UNEA-2: Delivering on the environmental dimension for the wellbeing of the people and the planet

Updated: 2016-05-18 15:30

By Gabriel Vallejo López(chinadaily.com.cn)

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During the years after Stockholm, sound scientific evidence provided decision-makers with the tools to take swift action against the worst situations affecting our global environment. Under United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) sponsorship, multilateral negotiation processes became true diplomatic milestones resulting in international, legally- binding agreements that tackled issues affecting the health of people and the environment.

Today, as our planet faces the challenge of bringing about a deep transformation from a resource-intensive to a greener economy and to a more equitable society, unprecedented global political achievements seem to be paving a promising path: in 2015, the world reinforced its commitment to fight the adverse consequences of climate change and adopted a wide-ranging, comprehensive Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Under this renewed vision, we have set universal, ambitious targets to ensure that we manage to change our world to foster growth and improve social wellbeing with a long-term perspective. The most innovative aspect of this, however, is that the conservation and sustainable use of our environment has been collectively recognized as an essential component of this aspiration and a key engine of productivity, competitiveness and local development.

In other words, the environmental dimension of the Sustainable Development Goals is not an isolated set of green goals the world should meet. Effectively delivering on it is by far the most relevant global opportunity to secure growth and protect us from the catastrophic effects of climate change.

The challenge remains to decouple growth and development from environmental damage. Our responsibility with future generations and in order for us to hand them over a healthy environment and a secure Planet requires swift and immediate action, continued global consensus and collective work to deliver on what we committed to under the Paris Agreement and the SDGs.

This is where UNEA finds its reason for being: As the highest and most important multilateral forum on the environment, UNEA will be a driver for strengthened action and change.

Colombia is aware that in order to transform discourse we must start by changing how people think. Our natural endowment is under increasing pressure. Acknowledging the critical role that biodiversity and ecosystem services play in securing more and better development opportunities for our people, we have opted to embark on strong and concrete actions to counter biodiversity loss, and mitigate and adapt to climate change.

We share a common environment that is under growing pressure and yet, we have the responsibility to ensure the wellbeing, health and development of millions of people. Our challenge is to harmonize these two scenarios. We are convinced that better livelihoods stemming from sustainable activities can help decisively to bridge social gaps, bring about a more equitable future and build a durable peace both in Colombia and globally.

The citizens of our countries attending UNEA count on us, more than ever, to provide immediate responses to the environmental problems that affect them. It is our responsibility to respond to their needs and such is our reason to be. Decisions taken in UNEA must become concrete actions.

The author is Gabriel Vallejo López, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Colombia