Awareness of risk driving Green Economy trend

By Dizery Salim

GENEVA, 08 February 2012 - As world governments prepare for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro this June, the UN has published a practical guide "to promote a transition to an inclusive Green Economy."

The inter-agency Green Economy Report - Working towards a Balanced and Inclusive Green Economy: A United Nations System-wide Perspective - states that the vision of a green economy is finding its way into the core work programmes of UN agencies and the Bretton Woods Institutions.

"It is a trend not only driven by renewed awareness of risk, but also by a growing sense that opportunity lies in a fundamental change in the way we govern, operate markets and develop communities," the report states in its conclusions.

The Green Economy report was launched in Geneva last month by Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), who says a range of UN frameworks and initiatives are already in place to assist countries seeking to "go green," but stresses that governments need empirical information to support that change.

An accounting framework for the green economy would reveal the amount of emissions embodied in import-exports, says the report. It would make known how much water, energy and other raw materials are being used for production and how much is returned to the environment as waste and emissions, among other things.

Welcoming the report, UNISDR Chief, Margareta Wahlström said: "A green economy approach is essential for sustainable development and climate change adaptation in a world where population growth and consumption of limited resources are generating disaster risk. Human well-being and the resilience of communities will depend on how well we can make the transition to a greener economy."

The report's key findings include a recommendation that UN agencies consider improved and effective ways of mainstreaming "green economic criteria into their portfolio of services."

It points out that "Meeting the overall infrastructure needs of the poor and integrating those needs with the greening of existing and new infrastructure are essential aspects of meeting environmental and human development challenges."

Another key recommendation is that: "A green economy must also invest in people and social capital -- through health care, education services and access to social safety nets -- independent of the consideration of individuals as human capital, and should ensure that the benefits of economic growth are equitably shared."

On funding for the green economy, the report states that public spending needs to target green infrastructure along with other public goods and "innovative green economy financing mechanisms at the international level need to be explored and developed quickly."

In particular, "governments need to reform perverse incentives -- such as those for the production and consumption of fossil fuels -- in order to provide a level playing field for green investors."

Mr. Steiner said the task of putting together the Green Economy report had "challenged agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations System to reflect strategically about the way in which their work programmes address basic developmental challenges."

The report was prepared by the UN Environment Management Group, which was formed in 2009 to assess how the UN system "could coherently support countries in transitioning to a green economy."
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