18 November 2011

UNEP head launches Green Economy Report

Beijing, China

Head of UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Mr. Achim Steiner was in Beijing yesterday to announce the launch of the Green Economy Report at the 20th Anniversary Open Forum of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development. The report suggests how countries can grow economically, without the need for environmental degradation and increased carbon emissions.

The report is crucial because there has been much debate on how economies can both bounce back from the downturn and create a sustainable future; it also looks to show how developing countries can achieve this. “The world is passing through a moment in time where we are at one of those proverbial crossroads where some tough and transformative choices need to be made,” Mr. Steiner said.

The key areas a green economy should focus on, according to the UNEP include, recognising the value of and investing in natural capital, poverty alleviation, jobs and social equity, substitution of low carbon energy for fossil fuel energy, resource and energy efficiency, low carbon mobility and urban living, and perhaps most importantly to help convince governments, economic growth.

This is enabled by implementing various strategies, including taxes, market based instruments, investment in capacity building, training and education, prioritising investment in green areas and strong regulation and international governance.

China, despite being praised in the speech for some forward thinking attitudes, currently has hundreds of thousands of people every year dying early and getting respiratory illnesses because of the poor air quality in its cities. In fact on the day of Mr. Steiner’s speech, Beijing was covered in smog. Whilst praising their green credentials however, he did point out the price that has been paid for rapid development – especially to health in this instance.

The key message in the Green Economy Report is that an investment of around two per cent of GDP worldwide could start to bring about a green economy and that this investment need not be at the expense of growth and jobs. Investment in areas such as renewables can create jobs, for example Mr. Steiner said, “Employment levels in the energy sector would be one-fifth higher than under a business-as-usual scenario as renewable energies take close to 30 per cent of the share of primary global energy demand by mid century”.

Also highlighted was the importance of the indicator used in economics – Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP measures economics transactions and activity; it has little to say on human well being and social equity – important measures of how society is progressing. New indicators such as the Human Development Index have been cited to be more inclusive of the true state of global development.

The speech also looked forward to the Rio+20 summit next year saying, “I am not a clairvoyant-I cannot see the future. But Rio+20 will in the end stand or fall on the issue of leadership and the engagement of leaders at the highest level to seize the opportunity for a sustainable 21st century.” China was one of the signatories to the original Rio Earth Summit, and Mr. Steiner is once again calling for their backing at the conference in June. China is now a much larger key player in the Earth’s future and their backing is key to a deal being reached.

Image 01: Kallgan | Wiki Commons

Image 02: Bill Song | Wiki Commons

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