International UN-Water Conference. Water in the Green Economy in Practice: Towards Rio+20. 3-5 October 2011

The Green Economy and... Thomas Chiramba

Thomas Chiramba"In the transition to a green economy, we should focus on the issues that matter most."

Thomas Chiramba
Chief of the Freshwater Ecosystems Unit in the Division of Environmental Policy Implementation (DEPI) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Which change is necessary in the transition towards a green economy?
For me, the most important thing is that we should no longer focus on the question if the transition to a green economy is necessary or not. Instead, the key question should be: how can we transition to the green economy, given the environmental challenges that we are facing? I am very happy that the Zaragoza conference is exactly addressing this important question by highlighting case studies from around the world and showing that is possible to make a change.

In the transition to a green economy, we should focus on the issues that matter most. For me, these issues are the resources that are critical for the survival and future of mankind and for the world as a whole–water being clearly one of them. We should think about how we can use these resources in a sustainable manner and take measures to protect them so we can continue using them.

What are the most important barriers in this process of change and which tools can be used to overcome them?
The biggest barrier that is that water resources managers still focus very much on water allocation. They don't recognize that by managing water, they are in fact managing a whole range of ecosystem services. When managing water resources, we need to evaluate all the ecosystem services that we are influencing. I think it is important that the evaluation of water resources ecosystem services becomes part of all business and of what we do every day.

The tools that we are using now are the traditional water allocation tools. Since we have to recognize that we are actually managing a whole range of ecosystem services, we need to incorporate ecosystem services evaluation tools into water resources management. The evaluation of ecosystem services will assist decision makers in undertaking the trade-offs related to water resources management in an informed manner.

What are your expectations for the Rio+20 process and how can the Zaragoza conference contribute?
I hope that by the end of the Rio conference we will have clarified all the abstract concepts that are related to the green economy. More importantly, I hope that these concepts will have been translated into a practical down-to-earth document that gives guidance on how decision-makers and practitioners can transition to the green economy. The Zaragoza conference can contribute to this by showcasing case studies that indicate how the green economy can be put in practice.