62nd General Assembly "Sustainable Development and Human Settlements" Statement by Miguel Silvestre, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Portugal to the United Nations, on behalf of the European Union, New York, 29 October
62nd General Assembly
New York, 29 October
Statement by Miguel Silvestre, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Portugal to the United Nations, on behalf of the European Union
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia and Georgia align themselves with this declaration.
Climate change presents Humanity with one of the greatest challenges in History.
Scientific evidence judiciously compiled by the Nobel Peace Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirms and strengthens previous warnings about the magnitude of the challenge. Climate change is already changing the face of the Earth and will increasingly become a contributing factor to environmental, economic and security threats, endangering also the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that the International Community has placed at the core of its development efforts.
The scale of the challenge and the urgency to address it call for unprecedented international co-operation, involving all countries in a global effort to halt climate change, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities of countries, and with the UN System at the centre of this endeavor.
The European Union confirms its view that a framework to meet the challenge of stabilization of the Earth’s atmosphere must be built on a shared vision that in order to reach the ultimate objective of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the global mean temperature increase must be limited to not more than 2° C above pre-industrial levels and that, to this end, global emissions need to be reduced to at least 50% below 1990 level, by 2050.
As a clear signal of leadership in this common effort, the European Union has already made a firm independent commitment to reduce its emissions by at least 20% by 2020. Furthermore, the Union is willing to commit to a reduction of 30% compared to 1990, as its contribution to a global and comprehensive agreement for the period beyond 2012, provided that other developed countries commit themselves to comparable emission reductions and economically more advanced developing countries contribute adequately.
Although industrialised countries have to take the lead, an important element of a common framework for action is the development and promotion of fair and effective contributions by developing countries. The European Union recognises that developing countries are already taking action to tackle climate change. It is now incumbent upon the International Community to encourage further contributions from developing countries, considering that the cooperative mechanisms established under the Kyoto Protocol provide a valuable template, which must be expanded and reinforced.
In addition to mitigating the effects of climate change, adaptation is crucial. In view of their specific vulnerabilities and their limited capacity to adapt, we will need to step up our activities to support in particular the poorest among us, who had actually a minor part in the creation of the problem. Adaptation to climate change needs to be part of policy investment decisions by countries, the private sector, international agencies and other relevant actors. Therefore, climate change needs to be fully integrated into strategies for poverty reduction, as well as development planning and budgeting.
The UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, later this year, is the crucial moment to transform into deeds the international political momentum galvanised by the High Level Event convened by the Secretary-General last 24 September, and advance current negotiations with a view to agreeing a new multilateral, comprehensive, coherent and effective post-2012 regime by 2009. To this end, COP13 in Bali must establish a clear road map towards COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009.
Undeniably, one of the key solutions to effectively controlling climate change is to reduce and ultimately eliminate emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, arising from the production and use of energy. There are many parts to this solution including promoting new and renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and developing sustainable energy policies to move us rapidly from a carbon-based to a low-carbon global economy. Underpinning this move will be the promotion of new and renewable energy sources, strong action on enhancing energy efficiency, energy savings as well as increased research and development (R&D) on environmental sound and socially acceptable low-carbon technologies.
Acknowledging this fundamental link, the European Union is actively integrating its climate change and energy strategies. This includes adopting clear and ambitious quantified targets for renewables and energy efficiency (enshrined in the Energy Policy for Europe and in the Energy Action Plan for the period 2007-2009). Although challenging, these goals are technologically feasible and economically affordable. They rely on environmentally sound technologies such as energy efficiency, energy savings, renewables, biofuels and carbon capture and storage and are either readily available now or at a more advanced stages of development.
Despite increasing levels of renewable energy in the global energy supply, much of international attention continues to be focused on the high and fluctuating primary energy prices, the increasing global demand for energy and the uncertainty of supply. Consequently, there is serious need for global efforts to guide investments and technology transfer to the energy sector. The common aim must be to ensure sustained growth and development for all countries while diversify sources to increase security of supply without adversely affecting the global environment.
The European Union believes that the adoption of time-bound national and regional targets and commitments to increase the share of renewables and an international agreement on energy efficiency, as well as targets on access to affordable energy, are essential elements to achieving the MDGs. Policies that maintain the necessary support for energy access without hindering the growth of renewables and energy efficiency and energy savings should be encouraged and, at the same time, capacity building and adequate financial resources, both public and private, should be further invested in renewable energy, in order to underpin the ambitions set forth.
