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Developing countries to facilitate global green trade – U.N.E.P.

Developing countries are well positioned to help green the global trade, a critical step to achieving sustainable development, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

In the recently published Green Economy and Trade report, the international organization noted that trade has continued to expand in the last two decades, creating economic growth and progress towards eradicating poverty in developing countries while, at the same time, contributing to climate change with increased greenhouse gas emissions.

The report showed that there are significant and real opportunities for developing nations to expand their economies and allow themselves to benefit from the rising global demand for more green goods and services.

Significantly, they could capitalize on their abundant natural resources to increase their share in international markets of sustainable products.

“In today's increasingly interconnected world, where trillions of dollars worth of goods and services are traded annually, greening global trade still presents challenges but also holds significant opportunities,” said Achim Steiner, U.N. Under-Secretary General and U.N.E.P. Executive Director.

While they only represent a small share in the global market, the U.N.E.P. said trade in certified products and in environmental goods and services is “on the rise in absolute terms.”

For instance, green trade opportunities exist in six key economic sectors, including agriculture, fisheries, forests, manufacturing, renewable energy and tourism.

For agriculture, the report forecasted the global market for organic food and beverages to reach $105 billion by 2015, compared with $62 billion in 2011.

Meanwhile, the total value of seafood that has been farmed according to certified sustainability standards is projected to increase to $1.25 billion by 2015, an increase from 300 million in 2008. Wild-capture fisheries already certified or in full assessment record annual catches of around 18 million metric tons of seafood, representing about 17 percent of the yearly global harvest of wild capture fisheries and demand far outstrips supply.

As for forestry, sales of certified wood products are valued at over $20 billion annually. The total area of certified forest worldwide, as of early 2013, stands at nearly 400 million hectares, amounting to around 10 percent of global forest resources.

In the manufacturing sector, suppliers are increasingly greening their practices in order to secure their positions within international supply chains. For instance, a 1,500 percent increase in global ISO 14001 certifications on environmental management has been recorded between 1999 and 2009.

Renewable energy is a flourishing industry as more and more countries seek to reduce their emissions in response to climate change. Since 1990, the report noted annual global growth in solar, wind and biofuel supply capacity has averaged 42, 25 and 15 percent respectively.

In 2010 alone, investments in renewables reached $211 billion, a five-fold increase from 2004 and more than half of these investments were in developing countries.

Finally, tourism industry’s market in developing countries in expected to grow to 57 percent by 2030, up by 10 percent from 2011. The fastest growing sub-sector in sustainable tourism is ecotourism, which focuses on nature-based activities.

The report noted that many developing countries have a comparative advantage in ecotourism mainly because of their natural environments, cultural heritage and possibilities for adventure holidays.

“If we are to reverse the global decline in biodiversity, mitigate the release of greenhouse gases, halt the degradation of lands and protect our oceans, then it is an imperative that international trade becomes more sustainable and contributes to protecting that 'natural capital' of economies in the developing world,” stressed Mr. Steiner. – EcoSeed Staff

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