Statement by Ambassador Rick Barton, U.S. Representative to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, on Opening of the Sustainable Development Cluster, Second Committee Debate, ECOSOC Chamber

Ambassador Rick Barton
U.S. Representative 
New York, NY
November 1, 2010


Madame Chair, The pursuit of sustainable development affects our global relationships and is a vital component of ongoing international cooperation. At the onset, it is important to remember that we share common priorities in this debate: safeguarding our global environment and working towards sustainable development.

As we consider the slate of issues within the sustainable development cluster, we must be mindful of other fora that are also working to address sustainable development and climate change. For this reason, it is crucial that the Second Committee’s work sends a positive signal of support to encourage these important efforts forward.

We also seek to uphold the integrity of the work of the Second Committee by encouraging discussion on substantive issues with meaningful outcomes. We have had three high level events alongside the opening of this GA, as well as the successful MDG summit. Throughout our deliberations on this agenda item, we will look to focus our support of possible future high-level events to those with strategic purpose. Today let me highlight six topics under this agenda item.

Climate Change
The urgent and growing threat of climate change is a global challenge that requires a global solution. We must support the efforts of our delegates to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to develop new and strengthened international responses.

The science tells us that all of the major economies have to take serious action to mitigate emissions, and the United States will assume a leadership role in this regard. We are committed to our national transition to a clean energy economy, and to working with countries around the world to promote cleaner technologies. We recognize the concerns of the countries that are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change, including small islands and Least Developed Countries, and we are enhancing our efforts to help these and other nations to adapt to the changing climate.

At the conference in Cancun, we have an important opportunity to make further progress, building on the Copenhagen Accord. We are committed to working with all of the Parties to the UNFCCC towards a balanced outcome.

Biodiversity and science
We all value the importance of biodiversity as reinforced by the high-level event in September and our government has a particular focus on science-based actions to conserve biodiversity. With this in mind, we see great potential for the establishment of an Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and we look forward to working within the UNGA and with other UN partners – specifically UNEP, UNESCO, FAO, and UNDP - to establish the IPBES in keeping with the Busan outcome.

Implementation of Agenda 21
On agenda 21, the work of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) continues to be a success story for the UN. 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 and act on the essential components of sustainable development.

As we continue with preparations for the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development this year, we look forward to further refining the themes, as well as discussing what the green economy means for us and for our global partners. Our goal for Rio in 2012 is to engage and motivate all actors – all levels of government, NGOs, business, civil society groups and particularly youth – to work together towards sustainable development.

The United States applauds the progress that Small Island Developing States have made toward fulfilling the Mauritius Strategy over the past five years. We were pleased to participate in last month’s High-Level Review Meeting, and will continue to support partnerships toward achieving the goals of sustainable development. For instance, the United States seeks to help Small Island Developing States build resiliency against both extreme natural events – such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes, as well as unknown future challenges. The United States recognizes the significant threat that climate change poses to the development of SIDS, and will work with vulnerable SIDS to adapt and build resilience to the impacts of climate change.

The majority of world population growth for at least the next fifty years will be in cities, with the cities of the developing world absorbing most of this increase. We are looking at ways to strengthen our approach to urbanization, to better understand its drivers and impacts, and to partner with others, including UN Habitat, in responding to this critical trend.

The UN Environment Program is providing important leadership on global matters, and we look forward to its consideration of a series of critical issues this February, including the adoption of its 2012-2013 Program of Work and Budget. In the context of international environmental governance, UNEP has made significant 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. These positive developments, including UNEP’s reorganization and reform successes, are the initial results of our efforts to improve environmental governance. This progress supports our consideration of the 2012 theme on “institutional framework for sustainable development.”

Madame Chair, The United States looks forward to advancing the Second Committee’s goals in the Sustainable Development cluster, and thanks the Bureau for its leadership.

Thank you.


PRN: 2010/258