Towards Greener Economies

The industrialised states of Western Europe are nowadays keen to develop in a sustainable manner, combining economic growth with social justice and improved environment. Within this context, there is need for a transition to a new, efficient and climate-neutral ‘Green Economy’.

UNEP has defined a green economy as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. A green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.

In the green economy scenario, growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. To make this happen, significant policy reforms and regulations modifications need to be introduced. Since natural capital is a crucial economic asset and source of public benefits, especially for poor people whose livelihoods depend on nature. 

The UNEP-led Green Economy Initiative, launched in late 2008, consists of several components aiming at providing the analysis and policy support for investing in green sectors and in greening environmentally unfriendly sectors. 

Within UNEP, the Green Economy Initiative includes three sets of activities:
  • Producing a Green Economy Report and related research materials, which analysed the macroeconomic, sustainability, and poverty reduction implications of green investment in a range of sectors from renewable energy to sustainable agriculture and providing guidance on policies that can catalyse increased investment in these sectors. The Report stressed that by investing just 2% of the Global GDP governments can kick-start a transition to a Green Economy.
  • Providing advisory services on ways to move towards a green economy in specific countries.
  • Engaging a wide range of research, non-governmental organisations, business and UN partners in implementing the Green Economy Initiative.
Beyond UNEP, the Green Economy Initiative is one of the nine UN-wide Joint Crisis Initiatives (JCI) launched by the UN System's Chief Executives Board in early 2009. In this context, the Initiative includes a wide range of research activities and capacity building events from more than 20 UN agencies including the Bretton Woods Institutions, as well as an Issue Management Group (IMG) on Green Economy, launched in Washington, DC, in March 2010.

The Regional Office for Europe provides active support for the Green Economy Initiative, organising workshops, briefings, and conferences to improve governments’ knowledge on the concept of green economy and how the transition to it can be implemented.


Linking Environment and Security

Environmental degradation, inequitable access to natural resources and the transboundary movement of hazardous materials can lead to conflict and pose a risk to national security and human health.

Transboundary pollution, for instance, can disrupt relations between neighbouring states, which share a common resource base. Health risks and involuntary migration due to water scarcity, inequitable access to land resources, uncontrolled stocks of obsolete pesticides or other forms of hazardous waste have also been identified as threats to stability and peace.

However, common problems linked to the use of natural resources can also bring people to work together towards a common goal; thus, environmental co-operation can act as a powerful tool for preventing conflicts and promoting peace between communities and societies.

The Environment and Security Initiative (ENVSEC) – an inter-agency initiative consisting of UNDP, UNEP, NATO, OSCE, UNECE, and REC, was created to encourage key public decision-makers in South Eastern and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus to act to advance and protect peace and the environment at the same time.

ENVSEC implements regional programmes in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), Eastern Europe (Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine), South Eastern Europe (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo (territory under UN administration), and Southern Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia)


Promoting Biodiversity Conservation (PEBLDS)

UNEP actively promotes the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in the Pan-European region by, inter alia, servicing the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLDS) and providing expert and technical assistance to countries of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia.

To monitor and reduce the degradation and loss of biodiversity resources in Europe, several national and international organizations developed the PEBLDS in 1994. UNEP and the Council of Europe have shared the joint Secretariat of the PEBLDS since 1995.

The principal aim of the Strategy is to ensure the sustainability of the European natural environment with special emphasis on concerted European action under all existing initiatives, particularly the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). PEBLDS presents an innovative and proactive approach to stop and reverse the degradation of biological and landscape diversity values in Europe. The Strategy reinforces the implementation of existing measures and identifies additional actions that need to be taken. It also provides a framework to promote a consistent approach and common objectives for national and regional action to implement the CBD.

As Coordinator of PEBLDS, UNEP is responsible for servicing the Strategy by organizing and facilitating meetings and preparing related documents.

Recent activities include the organization of the Investing in Biodiversity and Maximizing the Benefits of the Green Economy Expert Workshop in Gabala, Azerbaijan, from 5 to 6 July 2010, and the Pan-European High Level Conference on Biodiversity, on the theme on the theme Biological Diversity and the Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals held in Gabala, Azerbaijan, on 7 July 2010. The Conference prepared a pan-European input to the high level event on biodiversity held on 22 September 2010 on the eve of the opening of the 65th Session of the General. During this high level event, During this high-level event, the world's 192 heads of state were called to renew and strengthen their commitment to achieve the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity.