OECD report: Global demands for food, water to rise

Green growth policies crucial to prosperity of developing countries, ensuring healthy environment.

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June 5, 2013 19:09
4 minute read.
Green groups protesting for more solar energy

Green groups protesting for more solar energy 370. (photo credit: Sharon Udasin)

 
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Integrating green growth strategies into their economic policies will be critical to developing countries going forward as they work to secure a more prosperous and comfortable quality of life for their citizens, a new OECD report has determined.

The report, called “Putting Green Growth at the Heart of Development,” was released on Wednesday by the OECD in honor of the United Nations World Environment Day occurring that day. Although only 7 billion people inhabit the world today, by 2050, this number will jump to about 9 billion, instigating soaring demands for resources like food, water and energy, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria wrote in the report's introduction. Only economic growth policies that take such resources under consideration can ensure that the world's citizens will be able to continue to thrive within a healthy environment, the report says.

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Ultimately, the authors propose a "twin-track approach to guide national and international action to help achieve green growth in developing countries," the report authors explain. While embracing green strategies is also crucial to the governance of developed nations, far fewer developing nations have yet to embark on this path, which galvanize prosperity among their people, according to the report.

"The pursuit of green growth by developing countries is vital for their future and can lead to large economic and social benefits over time, including for the poorest citizens," Gurria wrote.

Green taxes, which the report says are a concept "largely untapped in developing countries," can be a great source of economic growth, as can be reforms of fossil fuel subsidies, Gurria explained. Funds created and freed up by these steps cannot only encourage the development of clean energy sources but can also finance other public priorities like education and health care, the report says. As the global population continues to expand rapidly, however, Gurria warned that countries must "waste not time" in adopting green growth economic policies.

Without embracing green growth strategies, short-term national prosperity risks being "undermined by insecurity and vulnerability," the authors explain.

The benefits of employing green growth are strategies are many and can lead to the development of more secure livelihoods for all citizens, the report says. Green growth polices take into account the interests of vulnerable groups by design and thereby can have “profound impacts son poverty reduction and social equity,” the authors write. Meanwhile, the new economic growth opportunities that surface through sustainable resource management can provide new job opportunities for new markets.

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Green growth policies likewise can lead to a more resilient infrastructure for the country at large, one that is not locked into the vulnerable and insecure track of using emission-intensive resources, the report explains. Meanwhile, the population of countries adopting such strategies will have greater access to clean water and sanitation services, diverse and more secure energy supplies and less pollution in the air they breathe.

Government adoption of green growth strategies will by no means be simple, as officials will need to mobilize a wide array of ministries to adopt green objectives as mainstream elements of their offices, as well as integrate such policies into national budgets, the report says. The authors suggest embarking upon a three-step path to accomplish these goals. First, the government must establish leaders to oversee green growth strategy implementation into the existing planning process and budgetary systems. Second, the leaders must design, reform, and implement policies that take natural resources into account and incentivize green behavior. Third, they must strengthen the government’s commitment to monitoring and enforcing the policies effectively, the authors write.

For optimal implementation of green growth policies, the authors suggest that developing countries depend on the international community for assistance particularly in the often expensive upfront costs of “going green,” the report says. Going forward, development assistance should include targeted green finance and investment, and there should be more cooperation on promoting green technology innovation across borders, the authors argue.

Once countries adopt green growth strategies it will be crucial for them to be able to monitor their progress toward meeting their objectives, the authors stress. The OECD recommends measuring statistics according to four strategic indicators – resource use and energy generation, the status of the country’s natural resource reserves, environmental quality of life and economic opportunities such as environmental goods production or resultant international cash-flow.

“With the world gearing up to pursue sustainable development goals in the context of the post-2015 development agenda, now is the time to seize the opportunity offered by green growth,” the authors write at the beginning of their final chapter.

As for Israel, green growth is currently a work in progress. In October 2011, the cabinet ordered the preparation a national plan toward promoting green growth for the years 2012 to 2020, pursuant to Israel’s responsibilities as an OECD member state. The Environmental Protection Ministry and the then Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry were jointly responsible for drafting such a plan within six months.

By September 2012, the cabinet approved their plan, which aims to increase the country’s gross domestic product by NIS 76 billion within five years. The program, which requires a NIS 850 million investment over the course of five years, will likely generate thousands of new jobs for Israelis, the two ministries said at the time.

Crucial to the program is the elimination of “greenwashing” – false claims of green behaviors – as well as curbing the complicated bureaucracy involved with receiving environmental approvals in a business license. In addition, the program calls for expanded green ratings for electrical appliances, training for green jobs and the promotion of green industrial areas that both save money and pollution. Upon submitting the program to the cabinet, environmental protection minister Gilad Erdan said that “green growth engines are the basis for leapfrogging to the next economic rung.”

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