UN Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference unanimously endorses Astana “Green Bridge” Initiative Linking Europe and Asia and the Pacific including Green Growth as one approach to sustainable development

Ministers and heads of delegations from 46 Asian and Pacific member states unanimously endorsed today the Astana “Green Bridge” Initiative calling for a partnership between Europe and Asia-Pacific regions at a United Nations Conference held in the capital of Kazakhstan. The Partnership is hoped to ignite new engines for “greener, more competitive and more inclusive growth” in the region.

The sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development for Asia and the Pacific adopted a Ministerial Declaration, as a key forward looking document which recognized that “green growth, as appropriately adapted to country-specific circumstances and understood in the context of sustainable development” is “one of the approaches for supporting rapid economic growth, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and environmental sustainability”. The member states also agreed to work together for the transfer of and access to environmentally sound technologies; promotion of knowledge-sharing networks highlighting pro-poor, pro-environment growth; technical assistance and exchanges of information and experiences for eco-tourism, waste management, and disaster risk management; capacity building on resource efficiency, investment in the protection of the natural resource base; promotion of sustainable development path to climate change adaptation and mitigation; promotion of sustainable urban development and infrastructure; adoption of a post 2010 biodiversity target; strengthened energy cooperation; promotion of sustainable usage of natural resources; addressing the needs of Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries, supporting soil resources development, etc.

“Countries of the region need economic growth and, environmental safety at the same time”, said the Honorable Karim Massimov, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan at the opening of the conference. “This challenge requires a new development paradigm – one based on the principles of greening the economy and of environmentally sound development.”

The Honorable Karim Massimov, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan and Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific presided over a ministerial roundtable, which discussed development challenges in the region, while heading towards the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20 Summit) to be held in Brazil in 2012.

“The record number of Ministers gathered today is a clear demonstration of our commitment to the well-being of Asia’s future generations,” said Dr. Heyzer at the conference. “Green growth – as one approach included in the Astana Initiative – provides our nations with opportunities for regional cooperation in securing job growth and increased investment in sustainable development across Asia.”

The Astana ”Green Bridge” Initiative, championed by the Government of Kazakhstan outlines the blueprint of a first-ever inter-regional partnership between two of the world’s largest regions – Europe and Asia and the Pacific, which is expected to stimulate further cooperation for eco-efficient use of natural resources, investment in ecosystem services, low carbon development and adaptation to climate change, sustainable urban development, promotion of green business and green technology, as well as sustainable lifestyles and improvement of quality of life.

“Strengthening the international mechanisms and cooperation can help trust-building processes and promote global good governance and multi-lateralism,” said Honorable Mohammadi Zadeh, Vice-President of Islamic Republic of Iran. Delegates, including representatives of small island developing states and mountainous states, strongly emphasized that the human and economic costs of natural disasters and environmental degradation are especially high for the poorest and least-developed countries.

“The pursuit of sustainable development and Green Growth is a question of survival to all of us” said Honorable Natan Teewe, Minister of Finance of Kiribati, while speaking on behalf of all Pacific Island states at the Conference. “Ultimately, we hope and expect that the Green Growth path will generate quality of economic growth in our vulnerable economies and fragile islands”, added Minister Teewe and called for support to the newly established Pacific Green Growth Partnership - one of the subregional initiatives endorsed at MCED-6.

“Green Growth approach in the context of sustainable development is a necessity for Lao PDR as a means to achieve both strong economic growth and environmental sustainability”, underlined Honorable Khempheng Pholsena, Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office and Head of the Water Resources and Environment Administration of Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

"There is a special need for a program on mountain forests to protect and prevent of further degradation of vital mountain forests and ecosystems generating valuable water resources, also used for hydro-power generation in Kyrgyzstan.” emphasized Mr. Biymyrza Toktoraliev, Director of State Agency on Environment Protection and Forestry and head of the country delegation. “In this regard, Kyrgyzstan intends to develop the concept of implementation of the "green growth" principles, including introduction of environmental friendly technologies and mechanisms of payment for ecosystem services in nature use, including in mining and other areas of the economy”, added Mr. Toktoraliev.

The Ministers recognized the need to work together for regional and sub-regional cooperation on these initiatives during a final session on Saturday. Civil society, including representatives of business, academia, and non-governmental organization from both Asia and Europe added their support to the consensus of the Ministers during final deliberations.

More detailed information about the events can be found in www.unescap.org/mced6.