Visiting Brazil for the first time to attend the opening of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) , Erik Solheim, visited the iCS on August 5. Solheim took part in an informal meeting to discuss Brazilian initiatives in the areas of sustainable development and the environment at the invitation of iCS, UNEP and Observatório do Clima .
Solheim discussed how UNEP can act jointly with the Brazilian government and commented on the plans and goals of what he refers to as UN Environment. The meeting was also attended by leaders and representatives of research institutes and civil society organizations, as well as UNEP representatives in Brazil, Uruguay and Panamá.
In his speech, Solheim emphasized the importance of not only pointing to problems, but of also celebrating the progresses achieved in the area. He suggested that agents of change should learn from great leaders to speak in a way that is accessible to the general public, without resorting to terms and abbreviations that are difficult to understand.
The director also added that it is necessary to make a distinction to identify companies that have a good performance from an environmental point of view, and not to generalize and refer to all companies as villains. Solheim also recalled that Latin America is the most urbanized continent in the world, and that urbanization has serious consequences such as, for example, the serious effects of pollution on health.
The meeting also served as a way to express support for the campaign “1.5ºC – The record we must not break” , an initiative of Observatório do Clima, iCS and GIP, alongside other partners. Launched on the eve of the Olympic Games, the campaign calls for the support of athletes, decision makers and citizens to keep the records within the courts and out of the climate arena. The idea is to remind the public that the goal of keeping global warming at 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels is still achievable.
Norwegian Erik Solheim took over as executive director of UNEP on June 27, replacing Achim Steiner, who had been heading the program since 2006. With an extensive career with a focus on the environment and development in governmental and international organizations, Solheim was chairman of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) . From 2007 to 2012, Solheim was joint Minister of the Environment and International Development of Norway, and from 2005 to 2007 he served as Minister of International Development. His unique portfolio allows him to bring a coherent approach to the development and environment sectors.
During his tenure as Minister, Solheim introduced the Norwegian Climate and Forest Initiative, whereby the country cooperates closely with Brazil, among other countries, to conserve tropical forests. This initiative has contributed fundamentally to the establishment of the UN REDD , the global coalition to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries.