ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF FOREST CONSERVATION
Accelerating the Transition to Resource-Efficient Societies
Global society is already struggling to manage the planet's natural resources. Escalating resource use is causing significant environmental degradation and depletion of key natural resources, impacting long-term economic growth and sustainability, and contributing to global inequalities. With the population set to grow from seven to 9 billion by 2050, and global urbanization levels to reach 70 per cent, planetary resources will come under increasing pressure under current consumption and production processes, demands of a growing middle class, expanding cities and building construction and the need for enhanced services and infrastructure development. UNEP's Resource Efficiency sub-programme aims to promote sustainable natural resource use so that well-being and prosperity can be achieved within the Earth's ecological constraints and capacities.
Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP), which beats at the heart of UNEP's resource efficiency and green economy work, has gained traction in recent years, and 2014 saw even greater momentum. SCP was high on the agenda as over 100 nations gathered for the first-ever United Nations Environment Assembly in June; as a result of UNEP's active involvement in the drafting of the Sustainable Development Goals, a stand-alone goal on SCP (Goal 12) is paving the way for global and concerted action.
UNEP and partners have been busy laying the foundations for this action, and in 2014 a multi-stakeholder platform that aims to empower the world to accelerate the transition to SCP patterns kicked off its first four programmes. The Secretariat of the Ten-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP), hosted by UNEP, launched its Sustainable Public Procurement, Consumer Information, Sustainable Tourism, and Sustainable Lifestyles and Education Programmes—which are engaging 143 governments, non-governmental organizations and business associations. Programmes on Sustainable Buildings and Construction as well as Sustainable Food Systems are expected to be launched in early 2015.
To further support the transition to resource-efficient societies, policy makers need solid science and a better understanding of how to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation and natural resource use. UNEP helps provide this by hosting the International Resource Panel (IRP), which released three scientific assessments in 2014, including Building Natural Capital: How REDD+ Can Support a Green Economy. The report showed how an investment of $30 billion per year—compared to the $480 billion paid in fossil fuel subsidies—in the REDD+ forest conservation and restoration initiative can ensure the well-being of tens of millions in developing countries. Additional knowledge will come from the Green Growth Knowledge Platform (GGKP), which UNEP co-manages with the Global Green Growth Institute. The GGKP is a partnership created by the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, GGGI and UNEP to identify and address knowledge gaps in green economy theory and practice. The partnership has expanded to over 35 leading organizations since its creation in 2012.
BUSINESS CASE FOR ECO-INNOVATION
ADVANCING A GREEN ECONOMY
In 2008, when UNEP launched its Green Economy Initiative, only a handful of countries were engaged in the issue. Today, 65 countries have embarked on green economy and related strategies; 48 of them are developing green economy plans as part of their sustainable development strategies. The Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE)—a UNEP-hosted partnership of five UN agencies—is on its way to its goal of supporting 30 countries. Mongolia adopted a national Green Development Strategy in June 2014, one year after joining PAGE, and the green economy is embedded in global discourse—for example, the third Small Island Developing States (SIDS) conference in Samoa in September 2014 endorsed the approach as an important tool for achieving sustainable development and poverty reduction.
PRIVATE SECTOR ENGAGEMENT
Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the social and economic backbone of most countries, and therefore a key driver of the transition to a resource-efficient economy. UNEP works with businesses through several initiatives, such as the Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production Network (RECPnet), which saw an increase in membership from 55 to 69 in 2014 (see In Focus for an example of how this helps businesses). Eco-innovation can boost the profitability and sustainability of such businesses, and UNEP launched the Business Case for Eco-Innovation in November, highlighting benefits such as increased market access, value creation, and business growth of at least 15 per cent. RECPnet members in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean will work with SMEs in the metals, chemicals and agri-food sectors, targeting over 40 companies.
UNEP, drawing on the work of UNEP FI's practitioner network and the UNEP Inquiry's work on the rules that shape the financial system, will help to advance a financial system aligned to sustainable development."
In May, the Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative (UNEP-SBCI) released Greening the Building Supply Chain, which looked at how to make the building sector more sustainable. One Swedish company followed the recommendations, and changed its sourcing and selection of construction materials. UNEP also engaged with governments in ensuring more sustainable business practices, and in 2014 worked with Brazil, France, South Africa and others in assessing the impact of their corporate sustainability reporting policies.
