“Stockholm+40 and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition”
“Sustainable Development has been marked by three milestones. These are the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, which was the first UN conference to address environmental challenges; the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro; and the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. “
Last month, I joined ministers and stakeholders in Stockholm, Sweden, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the UN Conference on the Human Environment as a youth representative. The conference brought together actors from the international community for a dialogue on sustainable development. Businesspeople, civil society representatives, researchers, and young people discussed topics on sustainable living, innovation, and production.
The meeting aimed to provide recommendations on developing partnerships for sustainable development, and transitioning to an inclusive green economy. I had the opportunity to participate in a dialogue with the ministers that were present on the last day of the conference. The points raised at the dialogue included the need to redesign economics and attitudes about sustainability, incorporating human rights in sustainable development, the need for new metrics for sustainable development, and the importance of involving youth in the decision-making process.
In my role as a youth representative, I expressed the need of forming partnerships between different actors to promote innovative solutions for sustainable lifestyles. For example, social media has changed the way people learn about topics such as health, politics, and sustainable development. Consequently, it is important to consider how to use it to engage younger generations in the sustainable development debate.
Additionally, I invited the UNEP delegation and the ministers to make the effort to include youth representatives with the power to vote in national delegations, and at UN high level meetings by asserting that “We can do more than listen. Governments should provide us with opportunities that enable our real contribution.”
Along with the environmental conference Stockholm+40, other important events related to sustainable development took place, such as the first meeting of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.
Climate and Clean Air Coalition
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) was launched in February 2012 by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and representatives from Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden, and UNEP.
The coalition aims to reduce the amount of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) such as methane, soot, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), in our atmosphere. These are responsible for close to 40 percent of current global warming. Short-lived pollutants not only increase the amount of greenhouse gases in out atmosphere, but they also threaten the health of women and children all over the world. The World Health Organization estimates that pollution related to black carbon is responsible for more than three million premature deaths each year. Additionally, more than 30 million tons of crops are damaged because of these pollutants.
Todd Stern, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, announced at Stockholm +40 that CCAC had gained new partners. Colombia, Japan, Nigeria, Norway, and the European Commission committed to join the coalition. Additionally, the members agreed on a plan of action that includes five priorities:
1. Working with companies to reduce methane leakages from oil and gas production.
2. Decreasing “black carbon” by improving transportation systems.
3. Developing alternatives to HFCs.
4. Eliminating open burning practices in agriculture.
5. Promoting clean cook stoves in developing countries to diminish respiratory diseases.
Promoting Coalitions for Sustainable Development
Sustainable Development is a shared responsibility between governments, NGOs, businesses, and young people. Events like Stockholm+40 provide space for engaging all stakeholders, which is crucial for promoting solutions that protect our human environment. Additionally, they serve as a barometer for policymakers, to enable them to reaffirm or redefine their priorities when it comes to sustainable development.
Coalitions like CCAC are also necessary for strengthening programs to tackle climate change such as the Global Methane Initiative, and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Reducing short-live pollutants poses fewer political barriers than limiting carbon dioxide. We already have the technology and the policies to substantially reduce these pollutants. Additionally, the benefits of reducing these pollutants will be seen immediately, particularly in developing countries.
The Stockholm +40 conference and the CCAC both represent tangible steps toward progress in developing and refining initiatives and policies that will work to improve our environment.
“Youth are those with more dreams than memories, which is why they are the leaders of the revolution for sustainable development” – Maurice Strong, UNEP’s first Executive Director
at the closing ceremony for Stockholm+40.
This post was written by Olimar Maisonet-Guzman. You can get links to her other posts here.