UN Commission on Sustainable Development Begins 18th Session

Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang

UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang gives remarks at opening session. Image courtesy of UN News Centre.

The 18th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development began Monday in New York and will run through May 14. The high-level segment of the session runs from May 12-14, and Ministers from nearly half of the UN Member States and representatives from more than 1,000 groups, including the International Chamber of Commerce and Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), will attend. Opening remarks at Monday’s meeting highlighted the need for a dramatic shift in global consumer patterns in order to meet development challenges, halting the deterioration of ecosystem services, and efforts to tackle climate change.

 The first day of the session also served as the occasion for the release of two UN “Trends in Sustainable Development” reports that examine the environmental impacts of globalization and energy-intensive industrial activities. Climate change is a major focus of the reports which discuss the disproportionate fossil energy consumption of industrialized countries as well as the rapid growth of climate impacts from developing countries. Many countries continue to face difficulty in separating economic growth and development from continued resource extraction. Finding ways to transform production and consumption to break this trend is the central focus of the Commission. Sustainable development in small island states is an area of special concern during this session, especially in the wake of the recent earthquake in Haiti. Climate change should receive particular attention as a threat to development efforts in these countries due to their increasing vulnerability to natural phenomena such as sea-level rise and hurricanes.

 The session also comes on the heels of the release of a report by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s advisory group on energy and climate. Secretary Ban emphasized the need for deep changes, stating: “We need a clean energy revolution – in developing countries, where demand is rising rapidly, and in the developed world, in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions.” The report called on all countries to engage in global efforts, with industrialized countries taking a leadership role, and low-income countries creating a welcoming environment for clean energy investments. The report’s call for a transition to a green economy and more efficient use of energy resources fits with the Sustainable Development Commission’s session theme of green economic growth.

 Just recently, a new Worldwatch report Renewable Revolution: Low-Carbon Energy by 2030 found that 50 percent of global energy demands can be provided by implementing energy efficiency and renewables in concert.

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