LILLIAN BANDA, Lusaka
THE concept of a more sustainable economy has been on the international agenda for several decades now.
Recent scientific studies and experiences of environmental destruction and climate change have altogether made it clear that economic models need to change.
It has been generally agreed that economic models that are not environmentally friendly are much less effective in advancing people’s wellbeing and promoting sustainable development.
It is for this reason that green economy was the central theme of the United Nations conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) held in Rio in June 2012.
It was during this very conference that governments agreed to frame green economy as an important tool for achieving sustainable development. Governments also agreed to general principles and priority areas which would guide the implementation of the green economy at all levels as well as cooperation between all the stakeholders.
Today, there is a greater appreciation by many private individuals, corporate entities and governments of the need to use the planet’s finite resources responsibly. This has pushed the idea of a green economy up the worldwide agenda.
To this end, a number of countries have adopted the national “green growth” or “low carbon” economic strategies.
But what exactly is a green economy?
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) states that a green economy is one that results in improved human wellbeing and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.
Other development entities simply state that it is a resilient economy that provides a better quality of life for all within the ecological limits of the planet.
The UNEP’s definition of a green economy was influential in the build up to Rio+20 and remains a major reference point for those working on the green economy.
UNEP contends that the greening of economies is not a drag on growth, but rather a new engine of growth. It is a net generator of decent jobs, and also a vital strategy for the elimination of persistent poverty.
This year’s agricultural and commercial show that was held from August 2nd to 7th had promoting a green economy as its theme.
One can say that it is a sign that Zambia recognises the importance of safeguarding the environment by promoting sustainable production and consumption.
It was encouraging to note that during the aforementioned event, several business entities such as banks and other service providers demonstrated that they are making progress toward a green economy.
Banks have continued to encourage their clients to use debit cards instead of cash when buying goods or services and to use electronic gadgets like mobile phones to check their accounts. This is in an effort to cut down on the use of paper.
It is, however, important to note that transitioning to a green economy will undoubtedly require a shift in the way people think about growth and development, the production of goods and services as well the behaviour of consumers.
“This is because experience teaches us that people do not embrace policies or practices purely because they are good. They do so when they believe it is in their interest to do so.
“In championing a green economy, there is need to employ practical strategies that speak to the very needs of targeted communities,” says Global Green Clean Environment, chief executive officer Brian Bwalya.
Mr Bwalya also says there is need to clearly demonstrate how environmental degradation leads to persistent poverty and how a green economic model works to promote economic growth and environmental sustainability.
He contends that expecting people to adopt ways that promote environmental sustainability without adequately preparing them for such changes is sheer rhetoric.
“The majority people in urban areas reside in lower income environments and depends on electricity for their daily activities. Let us work to ensure that electricity is affordable for them so that that they are not forced to use charcoal, whilst promoting the use of alternative sources of energy that equality clean and green.
“We also need to facilitate for provision of alternative sources of income for those involved in the charcoal business. Indiscriminate cutting down of trees will be a story without end if do not provide durable solutions to communities whose livelihoods depend on charcoal,” he explains.
Mr Bwalya has also called for more environmental education programmes to be conducted in densely populated residential areas. He explains that indiscriminate disposal of waste is rife in these places because there is little or no implementation of environmental laws.
“We should also consider bringing back the Keep Zambia Clean and Healthy Campaign so that people can be more environmentally conscious. Recycling of recyclable things should be encouraged. Public transport buses should all have waste bins so that passengers are not forced to throw things anyhow. It is such small steps that will contribute to the realisation of the bigger goal, which is a greener and smarter Zambia,” he adds.
And a resident of Lusaka’s Ng’ombe township involved in recycling says a lot more programmes that seek to create wealth from waste materials should be encouraged and promoted.
Emelda Chiwala who makes handbags from used plastic carrier bags says such programmes can compel people to take action towards protecting the environment and help to reduce pollution.
“I am fortunate to have been among those that received information and training on the proper ways of disposing waste generated mainly from households. I now make handbags from used plastic. Not only am I earning some extra income but I am also contributing to reducing pollution.
“It feels good to do something that contributes to the welfare of the community. However, not many know that one can have beautiful and durable handbags made from used plastic. I believe there are other things that can be made from plastics and other waste materials and it would be good to explore,” explains Emelda.
In the end, the success of the transition to a green economy and the realisation of a smart Zambia as envisioned in the country’s development goals will largely depend on the active participation of all stakeholders.