UN reveals $1.3trn green strategy


22 Feb 2011

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A new sustainable strategy by the United Nations proposes to invest 2pc of wealth generated by the global economy, or some $1.3trn annually, in 10 key sectors.

The new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report that was released yesterday, when more than 100 environment ministers met in Nairobi, underlines a sustainable public policy and investment path that will not only launch the transition towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient green economy, but will also help reduce chronic poverty.

The report has modelled the outcomes of policies that redirect an estimated $1.3trn a year into green investments and across 10 key sectors. The report claims this new strategy will reduce ecological footprint by nearly 50pc in 2050, and that the new green economy model will be far superior than the existing models.

UNEP executive director Achim Steiner announcing the study entitled Toward a Green Economy: A Synthesis for Policy Makers, stated, “We must continue to develop and grow our economies.” The strategy hopes to achieve a green economy that is, ‘”low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive”.

The report reveals that in some cases, close to 90pc of the GDP of the poor is connected to nature or natural capital, such as forests and freshwaters. Two per cent of the combined GDP of Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam is currently lost as a result of water-borne diseases due to inadequate sanitation.

The report states that policies “that re-direct over a tenth of a per cent of global GDP per year can assist in not only addressing the sanitation challenge but conserve freshwater by reducing water demand by a fifth by 2050 compared to projected trends.”

UNEP acknowledged that the plan will challenge vested interests and disrupt employment.

Steiner added that, “this development cannot come at the expense of the very life support systems on land, in the oceans or in our atmosphere that sustain our economies and thus the lives of each and every one of us.”

The report describes incentives that encourage unsustainable behaviour, including $600bn doled out every year in fossil fuel subsidies, and $20bn to industrial fisheries chasing dwindling stocks. The strategy aims to combat unsustainable behaviour. The report says, "there is now substantial evidence that the ‘greening’ of economies neither inhibits wealth creation nor employment opportunities.” It urges future investment to shift to renewable energy, public transportation, energy efficiency, sustainable agriculture and measures to protect ecosystems and biodiversity.

Energy-related investment alone would reach more than $350bn annually, followed by almost $200bn for developing and greening the transport sector, and $134bn each for the building and tourism sectors. More than $100bn is allocated in the plan for both waste and water management, with another $76bn for improving efficiency in industry.

The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) or ‘Rio+20’ that will take place in Rio de Janeiro in May 2012 will focus on the themes of a green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development, and an institutional framework for sustainable development. The UNEP report aims to help set the agenda for the summit that will take place from 14-16 May 2012.