Rio de Janeiro, 1 June 2012 - World Environment Day (WED) celebrations got underway today under the shadow of Rio de Janeiro's iconic Christ the Redeemer statue as the Government of Brazil and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) launched the Green Passport initiative aimed at changing the behavior of travelers and tourists within and outside the country.
On a misty morning, looking down on the host city of the upcoming Rio+20 Summit UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner was joined by the Brazilian Environment Minister Isabella Teixeira, in unveiling the latest version of the Green Passport product to dignitaries.
Hundreds of visitors who had taken the little railway train up the 710 meter granite mountain to admire the monument, joined in the event listening to speeches, picking up their own copies of the Green Passport and admiring one of the world's most spectacular views that has graced millions of holiday snaps, post cards, tea towels and table mats.
Mr Steiner said that tourism, the world's biggest industry accounting for around 11 per cent of global GDP and some eight per cent of jobs world-wide, held the potential to deliver a sustainable future with the choices made by visitors to a country having positive or negative impacts on the environment and the social fabric of communities.
The Green Passport initiative, which to date has been introduced in Ecuador, Costa Rica, France's Overseas Territories, and South Africa where 100,000 Green Passports where distributed to visitors during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, provides a physical passport-style document packed with advice and tips on how to make a holiday more sustainable.
The campaign also includes a web site where tourists can search for sustainably managed hotels, learn about the most environmentally-friendly form of travel and discover restaurants that source sustainably-produced agricultural products and foods.
"We are delighted to be part of Brazil's new Green Passport campaign. In a few short weeks thousands of people will be arriving descending on Rio for the Rio+20 Summit, followed by the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the summer Olympics in 2016. Brazil's backing of the Green Passport initiative can thus influence the choices and behavior of large numbers of visitors to one of the world's great tourism destinations," said Mr Steiner.
Ms Texeira said it was important to take the message and ideas of sustainable development from the ivory tower of the few and the weel-informed to the general public and the 'masses' in order to catalyze widespread positive change in Brazil and beyond.
She said she hoped that a special Green Passport campaign, promoted by UNEP through the Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism, could also be produced to coincide with the visit of the Pope next year which is expected to attract two million visitors including large numbers of young people.
Discussions are already underway between UNEP and the Government of Brazil to have Green Passports available in the 12 host cities of the FIFA World Cup as well as for visitors to 30 Brazilian National Parks.
WED, which was also held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 to coincide with the Rio Earth Summit, is celebrated globally on 5 June.
In Brazil a range of activities are planned over the coming days under the theme of a Green Economy: Does it Include You?a theme chosen to reflect the urgency of an inclusive Green Economy which in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is one of the two key overarching issues at Rio+20 in a few weeks' time.
On 4 June UNEP will announce its six international winners of the Champions of the Earth awards at a special gala evening in Rio de Janeiro and on 5 June Mr Steiner and the UNEP team will be in Brasilia where Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will mark the day with a series of environmental announcements for her country.
On 6 June UNEP will launch the findings of its Global Environment Outlook-5-a major assessment conducted with scientists and researchers from across the globe on the state of the environment , future trends and inspiring polices that can assist in a transition towards a low carbon, resource efficient, job-generating Green Economy.
Brazil itself is undertaking important initiatives marking the week and the run up to Rio+20. Gaston Vieira Dias, the Brazilian Minister of Tourism who joined the Green Passport launch, said he would be holding discussion this coming week with hoteliers aimed at reducing their energy usage and carbon footprints.
Meanwhile tomorrow the biggest landfill site in Latin America-based at Gramacho close to Rio de Janeiro and next to the coast will be officially closed and its contents separated for re-use and the remainder moved to a safer, modern site in a less sensitive locale.
More on Green Passport