The magazine of the United Nations Environment Programme - February 2009
ECONOMY The New Big Deal
OUR PLANET THE NEW BIG DEAL 1
Juan Somavia, Director-General of the
... describes the new perspective that
green jobs offer amid economic crisis
International Labour Organization...
and shows how they should be a
crucial element of any recovery plan.
silver lining - page 4
PLANET Zhengrong Shi, Founder, Chairman and ... describes how China is using
CEO of Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd... clean energy as a driver of new
solar solution - page 6
Van Jones, President of Green ... describes how connecting the people who
For All and author of The Green most need work with the work that most
Our Planet, the magazine of the
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Collar Economy... needs to be done is the key to economic
PO Box 30552 growth and recovery.
green collar jobs - page 8
Tel: (254 20)7621 234
Fax: (254 20)7623 927 Prof. Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics ... says that the economic crisis offers a unique
e-mail: email@example.com and Chairperson of the Centre of Economic opportunity for a new deal prioritizing
Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal University, development and resource conservation.
To view current and past issues of this
publication online, please visit
chance for change - page 11
... outlines policies that have already been proven
Hal Harvey, President and CEO
ISSN 101 - 7394
to work in combating climate change and creating
Director of Publication: Satinder Bindra low-carbon prosperity.
Editor: Geoffrey Lean
Coordinators: Naomi Poulton & David Simpson right track - page 14
Assistant Coordinator: Anne-France White
Special Contributor: Nick Nuttall Girma Wolde Giorgis, President ... shares his experience of planting one
Distribution Manager: Manyahleshal Kebede of Ethiopia... billion trees with Satinder Bindra, Director of
Design: Amina Darani
Communications and Public Information at UNEP.
Produced by: UNEP Division of
Communications and Public Information
transforming Ethiopia - page 18
Printed by: Phoenix Design Aid
Distributed by: SMI Books
Pavan Sukhdev, a senior banker with Deutsche ... outlines how the financial
The contents of this magazine do not necessarily Bank and project leader of UNEP's Green crisis could lead to a global
reflect the views or policies of UNEP or the Economy Initiative... Green New Deal for a better
editors, nor are they an official record. The and sustainable world.
designations employed and the presentation green breakthroughs - page 20
do not imply the expressions of any opinion
whatsoever on the part of UNEP concerning the José Sergio Gabrielli de ... describes an oil and gas company’s prime
legal status of any country, territory or city or its
Azevedo, CEO of Petrobras... responsibility for the environment.
authority or concerning the delimitation of its
frontiers or boundaries.
challenging commitment - page 24
Janet Ranganathan ... outline how to replace sub-prime development
* All dollar ($) amounts refer to US dollars.
Vice-President of Science with measures that simultaneously reduce
& Research at the World poverty and restore natural services.
Resources Institute and
natural development - page 26
Polly Ghazi its writer/editor...
Geoffrey Lean, Our Planet’s Editor... ... describes Silicon Valley’s vigorous pursuit of
silicon future - page 30
page 3 reflections
page 10 people Su Kahumbu, Managing Director of Food ... describes how chemical-free farming
Network East Africa Ltd. and a pioneer Kenyan is taking hold in the country and says it
page 17 awards and events organic farmer... is essential for future survival.
page 22 products organic growth - page 32
page 23 www Indian social activist, actor and ... describes development as “an
page 28 verbatim and numbers sportsman Rahul Bose ... opportunity to achieve – for all”.
page 29 books
renaissance man - page 34
2 OUR PLANET THE NEW BIG DEAL
countries — include agriculture and recycling where work involves low
The global picture for jobs is grim. Preliminary International Labour
pay, insecure employment contracts and exposure to hazardous materials.
Organization (ILO) estimates for 2009 forecast tens of millions of new
These jobs would not constitute what the ILO calls quot;decent workquot;. And though
unemployed people and working poor due to the global financial crisis —
millions of green jobs already exist, too few are being created for the world's
with a particularly worrying rise in youth joblessness. The financial crisis has
most vulnerable workers living on less than $2 per day, and especially for the
rapidly evolved into an economic crisis and now a jobs one.
women and millions of unemployed youth who need them the most.
Many elements of a global rescue package are being discussed, ranging from
Moving towards a more sustainable development path will involve major
short-term bailouts to medium- and longer-term proposals for boosting public
changes in all countries' production and consumption patterns. It’s a global
expenditure on programmes with strong employment content, increased
challenge that will affect enterprises and work places all over the world.
lending to help to finance growth-supporting expenditures in developing
The transition has already started. Half of today's 2.3 million jobs in renewables
countries, and greater training and promotion of new skills development.
are in the developing world. Moving towards a sustainable low carbon
An increasing number of economic stimulus packages include the greening
economy can work for the poorest of the poor. The solar panels being installed
of economies and the creation of ‘green jobs’.
in rural villages are just one example of this, and there are many more.
UNEP's Executive Director, Achim Steiner, has called ‘green jobs’ the quot;silver
But we need to make sure that green jobs are decent jobs, and acknowledge
lining of climate change.quot; In the newly deteriorating economic climate, will
that good green jobs do not come naturally. Millions of workers throughout the
they prove to be one of the most important elements of the responses to the
world, for example, are involved in recycling discarded computers and mobile
economic crisis? There is reason to believe that they can and should be a vital
phones. Though their jobs may seem green, they are often bad quality ones
and crucial element of any recovery plan.
where the first things to go in the recycle bin are health and safety rules.
Our recently published report, Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable,
New jobs will be created, others adapted, and some will fade out. Mitigating
Low-Carbon World, examined green jobs in a global context for the first time.
and adapting to climate change will entail a transition to new patterns of
Funded and commissioned by UNEP under a joint Green Jobs Initiative
production, consumption and employment. Policies have to focus in the
with ILO, the International Trade Union Confederation and the International
beginning on those at the receiving end of this transition so as to keep political
Organization of Employers, it represents the best available knowledge
will and public support. That means helping to diversify economies, assisting
and forward-looking thinking on how to bolster green job creation in the
enterprises and workers to adapt, ensuring social protection is in place, and
that there are training programmes to fill skills gaps. The best way to make
a just transition is by ensuring that those who are most directly involved —
Millions of green jobs already exist. Millions more are in the making.
employers and workers — have a say in it. We need effective social dialogue
They contribute to preserving or restoring the quality of the environment;
to help us grow into a greener economy.
help cut consumption of energy, raw materials and water; de-carbonize the
economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions; minimize waste and water
So, are green jobs a viable hope for the world's environmental and economic
pollution; and protect and restore ecosystems and biodiversity.
future in times of sharply lower growth and recession? The answer is
decidedly: Yes. Huge opportunities exist to create them through energy and
Energy supply — in particular renewable energy — buildings and construction,
industrialization policies that reduce environmental footprints. They can
transportation, agriculture and forestry will all be particularly important in
provide decent work and incomes that will contribute to sustainable economic
terms of their environmental, economic and employment impact. Clean
growth and help lift people out of poverty. They are central to the positive
technologies are already attracting increasing amounts of venture capital:
link that needs to be established between climate change and development.
in some countries this has more than doubled in recent years.
Indeed, the major investments to adapt to climate change could provide
many new and better jobs for the most vulnerable people.
Millions of new jobs have been created in the renewable energy sector
worldwide, and the potential for growth is huge in alternative energies,
Green jobs not only have long-term potential for sustainable economic growth,
wind, solar and biomass. Already, renewables generate more jobs than oil
but can help jump-start stalled economies and put people back to work
production and refining, and projected investment could create at least
quickly in both developing and developed countries. This is particularly true
another 20 million more by 2030. And 12 million new agricultural jobs could
in retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient, in accelerating
be created in producing biomass for energy and related industries.
the extension of public transport, in constructing the infrastructure needed to
adapt vulnerable countries to climate change, in shifting to renewable energy
A worldwide transition to energy-efficient buildings would create millions
and in works undertaken to rehabilitate ecosystems and reforestation.
more jobs still, and ‘green’ existing employment for further millions of
workers in construction. Investing in improved energy efficiency in buildings
Some nations have already adopted economic packages that promote green
could generate an additional 2 to 3.5 million green jobs in Europe and the
job growth as a short-term way of rebuilding, rewiring and renewing existing
United States alone, with the potential for much higher jobs growth in
infrastructure and facilities to make them more energy-efficient, and as a
developing countries. Recycling and waste management employ millions
long-term solution to unemployment and environmental issues. If invested
worldwide and are expected to grow rapidly in countries facing escalating
wisely, the resources to overcome the economic crisis could leave a legacy of
energy-efficient infrastructure, rehabilitated ecosystems, renewable energy
sources, and countries more resilient to climate change. And they could
Of course, many jobs that are green in principle may not be green in practice.
lay the foundation for a greener economic future which is environmentally
Some because they may cause environmental damage by inappropriate
sound, economically productive and socially sustainable. If ever there was a
practices, and some because they are inherently dangerous, dirty and
difficult. Sectors of concern — especially, but not exclusively, in developing time for the Green Jobs Initiative to take hold, this is it.