GREEN ECONOMY IN ACTION
Financing plays a key role in any global process of change, and the UNEP Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) continued catalyzing private finance for green and inclusive growth. In September, at the UN Secretary-General's Climate Summit, UNEP FI coordinated a group of investors to form the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition, which aims to decarbonize $100 billion of investment by December 2015. Separately, UNEP launched the Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System to deliver innovations in financial policy, regulatory frameworks and standards that will better align the financial system to sustainable development. The two-year inquiry has undertaken work with national institutions and partners, focusing initially on Bangladesh, Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, and the United States. A third initiative was launched in October, in partnership with the International Monetary Fund and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ)— the Green Fiscal Policy Network, a virtual platform that aims to facilitate knowledge sharing on fiscal policy reforms in support of countries' green economy transformation. Under the project, country studies analyzing green fiscal policy reforms have been carried out in Ghana, Mauritius, Kenya and Mozambique.
The Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition is already decarbonizing $30 billion of investments.
Consumption patterns also require refocusing, and UNEP works with governments and businesses to put in place policies and measures conducive to more sustainable consumption patterns. Supporting Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) strategy development and implementation at national level is one focus—public procurement, which represents above 15 per cent of gross domestic product in many countries, offers an opportunity to drive markets towards innovation and sustainability.
In 2014 UNEP engaged with 14 countries—of which 11 committed to developing SPP Action Plans by the end of 2017. As more than 50 entities have submitted project proposals on SPP under the 10YFP Trust Fund, the number of partners is set to increase significantly.
The public and retailers are targeted directly through Think.Eat.Save—a global campaign to encourage a reduction in the one-third of all food lost or wasted each year. Events took place in Barbados, China, Germany and many more countries, while a Student Challenge on food waste campaigns engaged 485 schools from 80 countries, helping to ensure the next generations join the fight to create more resource-efficient societies.
These are just some of the highlights of the sub-programme, with many more initiatives under way. For more information, please visit http://www.unep.org/resourceefficiency/ or follow UNEP on twitter.com/unep or facebook.com/unep.org
DOING 'MORE AND BETTER WITH LESS' IN GHANA'S COCOA INDUSTRY
Political stability, good governance and increasing export revenues have turned Ghana into one of the largest and fastest-growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa, and the cocoa industry has played a key role in this process.
Now the second largest exporter of cocoa in the world, Ghana employs over 800,000 smallholders in the cocoa industry, which contributed as much as 14 per cent of GDP in 2011. With the sector playing such a crucial part in the economy, the need for a sustainable cocoa industry that makes wise use of its resources and maintains profits is clear.
Resource-efficient and cleaner production methods offer a way to ensure the industry remains competitive and resilient, and Ghanaian companies are already making the transition and reaping the rewards. One such company is Niche Cocoa Industry Ltd. from the Tema Free Zone enclave.
In 2012, Niche signed up for the Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production (RECP) Programme, coordinated by the Ghana National Cleaner Production Centre, the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency and UNEP.
The Programme trained Niche's staff on low-waste production technologies, enhancing the efficient use of water, energy and raw materials, and optimizing existing technologies to improve production efficiency levels. Since joining RECP, Niche has managed to reduce its waste by 60 per cent.
Only in its fourth year of operation, Niche Cocoa Industry has almost doubled its operational capacity, produces over 40,000 metric tonnes of cocoa products per annum and boasts 350 full-time staff. Mr. Paul Ayeh, General Manager of Niche, puts much of the company's success down to judicious use of its resources.
"Our efforts in recent years to improve the company's efficiency levels and reduce waste along the production line have reduced the cost of our operations and thereby increased our profitability and competitiveness, both nationally and internationally," he said.
Some of the changes that have brought about this improvement include: replacing energy-intensive machinery with new technology, such as a more efficient hammer mill for processing cocoa beans; fitting meters to monitor and reduce gas usage; recycling wastewater; and undertaking a Free Fatty Acids (FFA) analysis to save on butter in the production process.
"In addition to making Niche more competitive, I think the most rewarding and important long-term goal of what we are doing is to protect the environment," said Belinda Lawson, Environmental Health and Safety Manager at Niche. "Employing cleaner production measures in my work is a motivation. I know I am contributing to Ghana's future."
Niche's commitment to reducing waste has also benefited the surrounding environment and communities where Niche operates. Thanks to the installation of extraction systems along the production line, which prevent particulate matter entering the environment, and the introduction of a new system of recycling chemical reagents used in the production process, Niche has reduced the company's contribution to water and air pollution in the area.