David is an environmental policy analyst and has recently finished an M.S. in Biodiversity, Conservation, and Management from the University of Oxford. David has represented Canadian youth at the UN World Climate Conference in Geneva, the UN World Environment Summit in New York, and the International Forum on Climate Finance in Shanghai.
At the 2014 Y20 Summit in Sydney, Australia, David led the Sustainable Development portfolio of the Canadian Delegation. We asked him to share his position paper, outlining the perspectives, arguments and policy solutions that he will be bringing forward at the Summit.
Sustainable Development Portfolio | Canadian Delegation to the Y20, David Lawless
Canada supports the goal of sustainable development: to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Through a range of domestic and international policies, Canada is committed to advancing sustainable development as outlined in goal number seven of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. In keeping with the Federal Sustainable Development Act (2008), Canada aims to also improve environmental decision-making to implement sustainable development measures in a more transparent and robust manner. The four key priorities for Canada’s domestic sustainable development strategy are:
1) Addressing climate change and clean air
2) Maintaining water quality and availability
3) Protecting nature
4) Shrinking Canada’s environmental footprint
Greening growth is necessary, efficient, and affordable
The Canadian delegation believes that economics, development, and green-growth are not mutually exclusive and that a truly sustainable future requires a new consensus on the importance of mainstreaming green growth. The current global focus in the G20 to create jobs and stimulate growth represents an opportunity for world leaders, and the private sector, to assist in delivering a new economic model that emphasizes green policies and inclusive growth (i.e. inclusive green growth recognizes the finite ecological resources upon which growth is based whilst advancing equitable opportunities for individuals that benefit every section of society ).
There is no single model for a ‘green economy’. Green growth strategies will vary across regions, but all nations – developing or developed – have opportunities to make their growth greener and more inclusive without missing the 2% GDP growth target set by the G20. In short, barriers to greening growth are not the cost of green policies as commonly thought, but are mainly political inertia and a lack of financing instruments (about which the G20 can provide expertise). Canada urges the G20, and by extension the Y20, to seek a wider mandate than its focus on financial and economic matters by using this opportunity to shift to a path of green growth. The continuing gridlock of world trade and climate change negotiations begs the leadership that the G20 can and should provide.
How to make growth greener and more inclusive?
The main mechanism through which inclusive green growth can be achieved includes environmental taxation, norms, and regulations. For example, between 1 to 1.2 trillion USD is currently being spent on environmentally harmful subsidies for fossil fuel, agriculture, water, and fisheries. As a result, Canada also supports eliminating subsidies for fossil fuels as well as for other unsustainable practices. Green growth is affordable because many green policies pay for themselves directly, and those that do not pay for themselves directly still make economic sense once externalities are priced and ecosystem services are valued (i.e. natural capital). Therefore, Canada encourages all delegations to specifically support the establishment of a carbon tax in order to put a price on CO2 emissions and their impacts on ecosystem services, thereby allowing the financing of sustainable development initiatives. In fact, a recent 2014 report from the World Bank suggests that tackling climate change would grow the global economy, adding $2.6 trillion USD over the coming decade.
Preparing the world’s cities for the effects of climate change
By 2050, 7 out of 10 people will live in cities. These cities will also bear the brunt of a changing climate, including the potentially disastrous effects of increased inclement weather and rising sea-levels. Therefore, how can urban infrastructure handle the changes ahead of us? Cities around the world must “future proof” themselves against disaster, protecting both social and business interests and safeguarding national economies. Similar to the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health announced at the 36th G8 Summit (which committed member nations to collectively spend an additional $5 billion to accelerate progress on Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5), the Canadian delegation supports a G20-wide initiative to help fund the urban innovation measures necessary to build resilient communities.
Making development sustainable requires mainstreaming inclusive green growth
Growth—even measured with such an imperfect metric as GDP—is now recognized as a critical driver of poverty reduction. Economic growth, and the development that ensues, is a necessary pursuit for the developing world, yet unsustainable growth that is not based on green policies will in the long term deplete resources critical to the welfare of current and future generations. Therefore, Canada believes that growth must be green from the start in order to achieve sustainable development goals. Nevertheless, green growth is no panacea and will not substitute for a good business environment and the reforms that are needed to promote growth and protect the poor.
Canada urges the sustainable development committee to consider the findings of the 2012 World Bank Report “A Pathway to Inclusive Green Growth” as a means to implement sustainable development goals within the financial architecture of the global economy. Canada encourages all delegations to think broadly about sustainable development, not simply as an economic goal but one that encompasses environmental reforms and social welfare.