Economic growth can – and must – be achieved without damage to the environment, a United Nations official said in Dubai on Tuesday.
Achim Steiner, UN under secretary general and executive director of the UN Environment Programme (Unep), was speaking at the first day of the Partnership for Action on a Green Economy.
Ministers of finance, environment, labour and trade from more than 30 countries attended the event, which aims to encourage efficient use of resources through government policies.
The first day saw more than US$11 million pledged by donors including Finland, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and Switzerland to help governments develop strategies for green economies. Countries such as Burkina Faso, Peru, Mauritius, Mongolia and Senegal have expressed an interest in the scheme.
“It is becoming increasingly evident that generating growth and prosperity can and must be achieved within the ecological boundaries of a resource-constrained world,” said Mr Steiner.
“At the heart of what we will discuss over the next two days will be many different entry points, policy framework and strategy.“We will hear from many different countries how they have approached that framing of the green economy strategy.”
He said one way to encourage green growth was to show the price paid for unrestrained use of natural resources. “How do you price roughly four to five million people dying each year prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution?” said Mr Steiner. “What is the cost or what is the benefit of avoiding that kind of price?”
Other issues to be discussed will be how countries can encourage more efficient use of resources and quickly introduce clean technologies.
A key focus will be shared knowledge.
Oyun Sanjaasuren, minister of environment of Mongolia, said that was the reason for her country joining the partnership. After nearly a decade of steady economic growth, Mongolia is about to invest a large amount in new infrastructure, Ms Sanjaasuren said. Two hundred new schools, dormitories and kindergartens will be built this year.
The government wants to make them green buildings but will need much help to do so. “We still lack knowledge, expertise in planning and designing green buildings,” Ms Sanjaasuren said.
“We are actually not asking for investment, we are asking for the knowledge before we invest. We are very excited to be part of this partnership and we have huge expectations in its outcome.”
Delegates at the event will also learn about the UAE’s attempts to encourage green growth. A federal strategy, expected to outline how to reduce the UAE’s environmental impact across seven economic sectors, will be presented to the Cabinet this spring.
It is being prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Water in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Global Green Growth Institute.
It will provide guidelines and targets for the oil and gas sector, as well as water, electricity, transport, buildings, waste, industry and agriculture.