Dr. Park Young-Woo: «The private sector has a crucial role to play in sustainable development»

October 1, 2010 1:36

Dr. Park Young-Woo, Regional Director, UNEP Regional Office for Asia and Pacific.

CAREC-CARNET: The main message of the Conference is aimed at environmental and economic policy integration in the interests of sustainable development of the Asian-Pacific nations. What are the priority steps, in your opinion, that the countries of this region have to make – jointly and by each individual country?

Dr. Park Young-Woo: The basic thrust behind the Green Growth and Green Economy approach is that we cannot continue with the business-as-usual scenario of the past century. It is clear that this approach is unlikely to assist in achieving the goals the international community has set ranging from combating climate change to supplying freshwater, sufficient food and overcoming poverty.

UNEP is calling on countries to allocate an increasing share of their budgets to finance clean infrastructure and clean energy projects with the objective to change markets and trigger a clean economy. This means boosting green investment, increasing the quantity and quality of jobs in green sectors and increasing the share of green sectors in the GDP.  This means putting green investments at the core of fiscal stimulus packages, creating a public-private funding mechanism and enabling international conditions for trade, ODA, and technology transfer. This would also entail creating domestic enabling conditions through fiscal and pricing policies, standards, education and training.

CAREC-CARNET: What opportunities are available in the region for real convergence of the countries environment and economy?

Dr. Park Young-Woo: We have a number of countries in Asia Pacific who have allocated portions of their fiscal stimulus to green economic sectors such as renewable energies and energy efficiency improvements, sustainable agriculture, and better management of water and waste.

The Republic of Korea, for example, has earmarked $31 billion, over 80 per cent of its total stimulus to the Green New Deal. The Republic of Korea went further by expanding its Green New Deal and turning it into a full Five-Year Plan for Green Growth, with a commitment to spend 2 per cent of GDP over the next five years.

China's green stimulus of $218 billion, out of a total $650 billion stimulus, included as a key element the construction of much needed water infrastructure expected to benefit 14.6 million people, thereby contributing to the achievement of the related MDG.

The Indonesian government's stimulus package of $6.3 billion included $1.05 billion spending on infrastructure projects and empowerment programs for people living in rural areas.

We are committed to work together with Governments, and to build critical partnerships with other agencies, the private sector and civil society to support processes of transformative change that we see taking shape around the world. To date, nearly 30 countries have requested UNEP's assistance towards making the Green Economy a reality in their economic planning and development strategies. This support is taking the form of policy advice and macro-economic assessments to better understand the full range of opportunities and challenges of a Green Economy in specific country and regional contexts.

CAREC-CARNET: What role, in your opinion, should business play in this integration process? What specific projects can there be, or are already there?

Dr. Park Young-Woo: The private sector has a crucial role to play in sustainable development. With its history of innovation the private sector can find solutions to many of the development issues that need to be faced over the coming decades, for instance by finding new approaches to supplying sanitation, fresh water, and clean, affordable energy.

UNEP’s strong relationship with industry is helping to incorporate environmentally responsible thinking throughout the sector. Examples include the Tour Operators Initiative for sustainable tourism, the Global e-Sustainability Initiative involving key telecommunications companies, a wide range of cleaner production initiatives, the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, and a growing portfolio of projects to promote financing for sustainable development.

Private sector operations are increasingly realizing that social and environmental responsibility can provide both short and long-term rewards, and that ignoring the triple bottom line of sustainable development will ultimately be detrimental to their own business. That is why companies are signing up to programmes such as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Compact and UNEP’s Global Reporting Initiative.

UNEP’s Finance Initiative (FI) is helping raise awareness worldwide of the financial—as well as societal—costs of failing to tackle global climate change. Combined with UNEP’s authoritative assessments like GEO and the IPCC Assessment Reports, programmes like the FI are not only helping encourage governmental commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, but are promoting investment in clean and renewable energy by financial institutions and other investors.

CAREC-CARNET: What role, in your opinion, should civil society play in this integration process (economy + ecology)? How should the environment NGOs engage in this process? What possibilities do we have in this area?

Dr. Park Young-Woo: Civil society and stakeholder organizations are substantive partners who improve our understanding of the environment and assist in developing innovative solutions to environmental challenges. They are important knowledge providers. Many are implementing environment and development initiatives in countries in this region. Through education and awareness campaigns, they can advocate for a green economy approach to policy.