Speech prepared for delivery
Distinguished President of Cuba SEM Miguel Diaz-Canel,
Distinguished Heads of State and Government Representatives of the G-77 and China,
Distinguished representatives of the United Nations system,
Colleagues and friends.
My thanks to Cuba for hosting this G-77+China meeting on an important topic at a crucial time. A time when the triple planetary crisis – fueled by unsustainable consumption and production – is a dead weight that slows down sustainable development.
Many developing countries are in shock climate change. Fighting with loss of nature and biodiversity – including desertification. Choking on it pollution and waste. These challenges are the source of other crises. Human health. Cost of life. Poverty. Hunger. Conflict. And there is of course massive injustice inherent in the triple crisis, particularly that of climate change.
So it’s understandable that trust is low. But all nations of the world must now work together towards a low-carbon, nature-friendly and pollution-free future. The time is for unity and not for division. There is too much at stake for all of humanity.
This does not mean that all countries must follow the same path.
Rich industrialized countries have a responsibility to reduce their emissions and pollution – with G20 economies responsible for around 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Give nature a chance to recover. Support the adaptation needs of developing countries and address loss and damage.
Developing countries have a responsibility, first and foremost to themselves and to their citizens, to take a completely different path to prosperity. Reap the benefits of development that prioritizes a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. As President Ruto of Kenya said at the African Climate Summit, the developing world needs a “bold leap.”
Science, technology and innovation, or STI, gives developing countries the opportunity not only to leap forward, but also to aggressively commit to a future of prosperity, resilience and equity. STI has proven itself many times in the environmental field. In the fight against persistent organic pollutants. In solar technology and electric vehicles. Pivoting the cooling industry to protect the ozone layer and the climate.
Let me highlight two important points about STIs here.
Let us first remember that nature is the original technology. Nature stores carbon. Filters the water. Protects against extreme weather. And much more. Nature-based solutions can’t do everything, but they can do a lot: for example, provide about a third of the climate change mitigation needed each year to stay on track to meet the UN Climate Change Accord’s goals. Paris, while creating new jobs and economic opportunities. opportunities. So, before we turn to new technologies, we should first look at what nature can do.
Second, ITS should not be used to seek quick fixes or fanciful silver bullets. Technologies such as modifying solar radiation, for example, carry many risks. They are not a substitute for reducing emissions. STI should only be used to help us work smarter and harder to reshape societies and economies.
Let me just give a few examples of areas where STI will be crucial.
Implementing the next agreement to end plastic pollution will require chemists, manufacturers and process engineers to remove plastics from products and create new environmentally friendly products. Manufacture products suitable for reuse, refilling, repair, recycling and disposal. Deploy green, sustainable chemistry to get rid of harmful chemicals and find safe alternatives, as 3,200 substances associated with plastics have one or more hazardous properties of concern. Innovation is key.
As the Convention on Biological Diversity says, synthetic biology can provide new solutions to problems such as biodiversity loss, climate change, hunger and vector-borne diseases. Sharing these benefits, for example those from digital sequencing of information under the Global Biodiversity Framework, will be crucial for justice and equity. Developing countries must be able to benefit from these resources, and not just companies from Northern countries. We must therefore share technologies while ensuring security and considering whole-of-society approaches.
As the transition to electric vehicles and renewable energy intensifies, we will see a significant increase in demand for essential minerals like copper, cobalt and nickel. For example, from 2017 to 2022, the energy sector tripled demand for lithium. These rare resources will have to be mobilized: through efficient use and recycling of materials to make new products. Deploying STI in this space would reduce the pressure exerted by mining on the environment. And reduce the pressure on people and communities who work in mines in conditions incompatible with human dignity and sustainable development.
Let me now look, in broad terms, at three areas in which STI can help developing countries make a leap forward, and how UNEP – as one of only two UN organizations headquartered in the Global South – can help.
Inclusive digitalization and data access.
If we use digital tools well, we find more solutions and we disseminate them in a relevant way. This is why UNEP has increased the role of digital transformation. Part of UNEP’s vision is to democratize access to data so that it can be used to make a difference. With data frameworks that are fit for purpose and inform action. Thanks to the World Environment Situation Room, which aims to bring real solutions to real people. By sharing data to make a real impact – for example, providing UN country teams with environmental information to improve delivery on the ground in developing countries.
Second, predict and prepare for the future.
Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes. STIs can both prevent and prevent the world.
UNEP’s ongoing strategic foresight exercise has identified several hundred signs of new developments, across all facets of society, that could affect the health of the planet. These range from physical changes to emerging technologies. UNEP plans to produce a first map of these signs and a global outlook report next year.
In collaboration with the rest of the United Nations system, UNEP is working to implement the Early Warning for All Initiative, which uses remote sensing, AI and analytics to improve preparedness and response to disasters. As climate impacts intensify, these efforts will save lives, protect livelihoods and build resilience in developing countries.
Third, promote inclusion in science and solutions.
Science has been a relatively closed workshop for too long. This must change. We must use all knowledge – from respected scientists to indigenous women to youth. This is how we find solutions that work. That’s why UNEP is working with the International Science Council to bring meaningful diversity to science and solutions.
We have science and technology. And we have the tools to collaborate. UNEP uses them to ensure that developing countries have the technology they need for a better future. Through the Climate Technology Center and Network. Via the SE4All Africa Hub for energy solutions. Thanks to the Kigali Cooling Efficiency program. And more.
Now we all need to do more. Thanks to the momentum provided by today’s G77+China deliberations. By putting technology in people’s hands through digital public infrastructure. Using ITS to prepare for the future. By bringing the wisdom of all groups to the table. Above all, by building difficult projects to create a greener, safer and more equitable world for all.