High UN officials calling for sustainable economic “far-reaching vision” Reply

During the opening of the Development Dialog on “Macroeconomic Policies for the Future We Want,” United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and the President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, both stressed that future policymaking should be focused on job creation and protection of the environment.

Jan Eliasson called for a “far-reaching vision” and said that it is important to discuss integrated policies that aim at “sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth.”

Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser then highlighted that it was particularly important to give full consideration to an effective integration of macro-economic policymaking into the development agenda that must be developed after the 2015 term of the Millenium Development Goals effort.

At the end of the gathering, participants agreed an outcome document which called for a wide range of actions, such as beginning the process to establish Sustainable Development Goals.

Link: UN News Centre

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Green Economy Coalition surveying the ‘green economy’ and ‘green growth’ landscape after Rio+20 Reply

The Green Economy Coalition (GEC) has produced a paper summarizing the current situation in the growing field of ‘green economy’ and ‘green growth.’ This post-Rio+20 assessment is intended as a working draft for consultation and the GEC welcomes any feedback and insights.

The paper, titled “Surveying the ‘Green Economy’ and ‘Green Growth’ Landscape,” examines the current key players (from international institutions, through governments and the civil society to business) as well as the emerging trends and developments shaping the green economy landscape.

The paper concludes that there has been a rapid shift in the ‘green growth’ and ‘green economy’ agendas with even some mainstream economist and finance industries seeing an opportunity in green growth as a way out of economic stagnation. The paper further highlights that Rio+20 provided a much needed space for discussions on ‘green economy’ and that further UN discussions on this topic are vital for the international policy agenda.

The GEC also proposes that it is “critical for multi-stakeholder groups to work together to define and own the wider understanding of green economy – as one that tackles poverty and inequity and one that protects our natural systems.” It calls on coalitions and alliances to use their collective network, influence and experience to both complement and challenge the emerging agendas.

Link: GEC paper – working draft for consultation

World Bank to provide US$ 100 million loan in support of ‘green’ policy development in India Reply

The Government of Himachal Pradesh (HP), a mountain state in India, has been granted a US$ 100 million development policy loan from the World Bank to move towards an environmentally sustainable model of economic growth.

The loan to “Promote Inclusive Green Growth and Sustainable Development” will support the local government in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change. The focus of the support program will be on the state’s key economic areas – energy, watershed management, industry and tourism.

Since Himachal Pradesh  is one of the country’s main sources of clean hydropower energy, the program will specifically support the protection of watersheds in the mountainous region and the development of sustainable hydropower.

A second development policy loan is expected to follow, with funding from the Clean Technology Fund (CTF).

Link: World Bank Press Release

‘New Economics and Happiness/Well-being’ events: August-October 2012 Reply

Here, we list some of the major upcoming events in the areas of ‘New Economics’ and/or ‘Happiness/Well-being’ to be held in the next three months.  As you will see, there are a number of interesting gatherings coming up this late summer/autumn.

August 2012

“Happiness, Compassion and Sustainability – A Strategic Gathering,” 24-25 August 2012, Seatle, US; at this conference, participants will learn about the vital new worldwide movement for happiness, find out about how to use the Happiness Initiative to improve your community, learn about the connection between happiness and sustainability, help plan “Pursuit of Happiness Day” (April 13) for 2013, and hear prominent authors; event sponsored by The Happiness Initiative, Take Back Your Time, The Compassionate Action Network and the Communications Department of Seattle University. http://www.happycounts.org/conf2012

September 2012

Second Global Happiness and Well-being Movement webinar, 21 September 2012; speaker: Jon Hall, of the United Nations Millenium Development Goals, http://www.happycounts.org/global-happiness-and-wellbeing-movement

3rd International Conference on Degrowth, 19-23 Sept 2012, Venice, Italy; The general theme of the conference Venezia 2012 on Degrowth and ecological sustainability and social justice is “The big transition: Degrowth as a passage of civilization,” http://www.venezia2012.it/?lang=en

October 2012

3rd Global Green Growth Forum – Copenhagen, 8-9 October 2012, theme “Resource Efficiency and Growth,” http://www.globalgreengrowthforum.com/news/3gf-in-the-media

2nd International Growth in Transition conference “How should we grow?” – Vienna, 8-10 October 2012, http://www.growthintransition.eu/conference2012

Ecologic Institute started to fill the gap on measures of sustainable industries Reply

The Ecologic Institute, a private not-for-profit think tank, has released a new report on resource efficiency indicators and their potential use for measuring progress towards sustainable industries. The report, titled “Integrating resource efficiency, greening of industrial production and green industries – scoping of and recommendations for effective indicators,” is the outcome of work undertaken by the Ecologic Institute as part of the process of establishing a Green Industry Platform by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in 2012.