OUR PLANET THE NEW BIG DEAL 5
now the world's largest solar photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturer, with
Much has been said in recent years about China’s supposed reluctance to
operations around the globe — was just one of dozens of solar companies
contribute to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gases and mitigate the
that realised the opportunity provided by China’s energy challenges and
impacts of climate change. But, even though it was not a signatory to the
the government's strong commitment to provide alternatives. Through
Kyoto Protocol, the country has quietly undertaken a wide range of initiatives
favourable tax policies, aggressive government procurement and national
to become more energy-efficient and to increase its reliance on renewable
targets, China is building a world-class export industry in all parts of the
energy. In many cases these have far exceeded efforts in the developed
solar value chain, as well as encouraging increased use of the sun's energy
world. In the process, it has also turned clean technology into a significant
at home. It is now the third-largest national producer of solar PV for the
driver for new economic development.
global market and may soon become the leader. In short, it realises that
green energy is the key to both sustainable economic growth and a more
The progress of the last few years has mirrored my own personal passion for
changing the way we produce energy. I have always been concerned about
the detrimental effect of human reliance on fossil fuels. I believe that global
Yet China can still do more, and I’m working closely with the Government
warming is our greatest threat, requiring the commitment of governments,
to set even more aggressive standards to help drive the development of
companies and individuals to solve it. After spending time in Australia
the country’s renewable energy resources. The Government is developing
earning my PhD and completing research in solar ‘thin film’ technology,
a solar building code with Suntech’s participation, and is considering a
I came back to Wuxi, China, in response to government incentives to
review of the solar targets in the national renewable energy law — the
encourage new technology and renewable energy companies to locate there.
1.8 gigawatt goal by 2020 is just a fraction of the country’s true potential within
I have built a world-leading R&D department that focuses on pioneering
the most innovative, cutting-edge technology to capture the sun’s energy
to generate electricity. Through my research, and with my colleagues at
The price of electricity is a key concern both in China and around the world.
Suntech around the world, we are committed — and working very hard —
Like many countries, we understand the power of low-cost electricity to
to reduce the cost of solar systems, reach grid parity and make clean solar
drive economic development: indeed, the United States and the rest of
energy affordable to as many people as possible. Moreover, we have strong
the developed world were able to grow as quickly as they did because
internal environmental policies and practices, and our own new factory and
of inexpensive energy. But the days of cheap electricity are over — or at
headquarters will be 85 per cent reliant on renewable energy.
least they should be. Any country with highly subsidised electricity tariffs,
including China, needs to bring them more in line with the real costs of power,
China is facing enormous energy challenges. Everyone seems to know that
including the costs of the necessary efforts of mitigating carbon emissions
we need to increase our energy supply by the equivalent of one power plant
and their impacts on the environment. Fairly priced electricity sends a signal
per week to support China’s economic growth, which is allowing millions
to consumers to conserve power and become more efficient in their use
of people to enjoy better standards of living. Much less is known of the
of it. As we drive down the cost of solar electricity, we will easily be able to
extent to which China has taken steps to mitigate the impact of that growing
compete against correctly priced electricity from carbon-based sources,
energy demand through incentives for greater efficiency and renewable
unleashing a surge in its adoption both in China and elsewhere.
energy. Policies include:
What is happening in China could happen all over the world. I hope to
• Cutting energy intensity 20 per cent between 2005 and 2010, saving five
see other countries, particularly developed ones, match its policies. It is
times as much C02 as the EU’s goals.
these robust, long-term policy commitments that allow manufacturers like
• Cutting major pollutants by 10 per cent by 2010. Suntech to grow and to build the economies of scale needed to reduce
• Setting one of the world’s most aggressive renewable energy standards: prices. And visionary leaders like Germany’s Hans-Josef Fell, Hermann
15 per cent of national energy from renewables by 2020. Scheer and Juergen Trittin, or California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger,
• Setting targets of 300 megawatts of installed solar by 2010, and know they can win clean-tech jobs when they set far-reaching renewable
1.8 gigawatts by 2020, in the 2007 National Development and Reform energy goals.
Commission Renewable Energy Development Plan.
