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Towards Green Growth in Southeast Asia

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Southeast Asia’s booming economy offers tremendous growth potential, but also large and interlinked economic, social and environmental challenges. The region’s current growth model is based in large part on natural resource exploitation, exacerbating these challenges. This report provides evidence that, with the right policies and institutions, Southeast Asia can pursue green growth and thus sustain the natural capital and environmental services, including a stable climate, on which prosperity depends.

Carried out in consultation with officials and researchers from across the region, Towards Green Growth in Southeast Asia provides a framework for regional leaders to design their own solutions to move their countries towards green growth. While recognising the pressures that Southeast Asian economies face to increase growth, fight poverty and enhance well-being, the report acknowledges the links between all these dimensions and underscores the window of opportunity that the region has now to sustain its wealth of natural resources, lock-in resource-efficient and resilient infrastructure, attract investment, and create employment in the increasingly dynamic and competitive sectors of green technology and renewable energy.

Some key policy recommendations are that these challenges can be met by scaling up existing attempts to strengthen governance and reform countries’ economic structure; mainstreaming green growth into national development plans and government processes; accounting for the essential ecosystem services provided by natural capital, ending open-access natural resource exploitation; and guiding the sustainable growth of cities to ensure well-being and prosperity.

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Founding green growth on sustainable resource use

Natural resources contribute substantially to the wealth and growth of ASEAN countries. Yet the rate of natural resource depletion across the region is worrying and may eventually prove unsustainable. The precautionary principle dictates the need for a change in current exploitation practices to avoid triggering irreversible damage to the environment that could have large negative long-term consequences for the economy and human welfare. This means finding ways to halt forest loss and degradation, to promote sustainable fisheries and replenish fish stocks, to reverse the increasing reliance on coal and other fossil-fuel based sources of energy and fully exploit the large potential of renewable energy sources, and to encourage the more sustainable exploitation of minerals. The chapter reviews these challenges, and for each provides recommendations for practical ways forward to ensure that key aspects of natural capital are preserved and that their use contributes to long-term economic growth and improvements in well-being. The development and effectiveness of the array of policies and institutions required will hinge crucially on a set of indicators that monitor the quantity, quality and value of natural resources and that will facilitate the implementation of natural capital accounting.

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