Friday, June 29, 2012

Don de Silva

Rio de Janeiro, June 2012

The environmental movement, often dismissed in the past by finance ministers as dreamers, may have the last laugh on job creation in the midst of tight austerity measures.

A new report, Building an Inclusive Green Economy for All, launched at the Rio+20 summit argues that a transition to a green economy could lift millions of people out of poverty and transform the livelihoods of many of the 1.3 billion people earning just a US$1.25 a day around the world, but only when supported by strong policies and public- and private-sector investments.

The report has been put together by the Poverty-Environment Partnership (PEP), a network of bilateral aid agencies, development banks, UN agencies and international NGOs.

‘Many least developed and developing countries and communities are seizing the opportunity to bring economy and ecology together in order to generate transformational social outcomes,’ said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), a PEP member, at the launch of the report in Rio de Janeiro.

‘The challenge for world leaders is to forge and to back the enabling policies, catalytic financing, and social protection packages in order to fast forward these ambitions and to take them to scale.’

The report finds that many developing and least developed countries are already pursuing a transition towards low-carbon, resource efficient economies.

Scaling-up current examples of the green economy in action— particularly in developing countries—has the potential to deliver a ‘triple bottom line’ of job-creating economic growth, environmental sustainability and social inclusion, says the report.

But targeted investments and governance reforms are needed to overcome current barriers that are preventing many poor communities from fully benefiting from a green economy.

The new report finds that many Least Developed Countries, as well as many poor regions of middle income countries, are actually richly endowed with the natural resources that would allow them to build green economies that can sustainably reduce poverty.

‘By embracing an inclusive green economy, leaders in Rio have a rare opportunity to improve the lives of millions of people and usher in a new era of sustainability,’ said Manish Bapna, Acting President of the World Resources Institute, which coordinated the study.

‘Shifting to an inclusive green economy will not happen on its own. It requires smart government policies and strong leadership.’

The report cites many strong examples of developing countries that are already successfully shifting to a green economy.

For example:

Ethiopia is developing six wind energy projects and a geothermal project, which will increase the country’s capacity by over 1,000 megawatts.

In Uganda, the promotion of organic agriculture is helping tens of thousands of farmers to earn up to 300 per cent more from certified pineapple, ginger, vanilla and other exports. Globally, the market for organic food products has increased three-fold since 2000.

At the international level, many low and middle-income countries are rich in resources for ecotourism; a sector that is projected to generate revenues of US $240 billion in 2012. Much of this growth is in developing countries as diverse as Botswana, Belize, Brazil, Costa Rica, Gabon, Kenya and Nepal.

Least developed countries with less developed infrastructure, particularly in urban areas, can benefit from an inclusive green economy with the right enabling policies and targeted international investments in areas from energy efficiency and clean technologies to modern public transportation systems.

The report underlines that the private sector, including large multinationals and small and medium-sized enterprises, along with non-governmental organizations have a key enabling role too.

For example:

Unilever is working in West Africa with 10,500 small-scale farmers to promote allanblackia trees, which produce seeds rich in oil for use in spreads under the brand names Flora and Bercel.

In Brazil, the cosmetics company Natura has forged partnerships with 26 communities to source new cosmetics, fragrances, and other products under a benefit sharing project that support principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Indian-based Jain Irrigation System makes drip and sprinkler irrigation systems while providing markets for farmers’ produce. Farmers in parts of India have seen net incomes rise by US $100 to $1,000 a hectare as a result of adopting such systems while also reducing water use and environmental impacts.

The report calls on governments to consider ‘five critical building blocks’ towards an inclusive green economy.

National Economic and Social Policies: Fiscal policies, tax regimes, and ‘green’ social protection policies and programmes can strengthen a shift to benefiting poor communities;

Local Rights and Capacities: Ensuring poor people have rights and tenure over their natural resources backed by the means and the incentives to sustainably manage and benefit from them;

Inclusive Green Markets: New business models to build and expand the poor’s access to inclusive markets and supply chains for green products and services, together with access to micro-credit and business development services for small and medium-scale enterprises;

Supportive Policies: Higher-income countries need to provide coherent aid, trade and other policies to enable low-income countries to succeed in a green economy transition; and

New Metrics for Measuring Progress: Going beyond the narrowness of GDP to a broader indicator of economic, social and environmental progress and human well-being.

Developing countries confront an array of economic, social and environmental challenges to overcoming poverty and inequality that are unprecedented in their scale, complexity and growing interconnectedness. The depletion of natural resources poses major threats to livelihoods and economies.

In the face of these challenges, ‘business as usual’ strategies for economic growth and development are no longer economically, socially or environmentally sustainable. This report points to a new approach that is needed to accelerate poverty reduction and to achieve more equitable and sustainable development.

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