In our editorial yesterday, the Daily Mirror focused on the need to give the highest priority to poverty alleviation through structural changes and an inclusive, eco-friendly economic development programme to bring about a just society. Just how unjust society is, was exposed on Monday when Oxfam one of the most respected international social justice movement - reported that the world’s 62 richest billionaires owned as much wealth as the poorer half of the world’s population. Timed to coincide with this week’s gathering of many of the super-rich at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, the report called for urgent action to deal with a trend showing that 1% of people own more wealth than the other 99% combined.
Oxfam said that the wealth of the poorest 50% dropped by 41% between 2010 and 2015, despite a 400m increase in the global population. In the same period, the wealth of the richest 62 people increased by US$500bn to US$ 1.76tn.
The Oxfam said, in 2010, the 388 richest people owned the same wealth as the poorest 50%. This dropped to 80 in 2014 before falling again in 2015.
It said higher wages, a crackdown on tax dodging and higher investment in public services were needed to stop this monstrous gap from widening. Shocking and staggering indeed and it applies largely to Sri Lanka also.
Linked to this catastrophe in the inequitable distribution of wealth and resources are issues relating to climate change. At the Paris summit last month some 200 countries reached a historic though non-binding agreement to take effective steps to reduce the rising temperature levels to two degrees celsius or 1.5 if possible, substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions and use creative hi-tech ways to obtain more renewable sources of energy from the sun, wind and other clean energy sources.
The United Nations Environment programme Executive Director Achim Steiner, at the UNEP Inquiry Year of Green Finance inauguration in London this week said 2015 was the year of building a new set of foundations for the global economy, and signaling new directions for the financial system. It was the world’s task this year to take the practical steps in delivering the shift - and nowhere was this agenda more exciting than in the field of finance. With many countries going green in building schools, homes, hotels and other institutions with green energy from the sun and the wind the UNEP chief stressed on the need to also go green in finance. He said there were the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, the so-called SDGs, which, in essence, made an annual investment pipeline measured in the trillions to end poverty and also marry increased prosperity with social inclusion and environmental regeneration. The world also had the Paris agreement on climate change, which signalled the shift to a net zero economy, stressed the urgency of improving resilience to climate shocks and mobilized financial regulators and institutions in novel ways.
“So, what is this ‘quiet revolution’ that the UNEP has found? It’s the recognition that sustainability is now moving from being a marginal, optional factor in financial decision-making to something that is increasingly strategic for both private institutions and for central banks and regulatory bodies charged with governing the health of the financial system as a whole,” Mr. Steiner said.
In Sri Lanka the national government has repeatedly assured that environmental issues would be given priority in the midterm strategic economic development programme based on a socialist market economic concept. We hope tax concessions and other incentives will be given for green buildings with rooftop gardens and innovative sources of renewable energy. As for civic minded citizens, an important contribution could be made by saving fresh water and electricity, using less fuel and reducing our carbon footprints and gradually reducing the use of polythene and plastic.
Indeed the main call this year is to save mother nature and save mother Lanka.