Young leaders learn about the Green Economy at the World Leadership Conference

Young leaders from across the Asia Pacific region learn about the Green Economy from a UNEP representative this morning at the World Leadership Conference 2011 in Singapore.

The World Leadership Conference (WLC) 2011 is held in Singapore from 13 – 15 July, and is a platform for young leaders all over the Asia Pacific region to come together, learn about environmental issues, and take action towards a sustainable future. The Organising Committee of the conference is made up of volunteers from Singapore’s non-profit youth environmental group, Environmental Challenge Organisation (Singapore), and is truly an event spearheaded by youths for youths.

The WLC 2011 comprises of a Knowledge track, where the youths can learn about themes such as Green Economy to Eradicate Poverty, Energy for a Low Carbon Future, and Sustainable Development Governance. The conference would also provide a platform for the youths to discuss and craft a document to be submitted in the upcoming Rio+20 Summit in 2012.

The opening keynote address on the theme of  Green Economy to Eradicate Poverty was presented by Dr Stefanos Fotiou, Regional Coordinator, UNEP Resource Efficiency Programme, Asia-Pacific. Dr Fotiou shares with the young participants on the Green Economy, which UNEP defined as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.

The green economy is born out of multiple crises and accelerating resource scarcity, and is a economic vehicle for sustainable development. It is a new economic paradigm that can drive growth of income and jobs without creating environmental risks, and has strategies to end the persistence of poverty.

The green economy is growing in Asia Pacific, where 23% of the global green stimulus investments is from this region. For example, China is investing US$468 billion in greening key sectors by 2015.

The UNEP’s Green Economy Report shows that investing or relocating just 2% (1.3 trillion US$) of global GDP in 10 key sectors can kickstart a transition to a low carbon and resource efficient economy. The green economy can stimulate growth that exceeds business-as-usual growth over time.

Dr Fotiou explains that 1.3 trillion US$ is not much, it means the combined wealth of the world’s richest 300 people, 1/10 the total investment in physical capital, 6 times the amount invested on renewable energy in 2010, 2 times the amount the US spends on gambling, or 1.5 times the 2009 stimulus package for banking and automotive industries.

Dr Fotiou also shares that investing in natural capital can help create jobs and alleviate poverty. Green employment in agriculture can increase global employment by 4% over the next decade, while forest conservation and reforestation can boost formal employment by 20% by 2050. Ecosystem services and non-marketed natural goods account for 47-89% of the so-called “GDP of the Poor”.

He concludes that economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability can be mutually compatible, however it is not a single recipe for all countries, and financing is the key.

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