UN: Invest 2% Of GDP For Greener Tomorrow

The United Nations Environment Programme says diverting 2 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) into green initiatives might hurt in the short run, but in the long run it would “grow the global economy at around the same rate, if not higher, than those forecast under current economic models.” In a new report, the organization said making the investments beginning now would provide a bridge to a sustainable future without the “rising risks, shocks, scarcities and crises increasingly inherent in the existing, resource-depleting, high carbon ‘brown’ economy.”

Two percent might not sound like much, but since we’re talking globally it translates to a whopping annual sum of $1.3 trillion – yes, that’s trillion with a “t” – right now, and more as world economies grow. UNEP acknowledges that’s a hefty sum, but it also argues that current practices invest heavily – between 1 and 2 percent of GDP annually – in “a range of subsidies that often perpetuate unsustainable resources use in areas such as fossil fuels, agriculture, including pesticide subsidies, water and fisheries.”

Towards a Green Economy, UNEP

image via United Nations Environment Programme

The report pegs 10 areas as key sectors for green investment, but puts a special emphasis on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Investments there of between 1 and 1.25 percent of annual global GDP would result in a drop in energy demand of 9 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2050. Meanwhile, the report said, “employment levels in the energy sector would be one-fifth higher than under a business as usual scenario.”

The UNEP report, “Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication,” was released in Nairobi at the organization’s annual meeting. A PDF of the report is available online.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.