A “fundamental technological overhaul of production processes worldwide” is needed over the next three to four decades if the world is to end poverty and avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change and environmental degradation, warns a report from the United Nations.
“The World Economic and Social Survey 2011: The Great Green Technological Transformation,” published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), says major investments will be needed worldwide to develop and scale up clean-energy technologies, sustainable farming and forestry techniques, climate-proofing of infrastructure, and technologies reducing non-biodegradable waste production.
The required transformation will need to be as wide-reaching and dramatic as the first industrial revolution, the report says. The investment required into green technologies will be some $1.9 trillion per year over the next 40 years, with more than half of that having to go to developing countries.
While world income and population have grown exponentially since the first industrial revolution, so have energy demand and the production of waste and pollutants. As a result, the global environment’s capacity to cope with human activity has reached its limits, according to the report.
“This report shows how important technological progress will be for ensuring a future that benefits everyone while protecting our planet,” said Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General of UN-DESA and Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, often referred to as Rio+20, to take place in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “For the required technological revolution to be successful, the report finds that it must occur within a limited timeframe — sooner rather than later — because of growing ecological pressures.”
To bring about the necessary technological progress and adaptation, the report says, governments both nationally and
through intensified international cooperation must play a central role.
“Business as usual is not an option,” said Rob Vos, lead author of the report. “Even if we stop the global engines of growth now, resource depletion and pollution of our natural environment would continue because of existing production methods and consumption habits. Without drastic improvements in and diffusion of green technologies, we will not reverse the ongoing ecological destruction and secure a decent livelihood for all of humankind, now and in the future.”