The authors of the report note that there currently appears to be a gap concerning indicators for measuring progress towards sustainable industries and sustainable industrial development (including the greening of industries, progress achieved in green industries, and greater resource efficiency in industrial production) and this report aims to contribute to filling this gap.

The report uses the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) as an organizing framework for systematic evaluation of the existing indicators as a measure of resource efficiency. The 10 most promising indicators considered in this study are:

  • Environmentally weighted material consumption (EWC)
  • Energy intensity by sector
  • Production based CO2 productivity
  • Water consumption by sector
  • Sustainable Process Index (SPI)
  • Water abstraction rates and water stress
  • Corporations’ turnover, value added and exports of the environmental goods and services sector
  • Resource Productivity / Material Productivity
  • Total Material Consumption (TMC)
  • Ecological Footprint (EF)

The authors suggest that since there exist many different aspects of industrial production it is only logical to consider building a basket of indicators that jointly give a more comprehensive picture than any of the indicators could give alone. They propose 4 different dimensions of sustainable industrial development to be part of the basket, namely:

  • Protection of critical environmental goods and services;
  • Minimal environmental impacts;
  • Efficient resource-use; and
  • Social and economic aspects of industrial production.

Based on the reviews conducted in report the following indicators are proposed to be included in the basket:

  • EMC (or eco-efficiency or overall environmental impact indicator) to capture environmental impacts;
  • Energy intensity by sector and production-based CO 2 productivity to cover the critical environmental areas energy and climate change;
  • Water productivity by sector and water stress to capture resource efficiency for a second critical environmental resource; and
  • Resource productivity (or TMC over GDP) to capture resource efficiency.

The authors note that the social aspects of sustainable industry have not been within the scope of their analysis, but should be considered in the development of the basket. They also highlight that this scoping study did not provide the necessary frame to develop a fully fledged analysis or road-test the proposed indicator basket and that such research tasks should be undertaken in followup projects under the auspices of UNIDO.

Link: Ecologic Institute download site of the report

EC opens a €34.8 million call for eco-innovation projects Reply

The European Commission has opened a call for eco-innovation projects for businesses and entrepreneurs from across Europe to help bring novel environmental projects to the market. The €34.8 million funding will support eco-innovative products, techniques, services and processes that aim to prevent or reduce environmental impacts, or which contribute to the optimal use of resources. The five main priority areas for this year include: materials recycling, water, sustainable building products, green business and the food and drink sector. Around 50 projects will be selected for funding and interested parties can apply until  6 September 2012.

Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, highlighted that this programme “shows  how businesses can help our economies to grow in an environmentally sustainable way, once they have the right support.” There are already nearly 200 projects being set up or underway from past funding calls and include schemes such as converting old discarded TVs into tiles, new waste sorting mechanisms, innovative eco- packaging for milk, and a new technique for recycling textiles.

Link: EC press release

Planet Under Pressure 2012 sets out the science for Rio+20 Reply

At the end of March 2012, London saw the largest gathering of global change scientists leading up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) at a conference titled “Planet Under Pressure 2012.” More than 3,000 delegates were present at the conference venue and over 3,500 attended virtually via live web streaming. The conference set out the scientific background and presented new recommendations for the Rio+20 conference, including:

  • Going beyond GDP by taking into account the value of natural capital when measuring progress.
  • A new framework for developing a set of goals for global sustainability for all nations.
  • Creating a UN Sustainable Development Council to integrate social, economic and environmental policy at the global level.
  • Launching a new international research programme, Future Earth, that will focus on solutions.
  • Initiating regular global sustainability analyses

The first State of the Planet Declaration was issued at the conference, reflecting the key messages that emerged from the Planet Under Pressure conference. The statement warns that scientific studies show that current human activities threaten the functioning of the Earth system which support continued well-being of the human civilization. It suggests that global sustainability must become a foundation of society and points out important areas of new scientific understanding in this area – including the adoption of the term ‘Anthropocene,’ a new epoch, in which many Earth-system processes and the living fabric of ecosystems are now dominated by human activities. The statement also highlights the need for further inter- and trans-disciplinary research. The authors see the Rio+20 conference as an opportunity for taking action and bringing outcomes on these topic.

