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Green economy: the future we want

What does green economy mean?

In 2011, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) published the seminal green economy report, defining the green economy and laying out a global strategy to achieve the transition towards such an economic structure. Entitled “Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication”, the report defines the green economy as an economy which results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In its simplest expression, the green economy is low-carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive. In the green economy, growth in income and employment are driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The world’s major transnational and private sector institutions have by now all contributed their own definitions to enhance or clarify UNEP’s definition. The International Chamber of Commerce sums up all definitions elegantly as “an economy in which economic growth and environmental responsibility work together in a mutually reinforcing fashion while supporting progress on social development”. 

In the green economy, economists assign natural resources their appropriate and otherwise unaccounted for economic value based on the services that they provide to human society. Calculations also account for costs of environmental degradation which, rather than being externalized onto society, are added to corporate and national balance sheets. Taxes, subsidies, regulations, and public programs incentivize reallocation of global finances so that the cost of economic activity reflects the true social and environmental cost of doing business.

In the run-up to Rio+20 Conference, the many publications and papers published proposed not only definitions of the green economy, but also sets of guiding principles, which provide more insight into what is meant by the green economy concept. These principles, also reflected in the Rio+20 outcome document, can serve as a guide in the application of the concept.

Based on the principles proposed, the green economy can be seen to have the following characteristics: environmental; social; economic; others.

For reference: The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development - or Rio+20 - took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 20-22 June 2012. It resulted in a focused political outcome document which contains clear and practical measures for implementing sustainable development. The Conference also adopted ground-breaking guidelines on green economy policies.


Transition to green economy: developing countries success stories

How green - environmentally friendly - is your economy? More and more investors, journalists and policy makers are likely to ask this question to national investment promotion agencies, governments and business leaders. Sustainability matters in the context of country reputation and attractiveness.

The Global Green Economy Index (GGEI) measures just that. With the latest (2018) version just launched, we were interested in the key findings: which countries have seen the strongest improvements and which are lagging behind.

The 2018 GGEI tracks 130 countries, up from 80 in the last (2016) edition. Many of the new countries added are in Africa. These countries are low contributors to global emissions, often have high contributions of renewable energy to electricity production, and poor environmental performance. Their populations are extremely vulnerable to climate change, particularly in economies with high levels of dependency on sectors like agriculture, fisheries and forests. This is a necessary reminder of climate justice: while richer countries bear most of the responsibility for historic emissions, poorer ones will bear the greatest consequences.

Smaller countries with consistent focus on green growth continue to improve their GGEI results. These improved countries cut across geographies and country income levels and include: the Nordic countries in Europe; Costa Rica, Uruguay and Colombia in Latin America; Kenya in Africa; and Taiwan and Singapore in Asia.

Many countries with high GDP growth rates in recent years - including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines - are seeing declining performance. Also, GGEI results across the EU are quite uneven, with the top GGEI performers counterbalanced by poor results in the Baltic states, Bulgaria and Poland.

But now we are going to tell about 8 different success stories from across the globe on the implementation of the green economy. They cover: renewable energy in China; feed-in tariffs in Kenya, organic agriculture in Uganda; sustainable urban planning in Brazil; rural ecological infrastructure in India; forest management in Nepal; ecosystem services in Ecuador; and solar energy in Tunisia.

Renewable Energy in China: The outline of 11th Five-year Plan (2006-2010) allocated a significant share of investments to green sectors, with an emphasis on renewable energy and energy efficiency. The Plan projects that the per-unit GDP energy consumption by 2010 should have decreased by 20 per cent compared to 2005. In addition, the Chinese government committed itself to producing 16 per cent of its primary energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Feed-In Tariffs in Kenya:  Kenya’s Ministry of Energy adopted a Feed-in Tariff, based on the realization that “Renewable Energy Sources including solar, wind, small-hydro, biogas and municipal waste energy have potential for income and employment generation, over and above contributing to the supply and diversification of electricity generation sources”.

Organic Agriculture in Uganda: Uganda has taken important steps in transforming conventional agricultural production into an organic farming system, with significant benefits for its economy, society and the environment. The world's lowest usage of artificial fertilizers has been harnessed as a real opportunity to pursue organic forms of agricultural production, a policy direction widely embraced by Uganda.

Sustainable Urban Planning in Brazil: The city of Curitiba, capital of Parana State in Brazil has successfully addressed urban challenges caused by increasing populations by implementing innovative systems over the last decades that have inspired other cities in Brazil, and beyond. Particularly known for its Bus Rapid Transit system, Curitiba also provides an example of integrated urban and industrial planning that enabled the location of new industries and the creation of jobs.

Rural Ecological Infrastructure in India: India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (NREGA) is a guaranteed wage employment program that enhanced the livelihood security of marginalized households in rural areas. Implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development, NREGA directly touched the lives of the poor, promoted inclusive growth, and also contributed to the restoration and maintenance of ecological infrastructure.

Forest Management in Nepal: Community forestry occupies a central place in forest management in Nepal. In this approach, local users organized as Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs) take the lead and manage resources, while the government plays the role of supporter or facilitator. Forest management is a community effort and entails little financial or other involvement on the part of the government.

Ecosystem services in Ecuador: The Fund for the Protection of Water – FONAG – was established in 2000 by the Quito municipal government, together with a non-governmental organization, as a trust fund to which water users in Quito contribute. FONAG uses the proceeds to finance critical ecosystem services, including land acquisition for key hydrological functions.

