Rio+20

Green Chemistry Class at Rio+20

By Bicky Corman

On Saturday, June 16, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel on Green Chemistry hosted by the United National Global Compact (UNGC) and United National Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

In his introduction, UNIDO’s Heinz Luenenberger warned us it was likely to be wonky, but it was actually quite energetic. The speakers included: Dr. Professor Rodrigo Souza, of Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, a green chemistry academic expert; Neil Hawkins from Dow; Peter White from Procter & Gamble; and Jorge Soto of Braskem. There was a palpable enthusiasm from all sectors on the huge transformations possible from understanding and applying green chemistry, which is a game-changer.

Green Chemistry, pioneered 20 years ago by Paul Anastas and John Warner, is based on the premise that toxicity and hazard are not necessary results of manufacture, use or disposal of chemicals; rather, those features are “design flaws” that can be resolved with thoughtful design and understanding of the habits of particular molecules. The application of green chemistry spurs innovation, as manufacturers rush to create these green alternatives. Doing so will save them money in production, use and disposal, and it will help them produce compounds that are safer for their workers and for the ultimate users. Green Chemistry is only gives manufacturers a competitive advantage; it’s also an important ingredient if we wish to promote economic growth and environmental protection.

When it was my turn to present, I had the honor of speaking about the contributions EPA has made in the field of Green Chemistry. EPA has been advancing green chemistry through research, collaboration and recognition for many years.

EPA’s Presidential Green Chemistry Award, which is given to honorees in industry, academia and NGOs, has stimulated innovative design of chemical products in both big and small companies. Dr. Hawkins commented that the receiving these awards has been quite meaningful to Dow, and we’ve seen what the winning technologies have accomplished: Since the program began, participating companies and academic institutions have together eliminated 544 million kilograms of hazardous chemicals and solvents each year, and are eliminating each year about 158 million kilograms of carbon dioxide releases to air.

Throughout the discussion the audience members were very engaged, and commented that the various presentations made them optimistic. I have to agree; this was certainly the most enjoyable chemistry class I have ever attended!

About the author: Bicky Corman is the Deputy Associate Administrator for the Office of Policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Seizing the Opportunity in Rio

By Scott Fulton

Olá!  A few days ago, I arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the United Nation’s Conference on Sustainable Development (a.k.a. “Rio+20”).   I’m excited and humbled to be a part of this milestone event, which marks the 20th anniversary of the first UN Earth Summit.  Rio+20 offers an important opportunity to consider anew the global challenge of sustainable development and to provide guidance and inspiration for the path ahead.  While I’m here in Rio, in addition to attending Rio+20 itself, I’ll be participating in many satellite events designed to make the most of this opportunity.  Just a few examples:

  • On June 16, I participated  in the Rio+20 Colloquium on Environmental Law & Justice, a panel discussion of the Role of Courts in Environmental Compliance and Enforcement over at the Supreme Court;
  • Over the next few days, I will attend the World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability in Mangaratiba. This meeting of judges, prosecutors and auditors from around the world immediately precedes the Rio+20 Conference.
  • On Thursday, June 21, I will participate in a meeting led by the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, “Rio+20, CCICED +20, Sharing the Achievements, Embracing the Future.” This promises to be an interesting opportunity for an exchange of ideas with our colleagues in China.

On June 16, I was also given the opportunity to moderate the Environmental Governance and Social Inclusion program at the U.S. Center in Athletes Park.  It was a successful and lively discussion with an extremely well qualified panel and an engaged audience. Some of the issues we touched on included:

  • Key features of effective systems for environmental governance at the national level, such as access to environmental information, public participation, law reform, and implementation and accountability mechanisms including robust enforcement systems;
  • The critical importance of efforts to engage vulnerable communities to promote social inclusion and environmental justice; and
  • Steps we can take to enhance cooperation, coordination and collaboration on strengthening environmental governance in countries around the world.

I think these concepts are integral to the notion of sustainability. After all, when we talk about Environmental Governance we are talking about the very real building blocks of a governance system that can make all the difference in the world—the difference between the concept of environmental protection expressed as written law and the reality of cleaner air and water, healthier people, and a secure a future where these benefits can be sustained for future generations.

And when we talk about environmental justice we are talking about the kind of social inclusion that allows us to reach an end state where no one’s environmental health is compromised because of his or her race, national origin or income level, and all have equal access both to the environmental decision-making process and to a healthy environment in which to live, learn and work.

To read more about environmental governance, click here: http://inece.org/resource/foundation/

About the author:  Scott Fulton is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s General Counsel.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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EPA at Rio+20: The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

by Assistant Administrator Michelle DePass

Next week EPA will join people from across the US government to participate in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20.  Our team of experts will be engaged in government-to-government negotiations, while also connecting with partners from the US and around the world to identify steps we can take as individuals, as institutions, and as a global community to make our world more sustainable and prosperous.

Rio+20 is an opportunity to not only set a vision for the next 20 years of sustainable development, but also strengthen global cooperation at multiple levels – including non-profits and community organizations, students of every age, Fortune 500 companies and small businesses. Rio+20  also gives us the chance to utilize the incredible progress in technology and social media in the last 20 years to engage in a new ways and bring more voices to the discussion. The commitments and actions taken by everyone participating in Rio+20 – physically and virtually – will be as important as any negotiated document, so please take part by visiting http://conx.state.gov/event/rio20/ over the coming weeks!

Here are a couple of items to watch for:

  • There has been considerable discussion about reforming international institutions that focus on sustainable development. We believe that efficient and effective global coordination on sustainable development can be achieved by strengthening existing institutions like the UN Environment Program (UNEP), rather than creating a new institution.
  • We have called on each conference participant to bring their own voluntary commitments to sustainable development. Making clear and transparent commitments, when linked together and made accessible through a global platform, can advance sustainable development by showing what everyone – governments included – can do.  This broad list of commitments should reflect the spirit and goals of the Rio conference, using modern technologies and platforms to share information and increase transparency and accountability.

Keep track of what EPA is doing on the ground by checking back here and following us on Facebook and Twitter using our hashtag #EPArio.

About the author: Michelle DePass, Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs, US EPA. Michelle DePass has spent her career working to support environmental progress here at home and around the world, at EPA she remains committed to expanding the conversation on environmentalism and ensuring access to clean, safe and healthy communities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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