UN says 2% of world GDP will buy fair green growth


Annual investment of €950 billion – or 2% of global GDP – in ten key sectors could kickstart moves to a "low-carbon, resource-efficient green economy," according to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The report, 'Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication', argues that the high-carbon 'brown economy' is increasingly prone to price shocks, crises and scarcities. 

By contrast, investment in areas such as renewables, energy efficiency, forest preservation and improved water sanitation could stabilise or improve economic growth while ameliorating inequalities.

"A Green Economy is not about stifling growth and prosperity," said Pavan Sukhdev, the head of UNEP's Green Initiative. "It is about reconnecting with what is real wealth; re-investing in rather than just mining natural capital, and favouring the many over the few."

It is also about taking responsibility for handing over a healthy and functioning planet to generations yet to be born, he added.

Figures provided in the report suggest that the world currently spends between one and two percent of global GDP on environmentally-unfriendly subsidies to areas such as fossil fuels and agricultural pesticides.

"Phasing them down or phasing them out would generate multiple benefits while freeing up resources to finance a Green Economy transition," the report says.

UNEP's definition of a 'green economy' is one that results in "improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities".

Because, in some cases, close to 90% of the GDP of the poor is linked to nature and natural capital, such as forests or freshwaters, the report sees green growth and poverty eradication as intrinsically linked.

Investment sums proposed by UNEP include:

  • $108 billion for greening agriculture, including smallholder farms.
  • $134 billion on greening the building sector by improving energy efficiency.
  • Over $360 billion on greening energy supply.
  • Close to $110 billion for greening fisheries, including reducing the capacity of the world's fleets.
  • $15 billion on greening forestry with important knock-on benefits for combating climate change.
  • Over $75 billion on greening industry, including manufacturing.
  • Close to $135 billion on greening the tourism sector.
  • Over $190 billion on greening transport.
  • Nearly $110 billion on waste, including recycling.
  • A similar amount on the water sector, including addressing sanitation.

The report was published on 21 February at a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, which was attended by 100 ministers from around the world.

In December 2009 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to hold the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in 2012.

This conference is referred to as 'Rio+20' or the 2012 Earth Summit, as it is being held exactly two decades after a landmark international conference in Rio de Janeiro, called the 'Earth Summit'. The 1992 summit agreed on a plan of action (Agenda 21) and a declaration setting out principles supporting sustainable development.

Hosted by Brazil, the 2012 summit will seek to secure renewed commitment for sustainable development and assess progress done. Its two main focuses are the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development.


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