• Dedicating $180 billion for renewable energy by 2020. As we embark on the ambitious agenda set for 2009 — and the climate
• Imposing energy efficiency targets for the top 1,000 companies, a measure negotiations in Copenhagen at the end of the year — it is critical to
with greater carbon savings potential than most Western initiatives. understand, particularly in the somewhat reluctant global business
• Establishing building energy codes in all regions and extensive efficiency community, that pushing ahead with green initiatives, including CO2
standards for appliances, which will be particularly important as China reductions in every country, is the key to long-term sustainable economic
continues to grow. world growth. Whether through feed-in tariffs in Europe, direct investments
• Targeting new buildings in major cities like Beijing, Shanghai and in renewable energy in China or renewable energy standards in United States,
Chongqing, to achieve 65 per cent greater energy efficiency than local each country can contribute towards the common goal of simultaneously
codes require. turning back the tide of climate change while laying the foundation for
• Closing thousands of older, smaller, dirtier power plants by 2010. healthy economic growth. Personally, I feel a deep responsibility for raising
awareness of climate change issues and helping others understand the
role that solar energy can play in reducing carbon dioxide emissions and
China understands the economic development potential in clean energy
global warming. Working together we can empower people to take up the
technologies. Even the noted journalist Thomas Friedman has remarked that
noble yet pragmatic cause of building a green future for their families and
“China is going green in a big way,” using domestic demand for cleaner energy
society around the world.
to build low-cost, scalable green technologies. Suntech Power Holdings —
OUR PLANET THE NEW BIG DEAL 7
Global warming and global recession require the world to have a new paradigm expected to distort their internal economies into export machines to meet
for development. If we are to ensure both ecological survival and economic our consumer demands.
success, we need a ‘green growth’ revolution — centred on expanding green
collar jobs and opportunities for all people. Green collar jobs are essentially In recent years, the system got so out of balance that poor countries like
blue collar jobs, upgraded to better respect the Earth’s living systems. Green China began loaning money to rich America to finance our endless consumer
collar employment is essential in rebuilding human civilization to waste fewer appetites for their products. This was possible because Americans spend too
resources and run on clean energy. much and save too little. Meanwhile, our sisters and brothers in China save
too much and spend too little. As a result, China always has a big pile of cash,
The key insight that will enable such a paradigm shift is this: everything that available for lending. And Americans always have a big pile of credit cards,
is good for the environment is a job. Solar panels do not install themselves. looking for someone from whom to borrow. Over the past decade, we built
Wind turbines don’t manufacture themselves. Buildings do not weatherize up our entire economy on cheap credit and hocked homes. The crash we are
and retrofit themselves. Urban trees, green roofs and community gardens do experiencing was inevitable — and it is causing shockwaves around the world.
not plant themselves. All these activities require human labour. Recognizing
this simple fact helps to undermine the myth that ecological restoration must In future, nobody in China — simply to earn more than one dollar a day —
always be at odds with economic performance. should have to leave her village and cram herself into a smog-choked megacity
just to make crap for Americans to buy. There is a better solution for Asia and
The key for a sustainable world economy — and a restored United States other developing regions — and for the U.S. too. Each country needs its own
one — is to foster activity where positive financial returns meet ecological strategy to generate employment in wise, locally rooted green economies —
renewal and rebirth. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide need work. powered by homegrown, clean energy. That will require a global U-turn away
And there is much work that needs to be done. By connecting the people from the three fallacies and toward their opposites: local production, thrift
who most need work to the work that most needs to be done, humanity can and ecological stewardship.
fight pollution and poverty at the same time.
As the world’s leader (per capita) in greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S.
PhDs — with their scientific discoveries — will be very important in this. must take the lead here too. Doing so will both be good for the Earth, and
But their contributions will matter little without the contribution of the lay the basis for the next American economy. As one important step: the
Ph-DOs — those well-trained workers in green hard hats, who will DO the U.S. government needs to stop paying the big polluters (through tax breaks
hard work of retrofitting the world’s infrastructure and rebooting its energy and other supports) and start making them pay for dumping megatonnes
systems. The global proliferation of such jobs — especially family-supporting of carbon into the atmosphere. The dollars generated can be returned to
career paths in the clean energy sector — must become the cornerstone of a consumers to cushion the blow of any rise in energy and food costs — and
new world economy. can also be invested in mass transit and new technologies.
In my own country, the green collar revolution will be critical to the U.S. The government also should help cities weatherize and retrofit millions of
economic recovery — and its reinvention. Sometimes something really bad buildings. It could establish a massive ‘revolving loan’ fund, replenished by
has to occur before something really good can happen. As Barack Obama has money that green loan recipients save on energy. And we need to build
repeatedly said, this is our decisive moment. a national power grid that connects our clean energy power centres to
our population centres. We can power our way through the recession by
In September, we suffered a financial catastrophe. It tore the economic floor repowering America with clean energy.
out from under the American people. But then, in November, we witnessed a
spectacular political breakthrough. That historic election lifted the ceiling off The good news, again, is that everything we need to combat global
our people as well. So the floor is gone. And the ceiling is gone. Today, we now warming is a job, or a business contract or an entrepreneurial opportunity.
