Stefan Priesner: Welcome Speech at the Eco-Week 2015 Opening Ceremony

Jun 2, 2015


On behalf of the United Nations in Uzbekistan, I extend my warm greetings to our distinguished guests, representatives of diplomatic missions and international organizations, governmental agencies, other partners from national institutions and members of the mass media.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you once again to an event dedicated to marking the World Environment Day in Uzbekistan, as part of EcoWeek-2015. This year’s global theme is “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume With Care”, which highlights sustainable consumption, as the very essence of the current debate around the new global development framework – the Sustainable Development Goals.

The goal of sustainable development is to increase the quality of life for all people without increasing environmental degradation, and without compromising the resource needs of future generations. We can do this by shifting our consumption patterns towards goods that use less energy, water and other resources, and by wasting less food.

Why is it important?

The well-being of humanity, the environment, and the functioning of the economy, ultimately depend upon the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources. And yet, evidence is building that people are consuming far more natural resources than what the planet can sustainably provide.

Many of the Earth’s ecosystems are nearing critical tipping points of depletion or irreversible change, pushed by high population growth and economic development. By 2050, if current consumption and production patterns remain the same and with a rising population expected to reach 9.6 billion, we will need three planets to sustain our ways of living and consumption. Consuming with care means living within planetary boundaries to ensure a healthy future where our dreams can be realized. Human prosperity need not cost the earth. Living sustainably is about doing more and better with less.

It is not a coincidence that great attention is being paid in recent years in Uzbekistan to sustainable use of natural resources and environmental protection. Judicious use of water is being particularly underscored, which is a critical resource for future development of Uzbekistan. In a country with high natural population growth, growing economy as well as potential impacts of climate change, water availability and quality will become even more important.

Home to the Aral Sea disaster, Uzbekistan faces a catastrophe of planetary scale, with severe socio-economic, health, environmental and other implications for people living not only in close vicinity of the vanishing sea, but far beyond. The International Conference on Aral Sea held in Urgench last year with great success, is yet another testimony to the scale of the catastrophe. While restoring the Aral Sea is no longer an option, I call on national and international partners to support the efforts of Uzbekistan and other countries of the region in minimizing human suffering as a result of this environmental disaster.

UN support to environmental protection in Uzbekistan

Ladies and Gentlemen - the global Millennium Development Goals framework, which is coming to end this year, has documented major advances on MDG-7 globally, as well as in Uzbekistan. Jointly with the Government of Uzbekistan, we have reviewed progress on MDGs and presented our findings last month in the Second National MDG report of Uzbekistan. According to official data, Uzbekistan has made considerable progress in meeting MDG-7 related national targets, which is commendable. At the same time, the ever increasing threats of climate change and environmental degradation require that countries maintain the same or accelerated pace in environmental protection to cope with scope of the issue at hand.

UN for many years has supported the efforts of the Government of Uzbekistan in tackling environmental challenges. UNDP, UNESCO, WHO, FAO, UNEP and other agencies have implemented targeted environmental programmes in Uzbekistan. Some of the most recent examples of UN work in Uzbekistan include:

  • Establishment of the first protected area after Uzbekistan’s independence – Lower Amudarya Biosphere reserve;
  • Development of the Protected Areas Expansion Plan and the new edition of the country’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan – which we hope will soon be approved by the Government of Uzbekistan;
  • Support reporting under various UN and international conventions, facilitate knowledge sharing and participation of representatives of Uzbekistan in international environmental events;
  • UN is also currently working on strengthening the existing Saigachiy Reserve in Ustyurt Plateau in Karakalpakstan;

Adoption of the above policy documents and their implementation at national level will contribute to attaining internationally agreed goals for protecting and restoring biodiversity and using it sustainably and equitably.

There are many more joint achievements between the UN and the Government of Uzbekistan. We hope to continue to work together with our partners in Uzbekistan on environmental protection, which I am confident, will ultimately contribute to improved quality of life of the people of Uzbekistan.

Final remarks

In his congratulatory message on the occasion of the World Environment Day, the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban-ki Moon, who is scheduled to visit Uzbekistan next week, expresses his hope that in this year of transformation, there are greater advances on sustainable development (new SDGs) and climate change (new global climate agreement in Paris).

Let us celebrate World Environment Day by becoming more conscious of our ecological impact. Let us think about the environmental consequences of the choices we make. Let us become better stewards of our planet.

My warm welcome again for the launch of the EcoWeek-2015.

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