UNEP Tackles Green Economy, Environmental Governance in Nairobi
Delegates from around the world met in Nairobi, Kenya last week to hammer out details on what role the green economy and international environmental governance will play in the much-anticipated 2012 Earth Summit (Rio+20).
Over 1000 participants were in attendance at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC-26/GMEF). From 21-24 February, representatives discussed the conference's main themes, the green economy and international environmental governance. Both themes will form the central pillars of Rio+20, which seeks to accelerate progress toward advancing sustainable development globally.
Delegates focus on green economy
Initial discussions focussed on hashing out the details of how countries can work together to develop a robust, international green economy. In her summary of the meeting, newly-elected Governing Council President Rosa Aguilar Rivero emphasised that the green economy is an important force for driving sustainable development, because it will help countries overcome their increasing vulnerability to climate change and reduced access to natural resources.
Green economy discussions were backed by a new report published by UNEP, entitled "Towards a Green Economy." The report uses economic modelling to demonstrate how countries can successfully transition toward a green economy with the right mix of policy and investment changes. In addition to driving sustainable development, the report identifies poverty reduction, global economic growth, and an increase in overall employment as long term benefits of a green economy.
Trade concerns surface once again
Concerns were voiced by representatives from developing countries about financing the green economy transition. Aguilar Rivero stressed that both the public and private sector should bear the responsibility for financing the transition. Also emphasised was the urgent need to assist developing nations in financing this initiative while simultaneously exploring innovative financing mechanisms to fuel investment and technology transfer.
Fears over the possibility of new green trade barriers were expressed at the meeting with developing countries particularly concerned that the transition to a green economy could unfairly restrict access to markets in the process of going green. UNEP Execute Director, Achim Steiner, reassured conference members that these concerns were not unique to the green economy, and that discussions should be focused on minimising the risk of new economic instruments to create trade barriers. Aguilar Rivero's further encouraged nations not to block their markets under the pretext of "greening."
Delegates asked to address weak environmental governance
Later discussions in Nairobi addressed the theme of international environmental governance with many expressing need for a more comprehensive framework. Conference members identified the environment "pillar" as the weakest in the sustainable development agenda, and called for a restructuring of international environmental governance at regional, national, and international levels. Aguilar Rivero emphasised that this type of reorganisation is crucial to the success of Rio+20.
"It is clear that if we want to achieve advancement in the implementation of sustainable development we have to raise environment to the level of the other pillars [in the sustainable development agenda]," said Aguilar Rivero's summary, which will form a key input into the year-long Rio+20 preparations.
Delegates also emphasised the importance of including all stakeholders in the IEG reformation process, and identified Rio+20 as an important opportunity to discuss and debate the issue.
Other discussions at the conference touched on the possibility of developing an alternative to gross domestic product (GDP) as a way of better measuring a given country's economic and social well being. The meeting also adopted 17 decisions for UNEP's upcoming work programme.
UNEP said the governing council meeting was crucial to increasing focus on the key issues that will ultimately dominate the agenda next year in Rio.
"As a result of this Governing Council, the direction for that reform has been given a greater focus, new momentum and taken on a greater sense of urgency which will inform the discussion, debate and finally the outcome of Rio+20 next year," Achim Steiner, UNEP's executive director, said in a statement.
The president's summary of the conference can be accessed on UNEP's website.
ICTSD REPORTING; "Green Economy and Environmental Governance Reform Backed by World's Environment Ministers," UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME, 24 February, 2011; "President's Summary," UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME, 24 February, 2011; "Summary of the 26th Session of the UN Environment Programme Governing Council/ Global Ministerial Environment Forum," IISD, 28 February, 2011.