Statement by Kemal Derviş, Administrator of UNDP

05 Jun 2007

On the Occasion of World Environment Day
New York

World Environment Day is an opportunity to take stock of the condition of the natural world, and a reminder of its singular importance in the lives and livelihoods of all people, at every stage of development. Protecting the environment, our common resource and responsibility, is one of the United Nations’ most important concerns. Through the coordinated and mutually reinforcing work of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Environment Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the range of environmental conventions, as well as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and other UN entities, the United Nations works to help protect the environment, ensure sustainable use of its wealth, and support countries in their efforts to address environmental challenges.  

For many, this World Environment Day and its focus on melting polar ice carries particular significance. Today there is broad international scientific consensus that climate change is happening and that greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activity is a significant and probably dominant cause.  We see its immediate effects not just in the far northern reaches of the planet, but also in developing countries, the nations least responsible for it and least equipped to cope with its devastating consequences: more extreme weather, drought, flooding, disruption and destruction of plant and animal species, and the spread of vector-borne diseases. Indeed, for many of the poorest people, climate change is a life-and-death matter. It is both a major environmental challenge and one of the greatest threats to human development. How we as a global community adapt to it, mitigate its advance, and account for its risks in development strategies will be a critical factor in making development progress, including efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Despite these challenges, there are, however, some grounds for optimism. This world-wide realization that we cannot afford to wait any longer to respond to climate change sets the stage for coordinated action. Today in Berlin, UNDP is highlighting two areas in particular where it is already taking steps to support  developing countries in addressing climate change and other environmental challenges.

The first is in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Biodiversity is an essential resource not only in responding to climate change, but also in reducing poverty. Environments that are richly diverse in plant and animal life provide communities with a range of options with which to sustain livelihoods, while sensitive and highly biodiverse ecosystems, such as forests, bogs, and coral reefs, contain massive carbon reservoirs that contribute to regulating the global climate. Today in Berlin we honour the winners of this year’s Equator Prize which recognises and rewards local communities for their work in helping to reduce poverty through the sound management of biodiversity. We take this opportunity to also remind leaders at the G8 Summit meeting in Helilgendamm this week that protecting biodiversity is vital in any response to the changes affecting our planet, especially for the poorest people.   

The second area we are highlighting today is the tremendous untapped resource carbon finance represents for developing countries. While the financial benefits of the rapidly expanding, billion-dollar international market for carbon credits has rewarded some, many more have missed out. Today in Berlin we are launching the UNDP MDG Carbon Facility’s new partnership with a major financial institution. This Facility aims to deliver more of the benefits of the carbon market to a larger share of the world’s population through projects that promote long-term sustainable development.

Through these and others activities, UNDP today reaffirms its commitment to working in partnership with others to help protect the global environment and promote sustainable human development for all.