Much «clean» growth possible in developing world with existing technology, right strategy and incentives, UNCTAD Report says

The stress of the global financial crisis — as well as concerns about climate change and food prices — should be used by developing countries to shift towards ”clean” growth, a new UNCTAD report recommends. It says such progress is possible and affordable with existing technology, based on the right strategy and incentives.

UNCTAD’s Trade and Environment Review TER 2009/2010 contends that while conventional wisdom holds that economic crises are times for belt-tightening and cost-cutting, the opposite is true in the current case. The urgency of the crisis gives governments of the world’s poorer nations the chance to re-direct resources to economic growth that is more economically efficient, better for the environment, more socially equitable, and more promising over the long term.

Because so little has been done in such nations, the TER notes, huge gains can be realized in improving energy efficiency, enhancing sustainable agricultural methods, and stimulating the use of rural, ”off-grid” renewable energy. If approached intelligently, such improvements should yield savings that pay for themselves or even generate quick profits. In addition, shifting to ”clean” growth should create jobs, the report says. But to make this progress happen, governments must eliminate market barriers and policies that prevent the flow of capital into these promising sectors.

The study maintains that large improvements in energy efficiency can be achieved in many low-income and least developed countries ”at negative net cost.” For example, efficient building technologies may be applied using local materials, in many cases reducing heating and related costs. Similar opportunities exist in sustainable agriculture, opened up by alternative production methods, developments in technology, and changing consumer preferences, the report says.