Indicators Can Support Transition to Inclusive, Resource-Efficient Green Economy, Says UNEP ReportMon, Dec 3, 2012
Report Released at First Post-Rio+20 Global Conference on Measuring Progress Towards a Green Economy
Geneva, Switzerland (3 December 2012) - A new UNEP report launched today provides countries with a practical guide on how indicators can measure progress towards an inclusive, resource-efficient, green economy, and support new national policies to assess human well-being and quality of life.
Measuring Progress towards an Inclusive Green Economy was released as experts from major institutions and governments meet in Geneva at the first major gathering since Rio+20. Almost 200 delegates are set to explore how they can measure their green economy policies as they shift from supporting carbon-intensive economies to more resource-efficient, sustainable societies.
The conference is responding to Rio+20’s call for green economy measures to achieve sustainable development and poverty eradication, and is the first step in the process to widen the use of existing metrics and measures and create new ones at a national level.
Government officials from Barbados, China, Denmark, Ecuador, Germany, Ghana, Indonesia, Morocco, Thailand and Uruguay, all of whom are engaged in developing a comprehensive set of indicators to inform their national green economic policies, will attend the meeting, along with representatives from academia, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, World Bank, UN agencies and non-government organizations.
“Green economy indicators provide a mirror on the journey to an environmentally stable, economically sound and equitable society,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director. “This publication is intended to help policymakers understand how useful such measurements are for informing policy decisions and advancing their green economy agendas at a national level.”
Indicators can be used at all stages of policy interventions: from identifying the key environmental issues; assessing the potential cost and performance of various policy options to understand which investment will yield the highest return in environmental, social and economic terms; and tracking the impact of the policies on human well-being and equity.
“When we put in place a framework to account for and value environmental goods and services, we are making the contribution of nature to our collective well-being more visible, and acknowledging the fact that investing in natural capital is necessary for our continued economic prosperity,” said Steven Stone, Chief of UNEP’s Economics and Trade Branch.
According to the report, indicators are important for policy implementation because they help determine policy outcomes and measure their impact. This means focusing on policy interventions that result in improved human well-being and social equity, as well as reduced environmental risks and ecological scarcities.
Currently, most countries concentrate too heavily on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of economic performance, and policy makers do not factor in depreciation of fixed assets such as forests, clean air or water resources.
“The idea is to supplement GDP, which monitors macroeconomic activity with other measures that better reflect the multidimensional nature of human well-being and quality of life,” said Sheng Fulai, co-author of the new report.
The report details a raft of indicators that policymakers can use to formulate, focus and track the impact of their green economy policies at the three stages of development, including:
Indicators for environmental issues and targets
- Climate change - Carbon emissions and renewable energy share;
- Ecosystem management - Forestland and water stress;
- Resource efficiency - Energy, material and water productivity
- Chemicals and waste management - Waste collection, recycling and reuse.
Indicators for policy interventions
- Green investment - R&D investment;
- Green fiscal reform - Fossil fuel, water and fishery subsidies, and fossil fuel taxation;
- Pricing externalities and valuing ecosystem service - Carbon price, value of ecosystem services;
- Green procurement - Expenditure in sustainable procurement;
Indicators for policy impacts on well-being and equity
- Employment - Construction, operation and management, income generated;
- Total wealth - Value of natural resource stocks, literacy rate;
- Access to resources - Access to modern energy, water and sanitation;
- Health - Level of harmful chemicals in drinking water, number of people hospitalized due to air pollution.
The report notes there are already several indices and indicators available for countries interested in promoting sustainable development, such as the new UN System of Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA), which sets new statistical standards for collecting and integrating economic and environmental data.
The report is intended to contribute to discussions at the three-day conference Measuring the Future We Want, which is the first opportunity post-Rio+20 for experts to identify existing indicators available to countries and discuss how they can be further developed and used to facilitate the transition to a green economy.
The Rio+20 Conference, held in June, called on the UN and its partners to advance the work on developing methodologies to evaluate green economic policies. This conference aims to learn from countries and businesses that have developed green economy/green growth related indicators, and provide advice on how to harmonize these approaches, as well as identify the knowledge gaps and research priorities to advance this work.
The final day of the conference will focus on the Green Growth Knowledge Platform (GGKP), a partnership between UNEP, the Global Green Growth Institute, OECD and the World Bank, which has identified green growth indicators as one of its priority areas for research. Consisting of a network of researchers and development experts, the GGKP aims to help countries design and implement their green growth policies.
Measuring the Future We Want also supports the agreement made by states at Rio+20 to develop a set of sustainable development goals. It will work towards building the capacity of developing countries to adopt new indicators and metrics that allow them to bridge the policy gap and focus on their own priority areas for the realization of sustainable development pathways.