Statement by Michael G. Snowden, United States Adviser, on Agenda Item 53: Sustainable Development, before the Second Committee of the Sixty-Fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Michael G. Snowden
U.S. Adviser 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
November 2, 2009


Mr. Chairman, the United States welcomes the opportunity to offer our views under this agenda item.  The category of sustainable development encompasses a number of important issues that affect our global relationships and are a vital component of ongoing international cooperation.  We will take this opportunity to address just a few of them. 

Climate Change

Climate change is a crisis that requires a global solution, and meeting this challenge is a top priority for President Obama.   We have taken historic action at home – including a clean energy investment of over $80 billion in our economic stimulus package and new vehicle efficiency standards – and the President is working with Congress to advance comprehensive climate and energy legislation.  Legislation that passed through the House of Representatives would reduce U.S. carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.  Similar legislation is moving through the Senate.

We recognize that the United States must be a leader in the global effort to combat climate change, but action by the United States alone – or even by the entire developed world – is not enough.  We also recognize the need to put other developing nations, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, including small islands and least developed countries, on a path to sustained growth.

We are committed to reaching a strong international agreement to combat climate change and put the world on a pathway to a clean energy future.  Our delegates to the UNFCCC are working hard to find consensus; these efforts deserve the undivided attention of our climate negotiators and we owe it to our citizens and future generations to be fully supportive of those efforts. 

Promotion of new and renewable sources of energy

The United States is actively creating policies that advance energy and climate security and will promote economic recovery efforts, accelerate job creation, and drive clean energy manufacturing.  And because of the seriousness with which we are taking climate change, renewable energy is a top priority.  In addition to the $80 billion domestic clean energy investment, we are also working internationally to promote new and renewable sources of energy.  The 2008 Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC) built on the 2004 Bonn and 2005 Beijing conferences in bringing together the world’s leaders in the field of renewable energy from governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.  The United States also became a signatory to the newly launched International Renewable Energy Agency in 2009, a venue in which we look forward to engaging actively.  
Implementation of Agenda 21

The work of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) continues to be a success story for the United Nations.  In the years since the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, the CSD has redefined itself as a body focused on enabling concrete results on the ground.  The CSD gives member states and stakeholders the opportunity to share success stories and best practices, form critical partnerships and discuss the essential components of sustainable development on a global scale.  By prioritizing and establishing clearly focused cycles, the CSD has galvanized action and helped to shape the agendas of a wide range of organizations around the globe.  The previous CSD cycle focused on agriculture, rural development, land, drought, desertification, and Africa, and occurred during a time of heightened concern over food security.  At CSD-17, Member States engaged fully in the dialogue and process on these important themes.  The CSD-17 outcome, which emphasizes realistic, problem-solving activities and policy guidance, is already helping the global community, at all levels, to improve food security in ways that are sustainable.  We look forward to participating actively in the upcoming CSD cycle on transport, chemicals, waste, mining and sustainable consumption and production.  

There has been substantial discussion of a possible “Rio+20” conference on sustainable development.  We welcome continued work towards sustainable development and discussion on this particular topic.  However, we continue to have questions on the necessity of such a conference.  We already have a large number of agreements governing our ongoing sustainable development efforts; we must ensure that another meeting does not detract valuable attention from these priorities.  Also, we must consider whether a high-level meeting is the most effective use of limited resources.   Above all, we advocate continuing progress towards existing commitments and spending resources on actions that directly produce results.  

Agricultural Technology for Development

In light of this year’s CSD outcome on agriculture, land use and related topics – and of the important, ongoing work on food security - we see the draft resolution on “Agricultural technology for development” as particularly relevant.  The United States supports efforts to increase agricultural technology and innovation of all types, and its potential in developing countries to increase rural incomes while reducing hunger and poverty.  The United States, among the first co-sponsors of the 2007 resolution on this topic, continues to appreciate countries’ supportive efforts in this area.  
UNEP and the consultative IEG process

The United States feels that the 2009 UN Environment Program (UNEP) Governing Council meeting was a success in conducting robust discussions and taking decisions on issues that are essential to improving the state of the world’s environment.   The GC adopted decisions on mercury and a new “consultative process” on international environmental governance (IEG), among other decisions that represent important steps forward in ensuring a sustainable global environment.  UNEP is truly providing leadership on global environmental matters. 

In the context of international environmental governance, the UN Environment Program has made immense progress in the areas where we have achieved consensus, such as strengthening its science function, cooperation within the UN system, emphasis on capacity building, and institutional reform.  The number of positive developments, including UNEP’s reorganization and reform successes, are the initial results of our efforts to improve environmental governance.  Although diversity in opinion remains in some areas, we have made progress on what would constitute true improvements to the IEG system.  We believe we have made additional progress through the ongoing UNEP consultative process.  It is important to remember that we share common priorities in this debate: safeguarding our global environment and working towards sustainable development.  
Biological Diversity

The United States is committed to biodiversity conservation and to achieving the 2010 Target to reduce significantly the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010.  We believe we have made progress over the past five years but much remains to be done.  We strongly believe that action beyond 2010 will be necessary to combat the current unacceptable levels of biodiversity loss.  The United States supports developing a post-2010 framework on biodiversity. We know the primary drivers of biodiversity loss and believe it would be more useful to begin a process to develop an overall strategy for post-2010, one that includes redoubling our current conservation efforts.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


PRN: 2009/258