The case for ‘Environmental Mainstreaming’
The economy and society are intimately dependent upon the health of the environment:
- Environmental assets – e.g. fertile soils, clean water, biomass and biodiversity – yield income, offer safety nets for the poor, maintain public health, and drive economic growth.
- Conversely, environmental hazards – e.g. pollution, environmental damage, and climate change – all threaten livelihoods and development.
- Poor people are especially dependent on environmental assets and vulnerable to hazards.
- But environmental and developmental institutions and decisions tend to be separate, which results in environment being viewed as a set of problems rather than potentials.
Environmental mainstreaming – integrating environment into development decisions and institutions – can help to:
- Find integrated solutions that avoid ‘development vs. environment’ arguments, institutional tensions, and associated costs – for example:
- Energy solutions – realising renewable energy potential from biomass, in ways that also ensure that other economic (e.g. food) and environmental (e.g. biodiversity and water) benefits are sustained – i.e. not just blindly turning land over to biofuel crops;
- Climate change solutions – such as pro-poor schemes in agriculture and forestry that mitigate climate change, attract REDD funds (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation), and also suit local environment and social needs;
- Land management solutions – such as corporate/community partnerships, pro-poor protected areas and landscape management that conserve biodiversity as well as provide food and livelihoods – i.e. not only depending on government investment in official protected areas.
- Enable more efficient planning of environmental assets and environmental hazard management – by introducing relevant technical information, identifying scarcities and surpluses, developing alternatives, and streamlining approaches and processes.
- Support technological innovation that is informed and inspired by nature e.g. ‘biomimicry’ in the design of production and waste treatment systems.
- Support informed policy debate and formulation on big issues – notably society’s and the economy’s dependence on, use of, impacts on, and alternatives for environmental assets – where environment has too often been an ‘externality’ in ‘mainstream’ policy.
- In the above ways, improve the productivity, resilience and adaptability of local, sectoral, national and indeed global social and economic systems – reducing the risk of collapses and the need for short-term ‘bail-outs’.
To achieve these benefits, environmental mainstreaming will be:
About collaboration – integration of environment and development interests and ideas, not just environment being ‘forced into’ development.
As much a political and institutional change process as a technical one – working directly with politically ‘hot’ overarching policy issues on matters such as security, macro-economic policy, employment, climate change and ‘low-carbon growth’
Dependent upon leadership and catalytic organisations to forge the necessary links and processes.
A continuing and long-term process, not a one-off ‘project’.