Implementation of Agenda 21 - the CSD process
As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of the “Brundtland Report” – “Our Common Future”, the European Union notes with great satisfaction that the implementation of Sustainable Development principles, goals and policies is continuing at all levels. It is vital to continue keeping our focus on ensuring that meeting present needs will not endanger or prevent the ability of future generations to achieve progress and the fulfilment of their needs.
The European Union fully endorses the Secretary Generals’ recommendation to further improve the implementation of the commitments of Agenda 21 and of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, while supporting the work of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). Strongly convinced that global challenges can only be addressed through multilateral cooperation, the European Union believes that the promotion and integration of economic, social and environmental strategies are a core function of the UN System, and that the CSD, as a rather unique multi-stakeholder forum, can play an even more critical role in promoting sustainable development in an integrated and result-oriented manner at the global level.
During the 16th session of the CSD, which marks the start of its third implementation cycle (2008/2009), we will have the opportunity to revisit chapters 10, 12 and 14 of Agenda 21, as well as sustainable development for Africa. The deep inter-linkages between the thematic issues of this year's session are again reflected by the challenge we face in meeting the shared and multiple objectives of increasing sustainable agriculture and rural development, combating desertification and drought, strengthening rural-urban linkage and enhancing integrated planning and management of land resources in conjunction with vigorous efforts to reduce poverty, improve the global environment and tackle climate change.
All these challenges are interlinked, particularly in the African continent, and our major task in this review session of the CSD will be to exploit the synergies and identify the win-win options of dealing with them in a coherent and integrated manner, in order to timely deliver meaningful and concrete benefits in each thematic area.
Acknowledging that these areas require strengthened and more ambitious international policy commitments, the European Union is already constructively engaged in preparing CSD-16 with a view to find ways to ensure that future CSD cycles, within the existing policy mandate of the Commission, achieve progressive, clear and action oriented outcomes necessary for pursuing our common goal of sustainable development – in economic, social and environmental terms – with a view to achieving the MDGs. We must keep our focus on identifying win-win policy options to timely deliver meaningful and concrete benefits for the dealt with thematic areas.
As it lags behind other developing regions in achieving the MDGs, Africa remains in need of special attention. In this context, the European Union is working together with its African partners to develop an ambitious and comprehensive Joint Strategic Partnership to be endorsed by the Second EU-Africa Summit which will be held in Lisbon this coming December, and which sets the standards for future common action and responses to the shared challenges. Indeed, the Joint EU-Africa Strategic Partnership will serve as a basis for the establishment of an Action Plan, setting out concrete partnership arrangements which both sides undertake to implement within the next 2-3 years.
Desertification is yet another area where urgent action is needed. Taking into consideration that the prior publication of the SG’s report on the implementation of UN Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought (UNCCD), contained in document A/62/276 (Annex II) did not permit the incorporation of the most recent developments on this front, the European Union would like to recall that the 8th Conference of the Parties of the UNCCD, held in Madrid last September, provided the momentum for further engagement of Parties to reinforce the role of this Convention.
The adoption of the "Ten-Year Strategic Plan and Framework to Enhance the Implementation of the UNCCD" (2008–2018), together with the decisions related to the reform of its institutional setting, will, in the European Union’s view, accelerate and guide the work ahead. While streamlining the implementation of the UNCCD in affected countries, in line with the Convention’s objectives, the International Community will be further contributing to the attainment of the MDGs, namely by reducing land degradation, water scarcity and loss of biodiversity, in the context of ongoing international efforts to address poverty.
In spite of these very positive Madrid outcomes, the European Union regrets the fact that it was not possible to adopt the Programme and budget of the Convention for the next biennium (2008-2009). However, the European Union is confident that all Parties remain committed to finding a swift solution to this issue and decide accordingly at the special session of the extraordinary COP to take place in New York, in November, so that the Secretariat can start implementing the agreed decisions and reforms.
With a view to fully meet the objectives of this environmental agreement, the European Union urges the wider membership to recognize the important steps taken in the context of the UNCCD and to invite, through the General Assembly, all Parties, the Executive Secretariat and the other bodies of the Convention to thoroughly implement the decisions taken at the COP8.
