Call for new technologies to avoid ecological destruction

WESS 2011: The Great Green Technological Transformation

A fundamental technological overhaul of production processes is required worldwide to end poverty and avert the likely catastrophic impacts of climate change and environmental degradation. “Business as usual is not an option,” said Rob Vos, Director of the Development Policy and Analysis Division and lead author of the report The World Economic and Social Survey 2011: The Great Green Technological Transformation, published by DESA and released today.

“Without drastic improvements in and diffusion of green technologies, we will not reverse the ongoing ecological destruction and secure a decent livelihood for all of humankind, now and in the future,” Mr. Vos continued.

The global environment’s capacity to cope with human activity has reached its limits. About half of the earth’s forests are gone, groundwater resources are being depleted and contaminated, enormous losses in biodiversity have already occurred, and climate change threatens the stability of all ecosystems.

Over the next 40 years, $1.9 trillion per year will be needed for incremental investments in green technologies. At least one-half, or $1.1 trillion per year, are needed in developing countries to meet their rapidly increasing food and energy demands through the application of green technologies.

At the same time, about 2.7 billion people rely on traditional biomass, such as wood, dung and charcoal, for their energy needs. And 20 per cent have no access to electricity. To achieve a decent living standard for people in developing countries, much greater economic progress is needed.

“This report shows how important technological progress will be for ensuring a future that benefits everyone while protecting our planet,” said Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General of DESA and Secretary-General of Rio+20. “The report is required reading as we gear up for Rio+20, which is an opportunity to define pathways to a safer, cleaner and more prosperous world for all.”

The report recommends that policies be guided by four key goals: improving energy efficiency without expanding consumption where energy-use levels are high; supporting a broad global energy technology development portfolio while scaling up the use of known green technologies in specific places; supporting greater experimentation and longer discovery times; and applying superior governance and accountability strategies in energy-related technological development than at present.

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