Despite beginning the UNEP Switch-Asia Sustainable Consumption and Production conference with big picture, governance- and thematic-related discussions, the focus slowly narrowed in on the development and implementation of SCP strategies during day two. It is no surprise that panelists have all been in support of “implementing” SCP strategies, but what exactly are these policies?
United on Improvements But What About Solutions?
One of the more interactive discussions occurred when discussing how green financing and government policy making could help encourage more sustainable production practices. While important areas requiring improvement were recognized, the agreement on implementable solutions showed far less consensus amongst the participants.
To begin, important areas requiring improvement were recognized, such as the need for a new economic system that attaches value to the material and internalizing environmental costs currently being externalized in pricing mechanisms. As explained by Professor Shi Han, “produce more with less” is simply a fantasy if businesses misunderstand it as a mantra for producing more output at a lower cost. Whilst this would allow firms to achieve higher profits, they would nevertheless still not internalize the environmental and material costs. The question of how we can improve the economic system and encourage long-term change in human behavior still remains.
One of the keynote speakers, Ms. Zhou Guomei from the Chinese Ministry for Environmental Protection, went through the opportunities and challenges facing developing nations regarding the Rio+20 ten year framework plan for green development. Whilst many agreed that establishing a legal framework, promoting education, and having multi-stakeholder participation are top priorities for effectively promoting SCP policies, many were divided on other suggestions such as using localized media to raise awareness of SCP policies to the public.
The Challenge Ahead – Moving Forward
The challenges facing developing nations in addressing sustainable consumption and production are significant. Dr. Myung Kyoon Lee, senior economist at Green Global Growth Institute, summarizes the five challenges moving forward as:
1. Gap between international and national agendas;
2. Coordination between public and private entities;
3. Lack of resources and capacity for development;
4. Public policy inconsistencies; and
5. Lack of success stories or model examples to learn from.
In promoting SCP and reducing global greenhouse gas emission intensities, regional governments will need to develop strong high-level political institutions. Shared visions, an understanding of the needs of different stakeholders, and clear coordinated targets are needed in order to successfully attempt to address issues related to green growth. While the sessions left many questions unanswered, there was a noticeable sense of optimism and drive as officials began voicing aloud their thoughts on potential policies to implement for the future. As Dr. Myung Kyoon Lee stated in the closing ceremony: “Now it is time to take action”. Let’s hope the government leaders heed his advice and share the knowledge gained at the conference.