Mr. President, distinguished Excellencies, dear Colleagues,
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
Let me first begin by recalling the first principle of the Rio Declaration which states that Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature. This is the starting point of the dialogue we are having today.
Since the Rio Conference, the concept of sustainable development has been incorporated in many United Nations declarations and instruments. Their implementation, while complex, has been at the forefront of world institutions and organizations working in the economic, social and environmental sectors.
The European Union and its Member States welcome the Secretary-Generals report on Harmony with Nature (A/65/314) that provides an overview of how the lifestyle of the twenty-first century, through its consumption and production patterns, has severely affected the Earths carrying capacity. This report also illustrates how human actions from the past were disconnected from the very simple understanding that human beings are an inseparable part of nature and that we cannot damage nature without severely damaging ourselves.
The EU and its Member States remain deeply concerned by the loss of biodiversity, desertification, climate change and the disruption of a number of natural cycles that are among the costs of the disregard for nature and the integrity of its ecosystems and life-supporting processes. Environmental sustainability is one of eight Millennium Development Goals adopted a decade ago by United Nations Member States. Without a sustainable environmental base, it will be much more difficult to attain our objectives of eradicating poverty and hunger and improving health and human well-being.
We recognize that the natural resource base for human life and development is in great danger and that fundamental changes in the way societies produce and consume are vital for achieving sustainable development. The effective protection and sustainable use of global biodiversity, including in degraded ecosystems, are essential for the social, economic and environmental development of all.
The EU and its Member States look forward to United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012 in Brazil. We are working to make the Conference a cornerstone in achieving sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals. The UNCSD 2012 constitutes a unique opportunity for the international community to recommit itself to sustainable development and establish a clear vision for green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, as well as for an enhanced and improved institutional framework for sustainable development.
The EU and its Member States are hoping in fact that the UNCSD 2012 outcome will set the basis for orienting the global economy and markets towards sustainable patterns that safeguard and maintain the natural resources base of the planet while guaranteeing better quality of life and sustainable growth for all. In this context, we consider the enhanced engagement of civil society and the private sector as crucial in complementing the efforts of the UN system in the area of sustainable development. Furthermore, the EU and its Member States will actively promote the definition of better governance architecture for sustainable development, capable of guiding and organizing the collective effort towards eradicating poverty, attaining the MDGs and promoting sustainable development.
The EU and its Member States will continue to be actively engaged in the preparatory process to contribute to the successful outcome of the Conference and hence to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature. We firmly believe that the Conference will send a message of hope and determination for a future in which human societies and nature complement each other in a sustainable and mutually beneficial way.
Allow me to offer some thoughts on the measurement of sustainable development in harmony with nature, our second theme for today. Indeed, the EU and its MS have discussed the issue comprehensively before agreeing on “Europe 2020”, our internal’s growth strategy for the coming decade. At the global level, we also contributed to this ongoing debate with the “GDP and beyond” initiative.
The main objective that the EU sees for 2050 that the entire human population lives a decent life on the planet that can support it for as far in the future as we can think of is difficult to express statistically. But breaking this objective into measurable elements, charting pathways and being clever and consistent about the indicators that can demonstrate the progress towards it this must be possible.
Europe 2020 defined EU targets and several flagship initiatives which will be monitored through various sets of indicators. Collective efforts under the heading of “Resource efficient Europe” will be a key to the EU’s sustainable future and transition to green economy. We are already intensively working on a roadmap for a “Resource efficient Europe” which should also address indicators and targets to monitor progress in resource efficiency, in the broadest sense of the word.
To achieve the truly inclusive and sustainable growth that Europe 2020 proposes, we need reliable social and environmental statistics and indicators. This is particularly true given the value and the level of our dependency both in business and in the wider world on natural resources, including eco-system services.
A lot of work remains to be done in order to get the reliable data we need. We have to cooperate closely with research institutes, business organisations, space agencies and think tanks. The European Union and its Member States are willing to intensify a dialogue with data sources outside the statistical community. Social and environmental data are not considered as essential as economic and financial data. But this has to change. Statistics including those that are less ‘traditional’ are an investment in the knowledge base, they are not an administrative burden. And good statistics are much, much cheaper than wrong decisions. It is also important to note that some economic statistics can be used as environmental statistics, and provide useful environmental information, like for example statistics on spending on and use of resources, environmental goods and services.
We also need a common understanding on how to measure harmful environmental subsidies. Some early information does exist on this, but more progress is needed. We need to better measure our biodiversity and natural capital, its eco-system services, in physical terms and as agreed in Nagoya at the conference of the parties of the convention of biodiversity by more than 190 nations in monetary terms. In order to get the prices right for natural resources and environmental services we need to know about the extent of the existing externalities both positive and negative.
GDP is without any doubt an important indicator of our activity. But we currently have no accepted comprehensive accounting of the environmental aspects in the concept of GDP, inflation and unemployment rates. As somebody said: We are travellers knowing how fast we go but we do not know exactly where we go and how much fuel we still have. We are trying to change this. And under the beyond GDP process, we are developing a composite index on environmental pressures and a Sustainable Development Scoreboard. Through international organisations such as the OECD and World Bank, which are working on the measurement of societal progress, through the ongoing work within the UN Statistical Commission, which has put the issue of the reform of indicators on the agenda of its 2012 session, and through important new initiatives, we are steadily progressing towards a goal of developing indicators that identify the relationship between growth, prosperity and quality of life. The further we reach, the faster we will be able to move towards achieving these objectives.
I thank you, Mr. President.