UN conference for a green economy

Two workers wearing safty helmets cleaning solar panels on a rooftop

Left to right: Erik Solheim (Head of UN Environment), Edna Molewa (South African Environment Minister), Barbara Hendricks (German Federal Environment Minister), Karolina Skog (Swedish Environment Minister), Minho Lee (South Korean Deputy Environment Minister), Marc Chardonnens (Director of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN)), Frank Rijsbermann (Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)), Lars Andreas Lunde (State Secretary at the Ministry of Climate and Environment of Norway). Photo: © BMUB/Sascha Hilgers

The Second Ministerial Conference of the UN’s Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) was held in Berlin on 27 and 28 March 2017. Discussion focused on realistic alternatives for an equitable, environmentally friendly redesign of our economies and world trade activities. As host of the international conference, German Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks had joined PAGE in inviting 400 participants from 45 countries, including 15 ministers and state secretaries, to the event, which was entitled ‘Inclusive and Sustainable Economies – Powering the Sustainable Development Goals’. Delegates were engaged in intensive dialogue on ways to accelerate the trend towards green and more socially responsible economic practices.

The urgent need for structural change in order to conserve our planet’s vital natural resources and secure long-term social stability provided the starting point for discussions and conversations among the high-profile representatives from policy-making, civil society, trade unions, business and research. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement require us to set a clear course to promote financial flows and infrastructure. Indeed, the transition has already begun and, in the energy sector especially, there are functioning models for driving the decarbonisation of our economies while at the same time creating good jobs and distributing wealth more equitably. 

Consisting of the UN organisations UN Environment, ILO, UNDP, UNIDO and UNITAR, PAGE assists countries around the world to develop and implement strategic policy approaches for bringing about the necessary structural change. This year’s PAGE conference focused on the topics of green investments, sustainable lifestyles and inclusive growth. One of the key questions was: What motivates billionaire investors to put their money into creating a sustainable future? The German Renewable Energy Sources Act (EGG) was cited as a good example in this context, and disclosure requirements in the financial sector were also discussed. Another question was: What will we eat, drink and consume in the future and how can we design corresponding business models that do not ruin our planet and our health? Specific initiatives were presented to this end in the areas of recycling, water management, resource-efficient production methods and the organic food sector.

Another discussion forum addressed the topic of ‘Migration, environmental sustainability and action for inclusive green growth’. Photo: © BMUB/Thomas Trutschel

Conference delegates from around the world also exchanged their experiences of general legislative and institutional conditions that drive business models which promote a ‘green industrial revolution’, for instance in the automotive and logistics sectors. The diverse perspectives and insights from policy-makers, practitioners, CEOs and NGOs should boost efforts to introduce the structural changes needed to implement the Sustainable Development Goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement, not least in the context of Germany’s G20 Presidency. Several ‘pioneers of change’ exhibited specific examples at the conference. For instance, the Borderstep Institute for Innovation and Sustainability showcased electricity-free fridges and moss walls for trapping particulates.  

The Green Growth Knowledge Platform (GGKP) also used the conference to launch its new Virtual Policy Solutions Centre, a portal with a user-friendly best practices database and the Green Growth Expert Connect pool. A media debate entitled ‘Whose Prosperity? How Can We Build Inclusive, Sustainable Economies?’ was held the evening before the conference. 

For many years, the German Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) has been supporting and overseeing the activities of PAGE and is currently providing assistance through the International Climate Initiative (IKI) with the Supporting Low-carbon Development through a Green Economy (PAGE) Project. The project team worked with the Strategic Environmental Dialogue Project, also funded by IKI, to support the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in organising the conference.