17 Jul 2019 Story Environmental rights and governance

Parliaments support the transition to a green economy

Photo by egorshitikov on Pixabay

Developed countries are challenged with imbalance between supply and energy production, especially from renewable resources. In developing countries, the challenge lies in making energy more affordable to people on low incomes.

An Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting took place in Doha, Qatar, in April 2019, to promote the role of parliamentarians in advancing the environmental dimension of sustainable development to enhance education for peace, security and rule of law. The meeting followed an agreement between the UN Environment Programme and the Inter-Parliamentary Union to build the capacity of parliamentarians and accelerate the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the nationally determined contributions.

UN Environment provided parliamentarians with the basics of the green economy and possible steps to take to enable the transition to a green economy—a possible alternative to the current growth-centric economic model with the objective of effectively dissociating economic growth from environmental degradation.

An issue brief on the green economy—Shades of Green: An introduction to the green economy for parliamentarians—jointly drafted by UN Environment and the Inter-Parliamentary Union on the green economy, was showcased to provide the parliamentarians with the most important elements of the green economy and how they interact with one another.

Developing countries are at a disadvantage when it comes to replicating efficient renewable energy technologies due to strict patents by developed countries who own the advanced technologies, and lack of finances. There is a need to close the finance gap by encouraging public finance baskets which channel support to utilities, municipalities and households to generate their own energy supply or tap into an existing efficient system of operation. All products need to be more energy-efficient and facilitate lifestyle changes that promote less energy consumption.

At another conference organized by the European Patent Academy of the European Patent Office and co-hosted by the Norwegian Intellectual Property Office, climate change was highlighted as one of the most pressing issues threatening the environment, livelihoods, economies and even lives in the current era. In a bid to curb this, numerous patents to high profile sustainable technologies to effectively mitigate and adapt climate change occurrence were granted, including new designs for turbines, which were inspired by nature and which save energy; innovative ways to store harmful gases; and appliances that use less water.

Energy generation was also identified as the lead cause of two thirds of carbon dioxide emissions. According to Francisco Boshell, an analyst with the International Renewable Energy Agency, renewable energy has increased steadily, and in 2012, more investment and new capacity came from renewable energy than fossil fuels. There is, however, a need to integrate technologies that promote the generation of renewable energy in development plans. Domestic power supplies a third of total energy consumption, while industries, buildings and transport cover the rest. There are huge business opportunities to extend the scope of electric vehicles beyond domestic cars to commercial transport—both land-based and marine—and ultimately to aviation.

UN Environment stressed the importance of ease of access to patents, innovation and green technology. In this respect, the role played by intellectual property and patents was shown to be a hindrance in the non-developed nations. UN Environment partnered with the European Patent

Office and undertook a study which revealed that only 1 per cent of all patent applications relating to clean energy technologies worldwide have been filed in Africa, with the vast majority (84 per cent) of these in South Africa. It was also discovered that intellectual property rights were not recognized by many policymakers.

Lack of awareness of green technologies and access to patents is a major hindrance to innovation and it is difficult for less developed countries to seek this kind of support. This is where UN Environment comes in. UN Environment will continue to support parties to tap into and enhance awareness of existing pinnacles of innovation. Countries such as Japan and South Korea are leading the green technology innovations, from which other countries could borrow ideas.

For more information, please contact: Robert.Ondhowe[at]un.org I Maria.Manguiat[at]un.org I Niamh.Brannigan[at]un.org I Catherine.Abuto[at]un.org