The European Union shares the concern about the loss of Biodiversity that has increasingly been expressed by the International Community, and would like to take this opportunity to reiterate its strongest commitment, especially within the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), to increase the efforts for the protection and sustainable use of biodiversity with the objective of achieving the 2010 Biodiversity Target.
Halting the loss of biodiversity is an imperative for the European Union, which is also committed to engage the private sector in partnerships for biodiversity. Thus, and under the Portuguese Presidency of the European Union, Lisbon will host, in just a few days (November 12-13), a High Level Conference on “Business & Biodiversity”. This initiative will bring together business leaders, biodiversity experts, NGOs and policy makers, and aims at creating a reference framework for collaboration and interaction between business and biodiversity through the incorporation of biodiversity conservation and sustainable use into business processes.
Biodiversity plays a crucial role in the fight against poverty taking into account that poor countries rely more on natural resources which therefore have to be protected and sustainably managed. In achieving the MDGs, biodiversity is a vital issue requiring action at all levels, by Governments and society alike including the significance of partnership with local communities for its sustainable management of biodiversity. Loss of biodiversity is intimately linked to the loss of vital ecosystem services and goes hand in hand with the problem of climate change. Bearing this in mind, the European Union looks forward to the 9th Conference of Parties to the CBD and the 4th Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, to be held next year in Bonn, as an occasion to further enhance the efforts to achieve a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national levels.
The European Union agrees with the importance of finalizing the elaboration and negotiation of an international regime on Access and Benefit Sharing at the earliest possible time before COP 10 and will therefore continue to actively engage with all other Parties in a constructive dialogue which enables tangible progress towards a successful outcome on this issue.
In addition, and in order to meet the Johannesburg commitments on marine biodiversity, the European Union considers that urgent action needs to be taken against destructive practices and immediate threats on biodiversity in areas within and beyond national jurisdiction, taking into account existing institutional and legislative frameworks. In this perspective, and in conformity with relevant international law, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an integrated and precautionary approach in oceans’ management is therefore crucial to achieve sustainable development, balanced conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity and the protection of particularly vulnerable ecosystems.
Sustainable Mountain Development
The variety and heterogeneous nature of the high-altitude microhabitats, often with distinctive and rare species of fauna and flora, make mountain ecosystems unique and one of the world's most vulnerable and fragile bio-geographical areas. Besides this exceptional richness in terms of biological and genetic diversity, mountains and highlands have a strong human dimension since they cover a quarter of the Earth's land-surface and provide, together with their peripheral areas, home to 600 million people and the source of water for more than half the world's population. Also, in economic terms, mountains represent an irreplaceable reserve of other valuable mineral resources, beyond water, and bear an exceptional potential in terms of development and management of forest and agricultural products as well as for activities related to tourism and recreation.
Nevertheless, most mountain regions are politically and economically marginalized and mountain populations are at a clear disadvantage in comparison with other regions. Furthermore, the natural challenges related to mountain idiosyncrasies and to maintaining intact its biodiversity are increasingly coupled with severe land-use pressure and other environmental stresses, particularly the adverse effects of climate change.
Recognising the important steps made at all levels and by all stakeholders, especially in the aftermath of the International Year of Mountains (2002), the European Union encourages the continuation of efforts to increase global awareness on the importance of mountains. Consequently it is vital to promote their sustainable development, within the overall sphere/theme of sustainable spatial planning including biodiversity protection and the safeguard of the cultural heritage of man-made ecosystems. The European Union notes the importance of pro-poor policies to ensure sustainable development in mountain regions. Also in this context, the European Union strongly supports the strengthening of mountain women's right to resources and their role in their communities and culture, and encourages the development of further mountain-related national committees on the equality of access to resources for both men and women.
Regarding Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the European Union would like not only to reiterate its continued commitment to the Mauritius Declaration and to the Mauritius Strategy but also to emphasise the solidity and intensity of the long-lasting relationship which brings together the SIDS and the European Union. In fact, the European Union has been deeply involved in SIDS development even before the Barbados Conference, in 1994, and continues to cooperatively consider extremely important “partner’s actions” in favour of these countries.
