While significant development progress has been achieved over the past two decades, with almost 650 million people moving out of extreme poverty in developing countries between 1990 and 2008, nearly 1.3 billion women, men and children have been left behind living on less than US$1.25 per day. Even greater numbers suffer other forms of poverty and deprivation, and inequality both within and across countries has increased. Looking ahead, the challenge of overcoming poverty and inequality will be greatly compounded by ecosystem degradation, climate change and economic disruption, which disproportionately impact the poor and most vulnerable. These increasingly interlinked crises threaten hard-won development gains and prospects for continued progress. While calls for action have multiplied, the world’s collective response has fallen far short of what is needed.
At the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Poverty-Environment Partnership (PEP) launched the influential publication Linking Poverty Reduction and Environmental Management, with the core message that sound management of the environment is vital to fighting poverty and inequality and to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). A decade later, as the global community prepares for the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, moving toward an inclusive and green economy is receiving growing political attention as a promising path to sustainable development and poverty eradication.
Examples of the green economy in practice show great potential for delivering a “triple bottom line” of job–creating economic growth coupled with environmental protection and social inclusion. However, there are significant barriers to realizing this potential on a large scale. To build an inclusive green economy that is equitable and sustainable will require carefully designed policies and targeted investments that enable low and middle-income countries and the poor to contribute to and benefit from the transition. Of particular importance is the need for governance and policy reforms that extend to poor people secure rights over the environmental assets that underpin their livelihoods and well-being, and that ensure a greater voice in decisions affecting how these assets are managed. At the same time, policies and measures such as green protectionism and aid conditionality that could adversely impact low and middle-income countries and people living in poverty must be avoided if the benefits of an inclusive green economy are to be realized.
This joint Poverty-Environment Partnership paper aims to stimulate a dialogue among developing country policymakers, development partners and other stakeholders on how best to support country-led efforts to build inclusive green economies. Through a shared commitment to putting into place the building blocks of a green economy for all, real and lasting progress can be made towards overcoming poverty and inequality and achieving sustainable human development.