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Connie Hedegaard: "Getting more for less"


Connie Hedegaard

12th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit

Check Against Delivery

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased once again to take part in the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit. I must once again thank Dr. Pachauri and the TERI Institute for your tireless efforts.

I don't need to explain to you any more what sustainable development is about. Nevertheless, let me quickly remind you what is at stake in the 21st century.

A child born today is one out of seven billion, and during his lifetime, he will see the world's population grow with another 3 billion. More people will enter the middle class, not least in Asia. This is good news. But by the time this child, born today, will turn 18 in 2030, the world will need at least 50 per cent more food, 45 per cent more energy and 30 per cent more water.

With these figures in mind, it is clear that business as usual is not an option. It would be wrong to believe that is the cheap option. It is not. On the contrary, it is very expensive.

This is why we need a more sustainable growth model. This is also one of the key recommendations from the UN High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability. I, with other Panel members, presented the report yesterday.

The social and economic achievements we have seen over the last 20 years are magnificent. We need even more people to be included in the future. We cannot set limits for growth. Firstly, because it wouldn’t work. And secondly because it would not be moral: we must not deny people their opportunities to prosper and get better lives.

Growth in itself is neither our enemy, nor our problem. It is the way we have grown, and the way we continue to grow that is our common challenge. Growth, as we know it, will lead to incomprehensible problems in the future, not least due to the stress we cause to our ecosystems, our climate, and other natural resources, like for example water.

Just take a few examples. Every day, 24,000 football fields of forests are being trapped or burned. And in 20 years, our water supply will satisfy only 60% of world demand. These are the kind of challenges we are facing today.

So, we need to redefine growth because tackling climate change is a crucial part of sustainable development. Climate change is a threat multiplier and without climate action, future growth is itself at stake.

Climate-friendly growth must be intelligent by producing more with less. Getting more output with less input. We will all benefit from that. How?

Well, we need to look at production and consumption patterns. We need better product standards in line with the best available technology. For example, fuel efficiency standards for cars are an obvious example. In Europe our aim is 95 grams CO2 per kilometre in 2020. Down from 120 grams in 2015. In Delhi, 1000 new cars come to the street every day. 600 million cell phones operate in India. This is good, it is progress. But it is also very important that we apply the highest standards to all the machines we use to make our lives more convenient.

It is important that ALL countries, including emerging economies, contribute to make the world reduce emissions. China's per capita emissions are already higher than the ones of France and Italy. This is an example of how things are rapidly changing. India is far below with 1,5 tonne per capita.

It is clear that different countries with different economies will have to do different things. Some of us reduce our emission already now. Others like for example India will in the first many years strive to do better than business as usual. Nobody would ask more than that. But the point is that all contribute with more efficient use of resources. In Europe we clearly respect the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

The Durban climate conference at the end of last year was, in my view, an important step forward in the right direction. India's environment minister, Mrs Jayanthi Natarajan and I agreed in the final hours of the conference that there was a need for a new, more ambitious climate framework with legal force for all. It means that we will do different things, but what we pledge to do must have the same legal value. The world has very much change since the origin of the UNFCCC.

Two lessons learned in Europe are: 1) Price signals help, 2) Targets help. The European binding targets on renewable energy and green house gas emissions have been crucial to keep governments and companies focused on reducing emissions. It has spurred new investments in renewable energy, even during the worst economic crisis in decades.

Therefore, we are happy that the Durban conclusions recognise that the future climate framework shall have legal force for ALL countries, not only the industrialised ones.

The world is changing and so are the dynamics between and within our nations. We are interdependent as we share more and more interests. We need to work closer together to tackle global challenges, and we all need to take our fair share of the responsibility. We need to move away from the negative dynamics of the old North South divide.

This does not mean that I am disregarding the equity agenda which India and other developing countries are proud defender of. I fully agree that inequality remains a huge concern. Both between, but certainly also within countries. But Durban proved very well that the traditional division between industrialised and developing countries will not help us solve our common challenges. And the outcome of Durban addressed this problem by deciding to move towards a common platform for all.

Let me finally turn to another element which in my view, will be crucial to build a sustainable model for global growth. That is: putting a price on environmental pollution.

The Panel on Global Sustainability recommends that by 2020 all governments should establish price signals that value sustainability to guide the consumption and investment decisions of households, businesses and the public sector.

We must make polluters pay – also international operators like airlines, because pollution does not stop at national boundaries. But we must do this in a smart way, through innovative pricing mechanisms and carbon markets.

In this way, we can also raise additional money for investments in sustainable development, especially in developing countries. The scale of investments needed goes far beyond the range of public sector alone. A lot of private capital will be needed.

I am happy to note that India is also introducing a market based system. The so called PAT scheme, Perform, Achieve and Trade, which aims to reduce energy consumption in more than 700 energy intensive industries, for example in the cement and steel sector and in thermal power plants.

We need more sustainable consumption. Food wasted in high income countries (220 million tons) is roughly equal to the food production of sub Saharan Africa (230 million tons). This is the kind of situation we are faced with. Consumers are guided by price, but also by their conscience. Better labelling can make a huge difference, like we have seen with labels for washing machines and other electronic appliances.

It is all about incentives to act, also for manufacturers.

We know the problems caused by inefficient use of resources. We know the solutions. There are many creative people with bright ideas all over the world. In the future, the question is not about no consumption, but about smarter consumption. Much smarter consumption.

Thank you.

Last update: 21/03/2014 | Top