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A new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report states that what’s good for the environment is also good for job creation and reducing poverty. The report entitled A Brief for Policymakers on the Green Economy and the Millennium Development Goals was launched September 20 at the U.N. headquarters in New York.

Environmental degradation has many negative effects on human health and well-being and can make poverty worse. For example, lack of access to safe drinking water – often made worse by environmental problems – is a leading contributor to poverty, hunger and disease.

The new U.N. report shows that green economy investments are paying multiple dividends by reducing harm to the environment, creating jobs and alleviating poverty.

Examples from the report include:

  • China’s energy policy for the five-year plan period from 2006-2010 has spurred a rapid rise in renewable energy manufacturing and installation. China is now the second largest wind power producing nation in the world and the largest exporter of photo-voltaics for solar energy. Ten per cent of Chinese households have solar water heaters. 1.5 million people are employed in China’s renewable energy sector, with 300,000 jobs created in 2009.
  • The Brazilian city of Curitiba has used creative and sustainable urban planning to improve its citizens’ lives. Forty-five per cent of trips within the city are now taken using public transit; excessive fuel use due to congestion is 13 times less in Curitiba compared to Sao Paolo, resulting in improved health because of improved air quality; average green space per citizen has risen from one square metre to fifty square metres.
  • Organic farming has increased dramatically in Uganda, boosting agricultural production, exports and incomes. The number of certified organic farmers in Uganda increased from 45,000 to 200,000 since 2004.

The report emphasizes that investing in renewable energy technologies – such as wind and solar power – can lead to new forms of employment, quicker access to electricity, greater social equality, and improved standards of living. Environmental improvements include reduced air pollution, cleaner water, and cuts in annual greenhouse gases by 6 per cent annually.