As a part of the preparations for the conference, a series of nine policy briefs were produced by the scientific community, specifically targeting policy-makers in the Rio+20 process. The briefs provide information on the latest scientific thinking in nine areas of sustainable development relevant to the Rio+20 conference: Water security, Food security, Biodiversity and ecosystems, Transforming governance and institutions, Interconnected risks and challenges, Energy security, Health, Well-being, and Green economy.

The  Green economy policy brief, titled “A green economy for a planet under pressure,” attempts to set out the guidelines for the social and technological transformations needed for a new economic system, as well as the new ways in which we will need to measure and monitor this system. One of the key points highlighted in the brief is that our economic system has to start to respect planetary boundaries of the Earth and be in line with people’s well-being at the same time. Based on these two points, the brief calls for a re-design of trade rules, financial flows and investment to improve our natural, social as well as human capital. It also suggests that there is a need for a social transformation process and that we need to strive for post-consumerism and post-materialist society.

In order to achieve this ‘economic transition,’ the report calls on governments, organizations as well as the United Nations to lead and support this process. It is suggested, for instance, that the United Nations Statistics Office should support countries to move beyond gross domestic product and develop Inclusive Wealth Accounts as a new macroeconomic indicator to measure progress in human well-being.

The Well-being policy brief, titled “Human well-being for a planet under pressure: Transition to social sustainability,” examines the need for urgent, innovative solutions and sets out key messages and recommendations that will guide humanity on the road to a more sustainable socioeconomic and ecological future. The authors stress that both social and environmental sustainability are needed for overall human well-being, since these are closely connected. It is underlined that despite being complex, multidimensional and context-specific, well-being is currently measured by the economic community in very narrow terms, most notably by focusing on the gross domestic product (GDP).

The brief suggests that policymakers need to go beyond single measures and develop tools, methodologies and metrics that are multidimensional and nationally standardized, while simultaneously acknowledging differing contexts, universal rights and freedoms. The transition to a ‘Green Economy’ is seen as an important means for improving overall human well-being. The brief concludes that a trans-disciplinary research effort is needed in order to improve understanding of the links among comprehensive human well-being, ecological and socioeconomic systems and sustainable development.

Links: http://www.planetunderpressure2012.net, http://www.planetunderpressure2012.net/policybriefs.asp

Rio+20 zero draft submissions under the lens of the Green Economy Coalition Reply

The Green Economy Coalition (GEC) has analyzed 18 government sumissions to the “Zero Draft” text (The Compilation Document) for the upcoming Rio+20 conference in June this year (UN Conference on Sustainable Development, UNCSD). The aim of the analysis  is to “better understand how governments are responding to the concept of green economy in their different economic and social contexts.”

The analysis report, titled “Green Economy: ‘Everyone’s talking about it'”, notes that significant majority of governments are actively engaging with the concept of a green economy and that there already exist various policies and initiatives that could be deemed green economy (from the view of GEC). However, the report also shows that the definition and meaning of the term “green  economy” varies considerably among the governmental submissions, due to its interpretation along the lines of national priorities.

In general, nearly all governments agree that Green Economy is a means and opportunity for achieving sustainable development and must tackle poverty. However, developed countries focus mostly on resource efficiency, job creation and competitiveness, while developing countries highlight the need for poverty eradication and equity and BRICS (Brazil, Russian Federation, India and China) see Green Economy as a tool for shifting the production and consumption patterns of the industrialized countries, as well as for tackling poverty.

The GEC analysis also identified some of the most common practical themes emerging from the submissions, including:

  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Alternative metrics to GDP
  • Explicit focus on job creating mechanisms
  • Focus on technology transfer and Intellectual Property rights
  • Need for natural capital to be valued in economic decision-making, and
  • Renewed framework for sustainable consumption and production.

The Coalition has also noted absence of some anticipated practical themes, such as Natural capital management schemes, Global financial market reform, and Explicit proposal for how to finance the transition at both the national and international level.

