ESCAP launches low carbon, regional green growth blueprint ahead of Rio+20

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) unveiled here today a blueprint to help developing countries in the region sustain economic growth needed to reduce poverty amidst worsening resource constraints and climate impacts.

Launched ahead of next month’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), the ESCAP Low Carbon Green Growth Roadmap for Asia and the Pacific: Turning resource constraints and the climate crisis into economic growth opportunities outlines a menu of policy options and practical strategies to convert the crisis of shrinking natural resources and climate change into a driver of sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

Proposing a five-track path of change with 63 policy options and 51 examples, the Roadmap calls for a fundamental transformation of the current economic system by reforming the “invisible” as well as “visible” structures of the economy. The former comprise, among others, market price, lifestyles, regulations and governance, while the latter encompass the physical infrastructure of transport, buildings, urban design, energy, water and waste systems.

“The Asia-Pacific region cannot achieve development goals fully by following conventional growth strategies,” said Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP in her foreword to the Roadmap.

“Resource constraints, price volatility and the climate crisis have removed business as usual as an option and require a serious re-examination of resource- and carbon-intensive growth strategies. If our region is to sustain the high economic growth that we need to achieve our development goals, then we must shift to a different growth trajectory,” Dr. Heyzer said.

The Roadmap aims to help policymakers in the region, “turn the till-now trade-off between the ecological crisis and economic growth into a synergy in which resource constraints and climate crisis become opportunities for the growth necessary to reduce poverty in the region,” said Rae Kwon Chung, Director of the ESCAP Environment and Development Division which has prepared the blueprint.

According to the Roadmap, it is possible to sustain higher economic growth by shifting the tax base from traditional taxes to levies on resource consumption and pollution without increasing the aggregate tax burden. Thus, a tax of $10 per ton of CO2 emission in developing Asia-Pacific countries, if accompanied with reductions in other taxes, such as corporate tax, would help reduce global CO2 emissions by 8 per cent by 2020 while boosting economic growth by up to 2.8 per cent.

According to ESCAP, Asia-Pacific developing countries must shift towards a resource- and energy-efficient growth pattern because of growing resource constraints and climate impacts. Countries in the region use three times the resources as the rest of the world to produce a unit of GDP (gross domestic product).

The shift towards low-carbon green growth has to be jump-started by the government and requires political will. It also requires international collaboration and the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) offers an exceptional opportunity to forge the necessary global partnerships, says ESCAP.

“The countries of Asia and the Pacific should lead this process by generating the regional momentum necessary to move towards a green economy capable of lifting people out of poverty and achieving inclusive, resilient and sustainable development,” said Dr. Heyzer.