Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator: Closing remarks at a High-level Political Forum Side Event: “Recalibrating Market Forces: How Greener & More Inclusive Economies and Finance are Delivering on the SDGs”

Jul 17, 2017

Building the foundations for inclusive and sustainable economic growth. Credit: UNDP

As prepared for delivery.

Ministers, State Secretaries, Distinguished Speakers, Colleagues and Friends.

I am delighted to join this side-event on how greener and more inclusive economies and finance are instrumental to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

I have been told that the discussion tonight has been dynamic and that interesting insights have been shared into how green economy approaches are being promoted across a range of country context and different forms of partnerships. I am very pleased to join you for these closing remarks.
As many of you know, the theme of green economy is one very close to my heart - both in my current position as UNDP Administrator, as well as my former role as the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme. In fact, I have long maintained that a transition to a green economy is the only viable way forward – for people and planet.

A major milestone was reached at Rio+20, where countries agreed to the critical importance of promoting an inclusive green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Since then - through the combined efforts of committed partners, including those here in the room tonight – we have seen a rapid increase in country-led approaches and pathways to design and build more inclusive and greener economies.

This is a strong foundation, and a source of inspiration, as we move towards 2030 and the achievement of the SDGs.

Looking ahead, allow me to highlight three critical points for success:

First, to achieve the 2030 Agenda, it is clear that countries need to transform their economic models and shift to more sustainable patterns of production and consumption. Green economy approaches are central to these paradigm-changing efforts. And for this, the role of the public sector in setting incentives and the enabling regulatory and policy environment is essential.

By adapting green economy approaches to each country context through stakeholder consultation and rigorous diagnostics, countries can chart and accelerate progress along less polluting, more resource-efficient, climate resilient development pathways.

Transitioning to greener economies means influencing how public and private policies better prioritize and incentivize climate change mitigation, adaptation and broader environmental and sustainable development investments, while addressing trade-offs within and across sectors and groups, including women, youth, and local communities.

This calls for greater focus on integrated “whole-of-government” and “whole-of society” approaches that promote broad partnerships for policy design, implementation, financing, and technologies.

This evening you have heard a number of examples of how countries, working with partners, including the private sector, are adopting such integrated approaches, as they transition to greener and more inclusive economies. Supported by global initiatives like PAGE, these countries are already adjusting public policies and legislation to facilitate a transition to the green economy.

Indeed, over 65 countries have put in place national and sectoral green economy plans – demonstrating a firm conviction that this is the only way forward. 

I have witnessed, in Africa, for example, the significant political will to accelerate the transition to a green economy.  From Morocco to South Africa, from Rwanda to Ghana, and from Senegal to Kenya – the focus on innovation and commitment to sustainable growth is inspiring.

And this makes simple economic sense. By investing in the green economy, Governments can boost growth, address poverty, create employment and improve the overall well-being of their population.

Saying that, while the importance and the impact of public policy is fundamental to this transition, so is the need to take into account the evolving nature of markets and finance.
Which brings me to my second point: the essential role of the private sector.

As much as there is a clear development case for addressing climate change and advancing the SDGs, there is also a strong business one.

Indeed, investing in sustainable development opens new markets, increases competitiveness, results in greater savings, protects long-term profits, allows companies and countries to leapfrog technologically, and responds to evolving consumer demand and share-holder interests. All over the world, businesses are increasingly realizing that “green” investments can generate great returns.

The examples speak for themselves:

  •  UNILEVER has achieved 1 million tons of carbon dioxide savings since 2008 across its manufacturing network. They have done this by reducing energy consumption by 20%, and in doing so they have secured cost savings of $270 million;
  •  By 2020, the estimated trade in environmental goods and services, which includes environmental protection and natural resource management, will reach nearly US$2 trillion, eclipsing the growth rates of traditional sectors. Here in the United States, for instance, the solar and wind industries are each creating jobs at a rate 12 times faster than that of the rest of the economy – with growth rates of about 20% annually up now to four and a half million jobs; and,
  •  Globally, ecotourism already generates significant employment and is worth US$100 billion annually. This industry is only expected to grow in importance.

While public financing is critical to the green economy transition, a much greater share of green finance and climate change investment will need to come from the private sector. A mix of domestic and international, public and private funds including innovative financing such as green bonds, conservation financing, and impact investing is required.

And better targeted public investments can help catalyze private financing with dividends across the SDGs.

Which brings me to my third and final point: the critical importance of strong and broad-based partnerships.

Over the next two decades, the global population will expand by more than 1 billion people, our urban footprint is expected to triple, demand for food will increase by up to 35 per cent, for water by as much as 40 per cent, and for energy by up to 50 per cent.

The pace of these demands and the associated environmental pressures – including through biodiversity loss and climate change - are unprecedented. And the challenges they pose are simply too complex for individual countries or institutions to tackle on their own. Partnerships are of the essence, across public, private and civil society actors, and domestic and international institutions. Only by working together can we fully leverage our collective strengths in ways needed to set the world on a more sustainable and inclusive path.

The Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE), and the complementary work done through the Poverty-Environment Initiative, are excellent example of such collaboration.

UNDP has been a proud member of PAGE since 2014 and we see the partnership as a central element of our broader efforts on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. On behalf of UNDP and our sister agencies - UNEP, ILO, UNIDO, and UNITAR – let me use this opportunity to stress how much appreciate the fruitful collaboration we have with our donor and country partners under PAGE.


In conclusion, I would like to assert that that the previously perceived trade-offs between economic development and environmental and social sustainability have already been left to the history books.

Indeed, as reflected in the 2030 Agenda – to which all UN Member States have subscribed to – pursuing economic models which offer better quality of life for all, within the ecological boundaries of the planet, is the only way forward to address the complexities and challenges of the 21st Century.

At UNDP, we are fully committed to supporting countries to do just that, working together in collaboration with our PAGE colleagues, as well as other partners across the world.

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