Rio+20 Secretary General Sha discusses prospects for sustainable development meeting

What role can local governments play in international sustainable development discussions? Can next year's Rio+20 meeting provide a boost to the global economy? During today's OnPoint, the Honorable Sha Zukang, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), discusses his goals for next year's meeting and explains what the international community's expectations are for the United States in the discussions.


Monica Trauzzi: Hello and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. E&ETV sat down with Rio+20 Secretary General Sha Zukang immediately following a speech on international sustainable development at the National Press Club. Mr. Secretary General, thanks for joining me.

Sec. Gen. Sha Zukang: Thank you, madam, for the interview. It's my honor and pleasure.

Monica Trauzzi: Why is this meeting so significant?

Sec. Gen. Sha Zukang: Well, it is significant in many ways. Firstly, the subject itself is very important, important in the sense that sustained development is the only way, because the current way of development, which is not sustainable, you know, it simply cannot continue for any time longer. And with rapid increase of the population, with rapid depletion of the resources and with increased, rapid increase of all kind of disasters, with the increased change of the climate, with the deterioration of the environment, with all those health and the social issues which have led to a lot of conflicts in some parts, many parts of the world, you know, the current way of development is not sustainable and we should have the sense of urgency. And since 1992, that is to say almost in the last 20 years a lot of -- the international community has also accumulated a lot of experiences and lessons which can be better utilized. So, therefore, it is really the time to get serious on sustained development.

Monica Trauzzi: So, what are your key goals for this meeting?

Sec. Gen. Sha Zukang: The key goal, as I said to you in my statement, is to renew our commitment, number one, and, second, to implement what we have already committed on the ground.

Monica Trauzzi: Could the Rio+20 meeting have an impact on the global economy? We're having many issues throughout the world right now. Could we see a shift coming from this meeting?

Sec. Gen. Sha Zukang: My answer is definite, it can, it's not could. It can as long as we renew our commitment, as long as we undertake the leadership in a particularly a big country like the United States. And I know that the U.S. has been consistent supporters, strong supporter for the idea of sustained development. And the U.S. may not have said that much, but you have been working very hard on the ground and in many fields as I announced today in my statement. So we expect the United States, as they did before, it did it before, to take that leadership. So, I'm -

Monica Trauzzi: What does the U.S. need to say at the meeting?

Sec. Gen. Sha Zukang: Well, for any success of the international conference, normally by -- I'm not using the jargon, but this is the common sense that the success or failure will be judged by two things. Number one, the level of participation. Number two, the outcome of the conference. And this is not just an ordinary UN -- another UN conference, it is a conference about the future generations. Therefore, the conference itself is important. So number one, we hope the United States will, you know, send a loud and clear message that we, the United States, our people are strong supporters of the conference. We will participate in a proactive way and we are not retreating from our commitment and we are going to honor our commitments. Of course, everybody knows, we -- the world is now experiencing some difficulties with financial. We're all living in the shadow of the financial crisis and because of that, many people are on unemployment and many countries also, you know, are tasting the high prices. We have a lot of problems right now, but many of the problems are created because of the non-sustainable development. So, therefore, you know, we anticipate, I hope as conference secretary general, U.S. will take leadership to tell the others that we are with you. We will be there working together with you. You know, that is the standard message I expect you do and I'm sure that with your leadership, of course with many others, like host country, including my own country, like China, we will be able to have a positive outcome.

Monica Trauzzi: So, as we look towards this international meeting, what's the significance of local governments in the discussion?

Sec. Gen. Sha Zukang: Oh, local governments, you know, they are very powerful actually, you know. Of course, countries vary from one to the other, but whatever good -- no matter how good the policies of the central government, you know, those policies need to be implemented by the local governments. They are the guys or ladies, you know, they are really -- they have their ears on the ground. They know what is possible. They know what are the limitations. I think those people really work in the field. They can do a great job. That's number one. And number two, of course, depends on the countries, the local governments and the mayors, you know, they can come up with their own initiatives and within, of course, the overall framework of the national policy and they can do a lot of things on their own even by listening to their constituencies.

Monica Trauzzi: How much of an impact do the UN FCCC's efforts to manage climate change have on the Rio+20 meeting and do you feel a little pressure or a challenge when maybe there's not as much success on the climate change front?

Sec. Gen. Sha Zukang: Well, you know, climate change negotiating is such a complex issue. I used to joke, I still continue to joke with my friends, you know, if you really -- to remove the impact of the climate change, you need to change practically everything on the ground. With the forest you're not supposed to cut trees anymore. With desert, desertification you have to change desert into oasis. With the oceans and the seas you have to protect the fisheries and on the land you have to change your buildings and you have to change your transportation. You have to change the ways of life and the thinking and the habits. So if you want to succeed with the climate change negotiations, practically you really have to change a lot of everything on the surface of the earth. That explains the complexity of the negotiations. But since we have only one planet, we are left with no choice. The only option is to conclude the negotiation on the climate change as soon as possible. It sounds very diplomatic, but I really mean it. The earlier the better. You know, but it seems to me, don't misunderstand me, but it seems to me it may take a bit longer time to agree on the negotiations of the climate change convention, but at Rio I am sure that we will -- I hope at least we can agree that for Rio to send a clear message urging those who are engaged in the negotiations to speed up the process.

Monica Trauzzi: We'll end it there. Thank you for joining me.

Sec. Gen. Sha Zukang: Thank you very much. It's my honor. I hope that through your media you can send a message.

Monica Trauzzi: Thank you.

Sec. Gen. Sha Zukang: Thank you.

[End of Audio]



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