Ambassador Betty E. King
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva
Panel Discussion on Entrepreneurship and the Green Economy
United States Mission
Geneva, April 7, 2011
Good morning! I welcome you here to our Mission today for a discussion about entrepreneurship and the green economy. It is a discussion that promises to be informative, inspiring and interactive, we hope. There are several reasons why we have chosen this particular moment to host a conversation about this topic.
First, we’re just two weeks away from Earth Day – April 22nd – and we thought that rather than plant another tree – which, by the way, we’ve already done at the Palais in commemoration of World Forestry Day last month – or promote recycling – which we will do at the Palais in June with an exhibit on World Environment Day – we thought we would shine a light on ways that people can and are changing the way we do business. That is, the green economy.
Second, talk of the green economy is at an all-time high, particularly within UN circles. The UN Conference on Sustainable Development – or Rio +20 as it’s more commonly known – is right around the corner, and one of its themes is “The green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.” And, of course, the recent Cancun Agreements under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – which will be discussed further in Durban, South Africa in December of this year – call for mechanisms that will contribute to economic growth in a more environmentally sound manner.
Third, it has been made clear through recent expert meetings and panels at the UN that innovation and entrepreneurship are critical to economic growth generally and to the transition to a green economy, in particular. The technologies and processes of the past lack the efficiency, resource consideration and productive capacities necessary to forge a path to a green economy.
Now, perhaps we should begin by defining what exactly the green economy means. The UN Environment Program (UNEP) has a working definition that “a green economy is one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.” The United States looks at the green economy as covering a broad set of issues – improving resource efficiency and production practices in the use of energy, water management, materials, and natural resources; maintaining ecosystem services that are a foundation for green growth; developing and deploying clean energy technologies; improving consumer outreach efforts to promote green purchasing; developing human capacity for the green economy; and supporting efforts to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and trade barriers to environmentally friendly goods and services.
In considering this broad array of issues, the United States recognizes that the green economy is not a one-size-fits all proposition. Each nation needs to define its own priorities according to its own particular needs. At the same time, there are commonalities to the green economy that could inform how each country might approach the consideration of green economy policies and objectives. These commonalities are the following:
First, green growth can contribute to poverty eradication: Through the promotion of sustainable practices, in fisheries and agricultural sectors, for example, economic development, employment and food security can each be achieved. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that more than 520 million people are dependent on fishing for their livelihood. The depletion of fishery stocks by unsustainable practices puts the well-being of all of these people in jeopardy. Within the agricultural sector, sustainable farming methods can increase farm yields, improving the quality and quantity of food produced. There is a direct link between poverty eradication and the sensible management of natural resources, because the benefits flow directly to the poor. In low-income countries, trade in natural resources and services are a significant contributor to the livelihoods of rural communities.
Second, new jobs will be created by the green economy: The recently-published UNEP report “Towards a Green Economy” predicts that by 2050, investments in a green economy will create economic gains beyond a business-as-usual scenario. This is particularly the case in the agriculture, energy and forest sectors.
Third, resource efficiency is a central component to the green economy: To some degree, we are all subject to the constraints of our world’s natural resources. And, the green economy can help to improve resource efficiency and production practices in the use of energy, water management, materials, and natural resources. Sustainable economic development depends on resource efficiency. Therefore, we have an imperative to adapt our industrial and development practices to better manage our natural resources.
The green economy offers a path to sustainable development and poverty eradication with the potential for new jobs, business opportunities and community development all proceeding in a sustainable and environmentally sound manner.
I would like to talk briefly about what the U.S. is doing to transition to a green economy. We are taking a “whole-of-government” approach, involving many of our agencies in this endeavor. The Department of Energy has committed tens of billions of dollars to fund programs for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and grid modernization. Within the southwestern United States, our Bureau of Land Management has set aside over 2,500 square kilometers of government-owned land in 24 solar-energy study areas. The Department of Labor has invested heavily in green job training, allocating 150 million dollars to a “Pathways Out of Poverty” grant program for people in high-poverty areas in the U.S. for employment in energy efficiency and renewable energy industries.
However, in our opinion, government alone cannot ensure the successful and inclusive transformation to a green economy. The private sector has a critical role to play – from research and development, innovation and investment to greening business practices and supply chains. It is in this domain that entrepreneurship and innovation figure so prominently and importantly. Innovative ideas and concepts can arise from any source, not just from well-funded government programs or big industry research and development arms. Entrepreneurship is exemplified by the multitude of individuals and small to medium enterprises all over the globe seeing ideas to fruition. We will be meeting some of those entrepreneurs today.
Many successful businesses share certain characteristics, such as the wish to improve infrastructure, communications and/or general human welfare; the desire to innovate and realize change; the hope to improve health and safety; and, perhaps most importantly, the ability to access the support – financial, political and social –necessary to see their ideas blossom into businesses. Entrepreneurs need infrastructure, policy certainty, human capital and financial resources in order to take their good ideas to the next stage and ultimately to make that leap to successful financial concerns.
I hope that in our conversation today, we can hear some personal experiences of successful entrepreneurs and financers. In the US, we are increasing access to capital for entrepreneurs, stimulating entrepreneurship through increased access to government data and providing training and mentoring to entrepreneurs. The right government policies and initiatives are just one aspect of the mix necessary to promote successful entrepreneurship. Today, here in Geneva, we hope to engage all of you in a discussion of the green economy that covers the full landscape of issues: favorable policy frameworks; entrepreneurship education; resource training; funding opportunities and challenges. Entrepreneurship is a linchpin to the Green Economy, ensuring that all economies raise living standards, enhance social well-being, and improve health for all segments of society.
This is by no means a modest endeavor. This panel is just one small step in the consideration of entrepreneurship and the transition to the Green Economy. We very much look forward to having a productive and engaging conversation. I want to personally thank our panelists for participating in today’s discussion and thank all of you for taking the time to join us today for such an important dialogue.