Educate. Connect. Inspire

Educate. Connect. Inspire

Jun 5, 2012

Green Economy in Asia and the Pacific

Green Economy Initiative

The Green Economy Initiative (GEI) is designed to assist governments in "greening" their economies by reshaping and refocusing policies, investments and spending towards a range of sectors, such as clean technologies, renewable energies, water services, green transportation, waste management, green buildings and sustainable agriculture and forests.

Greening the economy refers to the process of reconfiguring businesses and infrastructure to deliver better returns on natural, human and economic capital investments, while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions, extracting and using less natural resources, creating less waste and reducing social disparities.

GEI activities include providing advisory services to countries interested in greening their economies, producing research products, and engaging partners to effectively promote and implement Green Economy strategies.


In Asia, UNEP works on national Green Economy initiatives in Indonesia, South Korea, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Lao, Philippines, and Papua New Guinea.

UNEP is working in partnership with the Government of the Republic of Korea to support the country's green economy strategy. Under the plan, UNEP has produced an interim report entitled, "Overview of the South Korean Green Growth National Vision." This is an independent review of the country's "Green Growth National Vision" and five-year Green Growth Plan, and is the first in a series of national and regional initiatives.

Green Growth

Green Growth is a policy focus for the Asia and Pacific region that emphasizes environmentally sustainable economic progress to foster low-carbon, socially inclusive development.

Green Growth is a globally relevant approach to sustainable economic growth that was developed in Asia. It is impeartive that countries in the Asia and Pacific region continue their economic growth to alleviate poverty and to achieve social progress. However, increased environmental degradation, climate change and diminishing natural resources require an unconventional approach to support the export-driven economic activities of the region.

The Asia and Pacific region has been at the forefront of the 21st century surge in economic growth, a situation driven primarily by exports and which has led to expanded production requirements needed to fuel an ever increasing amount of trade. This has significantly compounded the environmental carrying capacity pressures of many countries in the region. These countries are now shouldering an increasingly greater share of regional and global environmental production-related burdens. Coupled with evolving production patterns, these impacts are driving changes in consumption patterns in these countries and policies are needed to ensure that these developments will be environmentally sustainable. The past axiom of “grow first, clean up later”, can not apply in a region that has such a limited natural resource base and a rapidly growing population directly dependent on natural resources. In light of the recent fuel, food and financial crisis is is now imperative for countries in the region to reassess their development paths.

In order to achieve Green Growth it is crucial to change development approaches from ‘grow first, clean up later’ to a more responsible long-term attitude. Governments can promote this by encouraging economic growth with an emphasis on environmental and social concerns.

UNESCAP’s Green Growth Programme has evolved to emphasize the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA), a rights-based approach that recognizes the poor as a key stakeholder in the development process. Green Growth encourages the use of participatory assessments which identify the main constraints, opportunities and concerns faced by the poor and to include them into the policy planning and implementation cycle. The SLA supports vulnerable communities by providing pro-poor social services and by creating an enabling environment for sustainable development.

The concept of sustainable livelihoods is used by some as a replacement term for sustainable employment and work in the formal and informal economies with reference to a person’s capacity to maintain and enhance their capability and assets both now and in the future, while not undermining the natural resource base. Adopting this approach allows Green Growth to work towards win-win solutions: addressing the environment in ways which enhance opportunities for the poor to participate more fully in society and thus improving their quality of life.

Green economy key to overcoming resource constraints in Asia-Pacific

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region could overcome the constraints of limited resources by making the transition from dependence on traditional means of production to a more sustainable green economy, according to a joint report unveiled today by the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The region utilizes three times as much resources to produce $1 of gross domestic product (GDP) compared to the rest of the world, and resource use in the region grew by 50 per cent between 1995 and 2005, says the report, entitled Green Growth, Resources and Resilience: Environmental Sustainability in Asia and the Pacific.

Produced by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and ADB ahead of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) to be held in Brazil in June, the report emphasizes that the challenges of resource constraints are more serious in the Asia-Pacific region than anywhere else.

It rejects the assumption that technology advances will be able to solve the problems of resource constraints and proposes specific strategies for changing economic incentives to promote a green economy which uses resources much more efficiently.

“Countries of Asia and the Pacific have been at the forefront of implementing initiatives to green their economic growth and will reap the benefits of such investments economically, socially and environmentally,” said Young Woo Park, UNEP’s regional director.

With the global market for green goods and services expanding rapidly and the right policies and investments, the Asia-Pacific region could lead the world towards a more sustainable future, according to Nessim Ahmad, director of ADB’s Environment and Social Safeguards Division.

The report stresses that economic incentives to promote investments in resource efficiency and natural resource protection are key, but action on other fronts is also needed, including an integrated policy framework and approaches.

Governance must be more adaptive and inclusive and become more adept at harnessing knowledge from different sources and incorporating information from various stakeholders, the report stresses.

For developing countries, the massive investments in infrastructure, as well as the unmet needs for energy, water, transportation and housing, offer a window of opportunity to change the way that energy and other resources are used, it states.

The report addresses the two main Rio+20 themes – green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and institutional framework for sustainable development.

“Business as usual is no longer a feasible option, but many governments and other stakeholders still do not recognize the urgency of the challenge of improving the resource efficiency of economic growth,” said Rae Kwon Chung, director of ESCAP’s environment and development division.

The Asia-Pacific region’s resource and pollution-intensive growth trends means the region is at risk of not being able to sustain the growth needed to reduce poverty in the long term, the report points out.

Optimistic growth projections for the region do not factor in resource constraints sufficiently, Mr. Chung added. Green growth, he underlined, is a strategy to achieve sustainable development, addressing both resource constraints and the climate crisis.