Monday, January 4, 2016

On the Importance of Green Productivity

by Alan S. Cajes

DTI Asec. Bles Lantayona & Dr. Camilo Mora
The Asian Productivity Organization (APO) implemented the Workshop on the Development of the International Green Productivity Advisory Committee (IGPAC) on 25-27 November 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. The workshop aimed to enhance international collaboration on green productivity (GP), give updates on new GP activities and initiatives, as well as discuss trends on green technology. APO Secretary General Mari Amano opened the workshop, together with the key officials of the IGPAC. The first two days of the Workshop covered technical topics related to GP and green technology in relation to sustainable development and climate change. On the last day, the participants visited a recycling facility (Re-tem) and a city of the future showcase (Panasonic).

The technical sessions of the workshop included high-profile presentations by internationally recognized experts. The key lessons gained from the workshop include the following:

1. The internationalization of the Green Productivity Advisory Committees (GPACs) serves as a platform for member countries to mutually share and learn ongoing GP activities and issues, visit and learn from cutting-edge GP practices across the region, and discuss challenges and opportunities of organizing GPACs in member countries.

2. For year 2015, the Earth Overshoot Day occurred on August 13 according to the Global Footprint Network. The global overshoot happens when humanity’s annual demand for the goods and services that the land and seas can provide exceeds what the Earth’s ecosystems can renew in a year. This implies 1.6 planets are needed to support humanity’s demand on Earth’s ecosystems.

3. The world emission will increase to 55.2 GtCO2 in year 2025 and 56.7 GtCO2 in 2030 compared to 1990 level. The surface temperature will increase by 2.7 degrees Celsius at the end of the century. Thus the modern age is called the Anthropocene given the dramatic increase in human activities (world population, world gross domestic product, overseas direct investment, urban population, etc.) and the global changes in earth’s systems as a result of the increase in human activities (atmospheric CO2 concentration, atmospheric N2O concentration, atmospheric CH4 concentration, rate of disappearance of the ozone layer, etc.)

4. The projected 40% increase in human population by 2050, combined with goals to substantially improve standards of living for the poorest 5 billion people on Earth, implies at least a doubling of future resources by 2050.

5. Governance in the Anthropocene requires a recognition of the following: human as part of the Earth’s life systems; primacy of ecological boundaries over social boundaries; integration of ecological limits in rules and policy; fair sharing among present and future generations of life; precaution about crossing the planetary boundaries, namely, climate change, ozone depletion, atmospheric aerosol loading, ocean acidification, global freshwater use, chemical pollution, land system change, rate of biodiversity loss and biogeochemical loading.

6. Achieving a low climate target calls for very aggressive emission decreases. Keeping CO2-induced global warming below 2 degrees Celsius would require emissions reductions of almost 3.2% per year from 2020 onward.

7. The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability is as follows: 2047 for Earth; 2038 for Manila; 2041 for Tokyo, and 2046 for Beijing. Climate departure means the moment when the variability of coldest and hottest temperatures is exceeded. Thus an old climate is left behind and a new climate will take place.

8. To ensure the survival of human species, the world must shift to a green economy, which the UNEP defines as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In simple terms, a green economy is low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive.

9. A green economy must recognize the vicious cycle involved in maximizing short-term quantity of growth. This vicious cycle starts with exploiting the human and natural capital. As a result, it worsens social exclusion, reduces labor productivity, widens income gap, increases resource intensity, reduces resource efficiency, and jeopardizes ecological sustainability. The effects undermine economic vitality (low economic dynamism/resilience, high economic vulnerability). Thus exacerbating further exploitation of human and natural capital.

10. The vicious cycle needs to be replaced with a virtuous cycle – one that proceeds by investing in human and natural capital, thereby resulting in high labor productivity, social inclusion, equitable income distribution, high resource efficiency, low resource intensity, and ecological sustainability. These effects reinforce economic vitality (high economic dynamism/resilience, low economic vulnerability) thereby enhancing more investments in human and natural capital.

Indeed, advocating the Green Productivity philosophy, tools and approaches are critical given the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations and the 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions recently committed by the Philippine Government. The good news is that we can do something about delaying such climate departure. The bad news is that it will come, sooner or later. The quality of human survival will largely depend on the quality of decisions or choices from the 3 pillars of sustainable development: environment, society & economy. 

About the foto shown above.

While DTI Asec. Bles Lantayona & Dr. Camilo Mora discuss the concept of climate departure, the temperature in Tokyo plunges to 8.9 degrees (7 degrees lower than yesterday). Dr. Mora, as cited by Prof. Ryoichi Yamamoto, calculated the global mean year of climate departure to be year 2047. For Manila, the climate departure year is 2038, which is later than Singapore's 2028, but earlier than Tokyo's 2041 & Seoul's 2042. Climate departure refers to the.moment when the climate will "exceed historical bounds of variability". Asec. Bles is my co-participant from the Philippines to the workshop on the development of the International Green Productivity Advisory Committee. Dr. Mora is Assistant Professor at University of Hawaii, Manoa. Prof. Yamamoto is Professor Emeritus at University of Tokyo. The climate departure projection is based on business as usual mode. 

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