Green Economy Initiative Seeks Investment in Earth

Mobilizing and re-focusing the global economy toward investments in clean technologies and "natural" infrastructure such as forests and soils is the best bet for real growth, combating climate change, and triggering an employment boom in the 21st century.

The call was made by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and leading economists as they launched the Green Economy Initiative aimed at seizing an historic opportunity to bring about tomorrow's economy today.

Achim Steiner, UN undersecretary general and UNEP executive director, said there was a crucial and urgent need to bring creative, forward-looking, and "transformational thinking" into next month's Financing for Development Review Conference in Doha,Qatar.

"Transformative ideas need to be discussed and transformative decisions taken. The alternative is more boom-and-bust cycles; a climate-stressed world, and a collapse of fish stocks and fertile soils up to forest ecosystems -- vast, natural 'utilities' that, for a fraction of the cost of machines, store water and carbon, stabilize soils; sustain indigenous and rural livelihoods; and harbor genetic resources to the value of trillions of dollars a year," said Steiner.

Hilary Benn, secretary of state for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said, "The green technological revolution needs to gather pace, as more and more of the worlds jobs will in the future be in environmental industries. Britain is committed to building a green economy at home and abroad: it will be good for business good for the environment and good for development. UNEP's initiative will help make this change; in particular by helping us to understand just how much we depend on the environment -- soil, air, water and biodiversity -- for our very existence."

The Green Economy Initiative, which has close to $4 million-worth of funding from the European Commission, Germany, and Norway, builds in part on a request by the G8+5 group of nations two years ago.

The G8+5 study on the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity highlighted the economic magnitude of "business-as-usual" losses and drew strong links between ecosystem and biodiversity losses and the persistence of poverty.

The Green Economy initiative has three pillars:

•valuing and mainstreaming nature's services into national and international accounts;

•employment generation through green jobs and the laying out the policies;

•instruments and market signals able to accelerate a transition to a Green Economy.

In 18 to 24 months, the initiative should deliver for governments -- North and South -- a comprehensive assessment and tool kit for making the necessary transition.

Erik Solheim, the Norwegian environment minister, said:" There are moments in history when an idea's time has come -- this is the case for a comprehensive Green Economy Initiative. Norway is delighted to be supporting this UNEP initiative. Innovative approaches and actions are needed in this very complex situation with a fundamental environmental crisis topped by an international financial situation out of control."

The five sectors likely to generate the biggest transition in terms of economic returns, environmental sustainability, and job creation are:

•Clean energy and clean technologies, including recycling;

•Rural energy, including renewables and sustainable biomass;

•Sustainable agriculture, including organic agriculture;

•Ecosystem infrastructure;

•Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD);

•Sustainable cities, including planning, transportation, and green building.

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