Two reports released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) at the second session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) explore China's plans to build an "ecological civilization," Bhutan's use of its Gross National Happiness Index, Germany's efforts to build a circular economy, Costa Rica's use of payments for ecosystem services and Botswana's use of Natural Capital Accounting.
26 May 2016: Two reports released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) at the second session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) explore China’s plans to build an “ecological civilization,” Bhutan’s use of its Gross National Happiness Index, Germany’s efforts to build a circular economy, Costa Rica’s use of payments for ecosystem services and Botswana’s use of Natural Capital Accounting.
Titled ‘Green is Gold: The Strategy and Actions of China’s Ecological Civilization,’ one report examines the environmental dimension of China’s 13th five-year plan, according to which, by 2020 the country will have decreased water consumption by 23%, energy consumption by 15% and CO2 emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 18%. Planning to increase its forest coverage by more than 23%, China expects that the share of days per year with good air quality in cities at the prefectural level will exceed 80%. These targets form part of the country’s effort to build its “ecological civilization” – a resource-saving, environmentally-friendly society that seeks to integrate ecological development with economic, social, cultural and political development. The report finds that China has already made a number of notable achievements, including constructing energy-saving buildings in urban areas, increasing its production of new-energy vehicles, lowering energy consumption and building the largest air-quality monitoring network in the developing world.
Another UNEP report, titled ‘Multiple Pathways to Sustainable Development: Further Evidence of Sustainability in Practice,’ looks at the efforts of four countries to transition to sustainable, socially inclusive societies. The report examines Germany’s efforts to introduce a circular economy, a system where products, components and resources are designed to be maintained, reused, re-manufactured and recycled to reduce the high levels of waste produced by linear economic models. It finds that, as a result of its policies, Germany has achieved increased resource efficiency, high recycling rates, virtually constant waste levels and more than 250,000 jobs in the waste industry. Challenges remain with regard to the use of raw materials by German industry.
The report also highlights Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness index, which the country uses instead of GDP to measure its development, and which aims for an economy that serves the spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of citizens and the natural environment. On Costa Rica, the report looks at the country’s payment for ecosystem services programme, which has helped reverse deforestation and has the potential to help reduce poverty by supporting indigenous landowners. The publication also profiles Botswana’s use of Natural Capital Accounting, a process that calculates the stocks and flows of natural resources and measures their contribution to national economy. [UNEP Press Release] [Publication: Green is Gold: The Strategy and Actions of China’s Ecological Civilization] [Publication: Multiple Pathways to Sustainable Development: Further Evidence of Sustainability in Practice]