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UNGA Second Committee Highlights Challenges of Climate Change and Desertification, Looks Ahead to Rio+20

3 November 2011: The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) concluded its general discussion on sustainable development, with a number of speakers referring to the challenges of drought, desertification, climate change and land degradation. Delegates also looked ahead to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), expressing support and some reservations about the “green economy.”  

Senegal, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), underscored that growing environmental threats were affecting the most vulnerable populations and called for the full implementation of the Cancun agreements. The Democratic Republic of Congo outlined challenges faced by his country, including deforestation, the extinction of species, mining-related pollution, drought, water scarcity and climate change.

Burkina Faso expressed satisfaction with the High-level Meeting on Desertification, Drought and Degradation and encouraged the strengthening of synergies between the three Rio Conventions to enhance approaches linking climate change, desertification and sustainable development. He supported the drafting and adoption of a legal instrument to complete the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), devoted to sustainable land management and controlling soil degradation in all countries.

On the concept of a green economy and Rio+20, Senegal stressed the importance of greening the global economy, adding that the Rio+20 Conference provided an opportunity to reach a global agreement on climate change and to establish a new form of international governance that was ready to tackle environmental issues, including drought and agriculture.

Burkina Faso expressed concern about the discussions on the “green economy,” calling for reassurances that the green economy would contain poverty eradication elements. Senegal emphasized that a green economy would not be possible without concrete changes to the current economy, stressing the significance of an international focus on sustainable agriculture and food security.

On the climate negotiations, the Holy See underlined that climate change represents a serious threat to sustainable development. He said it was distressing that, despite over a decade of negotiations, no binding multilateral agreement on joint action had been reached to reduce carbon dioxide levels.

On climate and disasters, the World Food Programme (WFP) stressed the exacerbating impact of climate change, explaining that hazards would occur more frequently and that the balance of fragile ecosystems would be reduced, acting as a stress multiplier. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) underscored the need for international aid to build capacities in urban centers to deal with population growth and the effects of climate change. Stressing the importance of mainstreaming migration into disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation strategies so as to minimize forced movements, she said that State-appointed focal points for the Hyogo Framework for Action could facilitate national and regional cooperation.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) called for scaling up efforts and providing practical support for DRR, including financing mechanisms for pooling and guaranteeing long-term DRR and climate change adaptation strategies. The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said a holistic approach was essential to climate change, especially with the increased frequency of disasters. [UN Press Release]