Global Dialogue on Sustainability and Inclusion


Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, delivred at the Rio+20 Earth Summit, Session on Global Dialogue on Sustainability and Inclusion

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 20 June 2012 - 22 June 2012,
(As prepared for delivery)

President Moreno, Distinguished Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be back in Rio and to participate in this Ministerial Global Dialogue.

Some impressive progress has been made since the first Rio Summit in 1992. World GDP has increased by 75% lifting half a billion people out of poverty. But growth has not been inclusive enough over the last twenty years: inequalities have risen and increased material prosperity has also come at a price to our environment.

Despite important achievements, sustainable development is still a challenge, not a reality. Overall, there is a sense that the current economic system has failed, not only to avoid the worst financial crisis of our lifetime but also to prevent the environmental degradation that threatens future growth prospects.

In moving forward, we need to ensure that our policies have a stronger focus on sustainability and inclusion. This is an essential mission of the OECD. Our goal is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of our citizens – to promote better policies for better lives.

Green Growth is part of our policy arsenal. It offers real opportunities for more sustainable, inclusive growth while protecting the environment. It unlocks opportunities for greater economic prosperity and better welfare: (i) by freeing-up scarce fiscal resources for anti-poverty programmes and other public priorities, (ii) by enhancing productivity through a more efficient use of natural resources and energy, (iii) by opening up new markets for green technologies, goods and services, and (iv) by creating new employment opportunities.

OECD Green Growth and Developing Countries Report

We are also looking at how the OECD’s Green Growth policy toolkit and measurement instruments can best be tailored to fit specific national circumstances in advanced, emerging and developing countries.

Our ongoing work on Green Growth and Developing Countries is central to this endeavour. It focuses on the ways to reconcile environmental sustainability with economic growth and poverty reduction objectives in the developing world.

We show that these goals can be pursued simultaneously in a mutually-reinforcing way and highlight solutions to get around the potential trade-offs. The more efficient environmental resources are used, the stronger growth will be. If properly planned, designed and sequenced, green growth policies can also make societies more equal.

By reassessing and adapting our frameworks to developing country circumstances, we deepen our understanding of green growth strategies. And by doing so we also contribute a comprehensive and practical way to meet our shared aspirations for sustainable development and poverty eradication beyond Rio+20.

Let me stress that in developing countries, even more than elsewhere, accompanying measures are needed for green growth to be inclusive. For example, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies is good for the environment but it needs to be accompanied by measures to minimise its short-term burden on the poorest.

Inclusive and Green Growth: Learning from Latin America

In designing green growth policies, and tailoring them to developing country needs and circumstances, we need to learn more about ongoing strategies; this is why it is so important to foster a global dialogue on all these issues.

The experiences of several Latin American countries have demonstrated the immense potential for green growth and offer important examples of successful inclusive green growth policies from which we can all learn.

In many Latin American countries, governments have set up schemes that pay farmers and ranchers when they incorporate less destructive production practices, such as not using pesticides or introducing sustainable agro-forestry systems. Costa Rica’s Payments for Environmental Services, created in 1996, is a good example. This programme is financed through taxes on fuel and water, and is about discouraging deforestation by paying forest owners for the environmental services that forests yield, such as watershed and biodiversity protection and greenhouse gas mitigation.

Other Latin American countries have put in place initiatives to subsidise the cost of new, energy- and water-efficient homes for low-income families, like Brazil’s “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” (National Housing Plan) launched in 2009. These programmes aim to achieve both social and environmental goals.

Other policies also underscore the huge market opportunities for green innovation. Latin American countries have become important drivers of green innovation in recent years through, for instance, plantation technology in Brazil, affordable green housing in Mexico, and the development of biofuels in Brazil and Mexico. The technologies developed in Latin America may be more suited to the needs and conditions of other emerging-market and developing countries than those from developed countries. And indeed South-South flows of green technology are increasing.

Still, Latin America has a long way to go make growth more inclusive and sustainable.
The OECD Economic Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean shows that, despite the global financial crisis, the outlook for Latin American economies has improved substantially in recent years. The governments of the region should take advantage of this opportunity to design and implement better public policies and take a more inclusive and sustainable long-term development path.

The main message of this work is that the social policies of the last years alone are not enough to create more equitable and inclusive societies. There needs to be more active promotion of education, investment and innovation. Upgrading infrastructure, sustainable energy and logistics, boosting investments in innovation, and improving the quality of education and training are essential elements in the inclusive growth agenda of Latin America. The Inter-American Bank has an important role to play in making this happen by providing financing for these needed investments.

We still have a lot to learn from each other and the global dialogue we are having today is essential to share our expertise and experience, find solutions to common problems and move forward on a growth path that is stronger, fairer, greener, and ultimately more sustainable.

Thank you.

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