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Speech by Angela Cropper , UNEP Deputy Executive Director, at the SIDA Climate Game Change Seminar

22 January, Bangkok, Thailand - Today, we are witnessing the evolution of a new global context, characterized by the current financial crisis and its implications for economies, as well as by the challenges posed by climate change.

Never have the forewarned impacts of climate change been more visible for all to see. "Kicking our Carbon Habit" – the slogan which animated last year's World Environment Day - could usher in a new dawn for our economies and our societies. It is a game change that warrants a new look at the rules of the game, and I congratulate ESCAP and SIDA for organizing this seminar in which we can all start working towards this.

Natural disasters caused by climate extremes - including devastating floods, severe droughts, snow storms, heat waves and cold waves -are leaving trails of unprecedented destruction and loss of life. Perhaps it is useful to recall that in June 2008, Cyclone Nargis, alone, claimed the lives of approximately 78,000 people in Myanmar, here in this region.

Meanwhile, we are witnessing a serious global economic down-turn, characterized by financial, fuel and food crises, causing further suffering for the vulnerable world-wide. Each of these events by itself is sufficiently challenging to deal with. It is their concatenation at a  moment in time that generates anxiety and fear; but at the same time, this represents a concentration of opportunity that is rare.

We are faced with the need to simultaneously address economic recession, energy security, job creation and CO2 emissions. If managed creatively there are enormous economic, social and environmental benefits likely to arise from combating climate change and re-investing in natural infrastructure-benefits ranging from new jobs in clean technology and clean energy businesses to ones in sustainable agriculture and conservation-based enterprises.

Adopting the language, but not motivation, of Wall Street, UNEP is approaching this moment of opportunity with the slogan: Green is the New Big Deal. It brings together our current work with other agencies in the UN system on Green Jobs, the Green Economy and the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity.

The prospects for a Global Green New Deal stem from these initiatives that seek to stimulate mobilizing and re-focusing the global economy towards investments in clean technologies and 'natural' infrastructure such as forests and soils as the best bet for real and sustainable growth, combating climate change and triggering an employment boom in the 21st century. 

The Green New Deal aims to: mainstream nature's services into national and international accounts; generate employment through green jobs; and lay out the policies, instruments and market signals able to accelerate a transition to a more sustainable economy.

The Green New Deal focuses on the following five sectors as the most likely to generate the biggest transition in terms of economic returns, environmental sustainability and job creation:

  • 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

 

These elements are not new. ESCAP for example has been pushing the concept of "green growth" in this region since 2005.  But through the Green New Deal we hope to cement the link between environmental sustainability and the economy and make that link a key focus for evidence-based public policy making, and a determinant of future market opportunities.

Costa Rica started on this path 10 years ago. The Republic of Korea has recently announced a USD 38 billion investment in Green New Deals that are expected to generate 960,000 new jobs. Japan has announced investments that would generate 800,000 new jobs. The USA is likely to invest a significant part of USD 800 million in renewable energy in the near future. And so on.

The "Global Trends in Sustainable Energy Investment 2008" report prepared by UNEP's Sustainable Energy Finance Initiative, indicates that over $148 billion in new funding entered the sustainable energy sector globally last year, up 60% from 2006. This happened even as the credit crunch began to affect financial markets.

This report advises that:

Investment flows have not only continued to grow, but have broadened and diversified, making the overall picture one of greater breadth, depth and scale in sustainable energy. The mainstream capital markets are now fully receptive to sustainable energy companies, supported by a surge in funds destined for clean energy investment. At the other end of the spectrum specialist financing has also opened up with the development of innovative financing structures for distributed renewable generation and demand-side management. Another aspect of this industry deepening has been greater activity in next-generation technologies, such as cellulosic ethanol, thin-film solar technologies and energy efficiency.

Moreover, another report published by UNEP and its UN partners in 2008, entitled Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable Low Carbon World, describes how millions of green jobs already exist in industrialized countries. About 2.3 million people have in recent years found new jobs in the renewable energy sector alone, and the potential for job growth in the sector is huge, and what is more, renewables offer 4-5 times more jobs than fossil fuels for the same investment.

Green jobs are not just being created in the developed world. A wide variety of examples show that green jobs create opportunities for millions of young people, women, slum dwellers and members of poor rural communities in the developing world. For instance: Solar women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh have helped 100,000 rural households install solar home systems, reaching a good number of the population of Bangladesh that does not have access to electricity; and in Brazil, aluminum recycling employs close to 170,000 people with some 10.3 billion cans collected in 2006, saving the country about 2000 GWh per year of electricity that would normally have been required to produce new aluminum, which is sufficient to supply a city of about 1 million inhabitants for one year.

Green jobs are evolving alongside new green technologies. In Poznan, leaders from the solar industry - including First Solar from the US and SunTech of China – told us that in three short years between 2005 and 2008 First Solar increased their production from 5 to 20 megawatts, and at the same time cut their production costs from $3 to $1 per watt. They claim that, with support, photo voltaic solar power will be grid-competitive in 3 to 5 years time, challenging the myth created by climate change sceptics that commercial renewable energy  - along with the jobs it would generate - is decades away.

