Climate Change, Economy & Trade, Environment, Global, Global Geopolitics, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse

ENVIRONMENT: Window of Opportunity (Limited Time Only)

Marcela Valente

NUSA DUA, Indonesia, Feb 24 2010 (IPS) - Two months after the Copenhagen conference on climate change, which was widely regarded as a fiasco, the international community is meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali to discuss biodiversity and ecosystems, promote the green economy and carry out institutional reforms.

Environment ministers and other delegates from more than 130 countries attended the opening of the 11th Special Session of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Governing Council and the Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC/GMEF) to analyse the institutional changes required to reach agreements and respond more effectively to environmental challenges.

The Forum and Council are meeting Wednesday to Friday at the tourist resort of Nusa Dua, where an extraordinary session of the Conference of the Parties to the three Conventions regulating management of hazardous chemicals and waste ended Wednesday.

The Conference reached an agreement between the secretariats of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions to coordinate their work at national, regional and international levels. In the view of UNEP, it was a model of synergy that should be emulated by the entire United Nations system.

At the GC/GMEF opening session, Serbian Environment Minister Oliver Dulic, who chaired the Council, expressed the hope that the meeting would help to overcome challenges and prepare for the 2012 Sustainable Development Conference in Rio de Janeiro.

The so-called Earth Summit 2012 or Rio + 20 Summit, alluding to the first Earth Summit in Rio 20 years ago, should be the culmination of the reform process. “The window of opportunity is closing,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned the environment ministers in a letter read out at the opening session.

Dulic, for his part, called on all participants to be flexible and constructive, and make innovative proposals with concrete results that will meet the demands of the world’s citizens.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, hosting the Forum, asked the ministers to give UNEP a strong mandate, and the funds to fulfil it. We must get to Rio with a more cohesive, stronger and more effective United Nations, he said.

A Civil Society Forum also preceded the ministerial meeting, bringing together representatives of organisations from every region and social group, including academics and scientists, peasant farmers, the business community, trade unions and environmental, women’s and indigenous organisations.

The civil society groups exchanged proposals and produced a common document, listing a number of initiatives, that was presented to the Council. “This is a great agreement, the first we have achieved in a very long time,” Cecilia Iglesias, of the Asociación Civil Red Ambiental, a coalition of environmental NGOs in Argentina, told IPS.

But the organisations at the Civil Society Forum complained about hurdles to participation at the GC/GFEM sessions, including lack of funding and delayed access to the documents the ministers are debating. “In order to have a real influence, it’s not enough to just be present at a meeting venue; you need to be able to discuss the agenda beforehand and follow up after the event,” said Iglesias.

They also want more active participation in discussions on the green economy, preservation of biodiversity and ecosystem management policies. They are demanding more involvement in preparations for the Rio +20 Summit in 2012, to make sure their voices will be heard.

The green economy, advocated by UNEP, is a model of production that is less dependent on fossil fuels and more reliant on renewable energy sources, practises better methods of soil management and puts a higher value on natural capital.

Indian economist Pavan Sukhdev, the project leader for UNEP’s Green Economy initiative, told IPS that natural capital is more than just resources for production. “It includes services performed by ecosystems, such as cleaning the air, or regulating the water cycle to avoid droughts and floods,” he said.

The Green Economy initiative was launched by UNEP in 2008 in response to the international financial crisis, and is based on the premise that investing in the environment creates new jobs, improves quality of life and allows the achievement of a range of goals related to climate change and biodiversity conservation.

In Bali, ministers and experts at the GC/GEMF and activists at the Civil Society Forum are analysing the principles of the green economy with a view to including this model as a new development paradigm at the Rio + 20 Summit.

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