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YYY: Supporting developing countries to ‘green’ their industries

Supporting developing countries to ‘green’ their industries

 InDepth News 28 May 2019

(Originally published: 05/2010) The eco-disaster in the Gulf of Mexico – caused by a lethal explosion on an oil rig operated by British Petroleum (BP) – has destroyed lives, disrupted livelihoods, and created potentially long-lasting threats to a swath of ecosystems. (1565 words) - Ernest Corea

WASHINGTON DC, U.S.A - The eco-disaster in the Gulf of Mexico - caused by a lethal explosion on an oil rig operated by British Petroleum (BP) - has destroyed lives, disrupted livelihoods, and created potentially long-lasting threats to a swath of ecosystems.

The extent and duration of the eco-disaster continues to be the subject of speculation. In fact, each of the principals involved, when they appeared before a congressional committee here, was clear and confident only on one point: the disaster was the "other guy's" responsibility.

What can be said with certainty is that it is a massive disaster and an agonizing tragedy. It also provides a real-life warning of the dangers inherent in continuing with efforts to satisfy the appetites of unsustainable economic activity without turning to alternate and sustainable forms of production.

At the same time, it served as a saddening but appropriate backdrop to the issues raised and the points made at a recent "roundtable" on a different kind of economic activity: green industry


The green industry roundtable which took place in New York, when the UN Commission on Sustainable Development was in session as well, was cosponsored by the Government of the Philippines and UNIDO (the United Nations Industrial Development Organization), so it was not surprising that the subject of green industry came up during a televised interview on the programme Russia Today featuring UNIDO's Director General Kandeh Yumkella.

The program's anchorman raised the issue when introducing Yumkella to his viewing audience. He said that the disaster has "reminded us just how destructive human industrial activity can be for the natural environment".

The interview explored some of the perceived tensions between development and environmental vigilance. Throughout, Yumkella was persistent in his support for sustainable production.

The same support was emphasized during the New York roundtable on "green industry for a low-carbon future" which was, in fact, a follow-up to an earlier Asia-centred event.


In September 2009, the Philippines Government together with UNIDO, UNEP, UNESCAP and ILO convened the "International Conference on Green Industry in Asia: Managing the transition to resource-efficient and low-carbon industries," in Manila, the first such conference in the region.

Its main outcome was the adoption of the (non-binding) Manila Declaration "which outlined initiatives to develop green industry in the region." Its key message was that "a low-carbon and resource-efficient pattern of industrial development in the rapidly industrializing economies of Asia will be key to sustaining economic growth, competitiveness and preservation of the region." The Declaration was accompanied by a Framework of Action.

Signatories to the Declaration stated their "determination" to "establish policies, regulatory and institutional frameworks, where appropriate, which are conducive to shifting towards resource-efficient and low-carbon industries, consistent with the sustainability principle."

On this basis, they would intensify their efforts to achieve "green growth" - by taking "concrete actions toward improving the efficiency of energy, raw material and water use in the production process." They sought the support of UNIDO and UNEP in this effort.

At the New York roundtable, the focus was on taking stock of activities undertaken since the Manila conference, and of looking at future possibilities and prospects in practical terms.

Speakers and participants included representatives of both sponsors as well as of the public and private sectors, international organizations, and UN member nations. George Assaf, an Oxford-educated economist with many years of international experience, who is UNIDO's representative to the UN, served as moderator.


A brief Q and A recorded in the inaugural edition of a UNIDO publication "Making It", asks the question: "Is there a business case for sustainability?" The answer is a counter question: "Is there a business case for ruining the planet?"

