Southern African News Features                                           SANF 11 No 12, May 2011
Green economy critical for sustainable development
by Neto Nengomasha

The adverse effects of climate change on environmental sustainability and human wellbeing is forcing most countries to move away from the "brown’’ or traditional economy to the "green’’ economy -- a viable option for sustainable development.

The concept has been described by environmentalists as a powerful new paradigm in the 21st century offering creative solutions to multiple global challenges by linking people, the planet and prosperity.

Green economy is considered as one that results in "improved wellbeing and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities."

According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), green economy comes against the backdrop of serious crises in climate, biodiversity, food, fuel and water, and more recently, the financial crises which has all been characterized by gross misallocation of capital while being exacerbated by existing polices and market incentives.

A recent report by UNEP titled "Towards a Green Economy" states that sustainable development can only be achieved if there is an economic transformation that promotes resource and energy efficiency and reduces environmental degradation.

"It is time to catalyze and embed the green economy transition across the globe from the international level down to the local community.

The green economy can -- if brought into the cabinet rooms, boardrooms and town hall chambers – offer a viable alternative to the unsustainable status quo," Under- Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, said.

The African Union has fully endorsed adoption of the green economy as a vehicle for sustainable development.

"It is not only relevant to more developed countries but also a catalyst for growth and poverty eradication in developing countries too," said Patrick Mwesigye, the Regional Industry Officer with the United Nation’s Environment Programme (UNEP).

Speaking at the inaugural Green Economy Summit in Johannesburg in 2010, South African President Jacob Zuma said the green economy requires integrated strategies and plans that balance economic, environmental and social development objectives with carefully crafted policy and institutional frameworks to ensure sustainable development.

"Ecosystem failure will seriously compromise our ability to address our social and economic priorities. Natural resources are national economic assets, and our economy depends heavily on energy and mineral resources, biodiversity, agriculture, forestry, fishing and tourism," he said.

The green economy is in line with what was agreed at the 16th Conference of Parties (COP 16) held last year in Cancun, Mexico.

Climate experts agreed to set up a Climate Green Fund intended to assist developing countries to adapt to the effects of climate change and adapt their economies and infrastructure to the changing climate.

The green economy will be one of two themes of the Rio+ 20 conference to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2012, in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. This marks 20 years after the Earth Summit held in Rio in 1992.

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