Shanghai, 7 June 2016 - As the world went "Wild For Life" for World Environment Day, China's mega city Shanghai celebrates the environment with a theme that resonates with young people in the Asia-Pacific region - a call for a dramatic shift towards sustainable consumption.
Between 3 and 8 June, over 300 university students from 30 countries are gathering in Shanghai at the 2016 International Student Conference on Environment and Sustainability to discuss ways of changing their lifestyles to benefit the planet.
Asia Pacific is witnessing a consumption explosion. As developing economies reach middle-income status, an increasing number of their households are becoming part of the global "consuming class" of 2.4 billion people. While this is a success for economic development standards, it is not without negative environmental impacts.
Goldman Sachs estimates that by 2025, annual consumption in Asia, including India, China, and the Philippines, will surpass $30 trillion presenting "the biggest growth opportunity in the history of capitalism."
This increase in consumer demand in Asia, is driven by the leading emerging economies in the region, which are experiencing an economic acceleration around 10 times faster than that of the Industrial Revolution, on 100 times the scale. With Asian consumer markets growing exponentially, advancing sustainable consumption and production patterns in this region can have far-reaching positive consequences for resource use and the state of environment worldwide.
Co-organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Tongji University, and China's state media house - Xinhua News Agency, the sixth International Student Conference on Environment and Sustainability will assess ways of radically changing consumption and production patterns in four areas: "Ecosystem and Wildlife", "Green Lifestyles", "Eco-city" and "Energy Transition and Climate Change".
Students will be able to participate in debates, Sustainable Lifestyle Challenges and Competitions, the Smart Materials Show, a poster competition and exhibitions including "Youth Involvement in Sustainable Development".
Dr. Monika MacDevette, UNEP Deputy Director of Division of Environmental Policy Implementation said: "We are now witnessing that many of the world's ecosystems are nearing critical tipping points of depletion or irreversible change, pushed by high population growth and economic development."
"It is because of this urgency that sustainable consumption and production, including the sustainable management of natural resources was adopted by United Nations member states as one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015, thereby creating a mandate for global policy action. We are delighted to see young people engaging and seeking solutions through this international dialogue programme."
In China, where public concern is growing about the quality of air, water and food, and their impact on human health and natural resources, sustainable consumption is increasingly drawing the attention of policy makers and public opinion alike. As part of its 13th five-year plan, China has vowed that, by 2020, it will have decreased water consumption by 23 per cent, energy consumption by 15 per cent and CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 18 per cent.
A recent UNEP report found that by 2020, China's forest coverage will reach more than 23 per cent and the share of days per year with good air quality in cities at the prefectural level will exceed 80 per cent if the country succeeds in building its "eco-civilization" - a resource-saving, environmentally-friendly society that seeks to integrate ecological development with economic, social, cultural and political development.
UNEP as the host of EU SWITCH-Asia Regional Policy Support Component provides technical assistance to strengthen environmental policies for Sustainable Consumption and Production in Asian countries such as China.
Achievement of sustainable consumption patterns is not possible however, without high-profile role models and national champions to lead the call to action for more sustainable lifestyles. Ms. Song Jia, famous actress and Advocate for UNEP 10 YFP in China, joined the students from Tongji University in a recycled clothes design showcase, which was watched live by over 20,000 people across China on one of the country's most popular social media portals - Sina Weibo.
Song Jia became a UNEP celebrity partner and advocate in January this year; her sphere of influence has helped to reach out to millions of young consumers and fashion retailers in China.
The youth conference will conclude on 8 June with the outcome of Global Youth Tongji Announcement.