There can be no ambiguity in the response to that. Of course, there can be no acceptable "case" for despoiling our planet, our home, although unfortunately men and women have been doing this with reckless abandon down the years.
To some extent that trend is abating, and the process of change has been accelerated, although in intermittent spurts.
One such spurt occurred when President Barack Obama signed a presidential memorandum directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to create "a national policy to increase fuel efficiency and decrease greenhouse gas pollution from medium- and heavy-duty trucks for model years 2014-2018."
Currently trucks consume more than two million barrels of oil every day, and average 6.1 miles per gallon. Obama also called for an extension of the national programme for cars and light-duty trucks to Model Year 2017 and beyond.
While support for cleaner industry and, overall, cleaner, greener economies in all their aspects is developing, it would be unrealistic to shrug off the resistance to moving away from profligate use of natural resources.
The Brookings Institution recently pointed out, for instance, that "the transition to a low-carbon economy will be the most difficult political and economic transaction in history"; requiring "nothing less than a revolution in our sense of civic responsibility."

Each act of "green advocacy" and each actual act of greening helps to build up momentum for that essential change To help in the process, Assaf has devised a compelling case for green industry in a five-point encapsulation that he shared with the round table and in other conversations.
The five points:
-green industry while making good environmental sense, makes good business sense as well;
-the greening of industry (in developing countries) requires a broader follow-up beyond Asia, with green industry going upscale and mainstreamed;
-implementation of the green industry concept needs a lot of capacity building and training and a significant change to new, cleaner and more resource efficient technologies.
-financing arrangements, such as those managed by the IFC (International Finance Corporation), are essential to the development of green industry.
-green industry has global relevance and resonance. As the concept is valid all over the world, UNIDO will promote it in other regions (i.e. beyond Asia) among all who have need of this type of support and approach.
Within that framework of ideas, the New York roundtable addressed some of the practical approaches that might be taken to make green industry an universal reality.

One of the issues that came up at the roundtable itself and during "corridor talk" was finance for greening programs in developing countries which are already cash-strapped. Representatives of the corporate sector and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) which have already provided funding for green industry were confident that the funds would be forthcoming.

A corporate sector spokesperson suggested that the private sector would support greening activities as a matter of practical necessity: if it did not invest now, it would lose opportunities to benefit from trends that would only gather strength. The argument might have been presented as "get in, make profits; keep out, no profits."
Asked whether UNIDO would take a direct interest in promoting foreign direct investment (FDI) or Official Development Assistance (ODA) to support green industry, Assaf responded that "countries with clear and consistent macro-economic and industrial policies -- which include environmental issues -- will be more attractive to FDI and ODA. In these cases, UNIDO plays only a catalytic role.

"Inasmuch as green industry promotes sustainable development, wealth and job creation, it will also be attractive to external financing and support. UNIDO's programmes of investment promotion and Investment and Technology Promotion Offices can be very valuable support in this regard."


Of course, much of the industry in developing countries comes from or is derived from industrialised countries. This might suggest that developing countries will find the transition to green industry difficult if not, in some cases, almost impossible unless industrialized countries go green themselves.

An African representative pointedly said that African countries did not wish to repeat the mistakes made by industrialized countries.

"Yes," said Assaf, when the question was raised with him, "this is a factor but not an overwhelming obstacle. With the right support and business climate, enterprises in developing countries can leapfrog industrialization and production technologies. To produce in an efficient and clean way is not dependent on your location; it depends mainly on the effectiveness and efficiency of management and technology used in a company."

UNIDO and UNEP with support from the Governments of Switzerland and Austria have set up National Cleaner Production Centres which seek to provide developing countries with the know-how and skill required to accelerate the greening process.
Thirteen centres have been established in Africa and the Arab region, seven in Asia and the Pacific, thirteen in Europe and Central Asia, and 12 in Latin America.
These centres, already active in advocacy, training, industry demonstrations, policy advice, technology transfer, investment and institutional development, could well turn out to be the main instruments of green industrialization in developing countries.

For, as UNIDO's Heinz Leuenberger pointed out at the round table, the main requirement for moving into green industry is "not about writing reports but of doing work on the ground."


UNIDO appears well suited to supporting developing countries on this path, continuing to focus on "awareness raising and information dissemination, providing guidance to countries and developing the green industry concept further, collecting baseline data and monitoring progress, implementing pilot projects, and expanding the concept to other developing regions of the world -- especially Africa."

This is a heavy schedule, no doubt, but it represents a worthwhile effort to help developing countries reach out toward prosperity - one green industry after another.

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