SWITCH to Green initiatives show how to build sustainable societies

United Nations Environment and the European Union (EU) came together at UN Environment in Nairobi, Kenya today to share insights on SWITCH to Green — a major global initiative that supports governments in their transition to green economies.

The primary aim of SWITCH to Green is to turn environmental challenges into opportunities. It is based on the understanding that an inclusive green economy, which features sustainable consumption and production patterns, is at the core of sustainable development.

“Greening the economy is not just about the environment. It also offers multiple benefits like job creation, poverty reduction, economic diversification and income generation,” said Satya Tripathi, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Head of New York Office of UN Environment. “SWITCH to Green is a strategic vehicle that’s driving this transition. UN Environment appreciates the partnership with the European Union and others in laying the foundation for a better and equitable future for everyone,” he added.

The SWITCH to Green initiative builds on a series of regional SWITCH programmes, including SWITCH Asia, SWITCH Africa Green, SWITCHMed and Eastern Partnership (EaP) Green / EU4 Environment, covering over 39 countries. Collectively, the programmes have contributed to the adoption of sustainable consumption and production practices by 100,000 micro, small and medium entrepreneurs, sustaining 350,000 jobs, and leveraging investments of more than US$1.1 billion in total by project beneficiaries.

Today at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, a roundtable brings these regional programmes together to showcase those achievements that have inspired green entrepreneurial efforts and policymaking. The event gives SWITCH to Green and its partners an opportunity to share their experiences and encourage the replication of good practices.

“The SWITCH to Green initiative is delivering results. An independent evaluation of the European Union’s international cooperation on sustainable consumption and production, published in 2018, concluded that actions promoting green business development through the SWITCH programmes had achieved high impact in terms of uptake of sustainable consumption and production practices and increased levels of investments by micro, small and medium entrepreneurs, contributing notably to the creation of green jobs,” said Marjeta Jager, Deputy Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO).

Some of the ways in which SWITCH programmes help governments move towards sustainable consumption and production include providing access to green financing, policies and standards, and eco-entrepreneurship.

Launched in 2014, SWITCH Africa Green has been steering six African countries towards sustainable consumption and production patterns, while also generating economic growth. In the past four years, the programme has achieved widespread success. More than 3,000 micro, small and medium enterprises have directly and indirectly benefited from training, pilot demonstrations and sustainable consumption and production of skills development. Sixty-four percent of the enterprises recorded an increase in income generation, with their annual cost savings amounting to an average of US$7 million. Production rates increased by 68 percent.

One project beneficiary, Newton Owino is showcasing at the Sustainable Innovation Expo 2019 of the Fourth UN Environment Assembly. A leather producer, he now makes fish leather from fish skin—adding value to a fisheries by-product that would otherwise be discarded as waste, one that pollutes the environment as it decomposes. He has also managed, for the first time, to access new leather markets in several countries in Europe and North America. Owino is the Chair of the Kisumu Leather Dealers Association, established with support from Switch Africa Green. The association helps its members produce high-quality leather, gain better bargaining power, increase their income and secure access to financing such as loans to further develop the leather industry in Kisumu.

In alignment with the Mediterranean Action Plan of the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environnent and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean, the project supports business efficiency, knowledge sharing, and capacity building to ingrain circularity into national development policies as well as local business plans. About 1,500 national stakeholders were involved in creating the Regional Action Plan on Sustainable Consumption and Production, adopted by the 22 Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention in 2016. Eight sustainable consumption and production national action plans and 20 demonstration projects were developed and are being implemented in priority areas.

SWITCH-Asia attained wide acclaim through their Asia-Pacific Low-Carbon Lifestyle Challenge, which aims to support young people with business ideas to foster low-waste and low-carbon lifestyles through start-ups. The 12 winning projects each received US$10,000 and mentorship to help bring their ideas to fruition.

One winner, Pamela Nicole from the Philippines, has been transforming textile waste destined for landfill into higher-value products, such as footwear and clothes. From Sri Lanka, Sasiranga De Silva was awarded the prize for developing an affordable toolkit that allows tuk-tuk drivers to convert their vehicles into electric powertrains that generate zero tailpipe emissions.

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