EU Rural Reviews
Experts weigh options for sustainable growth in a low-carbon world
"Green economy" poses challenges but also opportunities for CroatiaZAGREB, 9 December 2011 - A public discussion on the "green economy" in Zagreb organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Croatia in partnership with Bank magazine heard from experts that fossil fuel-based economic growth both threatens the environment and promotes inequality. In advance of "Rio+20," the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, that takes place in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, economists, environmental activists and development practitioners discussed ways to build an economic model that delivers growth and reduces poverty while protecting the natural environment.
PHOTO: Banka magazine
"Sustainable development requires the exploitation of the earth's resources. But this exploitation must avoid the destruction of ecosystems that cannot be replaced; and it should be inclusive, vis-ŕ-vis the poor and vulnerable," warned UNDP's Senior Economist for Europe, Ben Slay. "Otherwise, people will solve their problems in environmentally unsustainable ways—by over-fishing already depleted fisheries for food, or by clear-cutting forests for firewood to stay warm in the winter."
"Croatia has all the assets to emerge as a world leader in inventing the 'green economy," said UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton. "And there are areas where Croatia has emerged as a green pioneer, including energy efficiency in public-sector buildings." However, a lot more could be done. Vinton urged the new government to seize the opportunity to adopt policies conducive to a green economy, including the shifting the 5-6 percent of GDP that is currently devoted to subsidizing fossil fuels to investment in renewable energy sources.
"The main problem with us humans is that we are wholly devoted to growth – even when it threatens to kill us. The mankind needs fast transition to the state of sustainability" - stressed Zoran Skala, senior advisor for development and international projects from the Institute of Physical Planning of the Primorsko-goranska county. "Instead of dreaming of growth, let's reduce consumption and produce locally. Renewable energy sources could help us achieve that."
Dependency on fossil fuels is a particular challenge for the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which relies on them for 88 percent of its energy, notes the latest UNDP Human Development Report "Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All". This makes the region not only a major source of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, but also big contributor to air pollution. The biosphere's limited capacity to absorb carbon, and to maintain or regenerate our depleted land, forestry, or fishery resources, is unable to withstand such a challenge without serious risk of cataclysmic ecosystem failure.
The aim of development, in this view, is not economic growth for its own sake but rather creating an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy, and creative lives. While governments must provide the policies needed to promote sustainable human development, they cannot be expected to have all the answers. Effective solutions to today's global challenges require galvanizing local communities, and tapping local knowledge, to identify and disseminate "what works".
Photo: Banka magazine
Documents for download:
Panel discussion on green economy - highlights
Louisa Vinton, UNDP Resident Representative speech
Ben Slay, Sustainability equity and the green economy - Implications for Croatia
Sandra Vlašic, Green development in Croatia Practical Progress
Zoran Skala, Crises as opportunity making consuption sustainable
Željko Ivankovic, Can green business deliver profits in Croatia
Nevena Duic, Green energy equals job creation
Robert Pašicko, Energy - sustainable local communities in practice
Representatives of WWF in Croatia - Is the Planet still alive
Gojko Berlengi - A green development path for Dalmatia
Fossil fuel subsidies
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