Washington DC, 18 November 2014 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is hosting a solution forum under the theme, Green Economy for Sustainable Economies at the Global South-South Development (GSSD) Expo this week, which brings together solution providers and seekers as well as over 20 UN agencies and partners to look at how South-South Cooperation (SSC) can contribute to sustainable development.
An annual event, the Expo seeks to build on the solutions showcased in previous years and how they can be financed, exponentially scaled up and replicated throughout the developing world.
UNEP attaches strategic importance to South-South and Triangular Cooperation in supporting countries to address diverse environmental challenges. This year, UNEP will be hosting a solution forum at GSSD Expo 2014 under the theme, Green Economy for Sustainable Economies, with a focus on solutions that respond to increasing energy demands and urbanization growth.
Today, cities occupy 3 per cent of the land surface, produce 50 per cent of global waste and consume 75 per cent of natural resources. Current projections indicate that by 2050, urbanization, particularly in the global South, will have expanded by 60 per cent of the current population and over 90 per cent of this growth in the urban population is expected to happen in the developing world. Inevitably, this scenario means increased pressure on natural resources and growing energy demands.
UNEP, through the Global Initiative for Resource Efficient Cities (GI-REC), is contributing to protecting the quality of life in urban areas, particularly in the rapidly growing cities of the global South, while minimizing resource extraction, waste and energy consumption.
Currently, Africa's cities have the highest population growth rates in the world. Between 1950 and 2010 Africa's urban population increased 12 fold, more than any other region in the world, and by 2050 the continent's urban population is expected to reach 1.26 billion (rising from a 2010 urban population of 400 million).
African cities are ill-equipped to absorb the current and projected rates of growth, which present serious resource challenges, including in energy. UNEP's African Rift Geothermal Development Facility (ARGeo) project in Kenya is addressing these growing energy challenges. With only 25 per cent of Africans having access to electricity, ARGeo has tapped into the abundance of renewable energy resources in the East Africa Rift Valley system, where geothermal potential is over 20,000 megawatts of electricity, making the area one of the most highly endowed regions on Earth, yet it is also the least connected with electricity.
"We hope that through the contributions we can make this year you will find many inspiring examples and opportunities to engage with other countries, companies and also cities because very often many of these innovations are being rolled at the local and regional level, particularly in big cities around the world."
"We in UNEP stand ready to work with you and our sister agencies in the UN system in order to make south-south cooperation a continuing success story of international cooperation," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
More than ever before, developing countries are turning to one another for collective action and innovative solutions to reduce poverty and address their development challenges. The growing trend of South-South Cooperation is happening as the world stands at the crossroads in building a shared sense of commitment to sustainable development that will define the global goals for decades to come.
Launched in 2008 by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, the GSSD Expo series provides economic, social and political dividends which address the challenges posed by the UN Millennium Development Goals and the emerging post-2015 sustainable development agenda.
Last year, UNEP hosted the GSSD Expo in Nairobi, Kenya. It was an historic event, marking the first time the Expo took place in the global South and for the first time in GSSD Expo history, social media was extensively used to extend discussions and dialogues to youth, as the next generation of development practitioners, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, thinkers and leaders.
The five-day event attracted over 13 million followers. By the close of the Expo, over US$450 million had been pledged between investors, green businesses, governments and other parties to fund innovative projects.