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Panel session 3

Investment in reclaiming degraded areas – how can one take advantage of green growth and a green economy?

Dr. Koko Warner 
This session was moderated by Dr. Koko Warner, United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS).
Dr. Sebastien Treyer, Director of Programmes, Institut du Dévéloppement durable et des Relations Internationales (IDDRI), spoke about food security, climate change, and green growth as the key issues of long-term soil degradation. He said many people question the alternative models’ capacities to feed the world, which is what hampers global investment in them.

Dr. Treyer said long-term food security in the context of climate change would not be achieved without sustainable land management and integrated water management. In addition, the capacity to deal with long-term soil degradation processes is fundamental in ensuring future food security globally.

There exists an acute controversy between conventional agriculture and agro-ecology, Dr. Treyer stressed. He added that there is a need for more organizational innovation in the whole food system, and for technological innovation and transfer. He posed: “what model can we use for green growth in agriculture?” If soils were at the heart of the viability of investments in agriculture – exceptional economic and social return could be the result. He said, soil would be a central issue if people sought to “green” agriculture. Important in these investments, he said, is that soil is considered one of the living components of the ecosystem.

Ambassador Bo Kjellén, Senior Research Fellow, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and former Swedish Ambassador to UNFCCC,

spoke about the future energy prospects for Africa, given their climate change and energy needs for development, and underlined the considerable societal changes bound to take place in future. He also underlined the growing importance of renewable energy, especially in light of the challenges that have emerged with nuclear energy. He said solar and hydrogen, as energy sources, hold great potential for Africa, and would bring new opportunities and jobs, but noted the challenge of scaling it up. Investment, he said is the major challenge. He reported about an investment mechanism under development in Sweden, the Global Challenge, designed to mobilize European investments for the energy sector. He proposed giving consideration to the creation of an Europe-Africa Investment Community under this body, to focus on investments in agriculture.

Dr. Winfried Häser, Vice President for External Stakeholder Dialogue, Deutsche Post, DHL, addressed the issues of environment, sustainability and the business responsibility. He described how businesses seriously consider green opportunities and green values. Green value, he said, is embedded in Deutsche Post DHL’s corporate strategy. It has developed strong programs under the motto, “Living Responsibility,” on green challenges and green opportunities, including local projects. Business success and corporate responsibility go hand-in-hand, he said. Deutsche Post DHL intends to reach their goals through efficiency and mandatory commitments to climate change.

Carbon efficiency, Dr. Häser said, was introduced in 2008, with the aim of improving carbon efficiency to 30% by 2020, in comparison to 2007. This, he said, was not an absolute carbon reduction commitment, since the economic viability of the company must be maintained.

Dr. Häser also spoke about the efforts to achieve targets, which he said included measuring carbon, engaging with employees to act more consciously, working on technology, facilities and using logistics more efficiently. He gave the examples of using smart route-planning for efficiency gains and running DHL’s own climate-protection projects, for instance, in Lesotho. These have brought “green thinking” into the industry.

Dr. Häser concluded by stating that a vast majority of the Corporation’s operations still depend on fossil fuels and there is no easy solution to that challenge. Thus, he said, there was a need for investment and to start exploring opportunities and options. Change, he said is behavioral, as much as it is technological.

Questions and Answers: Participants raised the new issue of negative emissions that would keep the warming below 2 degrees through bio-energy carbon capture and storage, which some noted is a challenge because it would require a massive scale land investment. Instead, some suggested paying attention to alternative land-based linkages that could be undertaken. While some participants raised concerns about the negative emissions that are central to the discussion of a Green Economy, others drew attention to the potential for biofuel energy production in the drylands as an outstanding question.

On DHL’s potential to invest large amounts in biofuels to make themselves fully Green and investing in land-based projects, Dr. Häser noted, "DHL has developed its own carbon efficiency target that focuses on improving our carbon efficiency under the Go-Green project scheme, without requiring a large scale investment." Ambassador Kjellen followed up by saying “We have ambitious plans to be reached; Sweden for instance has planned to reach 0 emissions by 2050. How we will get there, we don’t know. The CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage Technology) Project is very effective and feasible for large installations.”

Dr. Häser also acknowledged that some issues must be swiftly addressed, and questioned whether people are moving quickly enough to resolve these issues. Commenting on Sweden’s plans to reach zero emissions by 2050, he said, “forty years is not a long time considering the need to build infrastructure and green energy mechanisms”. Dr. Häser also emphasized the need to immediately address the short-term problems.

Incentive mechanisms at Deutsche Post DHL, he said, strongly support putting a price on carbon. Ideally, it should not be taxes or other charges, but rather emissions trading so as to best apply an economic approach to carbon reduction. Dr. Häser expressed hope that the Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) will have a future beyond 2012 and will give way to a development with more efficient incentive mechanisms. He expressed the hope that these mechanisms would spread to the developing countries.

Dr. Häser said that Deutsche Post, DHL still relies on public infrastructure and they follow their customers, therefore there exists little relation to land use, water use, etc, to their business. However, he said, there still are opportunities to create links and money could flow through mechanisms like CDM to bring benefits to soil degradation and climate change reduction.

He expressed doubts over Deutsche Post DHL’s willingness to invest money into biofuel development. He said Deutsche Post DHL relies on industries that develop fuels and aircraft carriers, but their business strategy itself does not develop these. He said that he still does not see a clear answer to the question over what makes biofuels truly sustainable stating that a public consensus must exist on what makes it sustainable. He added, “we still do encourage policymakers to invest into Green technologies.”

Reiterating sentiments of one participant, Dr. Häser posed: “where will we go when we leave this room today?” Quoting Nelson Mandela, he said, “it always seems impossible until it is done,” and then posed again, “where will we go from here to see that land degradation attracts the investments it needs?”

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