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European Commission

Janez Potočnik

European Commissioner for Environment

Speech: Rio+20: From Outcome to Implementation

Opening statement on behalf of the EU and its Member States at the plenary session of the 27th session of the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum of the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme)

Nairobi, 18 February 2013

Mr. President, Executive Director, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have the honour to speak today on behalf of the European Union and its Member States. The Acceding Country Croatia aligns itself with this statement.

Firstly, let me greet the new President of the twenty-seventh session of the Governing Council, the first one of an upgraded UNEP with universal membership. We would also like to thank the Government of Kenya for hosting this meeting.

The EU and its Member States have long been, and will continue to be, strong supporters of UNEP. We extend our sincere gratitude to Executive Director, Mr. Achim Steiner and his staff for the preparations for this Governing Council. We would also like to express our sincere condolences on the death last November of the former Deputy Executive Director of UNEP, Ms Angela Cropper.

We welcome the outcome document from the Rio+20 Conference, The Future We Want and the adoption of the UN General Assembly Resolution in December last year which provides for the implementation of paragraph 88 in relation to the “strengthening and upgrading” of UNEP. The EU and its Member States are committed to fully implementing paragraph 88. This includes empowering UNEP to develop UN-wide environmental strategies, strengthening its science-policy interface and governance arrangements, including the establishment of universal membership, putting in place a more predictable and stable finance structure and ensuring the effective involvement of civil society as a whole in the new UNEP. We consider that the Rio+20 outcome document is a significant step in the direction of upgrading UNEP into a specialized UN agency for the environment.

This 27th session of the Governing Council opens up a new era in UNEP’s history as it makes its transition to an upgraded body. This initial step will elevate Ministers’ role and influence on global policymaking, while enabling UNEP to take a more active role at the regional and national level.

The outcome of Rio+20 presents us with an opportunity to define how we, in a world now with over seven billion people, can embark on a different trajectory, a trajectory which will guide us towards the future we want , through actions at local, national, regional and global level that initiate a profound world-wide transition towards a more sustainable future. Our ministers reaffirmed their undiminished resolve for an ambitious follow-up to Rio+20 again last October. In this respect the EU and its Member States welcome the theme chosen for the opening session, “Rio+20: From Outcome to Implementation” and look forward to addressing how we take Rio+20 to the implementation phase.

The EU and its Member States are also looking forward to engaging constructively in the discussions on green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. An inclusive, green economy represents an important tool for achieving a sustainable world. Positive steps are already being taken as we see a successful series of nationally led green economy processes taking place throughout the world. We also welcome UNEP’s valuable work in this area, including the work that directly follows up on paragraph 66 of the Rio outcome document, and which focuses on supporting those interested in taking advantage of green economy tools and practices. However, we believe that further steps need to be taken in order to engage in green economy policies at all levels. We are looking forward to the lunch with the Executive Director in order to explore options for further action.

Another key issue under discussion over the coming days will be UNEP’s contribution to the SDG process linked with the development of the post-2015 development agenda. We need to converge the work on MDGs and SDGs and work towards an overarching framework for the period after 2015 of which the aims should be to eradicate poverty and ensure sustainable development for all.

We will also be considering several important decisions to be taken during this session including on UNEP’s Medium Term Strategy 2014-2017 and Programme of Work and Budget, International Environment Governance, sustainable consumption and production, water, management and financing of and the synergies between chemicals and waste. We welcome the designation of 2013 as the international year of water cooperation and look forward to the related developments particularly in the field of international cooperation. On chemicals, we would like to congratulate UNEP on the successful negotiation of the important Legally Binding Instrument on Mercury. We also welcome the adoption of the 10 Year Framework of Programmes and we would like to reaffirm our commitment to its full implementation as soon as possible.

We welcome the first session of the Plenary of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services held in Bonn last month which has now put in place the elements required for the Platform to begin addressing challenges in this area. We also welcome the UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2012 which addresses fundamental questions in climate change negotiations.

In conclusion let me assure you that the EU and its Member States look forward to actively engaging in open, constructive and fruitful consultations and will do their utmost to ensure an ambitious and forward-looking outcome of this twenty-seventh session of the Governing Council.

Thank you.

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