European Commissioner for Environment
Making sure the future we want is the future we get
12th Special Session of the Governing Council / Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC/GMEF)
Nairobi, 21 February 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen, Ministers
As of today we have less than four months before the world summit takes place in Rio de Janeiro in June.
This does not leave us much time - and a lot remains to be done.
I believe that we must take advantage of the discussions today to further expand and focus our thinking on exactly what we want Rio to deliver.
Allow me to explore key avenues that I believe we have to work on and expand significantly in the coming months.
First, we need to ensure tangible operational outcomes for Rio.
Second, the message of Green Economy as an opportunity to address all three dimensions of sustainable development needs to be clear and we all should engage.
Third, we need goals and targets to drive the overall process and transformation towards a more sustainable world.
And fourth, the issue of governance and institutional reform, which I understand will be dealt with this afternoon.
So let me expand on the first three of these.
On operational outcomes. Rio+20 must enable the start of a world-wide transition towards a greener and more inclusive economy and to a sustainable future. To achieve this, tangible actions and commitments will have to be taken and upheld by governments.
A greener and more inclusive economy is not only an option but a necessity. Without managing our natural assets and resources in a more sustainable manner, our economies and environment will suffer and we cannot alleviate poverty and achieve more equity. And the poorest in our societies will suffer most as their lives and livelihoods depend very directly on water, land, seas, forests and soil.
This will require action in a number of areas, at international level, while also stimulating action at national and regional levels. There is much to be done in the coming months to ensure a clear and common plan of action. As we all know, ambiguous and unfocused statements and agreements will not deliver.
My second point is on the green economy. Currently, the way the economy is being described in the zero draft, does not recognize the sustainability challenges that we are facing. And the urgency of action is not sufficiently underlined. We need to be clearer and more committed to action that will actually bring about economic, social and environmental change. This is what the world needs and this is what our citizens expect.
It is not sufficient only to declare that we focus on economic activities in the area of water, forests, or the oceans. We must be more specific and operational and also put into place the economic and market conditions that can make this happen and mobilize sufficient resources for this.
Likewise on the societal side, it is not sufficient to talk about inclusiveness in principle, but we must be operational and precise on how this can be implemented through policy instruments, such as those aiming at creating decent jobs or reducing poverty.
My third and final point is that I believe that we really need goals and targets for focusing our efforts towards sustainability. I believe we are in a position to develop global targets that can drive and accelerate progress: for example on sustainable energy, for which we already have targets proposed by the UN Secretary General, on improved water efficiency, on stopping land degradation and loss of ecosystems, on oceans, and on reducing waste and moving more to a recycling society. Examples of how green economy can work are abundant. Right here in Nairobi is a new plant where electronic waste is safely dismantled, the valuable parts recycled and other parts are safely disposed off. This creates employment, avoids hazardous materials ending up in the environment and generates economic growth.
Targets on waste and all the other areas I mentioned need to be designed carefully so that the achievements can be measured in a transparent manner and related actions focus on achieving goals in all aspects of sustainability.
Finally, countries need to have the means and capacity to implement actions on the ground. Here, development co-operation and assistance can play an important role in catalysing investement and strenghten capacities, in particular in least developed countries. But the bulk of resources for this transition needs to be mobilised from other public and private sources, nationally and also internationally. And all our international institutions should be mobilised for designing additional and reinforced schemes for this.
I want to assure you that the EU is open and willing to engage in discussions with all countries and partners on how to further shape an agenda at Rio for securing ambitious, concrete and operational outcome for generations to come.
We need to make sure that "the future we want" is the future we get.