Green economy : The development paradigm of the future
By Pawlos Belete
in Capital, Monday, 05 September 2011, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
The annual flagship publication of the United Nations regarding major development issues, World Economic and Social Survey 2011, was launched in Africa for the first time last Tuesday at the United Nation Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). The report calls upon developing countries for major new investment to help build green economies.
In the coming four decades, 1.9 trillion dollars per year is necessary to achieve incremental investment in green technologies worldwide. Of the total investment, about 1.1 trillion dollars is needed in developing countries to achieve green economic development. However, it is unknown as to where such an amount will come from.
“Over the next three to four decades, humankind must bring about a fundamental technological overhaul of production process worldwide to end poverty and avert the likely catastrophic impacts of climate change and environmental degradation,” said the United Nations in its annual report.
Major investment will be required universally in the development and scaling up of clean energy technologies, sustainable farming and forestry techniques, climate proofing of infrastructure, and in technologies that reduce the non-biodegradable production of waste according to the report.
Since the first industrial revolution in the 1850s, world income and population have grown exponentially. The same is true with energy demand and, production of waste and pollutants. As a result, the environment’s capacity to accommodate destructive human action has reached its limits explains the report creating a massive ecological recession whereby humans are exploiting the earth’s resources faster than the earth can renew them. Since then, about half of the earth’s forest has disappeared, ground water resources have been depleted and contaminated, enormous biodiversity losses have been caused and Climate Change now threatens the stability of all ecosystems, adds the report.
Currently about 2.7 billion people rely on traditional sources of energy such as wood, animal dung, and charcoal. This represents about 40 percent of humanity while 20 percent of them have no access to electricity. Most of these power impoverished segment of the human family live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
To attain a decent standard of living for the 1.4 billion people who are living in extreme poverty in developing countries and for the additional 2 billion people who are expected to join this destitute club worldwide by 2050, much greater economic progress is urgently needed, stressed the report.
At present, 90 percent of the energy generated derives from fossil fuels. The destructive use of fossil fuels is responsible for about 60 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. Reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions will require major changes in consumption patterns, transportation systems, residential and building infrastructure, and water and sanitation systems. Therefore, a comprehensive global energy transition is urgently needed in order to avert a major planetary catastrophe, argues the report.
A truly green agriculture
Modern agriculture contributes about 14 percent of greenhouse gas emissions to climate change. The management of land use and water is not sustainable for agricultural development practice says the report. These are the outcomes of the so called green revolution in agriculture during the 1960s and 1970s. The green revolution did boost food production worldwide, however, it also accelerated land degradation and water pollution, explained the report.
The world’s food production must increase by 70 to 100 percent by 2050 to feed the growing population which is expected have reached 10 billion by then. To meet this challenge, the report calls for a ‘truly green agricultural revolution’, a revolution in practices that makes use of farming techniques which require less water wastage, less chemicals and pesticides.
Increased natural disaster
The incidence of natural disasters has increased fivefold since the 1970s. Droughts and floods have become more frequent and destructive. Deforestation, degradation of natural coastal environments and poor infrastructure has increased the likelihood of weather shocks which will increase the prospects of human catastrophe in the developing part of the world. Reducing the risk of disaster will require significant technological and social changes, it will involve a change in the design of settlements and infrastructure, detailed the report.
In addition to reshaping national development efforts, the report calls for international commitment in the field of technological development and cooperation, better external assistance, greater investment finance and more favorable trade rules.
Given the limited capacity to mobilize long-term finance domestically in many developing countries, an important share of additional investment needs must be financed by international resource transfer efforts, the report advises. The report acknowledges the commitment set out in the Copenhagen Accord to mobilize 30 billion dollars between 2010 and 2012. It also requests a 100 billion dollar commitment by transfer by 2020 to developing countries as a t step in the right direction. However, it stressed the need to urgently deliver on these commitments.
The report further advises a way to build a universal public technology-sharing regime and networks of international technology research and application centers. To rapidly spread green technology, the report contemplates the use of more multilateral intellectual property rights modalities than the one currently permitted under the World Trade Organization.