Global industrial production and consumption are outpacing the renewal capacity of natural resources and the capacity of governments to manage pollution and wastes. While industrial growth has helped raise tens of millions of people out of poverty in many countries over the last decades, particularly in ever-growing urban agglomerations, it is evident that economic growth and urbanization have not come without a price.
This phenomenon is accompanied by inadequate or non-existent environmental and urban services, including recycling systems, wastewater treatment and sewage systems, drainage, water supply, sanitation, and solid waste management. Such deficiencies inhibit economic growth, place further stress on natural systems, and damage public health and the investment climate. They also constrain the potential for urban areas to contribute fully to economic growth.
International concern about global climate change is increasing the attention being given to these issues. The impacts of climate change may be very serious to developing countries, particularly Least Developed Countries (LDCs), many of which are ill-equipped to deal with the resulting effects on agricultural output, labour productivity, health and internal displacement.
Intensified competition for scarce resources, including water and energy, may not only amplify conflicts within the industrial context. Environmental degradation and climate change may also intensify already worrying trends, such as desertification, sea-level rise, more frequent severe weather events and shortages of freshwater, leading in the worst-case scenarios to civil and cross-border conflict and uncontrollable migration. Resource efficiency and low-carbon economic development can thus lessen the pressures and help to avert some important root causes of social conflict.
UNIDO has long recognized that environmental issues must be addressed and cleaner production methodologies must be promoted at a systemic level in industrial development. The promotion of resource efficiency requires a perspective and a decision-making process that simultaneously considers both economic value and environmental sustainability. Improved resource efficiency also applies to energy, where it reduces greenhouse gas emissions from energy generation and use, materials extraction and processing, transportation and waste disposal. Sustainable industrial energy strategies that include adoption of renewable energy sources, as well as energy efficiency, are thus key for addressing climate change through moving economies onto a lower-carbon path.
Against this background, UNIDO provides assistance in the following areas:
- Resource-efficient and low-carbon industrial production;
- Clean energy access for productive use; and
- Capacity building for the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements