By Helmut Reuter — THE UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), to be held this week, seeks a change of paradigm to foster a more sustainable global economy. For some, the so-called Green Economy is a magic formula. For others, it is just more deceptive packaging. In theory, everyone — men, women and children, young and old, flora and fauna, small businesses and large multinationals, individual countries and the world as a whole, and of course the environment — should benefit from such a shift.
However, given the as-yet-unsuccessful negotiations on a final declaration for Rio+20, titled “The Future We Want,” the almost-messianic proposal may not be quite so universally embraced. The approach is as complex as the issues at stake. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) defined the Green Economy in great detail ahead of the gathering, and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner remains confident. “The change can happen,” he stressed.
UNEP lay the groundwork in the report “Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication.” It posits that the move from a “brown,” polluting economy to a “green,” clean one is possible as long as 2 per cent of global GDP (currently $1.3 trillion) is invested annually in ecological change until 2050.
The investment would be targeted at 10 key sectors: agriculture, construction, energy, fishing, forestry, industry, tourism, transport, refuse management and water management, the report said. However, this approach would only work when such investment is accompanied at the national and international levels by reform and specific legislation.
The Green Economy would within 5 to 10 years deliver higher growth rates than the business-as-usual model, the report argues. Renewable energy is paraded as a green success story. In 2011, a record $257 billion were invested in renewable energy sources, which already provide 5 million jobs. If the UN goal of increasing the share of renewables from the current 16.7 per cent to more than 30 per cent by 2030 is attained, an additional 4 million jobs could be generated.