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Sustainable Development Highlights

9 November, 2012 – Over the last several weeks, UN agencies and partners have launched new initiatives and reports touching on important issues related to sustainable development. It may seem at times that there is more talk about the growing problems of our world and subsequently little talk about solutions. Post Rio+20 Conference, however, the UN continues to facilitate global cooperation for funding technology transfers to stop biodiversity loss and for the implementation of biodiversity protection, energy efficiency initiatives, and sound waste management policies in national development plans. Several UN reports last month also provided important insights into food security’s links to the health of our ecological systems, which remain threatened by overpopulation, greenhouse gases, and loss of biodiversity. Below, find information on recent reports and conferences related to sustainable development:

Energy Efficiency

UN and partners announced the opening of the Global Efficient Lighting Centre in Beijing, China to improve developing countries' abilities to use less energy and more efficient lighting. "One of the most cost-effective ways to contribute to the reduction of global carbon emissions is the phase-out of inefficient lighting technologies," said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme. According to the UN, 5 per cent of global electricity consumption could be saved every year through a transition to more efficient lighting. Learn more:

Biodiversity Protection

boart.jpgAt the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, developed countries agreed to increase funding to support efforts in developing states to meet the internationally-agreed Biodiversity Targets, and goals of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, with the overall aim of stopping biodiversity loss.

Since 1990, the world has seen a 60 per cent increase in the number of protected areas, but much work remains to be done. The UN Environmental Program launched its Protected Planet 2012 report which found that half of the world's richest biodiversity zones are entirely unprotected. Learn more:

Food Security:

security.jpgA recent UN report, entitled, 'Avoiding Future Famine,' touches on the ecological aspect of food security. "There is abundant evidence that we are undermining the ecological foundation of the world food system. Some of the causes or threats are longstanding (over- fishing and agricultural practices that lead to soil erosion), but some are new or growing (climate change, coastal dead zones, competition for land between food and biofuels, and competition for water between irrigation and other water use sectors)," the report concludes.

land.jpgAn estimated one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, according to the report. Despite the magnitude of waste and the threats to ecological health, developing a more sustainable food system is possible. Among the recommendations of the report are: the promotion of sustainable food consumption and more sustainable production at the front and back end of the supply chain. Learn more:

Waste Management:

UN Environment Programme hosted the Global Partnership on Waste Management where waste management experts from around the world gathered in Japan to find answers to the global challenges of waste management. According to the World Bank, over 1.3 billion tonnes of waste is generated each year. This will grow to 2.2 billion tonnes per year by 2025. Increasing population growth and growing urbanization bring challenges to waste management and the protections of water resources, safe food, and clean air. Experts at the conference highlighted that with sound policy and investments and cross sector coordination, waste management can offer solutions to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and the recycling of valuable energy resources.

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Armed Conflict and Sustainable Development:

tank.jpgSustainable development is inextricably tied to peace and security. On the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “No conflict-affected country has yet achieved a single Millennium Development Goal. As we look beyond the 2015 MDG deadline, we must recognize peace and security as a critical "fourth dimension" of sustainable development.” Since 1990, over 18 conflicts were in some part caused by natural resource exploitation.

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Private Sector and Sustainable Development:

In Seoul Korea, the Secretary-General addressed the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, highlighting the crucial role that the businesses play in spurring sustainable development practices worldwide.

Significant resources have been devoted by the UN to develop partnerships on sustainable development with business sectors worldwide. The UN’s Global Compact initiative has brought over 7,000 businesses to uphold principles of human rights and environmental sustainability. At the Rio+20 Conference last June, businesses pledged billions of dollars to the UN Secretary-General's Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. With the Caring for Climate initiative, more than 400 business leaders have pledged to advance low-carbon solutions and a green economy. Such partnerships are crucial to tackling the environmental and social challenges affecting out planet's health. But much more is needed from the private sector community to build a sustainable future. Said the Secretary-General, "You all know that sustainable solutions lie in a different way of thinking — a different way of doing business. You are already taking steps and I count on you to do even more. The world needs you to spread the message to your peers, partners and customers — to all those who have yet to act, and to all those who are sitting on the fence or even actually opposing change."

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12 November 2012

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