A new report issued by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) suggests that investing just 2 percent of global GDP in the green economy would cut humanity’s environmental footprint in half.
The report, titled “Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication,” outlines ten key sectors of the economy that have the potential to shift global development onto a more sustainable and resource-efficient path. Although intended as a resource for policymakers, the document offers a wealth of information for ordinary citizens to educate themselves about climate change and sustainable development.
The UNEP defines a green economy as “one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.” In a green economy, economic growth should be driven by investments in green technologies and services that reduce carbon emissions and pollution.
The report aims to debunk several misconceptions about what it means to “go green.” For example, many assume that a reduction in carbon emissions cannot be achieved without sacrificing profitability and growth. This could not be further from the truth. Research conducted by UNEP suggests that shifting towards a green economy has the potential to boost GDP by preserving natural assets like forests, lakes, wetlands, and river basins. These types of “natural capital” help sustain biodiversity and human well being, while simultaneously providing new opportunities for employment. The UNEP report suggests .5 percent of global GDP (US $325 billion) should be allocated to the natural capital sectors of forestry, agriculture, freshwater, and fisheries.
Poverty alleviation is another key issue that can be enhanced by the green economy. In many low-income countries throughout the world, natural assets and ecosystem services play a key role in the livelihoods of poor and rural communities. The 525 million small farms across the globe will benefit from sustainable farming methods promoted by a green economy. A review of 286 “best practice” projects across 12.6 million farms in 57 developing countries found that adopting resource-conserving practices increased yields by an average of 79 percent.
A third key finding of the report was that, contrary to popular belief, a transition to a green economy will spur job creation by expanding employment opportunities to new sectors of the economy. Studies have shown that green investments are typically more employment intensive in the short to medium term than “business as usual.” Employment in agriculture could increase 4 percent by 2020, while the forest sector could see a 20 percent boost by 2050. In the transportation sector, increasing energy efficiency and strengthening public transport would increase employment by 10 percent or more. Investments in energy-efficient construction could create an additional 2-3.5 million jobs in Europe and the United States alone.
The U.S. Green Chamber is excited to hear about these new statistics. They reinforce our core belief that sustainable business practices will promote economic, social, and environmental growth across the board. Although government policy will play a key role in the transition to a green economy, individuals and businesses will form the engine that drives it. Together we can achieve economic prosperity while ensuring the future of our planet and its priceless resources.
To read the full UNEP report, click here.