AFED at Mediterranean Green Economy Conference in Marseille
Environment as an opportunity for job creation and growth
The report on Green Economy, produced by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED), is continuing to attract interest among governments, international organizations and the private sector. Following its release in Beirut in October 2011, the report was endorsed in public initiatives and programs, assigned as mandatory reading and included in the curricula of business schools and international relations programs at various universities. The most recent endorsement went beyond the Arab region, with the launching of the Mediterranean report on Green Growth, being produced by the Center of Mediterranean Integration (CMI) under the lead of the World Bank.
At a conference in Marseille attended by representatives from 26 countries, the World Bank's senior environmental specialist and team leader Gilles Pipien described AFED report on green economy as "pioneering effort to advance green economy through quantifying its components, which had served as main source for the Mediterranean report." Christian Averous, president of the Mediterranean report's Working Group, said that the recommendations of AFED report guided their work and resonated in the Mediterranean report's conclusions.
In recognition of its role, AFED's documentary entitled "Green Change", which summarizes its report and features some successful applications in the Arab region, was shown in the opening of the Marseille conference. AFED's Secretary General Najib Saab presented main findings and recommendation of AFED report "Green Economy: Sustainable Transition in a Changing Arab World" in the first session, in which he was a panelist together with Myriam Lynster, Principal Administrator of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Gilles Pipien of the World Bank and Riccardo Mesiano of ESCWA. Saab highlighted five aspects where greening the economy would have big impact in the Mediterranean region: Energy, water, agriculture, tourism and building industry. He announced that AFED will be presenting its green economy report at the forthcoming Rio+20 conference, where it will also organize, jointly with ESCWA, UNEP and the League of Arab States, a special session on how green economy can help to achieve food security in the Arab countries.
Cooperation agreements were discussed between AFED and regional partners to help implement the recommendations, in such a manner that secures a smooth transition to the green economy, at a broad Mediterranean level, drawing on AFED's work in this regard.
The report, entitled "Towards Green Growth in Mediterranean Countries," argues that sound environmental management can be an opportunity for job creation and growth. It found that the Mediterranean countries are confronted with economic, environmental, and social challenges that are strongly interlinked. Economic performance is stagnating and local manufacturing firms are struggling to remain competitive in the face of the rapid expansion of emerging industrial powers in Asia. Natural assets are scarce and increasingly exposed to risks of irreversible degradation. The water stress could be further amplified by climate change in the coming decades. The destructive consequences of uncontrolled urban sprawl that encroaches on agricultural land and coastal areas of high potential for tourism activities and high biodiversity value affect the present and future economic prosperity and well-being of local populations.
On both the northern and the southern shores of the Mediterranean, policy makers and other stakeholders have to address massive unemployment among the young generations. The lack of perspective fuels desperation. The manifestations of the Arab Spring have demonstrated that the demand for a new paradigm of economic development and social equity cannot be ignored any longer.
The report presents recommendations for actions towards achieving green growth, highlighting the potential benefits in the sectors of energy and water efficiency, air pollution control and solid waste management. Shifting to green economy is achievable, but only through employing effective tools, particularly fiscal reform, market-based instruments and incentives for environmental responsibility. In line with AFED recommendations, the Mediterranean report advocates the reduction of aggressive energy and water subsidies, accompanied by complementary measures to reduce the impact on the poor.
The report highlights the work of organizations which have already been working on defining incentives to shift to a green economy, singling out UNEP, OECD and AFED. Following consultations, the final version is expected to be launched at the end of 2012.