Tuesday, November 4, 2008

UNEP Launches Green Economy Initiative

Mobilizing and re-focusing the global economy towards investments in clean technologies and 'natural' infrastructure such as forests and soils is the best bet for real growth, combating climate change and triggering an employment boom in the 21st century.

The call was made today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and leading economists as they launched the Green Economy Initiative aimed at seizing an historic opportunity to bring about tomorrow's economy today.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "The financial, fuel and food crises of 2008 are in part a result of speculation and a failure of governments to intelligently manage and focus markets".

"But they are also part of a wider market failure triggering ever deeper and disturbing losses of natural capital and nature-based assets coupled with an over-reliance of finite, often subsidized fossil fuels," he said.

"The flip side of the coin is the enormous economic, social and environmental benefits likely to arise from combating climate change and re-investing in natural infrastructure - benefits ranging from new green jobs in clean tech and clean energy businesses up to ones in sustainable agriculture and conservation-based enterprises," he added.

Mr Steiner said there was a crucial and urgent need to bring creative, forward-looking and 'transformational thinking' into next month's Financing for Development Review Conference-taking place in Doha,Qatar.

Other critical dates rapidly coming up in the international calendar include a proposed financial crisis summit of the G8+5, called for by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the next round of UN climate convention negotiations in Poznan, Poland in December.

"Transformative ideas need to be discussed and transformative decisions taken. The alternative is more boom and bust cycles; a climate-stressed world and a collapse of fish stocks and fertile soils up to forest ecosystems - vast, natural 'utilities' that for a fraction of the cost of machines store water and carbon, stabilize soils; sustain indigenous and rural livelihoods and harbor genetic resources to the value of trillions of dollars a year," said Mr Steiner.

Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who held the launch, said, "The green technological revolution needs to gather pace, as more and more of the worlds jobs will in future be in environmental industries. Britain is committed to building a green economy at home and abroad: it will be good for business good for the environment and good for development. UNEP's initiative will help make this change; in particular by helping us to understand just how much we depend on the environment - soil, air, water and biodiversity - for our very existence."

Current Economic Models: Short-Changing People and the Planet

Pavan Sukdhev, a senior banker from Deutsche Bank who is seconded to UNEP to lead the research, said:"The economic models of the 20th century are now hitting the limits of what is possible - possible in terms of delivering better livelihoods for the 2.6 billion people still living on less than $2 a day and possible in terms of our ecological footprint".

"Investments will soon be pouring back into the global economy - the question is whether they go into the old, extractive, short-term economy of yesterday or a new green economy that will deal with multiple challenges while generating multiple economic opportunities for the poor and the well-off alike," he said.

The new report aims to help governments make better choices and send the right market signals to investors, entrepreneurs and consumers world-wide so "we move from mining the planet to managing and re-investing in it," said Mr Steiner.

The Green Economy Initiative, which has close to $4 million-worth of funding from the European Commission, Germany and Norway, builds in part on a request by the G8+5 group of nations two years ago.

The G8+5 study on the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), also led by Mr Sukhdev and funded by the European Commission and Germany, reported its Phase I findings in May at the UNEP-linked Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Bonn.

It highlighted the economic magnitude of "business - as-usual" losses, and drew strong links between ecosystem & biodiversity losses and the persistence of poverty.

The Green Economy initiative has three pillars - valuing and mainstreaming nature's services into national and international accounts; employment generation through green jobs and the laying out the policies; instruments and market signals able to accelerate a transition to a Green Economy.

The strategy builds on the findings of TEEB while also linking with the Green Jobs Initiative of UNEP, the International Labour Organisation, the International Trades Union Confederation and the International Organization of Employers.

The Green Economy Initiative will draw on the existing and considerable body of work generated by UNEP, the UN-system and others ranging from the impacts and opportunities of shifting fish, fuel and other subsidies up to innovative market mechanisms and financial products already triggering a transition.

In 18 to 24 months it should deliver for governments - North and South - a comprehensive assessment and tool kit for making the necessary transition.

Erik Solheim, the Norwegian Environment Minister, said:" There are moments in history when an idea's time has come - this is the case for a comprehensive Green Economy Initiative. Norway is delighted to be supporting this UNEP initiative. Innovative approaches and actions are needed in this very complex situation with a fundamental environmental crisis topped by an international financial situation out of control".

"I commend UNEP for responding so fast and timely -in particular how UNEP together with International Labour Organization (ILO) have demonstrated the huge untapped job potential in sustainable management of natural capital and nature based assets," he added.

Five Priority Sectors Underpinning a Global Green New Deal

The five sectors likely to generate the biggest transition in terms of economic returns; environmental sustainability and job creation are:-

* Clean energy and clean technologies including recycling

* Rural energy, including renewables and sustainable biomass

* Sustainable agriculture, including organic agriculture

* Ecosystem Infrastructure

* Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)

* Sustainable cities including planning, transportation and green building

Source: UNEP