While acknowledging many positive accomplishments in terms of the implementation of both the Mauritius Strategy and the Barbados the Programme of Action for the SIDS, the European Union also recognises that much more has yet to be done. In this perspective, the concluding remarks contained in the comprehensive Report presented by the Secretary-General on this agenda item, document A/62/279, provide us with a judicious orientation on how further advancement on the SIDS’ agenda can be fostered, at all levels.
There is a long list of issues of special relevance to SIDS such as climate change, natural disasters, environmental degradation, HIV/AIDS, market access and the diversification of traditional exports, in which the European Union will continue to support SIDS in order to ensure further progress in combating their particular vulnerabilities and, consequently, in implementing the Mauritius Strategy and achieving the MDGs. Simultaneously, it is important that SIDS make sure that their problems are adequately reflected in the framework of EU-SIDS cooperation, currently covering the period 2007-2013, both at national and regional level.
In view of the significant risks that climate change and sea-level rise pose to the sustainable development and very existence of some SIDS, the European Union naturally regards the SIDS as important partners in promoting the international agenda on climate change, and notes the need to increase their resilience in the face of these challenges. In this regard, special attention should be put on adaptation and technology. Concretely, the European Union has already taken several steps and, under the 10th European Development Fund, SIDS strategies are under preparation and will include specific actions in this field. In the Caribbean, support to the improvement of response to natural hazards, including climate change, is one of the focal areas. The European Union is currently promoting a new initiative, notably a “Global Partnership Alliance” focusing on vulnerable developing countries, with particular emphasis on SIDS and LDCs.
Recognizing the growing vulnerability and increasing impact of disasters triggered by different types of natural hazards, the European Union welcomes the increased focus on disaster risk reduction. Climate change is likely to make these trends even worse and therefore in addition to immediate and urgent action on climate change mitigation, similar efforts should be taken to prepare communities and groups, in particular the most vulnerable ones, for the increasingly severe and frequent effects of climate change through practical disaster risk reduction measures, such as strengthened early warning systems and improved disaster preparedness, public awareness and education, sound land use planning, and management of ecosystems, as well as safe building practices. Such endeavors to respond to disaster and climate change, as well as relevant humanitarian relief efforts form an integral part of our commitments to achieve the MDGs.
Consequently, the European Union actively supports the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters, and its effective implementation as an existing tool to reduce vulnerability to natural hazards, and to adapt to the effects of climate change. In fact, the European Union believes that a comprehensive approach of the Global Facility on Disaster Reduction and Recovery - a partnership between the World Bank and the ISDR system - should be embraced and that an increased emphasis on crises prevention and recovery should continue to be included in the Strategic Plan of UNDP.
The European Union takes this opportunity to emphasise, once again, the importance of the Global Platform for Disaster Reduction, which held its first meeting in Geneva, last June, and which constitutes the main global forum of the strengthened ISDR system, working as a medium for experience sharing, advocacy, progress reporting and identification of gaps and challenges for the ISDR system, among others. The Global Platform rightly noted the importance of linking actions to reduce the risks from natural disasters to measures to adapt to climate change. Along the same lines, another point to make is that recovery should also be guided by the possibility of "building back better", as was evident during the response to the tsunami disaster. Besides, the European Union believes that a gender perspective should be applied, from the earliest stages, in strategies for disaster response and reconstruction programmes.
Taking note of the results of the Global Survey of Early Warning systems, the European Union would like to commend the Secretary-General for this initiative, as well as to welcome the conclusions and recommendations contained in his Report, published as document A/62/340, on how to advance the development of global warning system capacities for all natural hazards. Indeed, globally comprehensive and more coordinated early warning systems are essential components of strategies to build resilience to natural disasters. Likewise, coordinated planning should be a key element in the definition of the priorities and practical objectives to be achieved in this regard, and to ensure the engagement and participation of all relevant stakeholders. In this regard, the Joint Work Programme 2008-2009 could be an useful tool to identify available resources and resource gaps on the implementation of the Hyogo Framework Priorities for Action, as well as to contribute to the reinforcement of the ISDR System at country and regional level.
