Support to developing countries is needed to aid environment,
boost global shift towards sustainable development, meeting told
Geneva, 7 October 2010 -- The global push towards "green" economic growth can be a new engine for sustainable and inclusive economic progress, and trade can help spread the technology, efficiencies, and benefits involved, experts told the opening session of a meeting on "The green economy: trade and sustainable development implications."
The two-day ad-hoc expert meeting is framed as an input to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development scheduled for 2012, also referred to as Rio +20, in reference to the UN Conference on Environment and Development, or Earth Summit, held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. "A green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication" is one of two main themes of Rio +20.
"We just cannot avoid confronting the environmental issue," UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi said in opening the session. He said efforts to develop the technology and economic efficiencies needed to enable economic growth that does not damage the environment will require providing further help to poor countries. Inequalities in resources and technology will otherwise mean sustainable development only for some, while the costs from environmental damage -- such as climate change -- affect all, he said.
Trade can be an important tool in the transition to a green economy but on its own will not automatically provide incentives to developing countries in their pursuit of sustainable development, Mr. Supachai said. The urgency of addressing climate change means there should be a well-designed sharing of the burden, he said. The United Nations High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing, of which he is a member, is discussing a goal of US$100 billion per year to aid developing countries adapt to and mitigate climate change by 2020, he said.
Sha Zukang, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, who is serving as Conference Secretary-General for Rio +20, said sustainable development is a "wonderful concept but what it means and how it happens is the issue." Much still has to be done, he said. "A green economy is seen as holding the key to faster implementation of sustainable development." He termed trade "a vital channel of green technology flows between countries" but added that the green economy, as it develops, must be shaped so that it serves the greater goal of sustainable development for all the world´s countries.
Luis Manuel A. Piantini Munnigh (Dominican Republic), President of UNCTAD´s Trade and Development Board, said "Development goes well beyond mere economic development." It is time, he said, "for the construction of an environmentally friendly economy" that can have good long-term benefits and, as it takes hold, can create employment. Trade will play a major role in this shift, he said, and should spread technology and benefits fairly, especially during what will be a complex and difficult transition period.
And Sylvie Lemmet, Director of the Division of Technology, Industry, and Economics of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said a number of global ecosystems "are in fast decline. . . and these are the same resources that we all, and particularly the poorest among us, rely on for life and well-being. The current modes of production and consumption that we have are not sustainable for a world of 6 billion people." The recent financial crisis has taught that "the narrow definition we have of growth will have to be reconsidered for the future," she said. She told the meeting that it is important that the recent economic crisis be recast as an opportunity, as a chance to shift to environmentally sustainable growth. In fact, she said, "The green economy concept is being taken on board by many countries, developing, developed, and fast-developing."