By Dr Soha Maad
This article traces the road to the transition to green economy in the Arab world highlighting efforts of the Union of Arab Banks to promote giga projects (giant projects) including green projects, and the efforts of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Islamic Development Bank (ISDB) to develop a comprehensive green transition facility to support the sustainable green growth of the Arab States.
The article overviews the definition of the green economy and green investment and clarifies the differences between green economy, blue economy, and circular economy. The article highlights the principles of green economy and drivers of green economic growth. The best green technology innovations are enumerated and an overview of digital technologies for the green economy and the growth of the sustainable information technology market are overviewed. A comparison between Green IT (Information Technology) and IT for Green is also drawn. Various Green economy models are overviewed with case studies from South Korea, China, and Brazil. The article concludes with the road for the transition to green economy in the Arab states.
What Is A Green Economy?
A green economy is an economy that aims at reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities, and that aims for sustainable development without degrading the environment. It is closely related with ecological economics, but has a more politically applied focus. According to the 2011 United Nation Environment Program (UNEP) Green Economy, the green economy must not only be efficient, but also fair. Fairness implies recognizing global and country level equity dimensions, particularly in assuring a just transition to an economy that is low-carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive.
A feature distinguishing a green economy from prior economic regimes is the direct valuation of natural capital and ecological services as having economic value and a full cost accounting regime in which costs externalized onto society via ecosystems are reliably traced.
The United Nations UN Environment-led Green Economy Initiative, launched in late 2008, emphasises the importance of green economy. The Green Economy Initiative is a coalition of organisations with a collective objective to provide the analysis and policy support for investing in green sectors and facilitating green economic growth.
There was a universal agreement that the current economic system is no longer appropriate due to its extremely detrimental social and environmental repercussions.
Governments, businesses, and society are becoming aware of the importance of green economy. The green business and economy is described as an alternative vision for growth and sustainable development.
A green economy is a low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive. In a green economy, income and employment are driven by public and private investment into activities that reduce carbon emissions and prevent the loss of biodiversity. Green investment funds consist of investment activities that focus on companies or projects committed to the conservation of natural resources. Green economy sectors include clean energy, green buildings, sustainable transport, water management, waste management and land management.
A green economy promotes social and environmental sustainability through the encouragement of public and private investment in infrastructure. The green economy is significant because it promotes low digital carbon footprint, sustainable economic growth and guarantees that natural resources will continue to support our continued well-being by providing resources and environmental services.
Blue Economy Versus Green Economy
Blue economy principles question how we produce and consume things, with a focus on using all resources efficiently and using waste to make new products where possible.
The principles of the blue economy are based on natural ecosystems, encouraging people to use all waste, consuming locally and making and using only what is essential.
Circular Economy Versus Green Economy
The circular economy means moving away from our current and enormously wasteful economic model of ‘take, make, throw away’, in which resources are extracted, turned into products, used, and discarded. A circular green economy improves resource efficiency and reduces environmental impact on natural capital by designing products in a more sustainable way.
The fundamental idea behind the green economy is to promote economic growth while taking into account the sustainability of the ecological balance and the availability of current natural resources. The circular economy, on the other hand, is more concerned with maintaining a closed cycle of resources. Therefore, the circular economy seeks to replace linear production and consumption patterns (use and discard) with circular or sustainable ones.
Principles Of Green Economy
According to a paper titled Principles, Priorities, and Pathways for Inclusive Green Economies, published by the United Nations UN High-Level Forum on Sustainable Development in New York, there are the five core principles of the green economy:
- The Wellbeing Principle: The green economy is focused on people. Its goal is to produce real, shared wealth. It emphasizes accumulating wealth that will promote wellbeing. This wealth spans the entire spectrum of human, social, physical, and natural capital, not just financial wealth. It places a high value on investments in and access to the infrastructure, know-how, and education required for everyone to flourish. It provides opportunities for ethical and sustainable businesses, jobs, and livelihoods.
- The Justice Principle: Equity between generations and within them is encouraged by the green economy. The green economy is non-discriminatory and inclusive. It resists elite capture, evenly distributes expenses and benefits, and promotes the empowerment of women. The green economy encourages the equitable distribution of opportunity and outcome, decreasing gaps between individuals. It adopts a long-term outlook on the economy, generating wealth and resilience that serve the needs of present and future citizens while also responding to poverty and injustice. It is founded on social justice and solidarity, and it upholds the rights of workers, minorities, indigenous peoples, and human beings in general. It supports social enterprises, sustainable livelihoods, and the empowerment of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
- The Planetary Boundaries Principle: The green economy protects, restores, and funds the environment. An inclusive green economy applies the precautionary principle to prevent the loss of important natural capital and the violation of ecological boundaries while acknowledging the limited substitutability of natural capital with other capital. It makes investments in the preservation, expansion, and restoration of the earth’s soil, water, air, and natural systems.
