UN agency zeroes in on ‘green industry’ to lift poorest States out of poverty

UNIDO Director-General Kandeh Yumkella speaks at the opening session of a week-long conference in Vienna

7 December 2009 – The United Nations agency entrusted with accelerating sustainable industrial development in poorer States opened its general conference today, focusing on the opportunities offered by “green industries” in both combating climate change and attaining economic growth.

“Rather than limiting growth, a green industrial revolution could and should form the core of our response to climate change, and may be our best hope of sustainable recovery from the economic crisis,” UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Director-General Kandeh Yumkella told the opening session of the week-long conference in Vienna.

“All developed nations have harnessed industry as the main driver of their prosperity, and it is still the best hope for ending poverty’s reign over the so-called ‘Bottom Billion’ of humankind,” he said, stressing that the potential is there for new clean methods of production, industries focusing on mitigation and adaptation services, and greater use of renewable energy.

A recent global development trend is emerging in favour of investments in green industry, with reports suggesting that about 15 per cent of global stimulus packages in 2009 are green with investments in technologies, infrastructure and strategies to combat climate change, he added.

The cost of producing renewable energy is dropping fast, with a rapid increase in production of solar panels and wind turbines leading to a 50 per cent and 20 per cent drop in unit prices respectively in 2009 alone, he said.

Mr. Yumkella, a Sierra Leonean who today was elected to a second term as Director-General, also stressed the need for economic diversification, especially for those countries with an abundance of tradable natural resources.

“Diversification provides security against volatility, and extends the benefits of growth to the many instead of the few,” he said, citing Malaysia as an example of a country that used the boon of natural resources – oil and gas revenues – first to fuel an agribusiness-led industrialization model, and later to build a fully diversified economy.

In a message to the meeting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the focus on industry’s role in sustainable green growth, noting that the conference coincided with the UN summit in Copenhagen on climate change. “Our shared goal is a fair and effective agreement that will reduce emissions while helping vulnerable communities adapt,” he said.

“Industry is central to this effort. Industry and industrial policy can fuel new ways of thinking and acting, including a commitment to cleaner sources of energy and energy efficiency; a decisive move toward a low-carbon economy; and a new path to prosperity for the billions of people who have limited access to energy, water and other basics.”

In recent years, UNIDO has assumed an enhanced role in global development by focusing on poverty reduction, inclusive globalization and environmental sustainability, based on two core functions – as a global forum to disseminate industry-related knowledge, and as a technical cooperation agency to provide technical support and implement projects.


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