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Research to expand and sustain green economic opportunities

‘We cannot continue on our current path. The time for procrastination is over. We cannot afford the luxury of denial. We must respond rationally, equipped with scientific evidence’ (The Stockholm Memorandum, 2011[1]).

The need for gathering ‘scientific evidence’ to support clear-cut sustainability decisions that will lead to expanding and sustaining green economic opportunities is unprecedentedly rising. A well-formulated and planned research is the origin of ‘scientific evidence’. Research generates fresh ideas, policies, solutions and ignites how new innovations can be fairly disseminated to reach the widest human population, especially the most poorest. The building of a new green economy or re-greening existing economy starts with tapping varied ingredients from scientific-inspired evidences through research and efficient utilisation of its products and services. Research is really crucial. If research is ignored or underestimated, it equals the suggestion that sustainability does not matter at all. The UN Environment Programme (2011[2]) informs that ‘sustainability is still a vital long-term goal, but we must work on greening the economy to get us there’. The central issue is that promoting research into green economy must firmly reflect in resetting sustainability agendas. In other words, greening an economy based on realistic researched-data is one of the assuring ways to formulate potent solutions to withstand or overcome the troubles of income disparity, hunger, shelter deficit and pollution over time.

The green economic development strategically embedded with green industrialization presents enormous opportunities for all countries, especially in transitional and emerging economies. In and outside of Africa, green opportunities ranging from organic food production systems through public policy and housing to clean technologies are very huge and incentivized by abundant natural resources and democratic institutions. All indications point to the fact that there are good grounds for the implementation of green economy in African countries reflecting in their responses to green issues (economy, jobs, industry, etc.). In an earlier write up, I concisely examined some examples of how Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda among other countries had started initiatives toward greening their economies. The general politico-environmental conditions seem extremely conducive to engage in collective design and putting into action green solutions capable to furnish socially inclusive, economic and environmental needs.

Now, one of the things needed is policy focus on how research can deliver appropriate tools required by industry, governments and civil societies to green mainstream economies. From country to country, central governments are particularly looking forward to invest into research on the “principle” of ‘value-for-money’ while industry expects to receive research products that will significantly increase profits. Whatever the research outlook seems in developing economies, the 2015 Human Development Report clearly illustrates that governments’ investment into research has generally been inadequate in relation to their gross domestic product (GDP). For African countries, in the exception of Tunisia and Kenya, which had invested a little over 1% of the GDP into ‘research and development’ between 2005-2012, all other countries have more to do to upwardly adjust research funding with regards to green economy, which is a component of sustainable development. The growing momentum to harness green opportunities demands sufficient green investment into research to provide the quality of “green data” and cleaner technologies to facilitate transition to green economy. The financial investment is not required only in undertaking research but also in investing into various aspects of green economy for which the precise amount of money ought to be put into it is not known. According to the UNEP (2011:34-35), the ‘World Economic Forum and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, on the other hand, calculate that clean energy investment needs to rise to US$ 500 billion per year by 2020 to restrict global warming to less than 2°C, while HSBC estimates that transition to a low-carbon energy market will require US$ 10 trillion between 2010 and 2020’.

The immediate assertion confirms that, in a green economy, research is indispensable and is not carried out in a vacuum. The research activities must be financed publicly or privately or through public-private partnerships.

At country and organisational levels, financing research is perceived with misgivings. What will be the real outcomes of the financial investment? Putting all fears aside, what has to be strongly stressed and communicated to green donors and all actors is that ‘finance is the means by which we channel accumulated wealth into productive new activities to generate more real wealth and wellbeing. As such, finance is critical to sustainable development. But it cannot deliver real wealth without being responsive to the fundamental value of social, physical and environmental capital’ (UNEP, 2015:2[3]). Knowing the extent to which market failures can negatively influence economic interactions and therein limit green growth, some governments tend to ‘provide direct grants or tax credits’ to support green economic research ‘carried out by businesses’, which is a common practice in developed countries (UNIDO, 2011[4]).

It can be said that carrying out scientific research into green economy and industry is an important path towards finding solutions for managing both undesirable and desirable trade-offs that go with the complex relationships amongst economic growth, environment and society. For that reason, government policies geared at promoting green economy must pay attention to financing research and taking the step to reap the full opportunities that go with green economic services.

 

[1] The Stockholm Memorandum, 2011. Tipping the scales towards sustainability. 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on ‘global sustainability: transforming the world in an era of global change’. Sweden, 16-19 May 2011.

[2] UNEP, 2011. Towards a green economy: pathways to sustainable development and poverty eradication – a synthesis for policy makers. www.unep.org/greeneconomy.

[3] UNEP, 2015. New rules for new horizons: reshaping finance for sustainability. Inquiry into the design of a sustainable financial system. http://www.unepfi.org/psi/new-rules-for-new-horizons-report-of-the-high-levelsymposium- on-reshaping-finance-for-sustainability/  Geneva/Paris [Accessed on 31.03.2016].

[4] UNIDO, 2011. Green industry: policies for supporting green industry. Vienna, Austria.

 

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