Investing in clean energy and sustainable transport to forests and environmentally-friendly forms of agriculture could go a long way towards meeting internationally-agreed poverty reduction goals
This is among the central conclusions of A Brief for Policymakers on the Green Economy and the Millennium Development Goals, launched today as heads of state and ministers meet at the UN Headquarters to review progress with five years to go.
Environmental degradation is on the one hand aggravating the challenge of improving maternal health and the provision of safe drinking water to combating hunger and disease.
Conversely some countries and communities are finding that environmental improvements, catalyzed by deliberate policy choices; smart investments and often private sector partnerships can be a big part of the solution, the new study claims.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said: "There is rapidly growing evidence that accelerating a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient, employment-generating Green Economy may not only be the key to meeting sustainability challenges of the 21st century, but also provide a considerable contribution to meeting other MDGs.
The report—compiled by UNEP's Green Economy team —cites numerous cases where green strategies are paying multiple dividends and generating multiple opportunities including in respect to the eight MDGs.
Deliberate policies and investments in Costa Rica have triggered an expansion of protected areas and National Parks to over 25 per cent of the country's land area.
Since this strategy was adopted there has been a boom in eco-tourism attracting well over one million visitors a year and generating $5 million annually in entrance fees alone. Studies indicate that communities living in or near national parks have higher wages, employment rates and lower rates of poverty.
The report, prepared for this week's UN Summit on MDGs in New York, also spotlights China's energy policy as set out in its 11th five year plan covering 2006-2010. The plan has fuelled a rapid rise in renewable energy manufacturing and installation.
China is now the second biggest wind power country in the world and the biggest exporter of photo-voltaics: 10 per cent of households have solar water heaters —1.5 million people are employed in China's renewables sector with 300,000 of those jobs generated in 2009 alone.
Creative and forward-looking urban planning, allied to sustainable transport policies, have allowed the Brazilian city of Curitiba to grow more than six fold while simultaneously improving mobility and quality of life.
The average area of green space per person has risen from one square metre to around 50 square metres; 45 per cent of journeys are made by public transport; excessive fuel use due to congestion is 13 times less per person than in Sao Paulo and the lower levels of air pollution result in health benefits for local citizens.
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