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20 years after the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, next year will mark the meeting of governments from around the world for the UN conference of Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil. Recognizing that the challenges and recent ongoing crises we are facing are caused by the way we manage (or mismanage) our natural resources, a green economy is one of 2 central themes of this conference.

Green Economy: a low-carbon, resource efficient economy that allows for sustainable development and poverty eradication

While Canada has already implemented policies and initiatives to encourage the emerging green economy, some are question if this growth is fast enough. The challenge that many governments face, from both developed and developing countries, is how to accelerate and increase the scale of these initiatives, in order to ensure a greater impact. This impact would be social, economic and environmental.

One key impact – the economic impact – is what particularly interests us. According to UNEP (the United Nations Environment Programme), investing 2% of the global GDP annually, or about $1.3 trillion dollars in 10 key “sectors”, while having successfully policies and measures that support the investment, could kick-start a green economic transaction globally. Though the initial investments costs for these projects and their resulting potential job losses are a major challenge for countries globally, experts say that a green economy will generate more employment then the jobs lost due to a change in methods, till 2050. Their study also provides examples of this in certain countries, such as:

  1. The Republic of Korea: A producer responsibility law has caused a 14% increase in recycling has contributed to $1.6 billion to the economy
  2. Germany: 360 000 jobs have been created in the renewable energy sector
  3. China: 600 000 jobs have been created in the solar water heating sector
  4. Canada: Ontario’s Green Energy Act has caused more than $9 billion in private sector investment, which results in an estimated 20 000 new jobs

It seems that we are only at the tip of the iceberg in the context of how much we can prosper through a green economy and the Rio+20 summit is creating a stage for innovative ideas to make this progress faster. The challenges we faced in 1992 have become more pressing and tangible since then, however the opportunities to turn this spiral around are more promising than ever, as well. Successfully using these opportunities could result in employment, growth and economic stability, and a more sustainable planet.

We must remember throughout all of this that as a developed nation we are not an isolated island, as problems affect the rest of the world, they will affect us too. Floods, draughts or famines in other parts of the world, could impact food and fuel markets here at home. At Shopanthropic, we believe we are becoming part of this movement to a more global greener economy and we hope that our contribution is a part of an accelerated movement to a better future.