UN to Asia-Pacific: Embark on Green Economy Now, Please!

Human Wrongs Watch

A new UN report has called on countries in Asia and the Pacific, which to embark on a ‘green’ industrial revolution that takes advantage of improvements in resource efficiency so that they can prosper in the 21st century.

The region currently accounts for more than half of the world’s total resource use, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which says this is due largely to the fact that it has over half the world’s population and nearly 30 per cent of its gross domestic product.

Credit: UN

The report launched on September 19th in Beijing by UNEP and its partners estimates that per capita resource consumption in the region, including of construction materials and fuels, needs to be around 80 per cent less than today if sustainable development is to be achieved.

From 32 Billion to 80 Billion Tonnes of Polluting Materials a Year!

The region’s growth has come at a high cost, according “Resource Efficiency-Economics and Outlook for Asia and the Pacific,” including pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, deteriorating ecosystems and rapid resource depletion.

Total materials consumed in 2005 alone – including biomass, fossil fuels, metals and industrial and construction materials – amounted to around 32 billion tonnes, says the report, which adds that the figure could rise to 80 billion tonnes by 2050 if a different course of action is not taken.

UNEP executive director Achim Steiner noted that “dramatic economic growth has lifted more than half a billion people out of poverty in Asia and the Pacific, but with “profound” social and environmental consequences.”

This new report spotlights the challenges but also the opportunities for a transition to a low carbon, far more resource efficient green economy not as an alternative to sustainable development but as a means of implementing it,” said Steiner.

Smart Public Policy Measures Needed 

The report calls for a region-wide effort on improved efficiency backed up by smart public policy measures, including fiscal policies such as ecological taxes and budget reforms.

What is required is a new industrial revolution that provides food, housing, mobility, energy and water with only about 20 per cent of the per-capita resource use and emissions found in current systems,” it states.

Ten days earlier, some 1,000 participants kicked off a UN-backed conference in Manila focusing on the transition of Asian economies to a more resource-efficient and low-carbon pattern of industrial development.

The conference was hosted by the government of the Philippines in cooperation with the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), UNEP and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

New Light

This conference should shed new light on how economies in Asia can achieve a smooth and speedy transition to a resource-efficient and low-carbon pattern of industrial development… and in the process, help create new jobs, build the industries of the 21st century, maintain the momentum of growth and protect our planet,” said UNIDO director-general Kandeh K. Yumkella.

He noted that UNIDO and UNEP were jointly contributing to improving resource efficiency in the region through cleaner production centres in Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Republic of Korea and Viet Nam.

Not Enough

Participants at the gathering noted that while there have been significant gains in resource efficiency in Asia over the last few years, much more needs to be done, especially since resource use in the region continues to increase with economic growth.

UNIDO is among the UN agencies that have been calling for greater investment and robust government policies to allow a shift towards a low-carbon, environmentally friendly economy with “green industry” at its core.




2011 Human Wrongs Watch

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