2.4 Promote green growth and value ecosystem services

Key organisations :
Core group members: Interntational Union for the conservation of Nature, The Nature Conservancy, Korean Water

Water is integral to the environmental and social systems that underpin the global economy. Yet, sustainable and equitable management of water is too often overlooked, and its benefits underestimated, in economic development decisions. The Priority for Action of “Promote Green Growth and Value Ecosystem Services” is aiming to find solutions, through building bridges among the economic, social and environmental dimensions of water.

Water resource management and the sustainable delivery of water services must be addressed through collaborative, holistic and integrated strategies. Without these, given cross-sectoral demands and multiple uses for water, sustainable development has been understood as untenable. ‘Green growth’ or development of green economies is not proposed as a replacement for sustainable development, but rather as a way to operationalise it. Green growth and green economy are becoming the new currency for speaking about sustainable development. Just as equitable and sustainable management of water is intrinsic to sustainable development, therefore, there will be no green growth without water.

Water and the water community globally have a critical role to play in the emerging debate on green growth. Priority for Action 2.4 will mobilize knowledge, evidence, action on solutions and policy recommendations that specifically address how water can contribute to green growth.

With the high priority being given to low-carbon economic models, large investments will be made in infrastructure and technology. If these do not adequately take into account the role ecosystem services play in providing adequate quantities of water, of sufficient quality, then green growth will be undermined. Growth strategies that fail to invest in the natural capital underpinning water resources risk undercutting jobs and income growth. Taking advantage of the role of ecosystem services in water management could and should therefore play a role in triggering economic growth in developing as well as developed countries, as the global population grows and countries struggle with the ongoing global financial crisis.

Priority for Action 2.4 is focused around two overall aims:

Value water and ecosystem services and make efficient and innovative uses of water a trigger for green growth and development
In the water sector, to promote economic tools fostering green growth

There are five targets designed to address:

Policies, laws, institutions and markets to enable transition to green economies
Investment in innovative, efficient technologies and building natural capital for benefits including private returns, jobs growth and poverty reduction
Sustainable financing of equitable water services and water resource protection
How to value natural assets and account for them in making better development decisions
Accounting by governments to incorporate natural assets

The five targets are designed to bring stakeholders together to build solutions that will help ensure that sound water management will be factored into economic growth plans from national to local levels. The business sector will be integral to advancing the necessary new approaches and technologies in their operations and development plans.

The Priority for Action offers a bridge to the green economy focus in the Rio+20 Summit and hence, significantly, to raising the political and investment priority given to targets and solutions that will bring ecosystem benefits into the mainstream of economic decision making over water.