UNEP Clarifies Position as Rio+20 Draws Nearer

24 February 2012

With Rio+20 only months away, the UN Environment Programme took the opportunity at its Twelfth Special Session of the Governing Council to move is position forward through two discussion papers. The papers mark a shift away from UNEP’s recent focus on the Green Economy Report by each looking at actionable outcomes for each of the twin-themes of Rio+20: the green economy and the institutional framework for sustainable development.

To honour UNEP's 40th anniversary, the meeting produced a ministerial statement committing the ministers to, "making Rio+20 a success." The statement emphasised that Rio+20 is, "a unique opportunity to address the economic, social, and environmental challenges in the context of sustainable development," There was, however, little mention of what a success constituted.

Achim Steiner, UNEP's Executive Director called the ministerial statement, "a clear signal to the Rio+20 summit," stressing this was a recognition of the need for a, "scaling up of the implementation of sustainable development and that bold, transformative decisions need to be taken in four months' time in Brazil."

The Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GMEF), held on the sidelines of the 21-24 February Governing Council negotiations, was dominated by plenary sessions and ministerial roundtables. These meetings provided a platform for Environment ministers and delegates to freely exchange views on the main topics of Rio+20, and to build consensus on the UNCSD Zero Draft and the summit outcomes, away from the main negotiations in New York.

The discussions cut to the heart of the contention surrounding the green economy as delegates discussed the effects of such a transition, that the transformation of economic structure will undoubtedly create winners and losers.

Other outcomes of the GCSS was a number of successfully negotiated decisions on international environmental governance, chemicals and waste, sustainable consumption and production, coordination across the UN system including the Environment Management Group, and the Multilateral Environmental Agreements for which UNEP serves as the secretariat.

With initial discussions on the UNCSD Zero Draft focussed on reaffirming governmental support for the 1992 Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 as well as starting to discuss various issues surrounding the implementation gaps in international commitments, this week's meeting marks a shift toward pinning down more concrete outcomes.

The next round of informal Rio+20 negotiations is scheduled to take place on 19-23 of March and will focus on the Green Economy and the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development.

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