In an active discussion with students, he elaborated on the growing relevance of green economy and particularly highlighted the importance of resource efficiency in the future. “Three times more resources will be needed worldwide by 2050, if the growth and consumption level remain at current levels. Only in last 12 years real commodity prices increased by 147%, rise of the food prices in 2010 has driven 44 million people into poverty, and up to 1.1 trillion US dollars is spent annually on resources subsides” Vrbensky warned and stressed importance of the upcoming Rio+20 Conference in June this year for sketching the roadmap for greater resource management in the future.
The UN Resident Coordinator particularly addressed Montenegro’s great potential in the area of green growth and sustainable development, especially in the context of EU accession. He qoted recent UNDP’s research which shows that in 2010 protected areas generated 68 million Euros, which is 2.2% GDP or 106 Euros per capita through tourism and recreational activities, water supply and flood protection. “However, the research shows that tourists and recreational visitors are willing to pay additional 19 million Euros a year more for a variety of business services that are currently underutilized like hiking and other guided tours”, Vrbensky added.
He also reminded that Montenegro has not done enough to fully follow its Constitutional determination to become an ecological state.
“That certainly leaves a lot of space for you to change things. Ecology and green potentials are key comparative advantages of Montenegro, especially in the area of unleashing green entrepreneurship spirit”, he said and highlighted opportunities in specific areas such as energy efficiency, development of business clusters, protected areas management to serve as income generator, as well as the possibilities to explore renewable energy potentials.
“We believe that Montenegro should move towards greater evidence based policy making, market transformation toward low emissions, resource efficient economy in order to create new green jobs, generate income and reduce emissions of GHGs and dependence on energy import. All that would lead to strengthening the resilience of the ecosystem, economies and communities”, Vrbensky said.
The lecture instigated a very fruitful discussion among students who raised a number of questions, ideas and critical comments concerning green economy and sustainable development opportunities. Students also expressed certain concerns regarding green future, including risks of going green in the hard time of global financial crises, growth vs. green dilemma, uncertain future of capitalism in the world of rapid population growth, EU accession in the context of strong influences of different lobbies in various areas.
A discussion on the EU accession process led to numerous questions and comments. Some of students expressed concern about the amount of actual points that can be negotiated. Vrbensky explained that EU accession means joining the club of some of the most developed and modern countries, which have some of the most advanced set of policies in areas of human rights protection, environment, education, health and so on.
“The negotiation process is a great chance to modernise your country”, said Vrbensky, explaining that his home country, Slovakia, has tremendously benefited from the EU accession process.
Besides challenges and opportunities of green future and the EU accession, the UN Resident Coordinator also described the composition of the UN System in Montenegro, areas of UN’s intervention in the country, as well as the global mandate of the United Nations.
The session at the University of Donja Gorica is one in a series of UN lectures at Montenegrin universities, as a way to continue strengthening partnerships with academia.