Access to clean water and effective sanitation should be focus of poor nation's efforts, according to this new report. Kibera slums in Nairobi, Kenya photo: Karl Mueller via flickr
In a statement issued yesterday, the United Nations Environment Programme called for a Global Green New Deal. And in making this plan happen, the rich countries must take the lead:Focusing Just on the Economy is Short-Sighted
The report says that efforts to revive the world economy alone are essential "unless new policy initiatives also address other global challenges—reducing carbon dependency, protecting ecosystems and water resources, alleviating poverty—their impact on averting future crises will be short-lived."
Fair enough, and to be cynical, something which many in the green/social justice community have been saying for decades.
But here's what the UNEP says rich and poor countries should focus on: Rich countries should spend their efforts to slash their use of fossil fuels to avert carbon emissions (rapidly rising nations such as China, India and Brazil should focus on this as well), while poorer nations should spend at least one percent of GDP on expanding access to clean water and improving sanitation for the poor.
Ecosystem Services Payments Should be Expanded
One other interesting, and I think crucial, idea put forth in the report is this:
The international community should support efforts to improve payment for ecosystem services targeted to the poor and to include more ecosystems, and efforts to improve governance and shared use of transboundary water resources.
If that's just a bunch of international relations-speak to you, this is why this is important: The idea behind ecosystem services payments is that in exchange for preserving intact (or at least not entirely degraded) ecosystems, which perform valuable social functions such as improving air quality, flood protection, traditional medicines, sequestering carbon emissions, et cetera, nations should be compensated. It's a way of protecting areas which otherwise might be devastated in the name of short-term financial gain, but the elimination of which has lasting environmental and social implications.
Improving governance of transboundary water resources is an issue which is likely to come even more strongly into the fore as the world's climate changes. As rainfall patterns change, and glaciers melt, how dwindling water supplies get divied up along a water course which crosses through many countries (the Mekong River, originating in China but passing through all of Southeast Asia is a great example) is likely to become a point of contention and potentially start physical conflict.
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