(First published in Khaleej Times, April 13, 2010)
Dr. Mohamed A Raouf
Program Manager – Environment Research
Nowadays, it seems very obvious that the current development model has failed people, nature, and societies.
The entire system—whether related to climate, food, biodiversity, energy, or finance—seems to be in a crisis. The list of areas could go on. This has led to a global rethink on the current models of development and doing business. The focus has shifted to the advantages and importance of Green Economy (GE) which is about people, planet and prosperity.
Green economy considers the connection between economy and environment, including impacts like climate change and global warming. It is a new model that provides an interface between economic, environmental and social issues. Currently GE is like a very loud baby that is catching the attention of many. Therefore, it must be the task of policy specialists and decision makers to ensure that the move toward a green economy is not just another excuse for people and companies to achieve profits and do business-as-usual (BAU) while claiming to be green. The growth process should be oriented in a responsible fashion toward a
To start with, it is necessary to have clear definitions of concepts and principles relevant to green economy. Indicators should be developed and standardised at national and international level in order to measure and compare progress among countries and sectors.
In October 2008, UNEP and leading economists announced the Green Economy Initiative (GEI) to seize an historic opportunity to bring about tomorrow's economy today. According to UNEP, GE means "A system of economic activities related to the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services that result in improved human well-being over the long term, while not exposing future generations to significant environmental risks and ecological scarcities"
As part of GEI, UNEP is giving priority to five important areas:
• reducing the energy consumption in buildings
• change over to renewable energies like solar and wind
• biomass and water
• change over to environment-friendly transportation
• Protection of the world's ecological infrastructure like forests, fresh water and coral reefs
• change over to sustainable
It is obvious that the Gulf and UAE in particular are doing quite well in these areas. Besides the Masdar initiative, the UAE has green building codes initiatives, the Metro in Dubai, marine protection projects and protected areas, and water conservation policy reforms.
GE aims at encouraging new values-based growth by including more social and environmental considerations in the growth process. It must be pointed out that many of these values are already part of local cultures and religions. GE aims at increasing investment in fields like agriculture, tourism, water, and biodiversity and will be linked to poverty alleviation, and impacts on health and trade.
It is clear that the green economy of a country is moving in the right direction if there is increase in green investment, quantity and quality of jobs in green sectors, and in the share of green sectors in GDP. At the same time, there should be a decrease in energy/resource use per unit of production as well as in CO2 and pollution level/GDP and wasteful consumption. To encourage the shift to a green economy, governments have to do their job which may include some or all of the following: subsidy reform, green tax shift and permit markets, incorporating sustainable development into trade agreements, sustainable public procurement (green procurement), incentives, land use and urban policy, integrated management of freshwater, environmental legislation, monitoring and accountability.
Given the vested interests in the "economy of yesterday", the transition towards a "green economy of tomorrow" is likely to run into obstacles along the way as is often seen in any societal transformation. Examples of potential barriers are subsidies that favor fossil fuels over renewable energy and lack of economically and politically favourable frameworks for long-term investment in low-carbon enterprises. In fact, no one sector or organisation can drive the transition to a green economy alone. GE requires a multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral approach.
It is evident that the current economic model needs rethinking to create a new paradigm for human progress that takes into consideration the total resource balance on earth. To support a GE, an appropriate policy mix (i.e. command-and-control measures, market-based instruments, awareness and education measures) needs to be developed by each country. In this regard, the Polluter Pays Principle and Consumer Pays Principle should lead to creative market-based instruments.
Dr Mohamed Abdel Raouf is in charge of environment research at the Gulf Research Center, Dubai