Solar Energy in Tunisia: Tunisia created a funding mechanism – the National Fund for Energy Management – to support increased capacity in renewable energy technologies and also improved energy efficiency. The replenishment of this Fund is based on a duty levied on the first registration of private, petrol-powered and diesel powered cars and on import duty or local production duty of air-conditioning equipments with the exclusion of those produced for exports.

Nevertheless, economic transition of this scale does not happen through policy and institutions alone. Change starts with people, their lives, their needs, their aspirations. Transition happens when people choose to do things differently. We should focus on helping people – be they consumers, citizens, voters, workers, businesses, or communities – engage with alternative economic pathways.


Kazakhstan leads the Green revolution in Central Asia

According to President Nazarbayev’s ambitious 2050 Strategy, Kazakhstan will use renewable and alternative energy sources to create 50% of the electric capacity generated in Kazakhstan. This is just one component of Kazakhstan’s comprehensive initiative to transfer from one of the world’s premier hydrocarbon energy producers to a model “green” economy. In addition to green energy creation, Kazakhstan’s transition also focuses on water resource conservation, agriculture and waste management, and measures aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Kazakhstan will be the first CIS country to launch a cap and trade system to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

EXPO 2017

On November 22, 2012 Astana was chosen by the International Exhibitions Bureau (BIE) as the venue to host EXPO-2017, which focused on future energy issues. The theme of Future Energy was aimed to concentrate on both the future of energy but also on the potential energies of the future. Kazakhstan is very aware that the time has come for the world to move from fossil fuels to more sustainable energy sources. The selection of Astana to serve as host city was especially notable, because EXPO-2017 was the first time that a major international exhibition of this kind was coming to a country from the former Soviet Union. More than 100 countries and 10 international organizations participated in the exhibition and presented their ideas.

Water conservation

President Nazarbayev’s 2050 Strategy also focuses on water resource management as a key component of the green revolution. The President’s decree sets a water resource management goal of transitioning to the more effective and careful use of water resources to meet the growing demands of both the economy and population. The Water Management plans aims to curb the waste of drinking water by citizens as well as to improve the efficiency of irrigation systems in order to reduce irrigation usage by 40%. The plan also calls for a more productive regional dialogue on joint use of rivers that are shared with the neighboring countries that should be based on fairness and economic attractiveness. These goals are critical because under current trends the country will face an annual water deficit of 14 billion cubic meters (bcm) by 2030.

Wind energy

Wind power has the potential to produce 25 times more energy in a year than Kazakhstan’s current production from hydrocarbons. It is estimated that 10-15% of the land in Kazakhstan has average wind speeds of over 6 m/s making Kazakhstan prime for an increase in wind power. Wind power will play a large part of the 2020 goal to expand the renewable energy generating capacity to 1,040 megawatts from 110 megawatts last year.

One of Kazakhstan’s power companies, Samruk-Energy JSC, was recently awarded a 94 million dollars loan from the Eurasian Development Bank to build Kazakhstan’s largest wind farm. The project will produce 172 million kilowatt/hours of electrical energy per year, save more than 60 million tons of coal, and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Solar Energy

The 2020 goal is to have four solar power plants in operation producing a total of 77MW of electricity in addition to the energy produced through the slated wind and hydroelectric plants. The recently announced solar-power-generating complex in Kyzylorda region will be capable of generating 65 megawatt hours of electricity itself a year. A major step forward in Kazakhstan’s timeline was the opening of the Astana Solar LLP photovoltaic solar panel production plant in Astana two years ago which will fulfill Kazakhstan’s increasing demand for solar panels.

Kazakhstan’s estimated solar energy potential is 2.5 billion kilowatts a year a result of its 3000 hours of sunlight a year.

Kazakhstan’s green economy projects

Green economy projects are actively implemented in various sectors in Kazakhstan. Renewable energy is mostly being used in the agricultural sector. More than 100 farms in West Kazakhstan are using solar generators.

Joint EU/UNDP/UNECE project “Supporting Kazakhstan’s Transition to a Green Economy Model”: The overall objective of the Project is to contribute to the long-term environmentally sustainable and inclusive economic development of Kazakhstan through introduction of modern environmental governance system, state-of-the-art water management policies and practices, enhanced environmental impact assessment procedures and economic incentives for sustainable use of water resources. The Project is developed in consultation with the key stakeholders, and is fully aligned with top policy priorities of the Government of Kazakhstan.

The Best Available Technologies Inventory: it will allow choosing the optimum alternatives of solutions, speeding up the process of selecting and taking decisions during realization of green projects.

"The green rating is one of the directions of great interest. In the long view energy and ecological efficiency will become drivers of competitive strength for the business sector along with social accountability that complies with the principles of industrialization and technological modernization the President of Kazakhstan focused on", head of the International Centre for Green Technologies and Investment Projects Rapil Zhoshybayev told.

The centre was built at the intuitive of the Kazakh President at the ground of EXPO 2017 infrastructure and heritage.

According to him, the centre is purposed to create conditions for investors, to assure payback and security of green investments, to build green culture and tackle ecological problems through the development of green technologies in Kazakhstan and subsequently in Central Asia. The centre will provide methodological, legal and technical support to regional authorities, investors and business projects in the sphere of green economy.

He also stated that thanks to partnership with foreign colleagues Kazakhstan has an opportunity to study the best international practice. Implementation of the Best Available Technologies Inventory is of great importance for the country's economy. It is planned to create it this year. Besides, the centre is building the digital database now to integrate sketchy data concerning solar, wind and hydro and geothermal potential, solid waste landfill map throughput Kazakhstan.

Saltanat Sarina

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