On World Environment Day, UN officials highlight need to ensure sustainability of resources
Marking World Environment Day, United Nations officials today highlighted the need for a change in thinking and approach to ensure the sustainability of the Earth’s resources as the world population grows.
“Sustainability entails providing opportunity for all by balancing the social, economic and environmental dimensions of development. We have to rebut the myth that there is conflict between economic and environmental health,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day. “With smart policies and the right investments, countries can protect their environment, grow their economies, generate decent jobs and accelerate social progress.”
Observance of World Environment Day began in 1972 as a way to raise awareness of the environment and encourage political attention and action. This year’s theme for the Day, Green Economy: Does it include you?, seeks to underscore the need for everyone to play a part in keeping humankind’s ecological footprints within planetary boundaries.
In his message, the Secretary-General emphasized that with the world’s growing population, there will be more pressure on natural resources – food, water and energy – and countries will need to shift their development paradigms to find sustainable solutions for their citizens.
Mr. Ban noted that the UN Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20), in Brazil from 20-22 June, will provide an opportunity for countries to deepen their commitment to find these solutions.
“Rio+20 is our opportunity to deepen global commitment to sustainable development,” Mr. Ban said. “We should agree that the world needs a set of sustainable development goals that will build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). And we should make progress on some of the building blocks of sustainability – energy, water, food, cities, oceans, jobs and the empowerment of women.”
In her message to mark the Day, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, noted that at Rio+20 the international community needs to set new directions for sustainability, ranging from building new forms of agriculture, to finding new sources of energy and new ways of building and transportation.
“Reaching these goals requires new approaches to freshwater and the ocean, to lands and the climate. It calls for new thinking about the meaning of progress,” Ms. Bokova said. “It demands new sources of innovation and resilience that have deeper roots than material or economic assets. We must construct green economies on the foundations of green societies.”Back to Top
UN Environment Programme names its ‘2012 Champions of the Earth’ winners
A country president, a banker, an aeronaut, a scientist, a renewable energy businessman and a conservationist were today named as the six winners of the United Nations Champions of the Earth 2012 award, given to those whose actions and leadership have had a positive impact on the environment.
“As the world heads to Brazil for Rio+20 later this month, these six individuals, deservedly named as Champions, demonstrate that committed, concrete action can have a transformative effect on countries, communities and businesses,” said Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, which organizes the awards.
The awardees are Mongolia’s President, Tsakhia Elbegdorj; Brazilian banker Fábio C. Barbosa; renewable energy entrepreneur Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber from the United Arab Emirates; Swiss aeronaut Dr. Bertrand Piccard; Dutch scientist Dr. Sander van der Leeuw; and Kenyan Maasai conservationist Samson Parashina.
Mr. Steiner presented the LG Electronics-sponsored awards at a ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, also attended by the Secretary-General of the UN Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20), Sha Zukang, UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Gisele Bündchen and Brazil’s Minister of the Environment Izabella Teixeira.
According to UNEP, the winners have demonstrated commitment to building a sustainable future for the planet through their work, which encompasses active green policies, groundbreaking clean energy developments and community work that has helped conserve critical ecosystems.
In the case of President Elbegdorj, his award was in the area of policy leadership, for delivering on promises to put the environment at the forefront of policies; Mr. Barbosa and Dr. Al Jaber were recognized in the area of entrepreneurial vision, for their business efforts in sustainability and promoting renewable energy and clean technology, respectively.
Dr. Piccard was awarded in the area of inspiration and action, for raising global awareness of the possibilities of renewable energy-driven transport; while Dr. Van der Leeuw was recognized in the area of science and innovation, for his research, which applies lessons learned from history to understand why humanity is not facing up to the long-term issue of environmental change.
The award for Mr. Parashina was in the special category section, for leading community efforts to conserve Kenya’s Tsavo-Amboseli ecosystem.
“On the eve of Rio+20, the Champions of Earth 2012 should be an inspiration for world leaders to take the bold decisions needed on behalf of seven billion people,” Mr. Steiner said. “In other words, to put in place the pathways that will scale-up and accelerate a Green Economy while reforming the international institutions charged with realizing sustainable development and poverty eradication in order to deliver the ‘Future We Want’.”
Past Champions of the Earth have included Mikhail Gorbachev, Al Gore, Felipe Calderon, Mohamed Nasheed, Marina Silva and Vinod Khosla.Back to Top
Access to low-cost energy vital in fight against poverty
The President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, today underlined the urgent need to provide sufficient and low-cost energy to people across the world who lack access, stressing that making energy readily available can boost efforts to eradicate extreme poverty.
“More than a billion people continue to live without access to electricity,” said Mr. Al-Nasser in an address to a conference organized by the Foreign Policy Association on the topic of ‘The Future of Energy.’
“It is clear that the basic energy needs of their daily lives are not being met. Today, more than any time in the past, there is an urgent need to ensure the sustainable use of energy and to address the challenge of energy poverty,” he added.
Mr. Al-Nassir noted that it is widely acknowledged that the more energy is available to communities, the greater the impact on food security, health, education, transport, communications and water and sanitation.
“Energy has therefore become an important component, if not an essential means, of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Unfortunately, over the past decade, the international community has not managed to agree on meaningful action to tackle the challenge of climate change, including energy poverty,” he stated.
The Assembly President called for the adoption of a new paradigm of consumption and production designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions; develop mechanisms to improve energy efficiency and ensure clean technologies are applied to fossil fuels; build capacities; facilitate access to renewable energy; and transfer technology.
Mr. Al-Nasser emphasized that international collaboration in boosting energy availability is a crucial way to ensuring success, adding that the cooperation should be between governments, academia, private sector and civil society.
“I would call for leaders in policy technology and business to work together, to develop new ways to shape the future of renewable energy, while also focusing on sustainability. Environmentally friendly means of using clean fossil fuels, including natural gas, must be found,” he said.
Mr. Al-Nasser also stressed that the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro next month, will be “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to secure a sustainable future and a more equitable world.”
“My hope is that the international community will formulate global strategies for increasing access to clean energy, improving energy efficiency, and accelerating the spread of renewable energy technologies throughout the world,” he added.Back to Top