2% of Global GDP Invested in 10 Sectors — Result: A ‘Green Global Economy’

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International policies that would direct “just 2 percent of global GDP into 10 key sectors would kick-start” the global transition to a more sustainable, ‘Green Economy,’ according to a UN Environmental Program report.

All the elements to enact a transition to a “low-carbon, resource-efficient and socially inclusive global economic model” are here now, and businesses and governments are already promoting and fostering greater investments in 10 key sectors UNEP has singled out: agriculture, energy, buildings, water, forestry, fisheries, manufacturing, waste, tourism, and transport.

Investing 2 percent of global GDP in these sectors would not only “shift the global economy on to a more sustainable growth trajectory, but it would maintain or increase growth over time compared to the current business models,” according to UNEP’s “Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication.”

Investing $100 billion to $300 billion per year in sustainable agriculture between now and 2050, according to UNEP, “could lead to better soil quality and better yields for major crops, representing a 10% increase over the current strategies.”

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“The elements of a transition to a Green Economy are clearly emerging across developing and developed countries alike,” UNEP executive director Achim Steiner stated. “There are now some nations going further and faster than others, which is in many ways generating a ‘pull factor’ that, if maintained, may bring others along over the coming months and years.”

Time is Ripe

The time is ripe, the UN points out, as UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiators, stakeholders, and participating observers prepare to convene in Durban, South Africa at the end of the month to try and negotiate an extension or a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

“With the world looking ahead to the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012, the UNEP Green Economy report challenges the myth that there is a trade-off between the economy and the environment,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement issued on the release of the report.

“With smart public policies, governments can grow their economies, generate decent employment and accelerate social progress in a way that keeps humanity’s ecological footprint within the planet’s carrying capacity.”

Accelerating Green Economy Investment

Few and far between the UNFCCC climate negotiations afford one of (if not the best) opportunity for governments to institute an inclusive, international process to tackle these issues and accelerate the transition to a global Green Economy in an integrated fashion.

“I am convinced that government policies and public private partnerships can serve as a lever for green industry,” said Kandeh K. Yumkella, director-general of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) at a conference to discuss progress towards green industry sponsored by the UN and the Japanese government.

“They are vital for supporting technology transfer and for utilizing proven environment, energy and resource conservation techniques, and for research and technology development. Collaboration between businesses, academia, providers of technology, financial institutions and civil society is a must if we want to see green growth,”

The UNEP report emphasizes that the support and earnest participation of the rapidly industrializing emerging market countries, such as China, India and Brazil, and developed world nations is critical to forging a framework climate accord that can serve as the foundation for making the transition.

China now leads the world when it comes to investing in renewable energy, overtaking an albeit much smaller Spain in 2009 and investing $49 billion in renewable energy in 2010. China has announced it will more than double its investments in renewable energy, clean technologies and waste management over that of the previous five years, investing some $468 billion over the next over the next five years, the report’s authors note.

Egypt’s renewable energy investments have increased 160%, from $300 million to $1.3 billion, as a result of the Kom Ombo solar thermal project and a 220-megawatt (MW) onshore wind farm in the Gulf of Zayt. Kenya’s renewable energy investments rose from practically zero in 2009 to $1.3 billion in 2010.

The Water-Food-Energy-Wealth & Income Nexus

Getting the world’s largest polluters and producers of greenhouse gas emissions on board is essential to making the transition to a Green Global Economy. Ensuring that the interests of indigenous peoples, local community, civic and environmental groups, as well as high-level government policymakers and business interests, are likewise critical to negotiating a climate accord that has teeth and will be enacted.

The elements of the transition are now in place and growing. Attention and efforts are now being focused on crafting the means to integrate government policy, business investment and broad public participation at the water-food-energy nexus.

Access to clean water, food, and energy are inextricably linked to issues of social, economic, and environmental equity and justice, which at the root are a result of the growing disparity of wealth and income in countries around the world that’s emerged in recent decades.

It’s a link that’s increasingly recognized in recent popular movements and public dissent, including the ‘Arab Spring’ and the ‘Occupy’ movement in the US. “Anyone who claims that the fate of the climate talks is bound to the fate of the Occupy movement better expect a bit of skepticism in return,” writes Tom Athanasiou as he delves into this linkage in a post on EcoEquity. “Now, if it were Occupy and the Climate Justice movement, that would be a different story! Both are complex social movements, and both are driving hard for economic justice. Their overlap is inevitable.”

“When people consider the green economy, they should think about social equity, human well-being and environmental justice,” Surveyor Efik, Civil Society Representative in Nigeria’s National Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change and National Technical Committee on REDD+, was quoted as saying in a UN Information Officer’s report from the 64th UN DPI (Dept. of Public Information)-NGO conference in Bonn in September.

“A green economy was a low-carbon economy, and a departure from the ‘business-as-usual’ approach was needed when building it,” the information officer reported Efik as saying. “A ‘global commons principle’ should be applied and the benefits reaped from the green economy shared by all, emphasizing that the green economy was not only about the environment, but about reducing poverty and must be approached with an understanding that those concepts were all interconnected.”

Photo courtesy: SunPower

For more on kick-starting the transition to a Green Global Economy, see:

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