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Countries are racing to lead the Clean Revolution, UNEP report shows

18 November 2011
Countries are racing to lead the Clean Revolution, UNEP report shows

BEIJING: The new Green Economy report from UN Environment Programme (UNEP) demonstrates that as COP17 and Rio +20 draw closer, world leaders are taking the transformational steps needed to achieve a prosperous, low carbon global economy.

Achim Steiner, UN Under Secretary, General and Executive Director, UNEP, announced the launch of the Green Economy report at the 20th Anniversary Open Forum of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development in Beijing this week.

A major finding of the report shows that with the right policies in place, if the world invests 2% of GDP in ten key sectors including energy, buildings and manufacturing, the global economy will thrive and we will avoid dangerous climate change.

Other key points in the report include:

  • The 2% GDP investment transition would grow the global economy at the same rate or higher than what is currently forecast - but without the rising risks, shocks, scarcities and crises that come with a resource-depleting economy.
  • Compared to under current economic models, an overall transition to a Green Economy would mean higher per capita incomes.
  • Our ecological footprint could be reduced up to 50% in 2050 compared to current projections with a transition to a Green Economy.
  • Over time, jobs will surge in renewables industries.

A growing number of countries are already acting on the report’s recommendations, including the Republic of Korea and South Africa.

“The elements of a transition to a Green Economy are clearly emerging across developing and developed countries alike. 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.” said Achim Steiner.

China is currently the world’s lead investor in renewable energy, and is expected to present its strategy for taking steps towards a Green Economy at this week’s China Council.

He Bingguang, Director General, Department of Resource Conservation and Environmental Protection, China’s National Development and Reform Commission said: “China considers the Green Economy to be a strategic choice in an increasingly resource constrained world, and we have made that choice in our development plans.” 

Speaking at the China Council, Achim Steiner said: ‘China and indeed countries everywhere are acting, setting goals and establishing aims in order to transition to a low carbon, resource-efficient Green Economy. President Hu Jintao […] underlined the importance of these key ecosystems describing them as "the first priority on China's agenda to promote the ecological civilization and fight against climate change".’

But despite praising China’s innovative moves and ‘renaissance’ economy, Achim Steiner also said China’s growth has ‘come at a cost’.

Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group comments: “The price China has paid for its miracle rapid economic growth in the last three decades is way too high. But it has also awakened Chinese decision makers, business leaders and the public that China has to rethink its future growth strategy. The Clean Revolution has become the national strategy, as demonstrated by the green ambition the country has set for its development for the coming decade. Provinces and cities are all taking active steps to explore and develop their own green strategies. With clearly set policy direction and certainty, capital has been flowing into energy saving, renewable energy and other clean technology sectors. In the meantime, the rising level of public awareness and demand for safe and environmentally-friendly products and services is also driving businesses towards a cleaner future.”

The report comes at a pivotal moment as we approach COP17 in Durban and begin to prepare for Rio+20 in June 2012. 

In a statement issued on the release of UNEP’s flagship report, Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication, Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General said: "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. With smart public policiesgovernments 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.'

Steiner concluded his China Council speech with a call for transformational leadership to drive Rio’s successful outcome. He said: ‘I am not a clairvoyant-I cannot see the future. But Rio+20 [...] stands or falls on the issue of leadership and the engagement of leaders at the highest level to seize the opportunity for a sustainable 21st century.’ 

Read UNEP's Green Economy report 

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