UNITAR holds Forum to discern Green Economy opportunities and challenges

23 March 2012, New York, USA - Approximately forty delegates from Member States along with representatives from UN and civil society participated in the UNITAR  Rio Preparation Forum (RPF) to discern “opportunities and challenges of a green economy.”  The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Danish biotechnology company, Novozymes, co-sponsored the workshop to explore the role of public-private partnerships and green energy. Experts from the UN, academia, civil society and private sector as well as representatives from the Permanent Missions of Mexico, Botswana and New Zealand led the discussions on the notion of green economy, especially in the context of Rio+20 and the goals of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

UNITAR Rio Preparation ForumThe workshop, a thorough one-day agenda, included two panels and expert discussions. It began with an opening session introducing the challenges of transitioning to a green economy from public, private and academic perspectives. Mr. Santiago Lorenzo Alonso, the Deputy Director-General for Multilateral Environmental Agreements of Mexico’s Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources delivered an overview of the negotiation process in the green economy, encouraging participants to “think where humanity wants to be in 20 years.” Prof. Ben Cashore of Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, cautioned, however, that “it is not true that green economy will bring win–win, sometimes it will bring win-lose, so the challenge is to distinguish the win-win’s and our work.” Novozymes promoted the company’s goals for a bio-based economy to demonstrate the linkages between doing business and complying with environmental standards.

Opening the expert panel on “Transitioning to a green economy: cooperation between the public and private sector,” H.E. Mr. Charles Ntwaagae, the Permanent Representative of Botswana to the UN and the vice chair of the Bureau for the Preparatory Process of Rio+20, pointed out that the green economy must be about “knowledge sharing” as well as access to technologies to implement a green economy. Steven Stone of UNEP shared that the green economy is about wellbeing and inclusive growth, taking every citizen into account. UNFPA’s Michael Herrmann urged participants to not think “in silos” as well as set human wellbeing as the starting point. Dr. Nikhil Chandavarkar, from UN DESA’s Division of Sustainable Development, making comparisons to the ’92 Earth Summit, warned that we cannot afford to wait another 20 years, and need to think holistically. Anne Marie Sloth Carsen, from UNDP’s Environment and Energy Group invited the participants to link governance at the country level where the UN system can help implement a green economy. Finally, Dr. Mustapha Kamal, UNEP, assessed the transition to a green economy is embedded in growth.

Opening the session on the opportunities for a green economy, H.E. Mr. Jim McLay, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the UN emphasized a pragmatic approach, “there is no one size fits all solutions but we will need flexible approach to achieve green economy goals” with opportunities of environmental integrity and economic growth going “hand in hand.” Rama Rao the NY Head of WIPO advised delegates on the intellectual property components of access to green technologies. Gary Fowlie, NY Head of International Telecommunication Union focused on Information and Communication Technologies for green energy. Dr. Krista Singleton-Cambage, of the Nature Conservancy emphasized a holistic approach and integrity to solve operational challenges. Finally, Mr. Paul Dickinson, of Carbon Disclosure Project emphatically called for emerging economies to use tangible solutions.