Three crises hit the Asian-Pacific region in the last couple of years. The “Triple Fs”- food-fuel-financial-compounded by climate change, continue to haunt society inflicting a heavy human cost. But the consequence of these crises has also brought an opportunity to take a fresh look at the development paradigm of the region.
These concurrent crises have exposed the limits of current economic growth patterns. In view of its limited carrying capacity, Asia and the Pacific cannot hope to follow the conventional development path of “grow first, clean up later” focusing only on maximizing the quantity of growth. Governments had already realized that this region needs a different quality of growth at the 5th Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific (MCED-5), when they adopted green growth as a new development approach and as the basis for attaining the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1 (poverty reduction) and MDG 7 (environmental sustainability) at the same time.
Pursuing green growth means more than just integrating environmental sustainability in current development patterns. It requires fundamental transformation of our economic structure by integrating ecological costs in market prices, investing in sustainable infrastructure, promoting green business and technology, pursuing sustainable lifestyles and by developing climate resilient societies.
Environmental sustainability need not be a trade-off. Investing in natural capital, clean energy and ecological efficiency represents an opportunity for new economic growth which is green and employment creation which is a basis for inclusive social development. Several countries in the region have already turned the current financial and economic crisis into an opportunity for green growth by incorporating green elements into their economic stimulus packages.
Greening our future requires 3 Ps: Public, Private and People. The Public sector will need to lead the transition. Governments need to bridge the gap between the short-term costs of green growth and its long term benefits. The Private sector has also an important role to play, and seize the business opportunities that green growth can bring. Due to the time gap between the short-term costs and the long-term benefit, it is the Government that has to jump start the green growth process. Such a leadership by the public sector has to be politically supported by the people. The People will need to support the paradigm shift by responding with positive public acceptance, adopting more sustainable lifestyles, focusing more on quality of life, rather than quantity of consumption.
The 6th Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific (MCED-6), to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan, from 27 September to 2 October 2010 comes at a critical juncture and represents a unique opportunity for Governments in the region to start building a more prosperous and greener future. The cornerstone was laid at MCED-5. The task at hand for MCED-6 is for Governments in Asia and the Pacific to define a common strategy and affirm their commitment to take the lead in making the changes necessary for greening our future.
I look forward to welcoming all ESCAP Members and Associate Members in Astana and engaging with them to make our green future a reality.
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
and Executive Secretary of ESCAP