THE ‘new dawn’ government’s attempt to lean towards a green economy does not only bring hope, but lays a foundation on which the future generations can diversify the Zambian economy without burning it out.
The creation of the Green Economy and Environment ministry is a clear demonstration of the political will to create a strong base for wealth generation, employment creation and poverty reduction through sustainable extraction and trade in key sectors such as forestry.
Green Economy and Environment Minister Collins Nzovu hit the right notes during the tree planting exercise by Alliance for World Change in Lusaka where he said trees were a renewable natural resource which, with prudent management could sustain the country in perpetuity as long as we continued planting trees and restock areas with reduced forest cover.
We totally agree with the minister because the green economy is a new engine of growth. It is built on an innovative system of economic activities that enhance social well-being, nurture flourishing natural environments and yield competitive yet responsible business growth.
Going green stimulates transformation as the green economy encourages and facilitates progress towards the three pillars of sustainable development which are people, planet and profit.
The green economy underscores the economic dimensions of sustainability or it responds to the growing recognition that achieving sustainability rests almost entirely on getting the economy right.
It also emphasizes the crucial point that economic growth and environmental stewardship can be complementary strategies, challenging the still common view that there are significant tradeoffs between these two objectives – in other words, that the synergies prevail over the tradeoffs.
The president in his first press conference assured the Zambian youths participation in timber trade which has been a preserve of the few as the regulations and the players made sure it was an exclusive preserve of the few who enjoyed the high trade benefits of the Zambian forest.
If this highly profitable sector can be opened up, it will help not only to reduce poverty but allow the locals take pride in environmental protection while preventing the rich and corporations from exploiting the natural resources with impunity as was the case with the Mukula trade.
Job creation is just one near-term benefit of the transition towards a green economy. Other opportunities available include the improved health and well-being of the population, leading to higher levels of productivity and reducing the costs of health care, the overarching effect being a thriving economy and one attractive to investment opportunities.
A clean or renewable energy sector is a must as a vehicle for growth and innovation within all industries. Investing in clean energy leads not only to improved energy security and greater environmental and public health, but research confirms additional near-term benefits of cleaner technology and associated investment opportunities create the fastest job opportunities.
It fosters an environment for the development of entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) through various policy mechanisms, yields a nimble, agile and resilient business sector.
While going green is beneficial, the new dawn government should take recognition that the green economy must contribute and complement rather than replace sustainable development in existence. They should also take on board that countries cannot be treated in the same manner through a ‘one size fits all’ approach as we risk green protectionism.