to TUNZA Youth Conference 2013 Wed, Feb 13, 2013

Tunza Youth Conference 2013 - Brief on Rio+20

Amina Mohamed briefing conference participants on Rio+20

Nairobi, 12 February 2013 - Jealous Chirove, International Labour Organization, Tunza Youth Advisory Council representatives, Tunza youth delegates, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

It seems like only yesterday that President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil and UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, brought the gavel down at Rio+20 in Rio de Janiero in June last year.

The Future We Want outcome document may have frustrated some and disappointed others-but within it are some truly big ideas which, if fully implemented by governments in partnership with civil society, cities and business could put the planet and its people on a far more sustainable track.

Let me add that UNEP along with partners in the United Nations system are also taking forward those ideas born at Rio+20 and implementing many of them.

Indeed they are at the centre of next week's Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum including that small but significant piece of history that was made in Rio and at the UN General Assembly late last year.

Namely the strengthening and upgrading of UNEP, including universal membership, for the first time in 40 years.

So what are those big ideas and why should you and I be excited about them? Why should we care?

Green Economy

As you know Rio+20 gave the green light to multilateral work on the Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

It was decided that it represents an important tool for achieving a sustainable century.

In many ways what Rio+20 did in respect to UNEP was to provide a license to respond to interests of countries to develop the concept of an inclusive the Green Economy further and to respond in partnership with others to specific country requests and needs.

In some countries the issue of how a Green Economy can accelerate and scale-up poverty eradication will be paramount.

In others, for example more developed countries the Green Economy will and indeed is manifesting itself in ways that reflect their national imperatives in terms of resource efficiency for example and decoupling economic growth from environmental footprints.

So in short the inclusive Green Economy will express itself as series of nationally led processes and an exchange of ideas across the international community where nations learn from one another in order to realize sustainable development.

In the spirit of our theme here today, UNEP is already taking forward this issue. For example the recently launched the Partnership for Action on a Green Economy (PAGE) which will be spotlighted next week to ministers.

It is building upon and indeed will expand upon the existing green economy advisory services that are supporting over 20 developing countries across sectors of relevance to them-be it agriculture, transport or the built environment.

New elements of PAGE include improved capacity building, increased sharing of UNEP's expertise with interested countries, green economy policy development and scientifically-rigorous analysis.

The partnership is with the International Labour Organization, the UN Industrial Development Organization and the UN Institute for Training and Research which is evolving national initiatives on green jobs.

One strand of PAGE will be supporting social and environmental entrepreneurship in Africa and another backing a Green Economy initiative in the Caribbean.

Others have brought the UN Development Programme as well as governments like German and the Netherlands and the European Commission on board.

This is important, because UNEP may have initiated the idea and provided a great deal of analysis on what a transition to such an economy can look like, but we cannot and would not wish to implement all its aspects on the ground.

Above all, we are the environmental programme of the UN and a way of catalyzing a UN-system wide response to the challenges and opportunities of our time.

So PAGE is essentially a supportive framework for UNEP to continue and to scale-up the provision of knowledge and expertise and engage in partnerships like the Global Green Knowledge Platform.

10 Year Framework of Programmes for Sustainable Consumption and Production

In Rio Heads of States gave the go ahead for the 10 Year Framework of Programmes for Sustainable Consumption and Production and requested UNEP to act as Secretariat of the 10YFP-it sounds super bureaucratic but has sound objectives, namely to decouple economic growth from the use of natural resources and the generation of pollution and waste.

In support of the agri-food side of the 10 Year Framework, UNEP and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN have just launched a global campaign and initiative called Think-Eat-Save: Reduce Your Foodprint!!

It is aimed at reducing the scandalous 1.3 billion tonnes of food that is lost and wasted between the farm and the fork world-wide.

It is an environmental issue - given the fact that every apple or sheaf of wheat wasted or lost also represents a waste of chemicals, fertilizers, land, water and energy - but also an economic and ethical one.

It is also an issue that can unite farmers and consumers, hoteliers and distributors, schools and scouts groups South and North, East and West.

UNEP would be delighted to secure your support for this campaign and through youth networks world-wide and I know Nick Nuttall, the UNEP Director responsible for Tunza will be raising this with you during Thursday's session.

Massively reducing food waste and food loss is a very emblematic example of how globally, nationally and regionally societies can boost resource efficiency while also tackling food security.

Sustainable Development Goals

In many ways food waste and food loss links to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are now being developed post Rio+20.

The SDGs can be a global framework that could make every nation accountable on how collectively as a group of over 190 countries we all move forward to deliver a sustainable century.

There are many areas where UNEP can have a unique valued-added here, not least in the systematic assessment of achieving internationally agreed goals as a result of our work on, for example, the Global Environment Outlook-5 report unveiled just before Rio+20-and which underpins your new report GEO-5 for Youth.

Other areas include green economy indicators, looking beyond Gross Domestic product as a measure of wealth and ecosystems through, for example, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity.

Why? Because countries get happy if their GDP goes up and a bit gloomy if it goes down-zut GDP is actually a very crude indicator of a nation's wealth as if fails to factor in the multi billion dollar value of nature-such as forests, soils, freshwaters, coral reefs and other ecosystems.

UNEP is, along with many other UN bodies and the World Bank, working closely with the UN Statistical Commission to identify new approaches for measuring progress.

  • Inclusive Wealth, which is based on the World Bank's Adjusted Net Saving indicator, is developing a more inclusive indicator of national wealth
  • UNEP and the UN University's International Human Development Programme at Rio+20 presented findings from an Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI) looking at several countries including Brazil.

Other pathways towards a new indicator include:-

  • The EU effort to go "Beyond GDP" - launched in November 2007 with the aim of coming up with a broader set of indexes other than GDP

Public Procurement

There were many other positive outcomes from Rio+20.

During the summit over 30 governments and institutions including Brazil, Denmark, Switzerland and UNEP announced a new global International Sustainable Public Procurement Initiative (SPPI) aimed at scaling-up the level of public spending flowing into goods and services that maximize environmental and social benefits.

Studies indicate that sustainable public procurement, which represents between 15 and 25 per cent of GDP, offers a tremendous opportunity towards green innovation and sustainability.

Corporate Sustainability Reporting

This also represents an enormous opportunity to build greater transparency of companies' environmental, social and governance foot prints.

And in doing so generate increased possibilities for, for example, pension funds to choose-you may say reward-and thus invest in those companies reaching for far higher sustainability standards.

Not for sentimental reasons but for bottom line ones-there is increasing evidence that companies who adopt higher environmental, social and governance policies are actually better managed and represent a lower risk and a higher return over the medium to long term.

UNEP through its UNEP Finance Initiative and relationship with the Global Reporting Initiative has been supporting corporate sustainability reporting since the Rio Earth Summit of 1992.

It has delivered progress-Bloomberg estimates that around 25 per cent of the companies it surveys incorporate varying levels of sustainability reporting alongside financial accounts: But 75 per cent do not.

Rio+20 has given fresh impetus and energy towards bringing more companies on board as a result of the announcement by Brazil, Denmark, France and South Africa to take up this challenge.

With the support of UNEP and the Global Reporting Initiative, these pioneering couintries aim to bring more nations on board and deliver a road map by the end of this year.

So in short, Rio+20 was not about some new shiny coins, but about polishing many old, all too often neglected ones,  and above all finding more joined-up, intelligent ways of recalibrating sustainable development in order to finally start truly implementing it.

So Tunza Youth delegates these are some of the outcomes of Rio+20?let's now have our panel debate.

Thank you

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