- The Efficiency and Sufficiency Principle: The goal of the green economy is to promote sustainable production and consumption. It acknowledges that, there must be a substantial worldwide change to limit the consumption of natural resources to physically sustainable levels.
- The Good Governance Principle: Institutions that are incorporated, accountable, and strong serve as the green economy’s compass. An inclusive green economy is backed by institutions with the necessary resources to achieve their various duties in an effective, efficient, and accountable manner. These institutions are integrated, collaborative, and cohesive across sectors and governance levels. While upholding robust, uniform, centralized standards, procedures, and compliance systems, the green economy encourages decentralized decision-making for local economies and the management of natural systems. It creates a financial system that is designed to promote sustainability and well-being and to safely advance societal goals.
Green Economic Growth
The green economy benefits society, industry, and the environment. The concept of “green economy” is undermined by the notion that development, growth, and well-being may be attained by sustainable practices. Sustainable development does not take the place of green growth. Instead, it offers a realistic and adaptable strategy for achieving tangible and verifiable progress along its economic and environmental pillars, taking into account the social repercussions of the growth momentum of greening economies. Green growth initiatives seek to ensure that natural resources can sustainably realize their full economic potential.
Green technologies cover a broad range of innovations and methods, including sustainable agriculture, wildlife conservation, and alternative energy and fuel sources.
The sustainability magazine ranked the top green technology innovations that leverage natural resources in a circular fashion and pull together the research and development to bring actionable solutions to the world:
1) Biomimicry: Scientists are working to capture the regenerative functions of plants and animals. This technology could be used in fibres to enable cuts to patch up minor holes and tears.
2) Molten salt energy storage: Heat is one way in which energy can be stored, meeting a gap in the energy sector that must be filled to reach a renewable energy future. It has been noticed that salt has particularly good characteristics for heat storage, making it a great base for capturing and holding energy.
3) Artificial photosynthesis: Scientists and technologists are working together to mimic the effects of photosynthesis through technology to create usable energy.
4) Smart meters: Smart meters installed in homes allow consumers to reduce their energy consumption, which is an indirect way of reducing overall housing emissions. Individuals are able to save on their household bills while companies have more energy in the pipeline to supply to other buildings.
5) Carbon capture and storage: One of the most innovative solutions for eliminating atmospheric carbon dioxide, carbon sequestration, is going beyond human efforts to plant more trees and reduce carbon output. New technologies will be leveraged in years to come to actively remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere.
6) Electric vehicle propulsion: One of the most visible forms of renewable technology is electric vehicle (EV) propulsion. However, existing infrastructures are not capable of supporting a fully-electric future yet.
7) Nuclear energy technology: Although controversial based on its potential to disrupt cities, technology is being developed to produce clean energy at scale.
8) Waste-water electricity generator: The circular economy can be applied beyond recycling man-made materials. Electricity generators enable the use of waste water to create electricity. Alongside the solutions contribution to mains grid power generation, the technology is also capable of powering the treatment of water full circle.
9) Recycled plastic road surfacing: Plastic based materials are adopted to use recycled plastic bottles.
10) Green architecture technologies: Due to the sheer scale of the built environment, difficulties arise around the sustainability of urban living. As buildings are getting taller and cities more compact, innovation is taking place to ensure that new buildings meet climate requirements, and are capable of generating energy, sequestering carbon, and fitting aesthetically within local landscapes. Green architecture technologies help in planting roofs and walls, to reduce carbon footprint.
Digital Technologies For The Green Ecoonomy
When it comes to the environment, digital technology can be considered both a problem and a solution. Manufacturers of digital technology products increase air and soil pollution when they mine the raw materials they need to make electronic components and there is a carbon cost of running these devices. Digital devices need to be powered up. They also rely on the transmission of data. All of this consumes energy usually supplied by fossil fuels.
However, many digital services have replaced other activities that consume even more resources. Consider, for example, the negligible environmental impact of a video call with a customer against a plane ride to meet the client in person.
The tech industry is working towards reducing its consumption over time. Meanwhile the environmental concerns must be balanced against the many wider benefits of digital technology. The estimates of the energy consumption of tech devices, the internet and the systems that support them vary, but a report by Digital Power Group, suggests that Information Communications Technologies (ICT) might consume more than 10 percent of global electricity production equal to all the electricity generated in Japan and Germany combined.
Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT, Purdue University, and Yale University have concluded that one hour of streaming can emit between 150 and 1,000 grams of carbon dioxide, depending on the service. They think that remote work could have contributed 34.3 million tons in greenhouse gas emissions in 2021. To store and transmit all of the data powering the internet, data centers consume enough electricity to account for 1 percent of global energy demand.
Sustainable Information Technology Market
The impulse to adapt Information Technology (IT) and telecom infrastructure for low carbon emissions is not merely a cost. It is a commercial opportunity. Specialist companies are moving into the space, which is growing fast. A recent report predicted the green technology and sustainability market will grow from $17.8 billion in 2022 to $60.7 billion by 2027.
In the early 21st century, millions of consumers are bringing a new factor into their decision-making which is environmental sustainability. Digital technology companies are now responding to these forces. As a consequence, companies across the tech space are now taking action to reduce their footprint.
A major source of energy use and carbon emissions for enterprises is self-owned IT equipment and data centers. One way to tackle this is to improve the efficiency of these systems. But this is usually difficult and expensive. Another solution is to move to a new model that does not require ownership at all. This solution is the cloud-based software-as-a-service model.
Green It Versus It For Green
Green IT (Information Technology) relates to tech equipment, products and services that minimizes technology impact on the planet. This involves reducing energy consumption, building with more environmentally friendly materials, developing cloud computing alternatives and maximizing the lifespan of products through the repair, reuse, and recycling of materials.
IT for Green is about IT specifically serving the environmental cause. Many technological advances are emerging to help business of every kind cut down on energy and emissions. This applies to Internet of Things IoT platforms and sensors that manage lighting, cooling, and power. It also embraces preventive maintenance systems, which analyse equipment and identify minor faults before they turn into more disruptive major ones.
Green Economy Models
The process of implementing the Green Economy system is difficult. However, some nations can act as role models because of their steadfast dedication to putting into practice a theory of green growth or a low-carbon economic plan and developing large-scale initiatives that have succeeded in boosting productivity or development in long-lasting.
South Korea Green economy model
A national strategy and five-year plan for green growth have been adopted by South Korea for the years, allocating 2% of its GDP to investments in a variety of green industries, such as renewable energy. The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), which strives to assist nations, particularly developing nations. in creating green growth strategies, was also established by the government.
China Green Economy Model
China surpasses all other nations in its investment in renewable energy. This has produced 64 percent increase in total installed wind capacity.
China now has more than 130 gigawatts of solar energy capacity, making it the world’s largest solar energy producer. Even China’s objective for solar energy capacity was met, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Brazil Green Economy
Curitiba city in Brazil is regarded as the country’s sustainable city, and this state is well renowned for its urban growth. This world’s greenest city encourages sustainable living. 400 square kilometres of it are covered in forests. It provides a range of initiatives to encourage people to recycle their waste.
The Transition To Green Economy In The Arab World
The transition to a green economy necessitates a significant change in the government’s priorities will be necessary. Although accepting this transition is difficult, it is essential if the Sustainable Development Goals are to be met.
The transition to a green economy takes a long-term view of the economy, emphasizing on how resources are used to benefit society and how efficiency and resource sufficiency can be leveraged to foster wealth, resilience, and wellbeing for present and future generations of people while staying within the ecological bounds of the planet. A green economy has inclusive and non-discriminatory behaviours, from environmental activities to investments in well-being.
The Arab States region is critically endangered from climate risk, with the highest levels of food import dependency and water scarcity across the globe. The past decade saw one of the most severe drought cycles in the region for hundreds of years, exacerbating ecosystem fragility, displacement, and social vulnerability. By 2030, unless urgent actions are taken, water and food productivity could decline further.
The devastating effects of climate change are not only affecting the livelihoods of the people in the Arab States, but also generating geopolitical and security implications in the region, causing food and political crises. In order to tackle the multifaceted environmental and socio-economic problems of the region, the transition to green economy is a primary step.
Various initiatives and efforts are undertaken to enable and track the transition to green economy in the Arab region:
- The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Islamic Development Bank (ISDB) are working to develop a comprehensive green transition facility to support the sustainable green growth of the Arab States, the Green Arab States Facility for Transition (GAFT), focusing on developing green transition pathways in crisis and post-conflict settings. This will integrate green solutions into reconstruction efforts across the region and address energy gaps in crisis settings and for displaced communities through a more diversified energy mix.
- The Union of Arab banks is promoting efforts to finance giga projects including projects for the transition to green economy in the Arab region.
United Nations, Legal and general group, Open Growth, World Resources Institute, UN High-Level Forum on Sustainable Development, Global Green Growth Institute, Greenly Institute, Thales Group, Digital Power Group.