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Source: Small Island Developing States

16 July 2019: A group of partners held a multi-stakeholder discussion on inclusive green economy, with speakers calling for a transformation, and even a revolution, of our economies in order to continue to prosper. The event titled, ‘Fair, Fast and Green: Transformative Partnerships for an Inclusive Green Economy,’ was organized by members of the Partnership for Inclusive Green Economies, and moderated by Jo Confino of the Huffington Post.

Oliver Greenfield, Green Economy Coalition (GEC) Convenor, emphasized that in order to deliver different goals, we need different ways of running our economies: “the only thing commensurate to the challenges we face is to transform our economies” into green and inclusive ones.

Guy Ryder, International Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General, acknowledged that economic transformation is easy to talk about, but “extraordinarily difficult to do,” especially given the pressure of time. Ryder also reflected that only in the past ten years has it become widely understood that jobs and growth are not in conflict with planetary survival.

UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) President Ola Elvestuen echoed this idea, saying that the connection between environmental and social issues is much stronger now than it was even a few years ago. However, he said, there is not yet the “will to change at the needed scale,” despite adequate understanding of the crisis, as outlined in reports from the IPCC and IPBES. Elvestuen emphasized that the “world’s first big test” is coming later this year, as countries announce their increased Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement on climate change. This will show whether the world is willing to take the leap need to cut emissions sufficiently.

The UNEA President also looked forward to the upcoming meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Kunming, China, in 2020, which he said must result in a framework on the loss of nature with “similar strength” to the Paris Agreement. Subsequently, the February 2021 meeting of the UNEA will assess the next steps needed to create a global economy within the boundaries of nature.

In a series of government perspectives, Rita Schwarzeluhr-Sutter, BMU, said Germany is working to phase out coal mining with a “just transition” approach in order to have legitimacy in the eyes of citizens. It has established a commission to guide the process.

Elizabeth Thompson, Permanent Representative of Barbados, said that in order to achieve growth that is not carbon-driven, a government must develop an architecture to include those most affected by climate change (women, youth and SIDS) in the dialogue on growth. Thompson added that governments will change if youth can “cause enough disruption”: she encouraged youth to innovate, create new technologies, and advance new lifestyles, attitudes and behaviors.

Gabriel Quijandria, Peru’s environment ministry, highlighted the difficulty of shifting to deforestation-free commodities and agriculture. He said the government has to tell producers, “the way you produce palm oil is no longer the way the world wants you to produce it.”

Astrid Schomaker, European Commission, spoke to governments’ difficulties in transitioning away from sectors and products they have relied on. She said that just as environmental protection and economic growth are mutually reinforcing (“there are no jobs on a dead planet,” she said, quoting the ILO), people must begin to see environmental policies as socially beneficial as well. They serve as an “equalizer” by benefitting the poor, who live closest to factories and on busy streets.

Schomaker said the next stage is for environmental policies to be more inclusive. She explained that data does not currently provide insight into environmental and social issues in an integrated manner: the data show progress on environmental issues, but not “whether whole of population benefits, or just the rich.”

Inger Anderson, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, said that in the next ten years, we need a full revolution of economic growth models on the scale of the industrial revolution, which took 100 years. If we do not achieve this, 10% of our natural wealth on land and in the ocean will be gone. She identified as key elements: involve industries (agriculture, manufacturing, banking and others); enact regulatory frameworks to drive certain behaviors; and reverse the use of incentives, which currently favor “the wrong things.” She stressed that transitions must be fair in order to ensure “we don’t create an underclass of people that once had those jobs” in fields that are being transformed.

Also during the side event, GEC launched a compass for navigating the transition to green and inclusive economies. The compass includes five principles (wellbeing; justice; planetary boundaries; efficiency and sufficiency; and good governance), as well as ten priority actions, a pathway, and knowledge platforms for business and finance. These two new platforms are described in this SDG Knowledge Hub story.

The event took place on the sidelines of the 2019 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). SDG Knowledge Hub coverage of the 2019 HLPF can be found here.

The members of the Partnership for Inclusive Green Economies that organized the side event are UNEP, GIZ, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), GEC, the Green Growth Knowledge Partnership (GGKP), ILO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Poverty-Environment Action for SDGs, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the UN Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE). [Meeting webcast]

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