Regarding UNEP, the European Union would like to express its overall satisfaction with the discussions and outcome of the twenty-fourth Governing Council of UNEP and the Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC-24/GMEF), held in Nairobi last February. Looking forward to further definition in UNEP’s role on the Climate Change issues, the European Union would like, at the same time, to underline the importance of the decisions taken during the UNEP GC-24 on the crucial issue of chemicals management, particularly with regard to heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury, and reiterates its continued engagement in support of safe, environmentally and socially sound chemicals management worldwide.
As the main UN body on Environment, UNEP has witnessed over the years a steady growth of its functions, without however being matched by status, mandate and adequate resources. Therefore, and while reiterating its appreciation and strong support for the ongoing strategic work of UNEP, the European Union considers that coherence and effectiveness of the international environmental policy making within the UN system can only be achieved through strengthening the role and broadening the financial base of UNEP. The European Union therefore welcomes the work already underway to prepare a robust Medium Term Strategy for 2010-2013, in consultation with the Committee of Permanent Representatives which sets out UNEP’s vision, objectives and priorities in looking to address current and future environmental challenges.
Additionally and complementary to strengthening UNEP, the European Union firmly believes that a more ambitious reform of the International Environmental Governance (IEG) system is required. We feel encouraged to work on a step by step approach to strengthening UNEP and working towards the establishment of a UN Environment Organisation (UNEO), in Nairobi, based on UNEP, with a revised and strengthened mandate, supported by stable, adequate and predictable financial contributions.
In this perspective, the European Union recognises the ongoing General Assembly informal consultative process on IEG as a constructive way forward. The European Union takes this occasion to highlight the need to continue with the informal consultations process and support the IEG Co-Chairs objective of starting formal negotiations on a broader transformation of the International Environmental Governance (IEG) system, no later than the beginning of the 63rd session of the General Assembly.
According to some projections, 2007 marks a defining moment in terms of human settlements, and indeed in human history, corresponding to a radical shift of the world’s population from rural to predominantly urban areas, and accentuates the important role of UN-Habitat in assisting member states to monitor and achieve, under MDG 7, target 11 regarding slum upgrading and prevention and target 10 on water and sanitation, with a view to reducing urban poverty and to promote economically, socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements, towns and cities.
Although in agreement with the need to give high priority to the problems of rapidly growing slums, that already account for one third of world’s urban population, the European Union believes that the complexity and urgency needed to address this issue requires the collaboration of all parties at all levels, and a renewed commitment to the implementation of the Habitat Agenda, since well-managed urbanisation generates economic growth, social harmony, good urban environmental quality, political advances and scientific progress.
Therefore, the European Union warmly welcomes the adoption of the results-based Medium-Term Strategy and Institutional Plan for 2008-2013, by the twenty-first session of the Governing Council of the UN Human Settlements Programme. The European Union believes that UN-Habitat’s decision to concentrate work on key focus areas will help the Organisation to play an enhanced leadership and catalytic role in promoting sustainable urbanization, sharpening its focus, improving the normative framework for aligning global and country level activities, and providing a concrete framework for increased commitment to partnerships and pre-investment in capacity building. Key to the process will be the development of an implementation plan which is realistic, prioritised and measurable, and which balances the need to deliver more effectively at country level, with the need for internal institutional reform.
The attainment of the internationally agreed goals, including the MDGs, and the overall reduction of poverty will depend to a significant extent on the ability of the International Community to achieve the objective of sustainable cities, through a holistic approach to urban issues, while effectively addressing rural poverty as a root cause for mass rural-urban migration that challenges well-managed processes of urbanisation. In this regard, and recognizing the important social, cultural and economic role that cities play, as well as the large impact the development in cities will have on combating and mitigating the effects of climate change and environmental degradation, the EU Ministers responsible for Urban Development and Territorial Cohesion agreed last May on the “Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities“, that constitutes a step towards developing a new sense of responsibility for integrated and gender sensitive urban development policy, and spatial planning, and contains guidelines for an integrated urban development policy which covers economical, social and environmental dimensions and urban governance, representing a fundamental element of urban policy and developing strategies for action on socially and economically deprived urban areas as well as on cities as a whole.
This is indeed an extensive list of paramount substantive issues.
Convinced that the intensive discussions in the Second Committee play an important role in building global consensus, the European Union is strongly committed to support the Bureau in achieving constructive outcomes on all these matters.
Thank you very much Madam Chairperson
* Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.