16 July 2018: The UN Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) organized a side event during the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) to discuss progress in challenging business-as-usual growth and business models, and examples in which sustainability has been placed at the heart of economic systems.

The Partnership began in 2013 and draws on the expertise of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

Zain Verjee, former CNN International anchor and CEO, Zain Verjee Group, moderated the event, which convened at the Japan Society, adjacent to UN Headquarters in New York, US.

The event began with a number of opening remarks. Achim Steiner, Administrator, UNDP, recalled that it was six years ago that the international community began discussing the SDGs and green economy, at Rio+20, and said the discussion on green economy has now taken on a positive narrative.

Karolina Skog, Minister of the Environment and Energy, Sweden, said her country will put an emphasis on textiles in the future, which are the second most polluting industry in the world. She also said that Sweden is launching a new alliance to address chemicals.

Neven Mimica, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, European Commission, called attention to the EU’s new commitments on climate and energy, as well as its action plan on sustainable finance. He said the EU External Investment Plan will support green economy issues.

Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, State Secretary for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Germany, highlighted ways in which green economy concepts are on the international agenda, such as Argentina’s selection of the theme, ‘Building Consensus for Fair and Sustainable Development,’ for the 2018 G20 Leaders’ Summit. She added that risk-informed decision making will lead to better policy making.

Erik Solheim, Executive Director, UN Environment, said the work on green economy has shown that a new model is possible. He highlighted that plastic waste has become “a topic of kitchen table conversation.”

During a panel on ‘Greening The Green: Future-Proofing Finance,’ Álvaro García, Director, Budget and Planning Office, Uruguay, highlighted national policies to promote the green economy, including a “one laptop per child” policy. He said a key challenge is addressing waste.

Jens Frølich-Holte, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Norway, highlighted that banking is socially useful “when done right,” and said his country has developed a number of roadmaps towards a green economy.

Green economy needs to be anchored in mutually beneficial partnerships.

Jean-Yves Fillion, CEO, BNP Paribas USA, and Chairman, BNP Paribas CIB Americas, noted his company’s work to structure the financing of a rubber firm in Indonesia that will make 10% of the product for Michelin tires sustainably and create many new jobs. He also cited a financing package for Danone that will reduce the cost of financing if the borrower achieves certain sustainability criteria.

Anna Zubets-Anderson, Vice President, Senior Credit Analyst, Moody’s Investors Service, discussed ways in which Moody’s has enhanced the transparency over how it incorporates environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks. On green bonds, she said impact disclosure is the biggest challenge.

Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, CEO, Solvay, said the chemical sector has developed an SDG roadmap, and added that the issue of sustainability is on the agenda of the private sector.

Lena Hök, Senior Vice President Sustainability, Skanska AB, noted that her construction company’s projects will have a life span of up to 70 years and that many of the materials in them have large environmental footprints. As one example of Skanska’s work to address its sustainability, she said it is working with the Swedish Government to develop a roadmap on how Sweden can be emission free by 2050.

Patricia Appiagyei, Deputy Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ghana, said green economy needs to be anchored in mutually beneficial partnerships.

Daniel Calleja Crespo, Director-General for the Environment, European Commission, said the EU is working to define green bonds, classify green economy activities, examine disclosure requirements and benchmark sustainable activities.

During a session on the theme, ‘The Kids Are Alright: Next Generation Lifestyles and Economies,’ Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, discussed the importance of addressing inequalities and ensuring that green economy is inclusive.

Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister of Environment, Energy and Housing, Finland, discussed the role of youth in educating their parents about sustainable lifestyles, and stressed the need for a circular economy, which rethinks ownership.

Lance Gould, Co-Founder, Silicon Valley Story Lab, highlighted the need for compelling storytelling, and suggesting thinking about the “editorial calendar” as one way to develop effective stories, focusing on landmark anniversaries, tent-pole events, social awareness days, or breaking news. Moderator Verjee added to this list, noting that stories with a central character who undergoes transformation can be compelling.

Matthias Thorns, Director of Stakeholder Engagement, International Organisation of Employers (IOE), emphasized the importance of inclusiveness when developing green economy policies.

Rawle Lucas, Ministerial Advisor on Foreign Trade, Investment and International Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Guyana, highlighted the need to pay attention to the needs of small businesses.

A final panel offered concluding remarks and thoughts on next steps. Guy Ryder, Director-General, ILO, said consensus building and dialogue are needed, along with transition planning, to ensure that an “employment dividend” is secured with green economy policies.

Siim Kiisler, President, UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), noted that information is not uniformly available regarding all products on the market. He suggested that more information would help consumers make wise choices.

Nikhil Seth, Executive Director, UNITAR, said awareness and attitudinal shifts are needed, which training can help deliver.

Edna Molewa, Minister of Environmental Affairs, South Africa, highlighted that the next PAGE Ministerial meeting will take place in South Africa in January 2019, and stressed the importance of information sharing to allow PAGE partners to inspire each other. [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources] [PAGE Side Event Webpage] [PAGE Side Event Webcast]