Photo credit: Piotr Lewandowski
In a report released Monday, the United Nations Environment Programme outlined a sustainable public policy and investment plan that said just two-percent of the global domestic product could move the world from fossil fuel dependency to a low carbon economy. Currently, two-percent of the GDP is being spent on unsustainable practices like fossil fuel use, pesticide subsidies, and fisheries. By shifting focus, it is believed that the divergent approach in investment would kick-start a green economy and alleviate global poverty.
The two percent at hand amounts to approximately $1.3 trillion annually. According to the report, there are ten areas that need immediate green investment: small-scale agriculture, energy efficient buildings, eco-friendly fisheries, forestry, green industry, green transportation, improved waste management and recycling, low carbon energy, and sustainable water practices.
“With 2.5 billion people living on less than $2 a day and with more than two billion people being added to the global population by 2050, it is clear that we must continue to develop and grow our economies,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner in a press release. “But this development cannot come at the expense of the very life support systems on land, in the oceans or in our atmosphere that sustain our economies, and thus, the lives of each and everyone of us.”
If the two percent were put towards green investments, the report says the economy would grow at the same rate, if not faster, than it would under the current conditions — except the growth would be without the risks, shocks, and scarcities increasingly seen in the existing “brown” economy. The report indicates that the initial transition would cause a loss of jobs in some sectors, but it would eventually produce more than enough jobs to make up for any losses. The transition would also be a catalyst for growth in developing countries, where up to 90 percent of the GDP of the poor is linked to the environment or nature capital, like forests and freshwater.
The key to change lies in our governments. The report says that our political leaders need to create public policies that would generate and support a green economy by directing private investments toward green industry. Without the support of the government, any transition to a healthier, greener economy is unlikely.
The full report is available for download here.
WHY THIS MATTERS
The UNEP report reveals how little it would take for us to do the right thing and set us on a green track permanently. By shifting the focus of just two percent of the GDP, we would cut our collective carbon footprint in half, put fossil fuels behind us, and alleviate global poverty. In other words, we’d save the planet.