are free to fall — or free to fly. It is up to us. The entire world must abandon the last century’s ‘low-road, high carbon’ path
to economic development. To fight poverty and pollution, all nations must
Before the world’s most important economy can begin to soar again, we need choose a ‘high-road, low-carbon’ pathway to prosperity.
to understand the cause of our crash. The reason for our precipitous decline
in the U.S. is simple: for the past 30 years, both major political parties have Of course, the green growth revolution must expand beyond questions
promoted economic policies based on three fallacies. The first was the idea of energy and climate. We must also find solutions to the crises in water,
that the U.S. economy could go on forever powered more by consumption food, toxics, over-population, excessive consumption and waste. A clean
than production. The second was that we could run our economy based on energy revolution by itself will merely give us solar-powered bulldozers and
endless debt and credit, rather than the smart savings and thrift practiced by bio-fuelled bombers, on a crowded and strip-mined planet.
our grandparents. And the final one was that we could base the economy on
environmental destruction, rather than ecological restoration. Therefore, the road to true ecological and economic sanity will be a long
one. But with vision, courage and leadership, the U.S. can go from being the
Those three fallacies — promoting endless consumption, credit and waste world leader in pollution to the world leader in solutions. Green collar jobs
— define an unsustainable economy. The U.S. became the most important will give millions of people around the world both a paycheck and a purpose
economy in the world — not as the biggest producer, but as the biggest — helping us to save our sister and brother species, as well as our own
consumer. And all countries — especially China — have therefore been human family.
OUR PLANET THE NEW BIG DEAL 9
Italian architect rEnzo PiAno is no stranger
A few weeks before his Inauguration as NGOs and individual citizens “have a direct
President of the United States, Barack Obama to accolades: his buildings — encompassing input” into the climate change negotiations
won the approval of the environmental the iconic George Pompidou Centre in Paris leading up to the Copenhagen meeting in
world by appointing what is being hailed — earned him the Pritzker Prize, considered December, when governments must agree
as an unprecedentedly ‘green’ U.S. Cabinet. the ‘Nobel of Architecture’, in 1998, and he on a post-2012 climate deal. The website
Most notably, he created the post of has also won the AIA Gold Medal, the Kyoto — www.roadtocopenhagen.org — invites
Energy and Environment Coordinator for Prize and the Sonning Prize. His latest work, open debate and opinion on key issues,
CArol BrownEr, who was head of the the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, did including adaptation, technology, finance and
Environmental Protection Agency under not just open to rave reviews, it also received mitigation. In June, the organisers will submit
former President Bill Clinton. As Obama’s top marks from the Green Building Council, “detailed policy inputs” to the negotiators
‘Climate Czar’, Browner’s job will be to which encourages environmentally friendly based on all the feedback submitted to the
coordinate the White House’s work on climate architecture. The structure’s insulation is made website. A communiqué and issue papers will
change across all the different energy, of old blue jeans, solar panels provide up to be submitted to the negotiators in December,
take the lead on climate change. In a letter to
climate and environment entities. Browner 10 per cent of its energy needs, and it has a just before the meeting.
the London Times, Tutu and 18 other famous
‘living roof’ that gives off oxygen instead of
signatories, including broadcaster David ABiolA olAniPEkun, a Chief Environmental
absorbing heat. “The San Francisco museum
Attenborough, actress Scarlett Johansson
is an interpretation of the green revolution Scientist in Nigeria’s Environment Ministry,
and singer Angelique Kidjo, said developed
on the march,” Piano says. “Environmental was awarded the 2008 Special Recognition
nations must “show leadership” in Poznan.
constraints should not be seen as an assault
The letter, organised by Oxfam, notes that
on freedom. You find that the planet is
the effects of global warming are hitting the
vulnerable. Does this have to be a crisis?”
poor the hardest. quot;Wealthy nations, who are
Piano argues that “architects should be able
in their advantaged position because of heavy
to interpret the changes of their times and
industrialisation, are the most responsible
and most able to lead the world in tackling
climate change,quot; it says.
European Commission Vice President
MArgoT wAllSTröM is a long-time
is the longest-serving head of the EPA, with
environmentalist, having left her mark as
a reputation for toughness that should
the EU’s Environment Commissioner from
prove invaluable as she spearheads the new
1999 to 2004. The Swede is now leading the
Administration’s policy on climate change.
