Ms. Deputy Secretary General, Mr President of the General Assembly,
I have the honour of speaking on behalf of the European Union and its Member States. We are pleased to participate in this important debate on the opportunities and challenges of Green Economy. As one of the themes of the Rio+20 conference, a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication offers an unique opportunity to tackle some of the most pressing global challenges of today: poverty eradication and environmental degradation, while maintaining and even boosting an inclusive economic growth.
As we have noted several times in our recent discussions, a green economy is part of the broader concept of sustainable development, but does not replace it. Green economy should help us to achieve sustainable development. Greening our economies is essential: without it, achieving long-term sustainable development, and indeed lasting economic growth, will simply not be possible.
If we want to make sure that we give humanity the chance to enjoy a decent life, we need to ensure growth but the kind of growth that supports human well-being, provides decent jobs, whilst at the same time protecting and improving the state of the environment. A green economy is based on a positive vision in which the economic, environmental and social pillars of sustainable development are mutually reinforcing and grow together dynamically. Thus, a green economy is a vehicle for delivering on sustainable development it does not replace the aims of sustainable development.
A green economy can – and must – help preserve our environment and, at the same time, foster growth, decent jobs, and eradicate poverty. This is what links the green economy narrative to the sustainable development objectives. Economic growth can be promoted in numerous ways, including through investment and innovation; through more efficient use of natural, human and financial resources; and by preventing damage to the environment and human health.
To ensure sustainable economic growth, we need an economy that puts the management of natural capital and the efficient use of resources, such as land, water, forests, oceans and energy at the center. This means recognizing and identifying the value of ecosystem services and biodiversity and gradually internalizing external costs and benefits. We are glad that many countries are already working in this direction.
The better management and more efficient use of natural resources will help improve the livelihoods of millions of people. For example, policies to stimulate sustainable agriculture contribute to food security, while the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency contribute to fighting climate change and increasing energy access and security. Investing in more sustainable management of these resources will stimulate the economic growth of the future – the kind of growth that benefits the environment, people and society at large.
Eco-innovation is central in ensuring a more eco-efficient use of resources and promoting a major change in production and consumption patterns. Eco-innovation can also be non-technological. It includes new business models, management schemes, work practices and forms of city planning which may be as important as technological innovation.
In a green economy many environmental challenges can be transformed into economic opportunities, not only reversing negative environmental trends, but also promoting future growth, competitiveness, jobs and poverty eradication. It offers opportunities for countries at all stages of economic development. In particular, sustainable use of resources, such as water, energy, land and infrastructure development, forests as well as materials constitute the foundations of any economy and in particular of a green economy. The livelihoods of many people across the world depend on them, in particular in developing countries, where the lack of access to quality resources and the need for expertise on how to manage them sustainably, are important underlying causes of poverty. In this light, areas such as water, energy, sustainable land use and infrastructure development, forests, and so on could become the green economy’s key growth markets, underpinning future economic development, the creation of jobs and the eradication of poverty, in particular in developing countries.
To enable the transition towards such an inclusive green economy, we must start putting into place the necessary regulatory and market conditions, including the removal of environmentally harmful subsidies and the use of fiscal incentives. We must enhance access to public, private and public-private finance and explore innovative means to shift investments into clean, sustainable options. To do so effectively, we must significantly improve engagement of all sections of the private sector in developed and developing countries, as well as the involvement of civil society and other relevant stakeholders.
However, there is no “one-size-fits-all” model. Green economy policies have to be designed nationally and regionally, taking the needs, specific circumstances and starting points of individual countries into account. At the same time, there are common challenges and innovative solutions, and countries will benefit from exchanging experience and good practices, also in support of capacity building.
In addition, while a number of measures can deliver quick win-win solutions, a medium and long term vision is essential. Some of the fundamental changes that we need will take time to materialize even if we start today.
In our view, a UN Green Economy Roadmap would help all countries – based on their own leadership and respecting national differences – to accelerate their own transition towards a green economy. Such a roadmap could clarify which steps are needed at national, regional and international level and could serve as a basis for identifying capacity building needs and providing technical assistance to interested countries. It could include a tool kit, a menu of actions and a timeline for their implementation, identify key actors and set targets and appropriate indicators, while building on existing national initiatives.
Rio+20 can mark the start of a profound, world-wide transition towards a global green economy. Let us all work together to ensure that Rio+20 will be a success, helping humanity to address some of its most pressing global challenges in the most innovative ways possible.
Thank you for your attention.