Brussels -- Global leaders in the fields of environment and sustainable development, including UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner and European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potočnik, gathered in Brussels today to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the 'New Environmentalism' movement, known primarily for its embrace of technology and the business sector.
The Summit kicks off the annual 'Green Week' conference, whose 2014 theme is 'Circular Economy, Resource Efficiency & Waste'. Besides participating in the Summit, Mr. Steiner met today with European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs for bilateral discussions.
Other speakers at the 'New Environmentalism Summit' ranged from James Murray, founding editor of BusinessGreen - whose article, entitled Building a New Environmentalism formed the basis of the Summit's discussion - to Director-General of the World Wildlife Fund, Marco Lambertini. Utilizing a TED talk-style format, each speaker outlined his or her views on the successes and failures of environmentalism over the past 40 years, and where they think the movement needs to go in the future.
Also participating were photographer and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Yann Arthrus Bertrand; ecologist and author Sandra Steingraber; founder of Recycle Across America Mitch Hedlund; actor and environmentalist Jacques Perrin; and economist Jeffrey Sachs.
Discussions at the Summit focused on today's increasingly severe environmental challenges - especially climate change - as well as public perceptions of the environmental movement. Some speakers stressed that traditional environmentalism was 'in crisis' as it had so far been unable to bring about a new universal climate change treaty, forge a new economic settlement that takes account of sustainability, or drive the public and politicians to action.
Meanwhile, others, including Mr. Steiner, outlined the past successes of the environmental movement and spoke of new opportunities presented by technology, investment in renewable energy, and the core values that need to be taken forward by tomorrow's environmental movement. Mr. Steiner described a future in which the environmental movement is increasingly responsive, pragmatic and action-oriented.
As evidence of this shift, Mr. Steiner noted that the inaugural UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) is slated to kick off in Nairobi in less than a month, offering a new global high-level platform for environmental decision making. With an unprecedented 1,200 participants, including business and civil society leaders, UNEA represents a more robust environmental commitment on the part of all stakeholders, he said.
UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon, the President of the UN General Assembly, Ministers of Environment and Foreign Affairs and Chief Executives of a number of international organizations are set to attend the newly-established UNEA.
'Now more than ever, it has become increasingly clear that the dichotomy between environmental sustainability and economic and social development should be overcome through the careful management of natural resources as the keystone of a prosperous and stable society. In this new forum, UNEP and its partners will be able to provide governments and other policymakers with the science, policy options and platform, for international cooperation to more effectively address the environmental dimension of sustainable development,' he added.
UNEA - with its universal membership and its wide reach into the economic, finance, legislative and development sectors - represents the environmentalism of tomorrow, he said, agreeing with other speakers at the Summit that past efforts had not always cut through the mainstream at the pace that was required.
In addition, he said, innovative approaches, such as sustainable business practices and measuring the economic value of ecosystem services, are necessary for environmentalism to forge forward successfully into the 21st century.
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