‘Road to Copenhagen’ initiative alongside Gro
The President-elect’s other notable green Award from the Intergovernmental Forum
appointments include Steven Chu as Secretary on Chemical Safety (IFCS) for her “work and
of Energy and John Holdren as Science Adviser. leadership in the African region in many of
Nobel Prize-winning physicist Chu — who the most important international chemicals
is one of the world’s top researchers on management negotiations and processes of
alternative and renewable energy — was an live with their times” — and indeed, his own the last decade.” Over the last few years, she
early advocate for finding scientific solutions workshop in Genoa has a glass roof that lets in has become widely recognised as a leading
to climate change. Holdren, a professor of the sun for natural heat and light. voice in many international chemicals
environmental policy at Harvard University, management negotiations, serving twice
DESMonD TuTu — activist, anti-Apartheid
has focused on the causes and consequences as chairperson of the G77 and China during
of climate change and advocates a strong hero and Nobel Peace laureate — has the intergovernmental negotiations for the
and rapid global effort to address it. Browner, always been vocal in his defence of the most Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic
Chu and Holdren will be the cornerstone of vulnerable. Over the last few decades, the Pollutants. She is also the African Regional
Obama’s plan to create jobs, achieve energy South African cleric has used his high profile Focal Point for the implementation of the
security and combat climate change. The new to fight for the oppressed and to campaign Strategic Approach to International Chemicals
Harlem Brundtland, the UN Special Envoy
team’s task will include enrolling the support against HIV/AIDS, poverty and racism. His Management. In 2007, at the 24th session
on climate change, and Mary Robinson, the
of Congress for any legislation to cap the U.S.’s latest cause is the environment: during the UN of UNEP’s Governing Council, Olanipekun
former UN High Commissioner for Human
carbon emissions, while a new international climate talks in Poznan, Poland, in December, secured a breakthrough decision on the
Rights. The aim of the interactive project is
post-2012 climate treaty will have to gain a Tutu led a group of singers, writers, actors prevention of illegal international traffic in
to ensure that business, parliamentarians,
two-thirds majority in Senate. and campaigners in urging rich nations to toxic substances.
10 OUR PLANET THE NEW BIG DEAL
It has become a cliche, but it is true nonethless: every crisis is also an If we are to prevent this, we need a clear world-wide change in economic
opportunity. Of course, as the global financial crisis unfolds and creates strategy. It has several necessary elements.
downturns in real economies everywhere, it is easy just to see the downside,
as jobs are lost, the value of financial savings of workers is wiped out, and First, everyone now recognises the need to reform the international financial
material insecurity becomes widespread. In fact, this global crisis offers a system, which has failed to meet two obvious requirements: preventing
greater opportunity than we have had for some time for the world’s citizens instability and crises, and transferring resources from richer to poorer
and their leaders to restructure economic relations in a more democratic and economies. Not only have we experienced much greater volatility and
sustainable way. propensity to financial meltdown across emerging markets and now even
industrial countries, but even the periods of economic expansion have been
Such restructuring is essential, because so much was wrong with the economic based on the global poor subsidising the rich.
boom that preceded the crisis. Everyone now knows that it was unsustainable,
based on speculative practices that were enabled and encouraged by This system has encouraged pro-cyclicality — the unnecessary amplification
financial deregulation. But it also drew rapaciously and fecklessly on natural of swings — in national economies. It has rendered national financial
resources. And it was deeply unequal. Contrary to general perception, most systems opaque and impossible to regulate. It has encouraged bubbles
people in the developing world did not gain. and speculative fervour rather than real productive investment for future
growth. It has allowed for the proliferation of parallel transactions through
The financial bubble in the US attracted savings from across the world, tax havens and loose domestic controls. And it has reduced the crucial
including from the poorest developing countries, so that for at least five developmental role of directed credit, where a proportion of lending is
years the South transferred financial resources to the North. Developing allocated to specific sectors of the economy.
country governments opened up their markets to trade and finance, gave up
on monetary policy and pursued fiscally “correct” deflationary policies that Given these problems, there is no alternative to systematic state regulation
reduced public spending. So development projects remained incomplete and control of finance. Since private players will inevitably attempt to
and citizens were deprived of the most essential socio-economic rights. circumvent regulation, the core of the financial system — banking — must be
Despite popular perceptions, no net transfer of jobs from North to South protected, and this is only possible through social ownership. Therefore,
took place. In fact, industrial employment in the South barely increased in some degree of socialisation of banking (and not just socialisation of the
the past decade, even in China, the “factory of the world”. risks inherent in finance) is inevitable. This is also important in developing
countries because it enables public control over the direction of credit,
Instead, technological change in manufacturing and the new services without which no country has ever succeeded in industrialising.
