Sha: Rio + 20 is “not just another UN conference”

Dealing with the climate crisis requires cooperation at the global level, while city-level planning and innovation around climate and energy issues also have a crucial role to play, Rio+20 Secretary General Sha Zukang said in remarks delivered at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., yesterday.

The Rio +20 Conference on Sustainable Development will be held next year in Rio de Janiero, from June 4- 6, 2012. Organized around two themes – poverty eradication and green economy in the context of sustainable development, and institutional frameworks for sustainable development – the goal of the conference is to review progress on and secure renewed political commitment to sustainable development.

The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group sees this event as an important venue to drive home the lessons learned at the C40 Cities Mayors Summit held earlier this month. During the Summit, the C40 Steering Committee released a communiqué calling on national governments to empower cities to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the letter, the C40 asked for the following considerations:  

  • Megacities must be recognized as having an increasingly important voice in the global climate and sustainable development debate;
  •  National governments and international treaties should empower the leadership of their cities, to have the authority to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote green industry development;
  • Cities must be resourced to drive delivery on national and international targets, including opportunities via multilateral development banks to finance measures for mitigation and adaptation to climate change and urban sustainable development. Development of an effective agenda with well?defined goals to support city action plans to combat climate change and promote urban green growth.

It’s a renewed focus on cities in the context of driving national and global engagement on climate change issues that was echoed by Secretary General Sha in his June 28 remarks. Sha highlighted not only the importance of global cooperation but also said he could not “overemphasize the significance of the work” done by organizations such as the C40, or the hosts of yesterday’s event, ICLEI and the US Green Building Council. Sha said of cities and climate:  

"Let’s turn to cities. They are concentrations of human energy and creativity, both the source of sustainable development problems and the laboratories for solving them. Most of the developing world’s population will live in cities and towns by 2020. Three-quarters of the developed world’s population already does. This means that urban planners and managers, transport planners, real estate developers, architects and engineers all have a crucial role in shaping a sustainable planet."

The Secretary General reiterated the importance of local action in a subsequent interview with E&E TV, where he also called on the United States to send a “loud and clear message” in support of the conference, and to participate proactively. Watch the full interview here.