Wednesday, June 7, 2017

UNEP-UNIDO Workshop on Green Sustainable Industry in Nanjing

On May 10-11, the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) and UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) jointly held a workshop in Nanjing, China in order to develop a Green Industry Sustainable Progress (GISP) Index to be adopted within China, and potentially employed throughout the world.

Professor Roger Raufer, Energy, Resources, and Environment (ERE) Resident Professor at HNC, and Jiwoon Choi, an ERE Certificate/SAIS MA student, were invited to participate in the workshop. Professor Liu Beibei, who teaches at Nanjing University and HNC, was also invited to present her ongoing work on the development of sustainable industry indicators for Jiangsu province.

On the first day, participants reviewed a list of potential indicators UNIDO had initially compiled for Jiangsu province in China, as well as existing composite indexes and their methodologies (e.g. UN Human Development Index, UNEP Global Environmental Progress, UNIDO Competitive Industrial Performance, and the China Green Development Index). Subsequent sessions focused on discussing the pros and cons of each index, which methodology would be optimal for the GISP index, as well as how the lack of availability and quality of data might impact the quality of the index.

On the second day, participants discussed which variables should be included in the index, as well as what the appropriate aggregation method might be within the GISP index. Potential variables were divided into the three key dimensions associated with sustainable development: social, economic, and environmental.

Professor Raufer’s presentation focused on work he had done during his time at the UN’s Division for Sustainable Development in New York, as well as follow up work he performed for the IAEA in Vienna and UN ESCAP in Bangkok.  This traced the historical role that energy played in the original set of sustainable development indicators (only three indicators!); to an expanded set designed to help address national energy planning (30 indicators); to a specific focus on electrical power sector development within Asia (59 indicators).

Professor Liu presented her ongoing work on UNEP’s Global Economy Progress (GEP) measurements in Jiangsu Province. She showed how the GEP measured actual progress achieved relative to initial targets, and showed that Jiangsu’s GEP index for 2015 was 0.7521 (a score between 0 and 1 indicates that there has been partial progress, but that not all targets have been achieved. A score higher than 1 means all targets have been surpassed). She noted that at the current stage, it was more productive to compare different regions’ progress within Jiangsu, instead of comparing progress among provinces.

One key issue that emerged was whether the proposed GISP index should include a social variable (e.g. number of employees in the manufacturing sector), and if so, how it should be measured. As the day progressed, participants eventually settled on following an aggregation methodology more similar to UNEP’s GEP than the HDI, and proposed the development of an environmentally-adjusted manufacturing value added (MVA) indicator to reflect differences across various manufacturing sectors.

UNEP and UNIDO’s Nanjing workshop provided valuable lessons and insights into how “sustainable development” can be defined and measured, especially when applying the concept to a specific context—in this case, the industrial sector. The workshop also revealed the complexity of developing composite indexes, by showing how assumptions made at various levels (e.g. Are the data sources reliable? Are there differences in data collection methodologies? Is this indicator the best way to measure this variable?) could compromise the ultimate effectiveness of the index. The value of using indices (Is it to promote competition among the parties being measured? To bring attention to weak spots? To highlight model performers?) was also brought into question. Overall, the workshop induced productive comments from all participants involved touching upon all of these important topics. In the near future, we may look forward to the development of a robust GISP index that can steer our industries in a more sustainable direction.

Participants in the workshop included representatives from the University of British Columbia, the Beijing Institute of Technology, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Zhenjiang Environmental Protection Bureau, the China Quality Certification Center, and the Global Green Growth Institute.

Written by Jiwoon Choi, Certificate/SAIS MA student 

Jiwoon Choi is a Certificate/SAIS MA student concentrating in ERE, currently finishing her first year in Nanjing, China. She will be interning with the Energy Division of UN ESCAP this summer in Bangkok, Thailand, before joining SAIS DC in the fall for the MA portion of her program.