In a recently released World Economic and Social Survey entitled “The Great Green Technological Transformation,” the U.N. says our governments need to spend $1.9 trillion a year for 40 years in order to successfully transition to a global green economy. That’s a $76 trillion price tag for the green initiative, an initiative that won’t bring about economic prosperity nor improve our environmental well being.
Let’s take a step back to demonstrate the U.N.’s line of thinking. The U.N. has concerns that the earth is on course for disaster and in its overview of the survey lays out three possible solutions.
Solution 1: “One option for achieving this would be to limit income growth, as it would also, given existing production methods, limit the growth of resource use, waste and pollutants. However, doing so would complicate efforts to meet the development objective and would thus not be in the interest of developing countries, which are home to the vast majority of the world’s population.”
It’s safe to say that limiting income growth is not in the interest of any country and that doing so would harm our ability to protect and care for the environment. Not only do countries with higher income per capita and greater economic freedom have better environmental records, but they’re also better equipped to handle natural disasters. See Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Solution 2: “Reducing population growth could be another option; but this could be achieved more effectively by improving living standards.”
Population control is a popular topic for those who advocate for sustainable development, but it is not the cause of poverty. Further, improving living standards in the second solution runs contradictory to limiting income growth proposed in the first.
Solution 3: “Reducing non-renewable energy and resource use, reducing waste and pollutants, and reversing land degradation and biodiversity losses would then seem key to greening the economy.”
The rest of the overview focuses on a global commitment to a green revolution and the notion that government should “promote the development of a broad portfolio of technologies (including renewable such as solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower) along the full chain of technology development (research, development and demonstration, market formation, diffusion and commercial adaptation).”
Notice that the largest supplier of carbon-free electricity, nuclear power, does not merit a mention. The only time nuclear receives a mention in the text of the overview is on graphs and when it says, “Global replacement costs of existing fossil fuel and nuclear power infrastructure are estimated at, at least, $15 trillion–$20 trillion.”
This U.N. report is a recipe to keep the developing world in poverty and with poor environmental standards. This proposal will do nothing to help tackle the real environmental challenges we face. It’s important to distinguish that the U.N. report focuses on reducing carbon dioxide, which is non-toxic and not a health hazard. It does not emphasize that these countries need access to clean drinking water, proper sewage systems, and other taken-for-granted needs that we’ve grown accustomed to having.
Furthermore, the developing world has serious economic challenges, such as gaining access to reliable electricity. Over 1.4 billion people in the developing world, mostly Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, are without electricity. Yet the U.N. wants to drive a global change that would force pricier, intermittent electricity to these areas. These countries do not need windmills and solar panels; they need property rights, the rule of law, and free trade. These are fundamentally critical to improved economic and environmental well being.