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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs    29 May 2012

UN ESCAP launches Road map for Asia-Pacific green economy

29 May 2012

Asia-Pacific governments are being urged to take the lead in transforming their economies towards the green growth path as a way to balance economic growth and ecological losses.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific yesterday launched "Low Carbon Green Growth Road Map for Asia and the Pacific", calling for reforms in the "visible" economic structures (such as fiscal and tax systems) and "invisible" ones (such as city planning and waste management).

First of all, governments should shift focus from a quantitative to a qualitative perspective, Escap says. Levying taxes on resource consumption is one of the suggestions, to ensure sustainable regional growth needed to reduce poverty amid worsening resource constraints and climate impacts.

The road map comes ahead of next month's UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), when global leaders will make key decisions to mitigate global warming, which is believed by many to be causing more frequent natural disasters.

"The Asia-Pacific region cannot achieve development goals fully by following conventional growth strategies," said Dr Noeleen Heyzer, UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of Escap.

The road map was designed under the concept that policy options and practical strategies must take into account resource constraints and the climate crisis, to convert the crisis of shrinking natural resources and climate change into a driver of sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
It proposes a five-track path of change with 63 policy options and 51 examples.

"Resource constraints, price volatility and the climate crisis have removed business as usual as an option and require a serious re-examination of resource- and carbon-intensive growth strategies. If our region is to sustain the high economic growth that we need to achieve our development goals, then we must shift to a different growth trajectory," Heyzer said.

Rae Kwon Chung, director of the Escap Environment and Development Division, which prepared the road map, said it aimed to help policy-makers "turn the until-now trade-off between the ecological crisis and economic growth into a synergy in which resource constraints and climate crisis become opportunities for the growth necessary to reduce poverty in the region".

According to the road map, it is possible to sustain higher economic growth by shifting the tax base from traditional taxes to levies on resource consumption and pollution without increasing the aggregate tax burden.

Thus a tax of US$10 per tonne of carbon-dioxide emission in developing Asia-Pacific countries, if accompanied with reductions in other taxes such as corporate tax, would help reduce global carbon-dioxide emissions by 8 per cent by 2020 while boosting economic growth by as much as 2.8 per cent.

According to Escap, countries in the region use three times as many resources as the rest of the world to produce a unit of gross domestic product.
The shift towards low-carbon green growth has to be jump-started by government and requires political will. It also requires international collaboration, and Rio+20 offers an exceptional opportunity to forge the necessary global partnerships, says Escap.

"The countries of Asia and the Pacific should lead this process by generating the regional momentum necessary to move towards a green economy capable of lifting people out of poverty and achieving inclusive, resilient and sustainable development," Heyzer said.

The road map suggests phasing out subsidies on environmentally harmful activities and products, such as fossil fuels or pesticides, and redirecting public spending towards more socially and environmentally beneficial activities.

To use market forces to drive green growth, prices need to reflect the full ecological and social costs of production and consumption. This requires the use of fiscal tools, such as taxes and subsidies, in a way that does not affect the poor or reduce competitiveness and is politically acceptable, Escap says.

Properly designed environmental tax reforms and environmental fiscal reforms can be powerful drivers for green growth and achieve the double dividend of higher economic growth and lower environmental impact, the commission says.

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