Statement by Rebecca Webber, Advisor for Economic and Social Affairs, 66th UNGA Second Committee Sustainable Development Agenda items

Rebecca Webber, Advisor for Economic and Social Affairs
New York, NY
October 31, 2011


Mr. Chairman, the sustainable development cluster contains resolutions on a number of important issues that underpin our overall economic development efforts and that are essential to the wellbeing of our communities. Today, we will address several of the many important topics incorporated under this Second Committee agenda item.

Implementation of Agenda 21

As the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, to be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, approaches, we note that some components of the Conference modalities will be decided through discussions on the “Agenda 21” resolution. We seek a practical, inclusive structure for the Conference that encourages meaningful dialogue leading to action. Interested groups will make great efforts to focus attention on their particular issues in other resolutions as well. We want to work towards a constructive and action-oriented outcome that makes a difference at the national level. The result of the Conference should be a short, focused political document that is positive about the opportunities for the future and realistic about our common challenges. We caution that - in our zeal to work towards a successful Conference – we avoid the temptation to make Rio+20 all things to all people by increasing the number of items we address under this cluster.

It is also important for us to be mindful of other international processes that are addressing these issues; this includes climate change, desertification, biodiversity, energy and water issues. The integrity of the Second Committee is important, and we would like to uphold it by focusing on substantive issues and meaningful outcomes within existing agenda items. We want to focus our efforts this year on the conversations, meetings, dialogues, and preparations that are happening around the globe, both government- and stakeholder-driven, to make Rio+20 successful.

Climate Change

All over the world, people face serious risks because of global climate change. No single nation can address this challenge alone, and countries around the world need to reduce their emissions and work to adapt to the changing climate. We have always maintained that global problems require global solutions. Through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the international community has made unprecedented progress over the past three years to address this challenge.

The United States stands by the outcomes from Copenhagen and Cancun. An approach reflecting specific undertakings by all of the major economies moves us beyond the outdated notion that only developed countries undertake specific actions to reduce their emissions. We need to build on the progress made over the last two years at the next UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Durban, South Africa (“COP 17”) in November-December by taking new decisions to advance the balanced package of the Cancun agreements toward an effective global approach to this global challenge.

Renewable Energy

The United States views the pursuit of new and renewable sources of energy as a domestic and foreign policy priority and places great value in international cooperation. Innovative technologies and initiatives, ranging from energy efficiency to renewable energy and cleaner fossil fuels, are all necessary pieces of a balanced portfolio of energy options. We welcome efforts to share best practices and identify a range of solutions to encourage increased adoption of renewable energy technologies.

An important component of this is investment in research and development for all major renewable energy technologies, to encourage innovation, reduce costs, and expand the reach of new ideas. Creating an enabling environment that fulfills these aims is vital, and the work of bilateral and multilateral renewable energy initiatives, such as the International Renewable Energy Agency, as well as the work of the various UN bodies is essential in this regard.


The United States was delighted to see such interest in the High-Level event on Desertification during the high-level week of this session’s General Assembly. With the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, we have all seen the compounding effects of desertification on humanity and sustainable development. At the recent Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD in Changwon, Korea, we strengthened regional cooperation on desertification, resolved a long standing issue related to arrangements for the Global Mechanism and continued to enhance the role of science related to dryland issues. We will continue to support this resolution and to defend the scope of the Convention.


In addition, we recognize that for the first time in history, more people now live in cities than in rural areas, with cities of the developing world continuing to absorb most of the trend towards rapid urbanization. Everyone here today knows the statistics and understands the daily impact of growing urbanization. But understanding the need for sustainable and inclusive cities is just a starting point. It is important to address both the opportunities and the challenges of urbanization in formulating our diplomatic and development strategies. To that end we are working to ensure that UN Habitat and other important actors in this arena are well prepared to help governments and their citizens to take their next steps creatively, responsibly, and efficiently.


UNEP plays an important role on global environmental matters and provides an extremely valuable venue for discussing these issues. The UN Environment Program has made progress in a number of areas, including strengthening its science function, cooperation within the UN system, and its emphasis on capacity building. In addition, the UNEP dialogue on environmental governance will be important to our consideration of the 2012 Conference theme of “the institutional framework for sustainable development,” of which environmental governance at all levels is an important component. At Rio+20, we will seek a strengthened role for UNEP, in addition to other measures, in order to achieve a more integrated, balanced approach to the three pillars of sustainable development within the UN system; however, we should not prejudice those outcomes in the Second Committee, and should stay within our mandate to look at UNEP’s progress. It is important to remember that we share a common priority for UNEP: enhancing its ability to support and encourage national efforts to safeguard the global environment as a contribution to our pursuit of sustainable development.

Mr. Chairman,

We look forward to our deliberations on these and other issues with our partners.

Thank you..


PRN: 2011/228