2% of Global GDP Would Stop Poverty & Save the Planet: United Nations


photo: Joelk75/Creative Commons

We've got a spoken rule around the TreeHugger virtual office that we don't write 'save the planet' as it's simplistic cliché, but breaking that rule somehow seems appropriate at this moment: According to a new report from the UNEP investing just 2% of global GDP could both alleviate global poverty, set us solidly on the path away from fossil fuels, and cut our collective ecological footprint nearly in half. So pretty much saving the planet and ourselves with it. Simple. On many levels. Mongabay quotes UNEP head Achim Steiner (from UNEP's press release):

With 2.5 billion people living on less than $2 a day and with more than two billion people being added to the global population by 2050, it is clear that we must continue to develop and grow our economies. But this development cannot come at the expense of the very life support systems on land, in the oceans or in out atmosphere that sustain our economies, and thus, the lives of each and everyone one of us.

Right on Achim. Exactly.

Now how do we do it?

Invest in support small-scale agriculture, energy efficient buildings, fisheries protection, forestry, energy efficient transportation, better waste management and recycling, low carbon energy, better water use practices.

How do we not do it?

Continue spending 1-2% of global GDP on subsidies that lead to unsustainable environmental practices, prop up fossil fuels, pesticide use, unsustainable fishing practices.

So pretty much spend the same amount of money on things that are environmentally friendly and not on those that are destructive.

Simple. Shift 2% of GDP from bad to good. And Robert's your father's brother. Simple. Save the planet.

Kudos to the UNEP for showing us again (and again, and again...I feel like I've read something similar to this for several years running with little to no significant action taken in eliminating those destructive subsidies) how little it would take to do the right thing, in absolute terms.

But, forgive the momentary cynicism, much like futurist predictions that by 2030 we'll be entirely solar powered no problem (simple, easy) that seemingly overlook entirely inertia inherent in our politics, our economics and ourselves, let alone outright concerted opposition by polluting industries and the politicians profiting from this inertia, this latest UNEP calculation seems a bit simple. Even if it would save the planet.

I have no doubt that the UNEP calculations are accurate. Maybe the current US political climate has worn me out, but I do have grave doubts that that shift in investment will occur anytime soon.

More on the United Nations:
Global Population Could Hit 14 Billion By 2100 Without Greater Effort to Slow It: UN
UN Reports on the Economic Repercussions of Massive Declines in Biodiversity

Tags: Economics | United Nations