NEW DELHI (AlertNet) - Good governance of natural resources and sustainable development must go hand in hand, or economies and nature are at risk, experts, diplomats and business leaders warned at a weekend summit in New Delhi.
According to the experts at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, the growing impacts of climate change also is putting nations – including those on a “green” path – at risk of losing essential resources that are the building blocks of their economies. That suggests an urgent need to be efficient with resources such as water, and to manage them well.
Citing the example of his country, Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho, the minister for environment and forests of Bhutan, said that despite taking a series of measures to adapt to climate change, Bhutan continued to be at the great risk of losing its economic growth, which is based largely on sales of renewable energy.
“Most of our revenues are coming from the sale of hydro-electricity to neighboring countries in Southeast Asia. At present we generate nearly 2,000 megawatts of hydro power. Of that, we use only 400 megawatts for domestic use and sell the rest,” he said.
“Climate change for us means a direct impact on our economy. Melting glaciers will completely destroy our hydropower stations. We are, therefore, at the risk of losing all the money that we invested into building the facilities and also our entire capacity to produce the power. Our economy will be completely devastated,” Gyamtsh predicted.
For Bhutan to sustain a growing economy, it is important that other countries manage their carbon emissions, he said.
Gyamtsh’s concerns were shared by Jean-Paul Adam, the foreign minister of the Seychelles.
“We have a national budget of only $200 million. Most of our money is coming from the sale of tuna to Europe. If we could have a system where the ocean around us was protected by law, we could shift to a sustainable, blue economy and attain a lot of sustainable growth. But right now everyone is following a maximum extraction policy on the ocean and it poses a big threat to our economy,” Adam said.
Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and head of the Energy and Resource Institute, which organised the summit, said resources were often used inefficiently simply because no one recognised the benefits of greater efficiency.
For example, Pachauri said, business firms often acquired more land for a particular project than was actually needed. If companies did a realistic assessment of how much land was required and then used it efficiently, it would benefit everyone.
“Efficient use must happen in all forms of natural resources: land, water and energy,” Pachauri said.
Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, also noted that greater engagement of societies at large was crucial to building green economies, and that global treaties are not always the way to address problems.
“The Millennium Development Goals were not treaty bound, but world leaders still adopted them in the spirit of interest and need,” he noted. “On the other hand, the last 20 years were all about laws and treaties, yet none of the American presidents spoke one word about climate change. But when (Hurricane) Sandy happened, two days before the election, president (U.S. President Barack) Obama added a line on climate change in his speech,” said Sachs.
Annika Markovic, Sweden’s environmental ambassador, in turn pointed to gender equality as a key element of resource management.
“Women handle resources far better” than men. If you look at Asia, where they still use wood for fuel, women still use only waste wood” and use food more carefully, she claimed. That suggests that “if we are to build a sustainable economy, women must have equal access to the resources.”
The three-day summit, with a total of 101 speakers from Asia, Africa, Europe and the America, featured only around a dozen women speakers.
Stella Paul is an environment and development journalist based in Hyderabad, India. Twitter: @stellasglobe