meant that fewer workers could generate more output. Old jobs in the
South were lost, or became precarious, while the majority of new jobs were Second, fiscal policy and public expenditure must be brought back to centre
fragile, insecure and low-paying, even in fast-growing China and India. stage. Clearly, fiscal stimulation is now essential in both developed and
developing countries, so as to cope with the adverse real economy effects
The persistent agrarian crisis in the developing world hurt peasant of the current crisis and to prevent economic activity and employment
livelihoods and generated global food problems. Rising inequality meant that from falling. Fiscal expenditure is also required to undertake and promote
the much hyped growth in emerging markets did not benefit most people, investment to manage the effects of climate change and promote greener
as profits soared but wage shares of national income declined sharply. technologies. And public spending is crucial to advance development in the
South and fulfil the promise of achieving minimally acceptable standards
So the recent growth was not inclusive. Unfortunately, it is likely that the of living for everyone. Social policy — the public responsibility for meeting
slump will be only too much so, forcing those who did not gain earlier to the social and economic rights of citizens — is both desirable in itself and
pay for the sins of irresponsible and unregulated finance. As economies slow contributes positively to development.
down, more jobs will be lost and people — especially those in the developing
world who did not gain from the boom — will face loss of livelihood Third, restructuring the world order will have to be based on conscious
and deteriorating living conditions. attempts to reduce economic inequalities, both between countries and
12 OUR PLANET THE NEW BIG DEAL
Fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. Existing vehicle technologies
Is it possible to both dramatically reduce carbon
enable cars to get 40 miles per gallon (mpg) or better. With volatile oil
emissions and simultaneously achieve low-carbon
prices and growing carbon pollution from cars, nations have no excuse for
prosperity? Are there strategies that can reliably
producing cars as inefficient as those of 30 years ago — as the U.S. does
steer existing large capital flows — in industry,
today. A firm push to develop technology could easily help tomorrow’s cars
construction, car manufacturing, and energy — from
get 60 mpg or better. Fuel efficiency standards, with serious, uniform
‘brown’ to ‘green’, and strengthen the economy at the
enforcement, make this happen, saving tens of billions of dollars, reducing
same time? Policymakers are wrestling with these questions
balance of trade problems, and slashing carbon emissions.
as they battle to prevent dangerous climate change.
Appliance standards. Setting efficiency standards for home appliances,
There is good news on this front. Around the world, policy makers,
like refrigerators and lights, and for industrial equipment, like motors
engineers, entrepreneurs and investors have proven that it is
and compressors, is a ‘no regrets’ winner. Refrigerator standards have
possible to have a pro-growth low-carbon economy. Japanese
cut U.S. energy consumption for food storage by more than 75 per cent
manufacturing, French cars, Swedish houses, and Brazilian
while saving money. Adopting widely popular standards, like those
automotive fuel, for example, are all two to four times less
from Europe, helps the appliance industry standardise across markets.
carbon-intensive than world averages. Smart policies drove
Every nation should adopt best practices, creating uniformity in
these developments and achieved the desired carbon
Advanced building codes. Nations with good, well-enforced building codes cut
A relatively small set of such policies — properly adapted
energy use by more than 75 per cent; as codes continue to evolve with best
to local political and market conditions — can help
practices and technology development, this will soon grow to 90 per cent.
nations stem rising carbon emissions, reduce them to
Buildings last for 100 years or longer — so the dividends from strong codes
levels that can prevent climate catastrophe, and put us
pay well into the future; this is particularly crucial in nations with fast-growing
on the path to global low-carbon prosperity. The great
cities. Lack of codes locks in higher energy costs for tenants and unnecessarily
challenge is to get policy design right, and quickly: with
large carbon emissions.
the impending threat of abrupt climate change, we
have no time to wait. We need an effort to spread the
Getting utility regulations right. Electric utilities are responsible for more than
most effective policies quickly and thoroughly across
half the world’s carbon emissions. Smart regulations make them a major
source of capital for large-scale clean energy projects and energy efficiency
Priority 1: investments. California has pioneered this; its utilities now invest far more
in energy efficiency than the U.S. Department of Energy, with huge savings
Aggressive Energy Efficiency Policy: Investments
for customers. Regulators can make utilities the engine of the clean energy
in energy-efficient technologies and practices
economy by giving them incentives to find and profit from opportunities to
are the fastest, cheapest and most reliable way
to reduce carbon emissions. The first priority
of any national strategy should therefore be
Industrial efficiency best practices. The most efficient cement plants emit half
to aggressively improve energy efficiency in
the CO2 per ton of production of their poorly-designed counterparts. The
transport, power, buildings and industry — the
steel, chemicals, aluminium, pulp and paper industries — some of the world's
sectors which account for the vast majority
most energy-intensive — need to adopt global best practices. Many Dutch
of the world’s carbon emissions. The right
companies have signed ‘Benchmarking Covenants’ with their government,
policies reduce energy consumption and
pledging to move into the top 10 per cent in terms of energy efficiency by
the need for new power plants, oil wells
2012 at the latest. This creates a long-term competitive advantage while
and refineries; they cut energy import
slashing energy use.
