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UN launches Green New Deal for sustainable investment

Roosevelt-style environment and market programme advocated for building future economy.

The United Nations is backing a global Green New Deal, which it says could be a ‘historical’ opportunity to rebuild economies debilitated by the credit crisis and target future investment for environmentally friendly markets. The initiative, launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is to receive $4m (€3.1m) in funding from the European Commission, Germany and Norway. But its impact could be felt far wider as it becomes a political catalyst at European and global talks for government and market-based investment into areas such as clean technology and renewable energy.
Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP and a board member of the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment, said that the Green New Deal report prioritises a number of key sectors for support it believes will generate the biggest transition in terms of economic returns, environmental sustainability and job creation.
The UN strategy echoes that of inter-war US President Franklin D. Roosevelt who was credited with kick-starting growth in the US economy in the early 1930s following the Wall Street Crash via a programme of investment and social welfare.The UN says its priority sectors are:

  • Clean energy and clean technologies including recycling
  • Rural energy, including renewables and sustainable biomass
  • Sustainable agriculture, including organic agriculture
  • Ecosystem Infrastructure
  • Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)
  • Sustainable cities including planning, transportation and green building

Steiner said the report aimed to help governments make better choices and send the right market signals to investors, entrepreneurs and consumers world-wide. He said: ”The financial, fuel and food crises of 2008 are in part a result of speculation and a failure of governments to intelligently manage and focus markets. But they are also part of a wider market failure triggering ever deeper and disturbing losses of natural capital and nature- based assets coupled with an over-reliance of finite,

often subsidised fossil fuels. The flip side of the coin is the enormous economic, social and environmental benefits likely to arise from combating climate change and re-investing in natural infrastructure—benefits ranging from new green jobs in clean tech and clean energy businesses up to ones in sustainable agriculture and conservation-based enterprises.”
He said the UN would use the report to inform its position at the proposed financial crisis summit of the G8+5, called for by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, as well as at the next round of UN climate convention negotiations in Poznan, Poland in December and next month’s Financing for Development-Doha Review Conference in New York. Pavan Sukdhev, a senior banker from Deutsche Bank, seconded to UNEP to lead its research, said: “Investments will soon be pouring back into the global economy—the question is whetherthey go into the old, extractive, short-term economy of yesterday or a new green economy that will deal with multiple challenges while generating multiple economic opportunities for the poor and the well-off alike.”
The UNEP report points up a number of major inconsistencies in global economic and climate change policy. It says global annual spending on the environment is estimated at best at US$10 billion per year, while global annual energy subsidies range from US$240bn to US$310bn, or around 0.7 per cent of global GDP, with inadequate support for renewable energy development. However, it points up the potential for market driven sustainable investment. Its Sustainable Energy Finance Initiative, calculated that invested assets in the sector rose to $160bn in 2007 from $100bn in 2006.