Headline GDP growth misses crucial aspects of sustainability, well-being: UN report

2020-01-17 Xinhua Editor:Gu Liping

Headline GDP growth misses crucial aspects of sustainability and well-being, according to the United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) 2020, which was launched Thursday at the UN headquarters in New York.

Beyond GDP growth, other measures of well-being "paint an even bleaker picture" in several parts of the world. The climate crisis, persistently high inequalities, and rising levels of food insecurity and undernourishment continue to affect the quality of life in many societies.

"Policymakers should move beyond a narrow focus on merely promoting GDP growth, and instead aim to enhance well-being in all parts of society. This requires prioritizing investment in sustainable development projects to promote education, renewable energy, and resilient infrastructure," Elliott Harris, UN chief economist and assistant secretary-general for economic development, said at a press conference for the launching of the report.

To achieve economic growth while limiting carbon emissions is possible by changing the energy mix, said the report.

To combat climate change, the world's growing energy needs "must be met with renewable or low-carbon energy sources." This will require "massive adjustments" in the energy sector, which currently accounts for about three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions. If per capita emissions in developing countries were to rise towards those in developed economies, global carbon emissions would increase by more than 250 percent - compared to the global goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

The urgency of energy transition continues to be underestimated, resulting in "short-sighted decisions" such as expanding investment in oil and gas exploration and coal-fired power generation. This not only leaves many investors and governments exposed to sudden losses, but also "poses substantial setbacks to environmental targets."

Any delay in decisive action towards energy transition "could double the eventual costs." The transition to a cleaner energy mix will bring not only environmental and health benefits, but economic opportunities for many countries.

The World Economic Situation and Prospects is an annual UN flagship publication on the state of the world economy, viewed through the lens of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is a joint product of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the UN Conference on Trade and Development and the five UN regional commissions. Enditem

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