In key areas, new opportunities for drastic reduction in green house gas emissions that are easily accessible are appearing under our very eyes. For instance, with proven and commercially available technologies, the energy consumption in both new and old buildings can be cut by 30 to 50 per cent without significantly increasing investment costs. This is indicated in another recent report of UNEP released in 2008, which has sought to explore the links between the Kyoto Protocol, the Clean Development Mechanism and the Building and Construction Sector.

Allow me to quote from this report:

Buildings are responsible for more than one third of total energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions in society, both in developed and developing countries. Energy is mainly consumed during the use stage of buildings, for heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, appliances, etc. A smaller percentage, normally 10-20%, of the energy consumed is used for materials manufacturing, construction and demolition.

The potential for drastic reductions of the energy consumption in buildings is significant. With proven and commercially available technologies, the energy consumption in both new and old buildings can be cut by an estimated 30-50 percent without significantly increasing investment costs. Energy savings can be achieved through a range of measures including smart design, improved insulation, low-energy appliances, high efficiency ventilation and heating/cooling systems, and incentives to building users to conserve energy….

…Despite the obvious need and opportunities for reducing energy consumption in buildings, the potential remains largely untapped in most countries. Out of more than 3,000 Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects in the pipeline (as of May 2008) only six seek to reduce energy demand in buildings.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Currently, transformations such as those I have cited are happening as a result of soft market signals, and in many cases with minimal government intervention. Imagine what we could achieve if market signals became stronger, if Governments became more creative with respect to the facilitating context, if industry and business became more agile in responding to opportunity, and if we in the UN system worked more in concert with one another!

These initiatives could be scaled up and scaled up quickly with the help of a combination of the right incentives and of coherence among our respective responses. Whilst Governments need to find multilateral solutions, the role of Business in boosting innovation and alternative business models is clear.

However, the fact that "Climate business" is a knowledge and technology intensive business cannot be ignored, and capacity is a pre-requisite for new initiatives.

To this end, UNEP, along with a variety of partners, including many UN agencies and research institutes, are working to create a Global Climate Change Adaptation Network.  Last October in Changwon, in the Republic of Korea, we convened an international consultation where a clear consensus was reached by developing countries on the need for such an initiative. It will be supported by knowledge management systems and regional policy forums.  The network is meant to support adaptation actions by governments and communities through effective mobilization of knowledge and technology for capacity building on adaptation, policy setting, planning and practices. 

At the same time, discussions are ongoing in this region towards the establishment of a Regional Climate Adaptation Knowledge Platform involving the Stockholm Environment Institute, the Swedish Environmental Secretariat, located here in Bangkok, and UNEP.  This initiative will provide a platform for regional consultations, dialogue,  joint learning and sharing and will bring together regional climate adaptation researchers, policy-makers, business leaders, and practitioners to provide guidance relevant to national and regional climate change and adaptation policy. Adaptation implies pro-active pursuit of understanding of impacts and vulnerability, as well as of measures to respond.

With instruments like this, we can learn from one another and accelerate the transition towards a new Green Economy.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Never has the threat been more real, the action needed more urgent, nor the time more opportune. Now is the time to pick up the pace in efforts to address both climate change and economic development. The combined financial and climate crises presents one of the best opportunities for redirecting our economies to a low carbon and more sustainable path.

As you all know, we only have ten months left to reach a new global climate agreement that is one of the most complex international agreements to be negotiated.  We all have a role in maintaining the momentum from now until Copenhagen, in ensuring a transition towards a low carbon world, one that is capable of adapting to the syndrome of climate effects and that is capable of being resilient in the face of unpredictable and inter-related rapid changes.

This region represents about one third of the countries in the world, 50 percent of the world population, and accounts for 40 per cent of the global economy. At the same time, it is home for 70 per cent of the people of the world who live in poverty.  But it is known for its creativity and ethic of hard work, manifested not just in the space it occupies as an Industry technology leader in some applications, but also by its communities and small enterprises in an impressive range of artisanal products, which often utilize basic and natural materials, and are competitive in quality and price anywhere in the world.

Business and Industry in this region have a considerable role to play in contributing to the transition that is required, for which there is now a moment of new opportunity.  It seems to me that such a transition would require us all to work towards:

  • a more conscious and comprehensive approach to creating Green New Deals (we already have the example of Korea);
  • a more clear commitment to recognizing and conserving "natural" capital by Governments, Business and people;
  • accelerating the processes of knowledge management with respect to climate change and adaptation across the region;
  • focusing investments in Green Economy opportunities that has sustainability as a core value and objective;
  • intense collaboration among entities within the multilateral system to bring pieces, players and processes together - governmental actions, business actors, financial partners, technical support agencies -  in a more concerted approach.

 



 

 

Further Resources

Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a sustainable, low carbon world (2008)

REN21 Renewables 2007 Global Status Report

Green Economy Initiative

 

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