bills and local air pollution, and save a lot
of money. They are also engines for job
In each of these cases, market flaws that provide incentives for wasteful energy
creation: improving existing industrial,
use were fixed by smart policy design. Once these fixes take hold, markets
commercial and residential facilities
take over — becoming an innovation engine for low-carbon economic
requires skilled labour that can’t be
development. The policies save money, build jobs, keep the local economy
outsourced. Experience has taught us
strong and slash global warming emissions.
which policies work:
OUR PLANET THE NEW BIG DEAL 15
awards and events
The World Future Energy Summit, which takes place in Abu Dhabi from 19 to 21 January,
brings together 15,000 people for what organisers claim as “the largest meeting of influential
figures within the renewable energy industry.” The conference will be attended by influential
players, including former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, British economist Nicholas Stern, environment
ministers from France, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland, and chief executives of major
energy companies. The agenda covers a range of themes including energy policy, green
buildings, ocean power and carbon management. The programme also includes the Zayed
Future Energy Prize award ceremony, a $2.2 million annual prize rewarding individuals,
companies and organisations that have made significant contributions to the global response world Future
to the future of energy.
Earth Day is celebrated every year – primarily Energy Summit
in the United States – to ‘create new visions to
accelerate environmental progress’. The event was
first celebrated by 20 million people in 1970. More
than half a billion people participate in Earth Day
The 5th World Water Forum – the world’s biggest international meeting on water issues
Network campaigns every year, with thousands
– will take place in Istanbul, Turkey, from 16 to 22 March. The event, which takes place
of schools and local communities organising
every three years, brings together leaders, policy makers and water specialists from around
educational events, tree planting, clean-ups and
the globe to discuss water issues and water security. ‘Bridging Divides for Water’ is the
recycling drives, among many other events.
overarching theme of this meeting. Other topics will include ‘Adapting to Climate Change’,
‘Water-related Migration’, ‘Preserving Natural Ecosystems’, and ‘Sustainable Financing for
the Water Sector’. During the meeting, prizes will also be presented to organisations and
5th world water individuals who have done exceptional work to address critical water issues.
un Forum on Forests IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, created on 26 January, is an initiative
of the Government of Germany. The agency aims to “become the main driving force in
promoting a rapid transition towards the widespread and sustainable use of renewable
energy on a global scale.” Acting as the global voice for renewable energies, IRENA will
provide practical advice and support for both industrialised and developing countries.
The agency will facilitate access to all relevant information, including reliable data on the
potential of renewable energy, best practices, effective financial mechanisms and state-of-
Nearly 1.6 billion people depend on forests for
the-art technological expertise. The work programme for IRENA will be developed between
their livelihood, and forests provide subsistence
February and June 2009, and the Director-General and the location of the agency should be
and income for about 350 million people. The
decided in June.
8th session of the UN Forum on Forests – a
global meeting to discuss ways to best manage
forests – will take place in New York from 20
April to 1 May. The Forum’s goal is to promote “…
the management, conservation and sustainable
The winners of the 2008 UNEP Sasakawa Prize will receive their awards at a ceremony
development of all types of forests and to
during the UNEP Governing Council in Nairobi on 18 February. The Prize for 2008 went to
strengthen long-term political commitment to
two projects, Sunlabob Rural Energy Ltd, in Lao PDR, and Practical Action, in Peru), which
this end.” The meeting will be the opportunity
are bringing solar and hydro power to remote rural communities that lack access to grid
to enhance international cooperation and policy
electricity, on the eastern slopes of the Andes and in the farthest-flung regions of Lao PDR.
coordination on forest-related issues. The issue is
The UNEP Sasakawa Prize, worth $200,000, is awarded yearly to individuals or institutions
particularly topical in 2009 as UN REDD Programme
that have made a substantial contribution to the protection and management of the
– Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and
environment. The winners, who will each receive $100,000, were chosen by a five-member
Degradation – moves into higher gear. unEP jury from a shortlist of six projects.
OUR PLANET THE NEW BIG DEAL 17
President Girma Wolde Giorgis
speaks with Satinder Bindra
18 OUR PLANET THE NEW BIG DEAL