The UN environmental agency UNEP on Monday called on the world's developed nations to invest massively in "greening" their economies in order to set a new path to prosperity.
Pavan Sukhdev, project leader of the Untied National Environment Programme (UNEP)'s Green Economy Initiative who is on secondment from Deutsche Bank, said countries should rethink economic models and target at job growth in a world where leveraging natural capital is both an increasing constraint and an untapped opportunity.
Speaking in Nairobi on Monday, Sukhdev said jobs could be created in clean technology, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and other conservation-based businesses.
"In greening the economy, there is a new path to prosperity, there are more jobs, clean and decent jobs and indeed there is a solution to persistent poverty," Sukhdev told Xinhua in an interview on the sidelines of an environmental meeting in Nairobi.
He said the UN environmental agency has urged the G20 countries to invest one third of the around 2.5 trillion U.S. dollar-worth of planned stimulus packages on "greening" the world economy.
The development economist said the estimated US$750 billion of green investment, equal to about one percent of current global GDP, could trigger significant, multiple and potentially transformational returns.
"What we need today is investment not in more of the same (with economic stimulus packages). We need today investments in greening the economies today and not tomorrow. So when I look at the G20 nations and I look at two trillion dollars that are absolutely essential for progress for the next generation,"Sukhdev said.
He added the funds would assist in powering the global economy out of recession and onto a green 21st century path.
He said there were many progress being realized in Africa in terms of "greening" the economy and cited Kenya which he said despite progress being made in environmental conservation, there was still destruction going on in other parts of the country.
"Africa is an area and continent of many challenges. I am delighted to see some progress in many parts of Africa. We are here in Nairobi and we can see the Mau Forest is severely under stress and I am happy that the government is taking steps to address that," he said.
"You know that fresh water availability to people and to agriculture is very critical for progress. I am delighted that awareness has increased already and action is being taken towards that direction. Afforestation is about life, peace and hope and creating livelihood for the poor," the project leader said.
Sukhdev noted that beyond the immediate bailout of financial firms and the design of the future international financial planning, world leaders must take bold measures to resolve the multiple crises plaguing humankind.
"A total of around one percent of global GDP -- that is around 750 billion U.S. dollars -- invested in such greening initiatives over the next two years would provide the critical mass of investment needed to kickstart a 'green economy' across G20 nations," Sukhdev said.
In October last year, the UNEP and leading economists announced the Green Economy Initiative (GEI) to seize an historic opportunity to bring about tomorrow's economy today.
Together with a number of UN sister organizations, the GEI will motivate the governments and businesses to significantly increase investment in the environment as a new engine for economic growth, job creation, and poverty reduction in the 21st century.
He said ecosystems around the world provide unique resources for many industries, noting that protecting coral reefs, a source of tourism, safeguarding fishing and coastal resources, and reducing deforestation will likely be targeted in the initiatives.
The GEI has three key elements: the Green Economy report that provides an overview, analysis and synthesis of how public policy can help markets accelerate the transition towards a green economy; The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, a project on assessing the economics of nature and its opportunities; and the Green Jobs report (in September 2008) that evaluated employment trends from greening.
Sukhdev said the UN was leading a powerful campaign to encourage the governments to seal the deal on a fair, balanced and effective climate agreement when they meet in Copenhagen in December this year.
"It's important to have the deal. We must seal the deal as the UN secretary general has been saying. We must seal two deals -- one on the main deal on the Copenhagen and the other is the deal for reduced emission from the deforestation and forest degradation, " he said.
Sukhdev also said combating climate change can be a path towards economic recovery and an investment with strong returns today and for many generations to come.
He stressed investing in clean energy technologies and protection of natural habitats may be the best way to generate global economic growth and create employment.
The UN said recycling, low-polluting energy production from windmills and solar panels, organic farming, reducing deforestation and making buildings more energy efficient will all have to form part of the global efforts to live sustainably without running down resources.
(Xinhua News Agency July 20, 2009)