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OPINION: Green economics will reduce poverty

Also posted in Spanish

Please note – only the introduction to this video is in Spanish, the interview with Pavan Sukhdev is in English. 

Pavan Sukhdev was a special adviser and Head of UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative and lead author of ‘The Green Economy Report’, a project that seeks to demonstrate that the green economy, far from inhibiting growth, invigorates it, reducing unemployment and poverty and seeking sustainable development through the correct use of natural resources.

Dr Sukhdev was also the lead author of the hugely influential international report “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity” (TEEB). TEEB was an initiative to draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity, by highlighting the rising costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystems degradation, and gathering experience in the field of science, economics and politics, to allow practical actions to move forward.

Dr Sukhdev believes that green economy is the only kind of economy that can deliver sustainable development and solve the problem of persistent poverty. It is also the only form of economy that in doing so, also reduces ecological scarcity and environmental risks. Whilst this model should be our choice for the future, there remains the long term challenge of large investment in “Brown Economy”.  The opposite of green, the brown economy does not provide equal social benefits, generates poverty, and by promoting the use of fossil fuels, contributes to climate change.

Despite the barriers, green economy is being increasingly adopted by both countries and economic sectors. Currently, most of the countries implementing this type of economy are developing countries.  He offers a compelling example from Bangladesh, where women are being financed by the Grameen Bank (a microcredit bank) to purchase solar panels with which they can supply electricity to neighbours to pay back their loans.  The scheme has the triple win of reducing poverty, generating green energy and reducing harmful health effects from the use of kerosene as fuel.

The trouble with traditional, brown economies is that they do not quantify or measure many of the natural benefits we receive: clean air, fresh water, the beauty of our natural surroundings. And as Dr Sukhdev says, “if you cannot measure it then you will not manage it”. He mentions the need to put a price on what nature provides us now for free, by measuring the production of nature in the same way we measure the production of factories.

Having information on the true costs of perceived ‘free’ resources will allow policy makers  to take into account the value of nature’s “production” and include it in national accounting processes.  This would reveal the value of investing in nature and enable national governments to make good decisions about how they will manage their resources in the future.

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