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UNEP Executive Director Outlines Impacts of Rio+20

3 March 2013: Achim Steiner, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), reflected on the impact of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) on international cooperation in a speech to the Natur Kongress 2103. Steiner discussed the “new wave” of cooperative action sparked by Rio+20, but underscored the challenge of maintaining momentum.

Steiner noted the outcomes of the fifth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-5) and the emergence of the concept of the green economy, and The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), and reflected on the theme of Rio+20, “The Future We Want.” Explaining that Rio+20 focused on implementing existing treaties and the sustainable development agenda, Steiner said it had laid out “inspiring pathways” that the UN, countries, cities, business and civil society are engaging in.

Steiner also highlighted that nations embraced the green economy, agreeing it could be “an important tool” when supported by policies that encourage decent employment, social welfare and inclusion and maintenance of the Earth's ecosystems, from forests to freshwaters. He drew attention to the Partnership for Action on a Green Economy (PAGE) recently launched by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). PAGE which will assist 30 countries in transitioning to a green economy.

Steiner said the decision at Rio+20 to develop Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also could prove significant, particularly if the goals reflect not just the need to assist developing countries to moving to sustainable paths, but the “impact of developed countries in respect to their global and regional footprints.” Regarding the Rio+20 agreement to “strengthen and “upgrade” UNEP, he said environment ministers had since called for the UNEP Governing Council to be elevated to a UN Environment Assembly, and that UN discussions are underway which may result in tens of millions additional funding from the UN's regular budget by 2014.

Steiner concluded by suggesting the Rio+20's outcomes may signal a new determination by governments and cooperation between them to implement sustainable development as “the only option for peace, security and prosperity into the future.” [UNEP Press Release] [Natur Kongress 2013]