20 April 2009 The head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has called on governments to invest a significant amount of their $3 trillion-worth of stimulus packages in a new “green economy” to defeat the crises facing the world.
Governments must play their part in shaping and focusing markets to deliver long-term environmental benefits if the world is to surmount the current food, fuel, financial and economic crises it faces, said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner in a speech at Tel Aviv University yesterday.
Mr. Steiner told the audience that time and again resource-efficient, low-carbon and environmentally friendly products and processes have failed to make their way out of research laboratories. “The market failed to read the writing on the wall or see the climate and energy security street signs coming up fast on the international highway.”
He noted that the oil crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s saw around $1 billion of investment into research and development in solar powered energy halving the cost per unit of electricity, not enough for commercialization.
“The oil price dropped and so did widespread enthusiasm for solar power. Only now are generation prices beginning to fall towards competitiveness [but] we have wasted nearly three precious decades,” he added.
He noted, however, a UNEP Policy Brief for a Global Green New Deal, which highlights the benefits of investing a significant amount of proposed government economic stimulus money on five key sectors from renewable energy to sustainable transport.
“The question now is how will the around $3 trillion-worth of stimulus packages be spent-on the old brown economy or a new green one that might set the stage for a truly sustainable century?” asked Mr. Steiner.
The Brief – developed with economists, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) among others – spotlights how some economies, including China, Korea, the United States and the United Kingdom, have already committed part of their stimulus packages to green investments.
Mr. Steiner stressed that investing 1 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) into five key sectors could be key to a “Global Green New Deal.”
These areas include raising the energy efficiency of old and new buildings, as well as investing in renewable energies including wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. The three other areas are sustainable transport including hybrid vehicles; high-speed rail and bus rapid transit systems; the planet’s ecological infrastructure including freshwaters, forests, soils and coral reefs; and sustainable agriculture including organic production.
“The Policy Brief also calls for a range of specific measures aimed at assisting poorer countries to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and green their economies,” noted Mr. Steiner.
The measures include an expansion of microcredit schemes for clean energy, reform of subsidies from fossil fuels to fisheries and the greening of overseas development aid, he said.
“Japan, which has already launched a multi-billion yen green stimulus package for its economy, has just announced a $5 billion loan fund for developing economies seeking to boost their renewable energy sector,” he pointed out.
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