3 ways governments can contribute to sustainable development
ASTANA, Kazakhstan – 5 October, 2011 – The high-carbon development path followed by OECD countries cannot be continued, and, as a consequence, is not available to developing countries as a path to modernization. That is why focusing on the practical aspects of sustainable development is so important.
We are seeing that the pan-European region has an important role in taking on this challenge and creating a new way forward to further the green economy and sustainable development.
So what can we do?
Moving towards sustainable development requires each and every country to change policies, institutions, regulations, and incentives to markedly address critical government and market failures and empower civil society engagement and ownership.
Such changes need to be consistent and feasible, and take as starting points what we know about the real constraints and bottlenecks. In particular:
Governments need to reverse dysfunctional policies that are currently being pursued (such as—in many cases—fossil fuel subsidies), put in place improved institutions and better regulations where markets fail (externalities, monopolies), and focus on creating enabling conditions for areas where markets or civil society work best.
A percentage of the savings from the fossil fuel subsidy removal should cover targeted support to vulnerable groups and finance green growth investments.
Governments also need to put in place the institutional mechanisms and human capacities that will enable much more effective cross-sectoral decision making and policy integration – something we could call meeting the governance challenge.
- Finally, green public procurement starting with information technologies (IT) would be an effective policy.
Once price and regulatory signals are broadly correct and effective multi-sectoral mechanisms exist, the private sector can provide much of the momentum for sustainable development—and as a vital component, green growth. However, this only works when markets respond to regulations, enhance transparency and embrace key global standards such as the ones stipulated in the UN Global Compact.
Steadily increasing availability of decent green jobs must be a central strategy to achieve sustainable development over coming years. In practical terms this means an active policy to reset incentives for all to live and invest in line with three pillars of sustainable development in spirit of Rio+20: economic, social and environmental sustainability.
Importantly, such a policy mix enhances both adaptation and mitigation of climate change, so critical to sustainable development in the coming decades.
It does not need to be perfect, as long as it changes incentives sufficiently to tip the balance towards sustainability in the billions of "small" decisions people make about current and future actions.
For higher income countries including rich energy exporting countries, the challenge of the green economy and sustainable development will be to increase their high human development with much smaller ecological footprints.
For the lower income countries the challenge will be to maintain their lower ecological footprints while accelerating sustainable growth and human development. (See:High carbon = high human development?)
Finding a new development path for lower income countries will be the core of UNDP’s efforts in the years to come with our 25 UNDP offices in the region.
UNDP will work with partners in providing practical advice, tools and project proposals to support a transition towards a low-emission development path and to safeguarding environmental resources and eco-system services that are critical for livelihoods today and development prospects tomorrow.
This is an excerpt from a speech given by Jens Wandel in Astana, at the 7th Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference, September, 2011.
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