Link: GEC analysis of Rio+20 submissions

UN High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability: The global economy has to be transformed to achieve sustainability Reply

The United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability published a report in early 2012 entitled “Resilient people, resilient planet: A future worth choosing”, detailing the panel’s vision and progress towards sustainable development (SD). The report contains 56 recommendations to put sustainable development into practice and to mainstream it into economic policy as quickly as possible.

One of the key points raised by the Panel is the requirement of transforming the global economy in order to achieve sustainability. Some of the Panel’s policy recommendations in this regard include: incorporate environmental and social costs in pricing, create an incentive road map that values long-term SD in investment and financial transactions, increase finance for SD, and expand how we measure progress by creating an SD index or a set of indicators (well, beyond the traditional GDP).

Link: http://www.un.org/gsp/

Upcoming ‘New Economics and Happiness/Well-being’ meetings and conferences Reply

In line with the growing worldwide debate about economic growth in relation to human well-being and happiness, there are many events relating to this topic that are to be held this spring/early summer. We list here some of the major upcoming meetings and conferences to be held in the next three months. Please contact us if you think there are any important events missing in our list that should be added.

April 2012

“African Conference on Measuring and Fostering the Progress of Societies,” 19-21 April 2012, Rabat, Morocco; meeting in preparation for the 4th OECD World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policies (New Delhi October 2012), organised by the OECD Development Centre and the Moroccan High Planning Commission (HCP) in collaboration with the OECD, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), http://www.oecd.org/

May 2012

“Global Green Growth Summit 2012,” 10-11 May 2012, Seoul, Republic of Korea; the meeting is hosted by The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and the Government of the Republic of Korea, in partnership with The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the meeting will convene top economic and environmental policymakers and experts to discuss the concrete ways in which international cooperation can be strengthened to support countries that pursue green growth and green economy strategies, http://www.gggi.org/event/

“International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas,” 13-19 May 2012, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; drawing from previous degrowth conferences in Paris and Barcelona in 2008 and 2010, respectively, the Montreal conference will focus on the particular situations and dynamic of the Americas in terms of Degrowth, http://montreal.degrowth.org/

June 2012

“Well-being and the Pursuit of Happiness,” 1 June 2012, Vermont, US; the Second Conference on GNH will focus on how we can measure well-being and use those indicators to help shape policy in state and local government and in organizations, it will also explore how to work with communities to further the pursuit of happiness based on what has been learnt from Vermont and National Surveys, http://www.gnhusa.org/

“Strategies for a New Economy,” 8-10 June 2012, Bard College’s main Campus, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, US; convened by the New Economics Institute, the conference will gather together what are often diverse and scattered efforts to reshape our economic system, place them under one tent, and raise the flag to announce that transitioning to a new economy will mean engaging politicians, researchers, media, educators, citizen activists, business leaders, financial experts, scientists, union workers, cultural leaders, advocates for the disenfranchised, and youth — all working together to achieve a common goal, the conference will focus on 10 theme areas: Banking and Financing, Measuring Well Being, Messaging, Responsive Government, Local Economies, Ownership and Work, Production and Consumption, Sharing the Commons, Transforming Money, and Visioning and Modelling, http://neweconomicsinstitute.org/conference

“The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development” (UNCSD, or ‘Earth Summit 2012’, or ‘Rio+20’), 20-22 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Twenty years after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, where countries adopted Agenda 21 – a blueprint to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection — the UN is again bringing together governments, international institutions and major groups to agree on a range of smart measures that can reduce poverty while promoting decent jobs, clean energy and a more sustainable and fair use of resources. The Rio+20 conference will focus on two themes: 1. Green Economy in the Context of Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development, and 2. Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development; there will be also numerous side events, exhibitions, presentations, fairs and announcements in connection with the conference, http://www.uncsd2012.org

“European Conference on Measuring Well-being and Fostering the Progress of Societies,” 26-28 June 2012, Paris, France; undertaken as part of the European Framework for Measuring Progress e-Frame EU FP7 project and organised by the OECD, the Italian National Institute of Statistics (Istat) and Statistics Netherlands (CBS) in collaboration with Eurostat and the European Statistical System, it will focus on recent activities in the field of measuring progress and well-being in the European context and it is the last in a series of regional events being conducted in preparation for the 4th OECD World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policy, to be held in New Delhi on 16-19 October 2012, http://www.oecd.org/