28 de setembro de 2011

Pobreza ou carbono?

Is saving CO2 emissions more important than reducing poverty?

This is the question the sustainability movement has wrestled with when trying to decide whether air-freighting goods from Africa can be considered a sustainable activity or not.

Increased trade with Africa improves the livelihoods of some of the world’s poorest people, but how does this weigh against the CO2 incurred in transporting goods from Africa to the UK?

Whilst quantifying the CO2 impact of transporting goods is relatively easy,the social benefits arising from increased trade are much harder to quantify –

How How do we measure the social benefits of trade?

Sequoia believe that the data published within the UN’s human development report provides a high level approach to quantifying the social benefits of trade – against an established set of welfare indicators.

The UN report provides human development statistics for over 190 countries and establishes a clear relationship between economic wealth and improved living standards.This relationship allows the social improvements associated with increased exports to be estimated for any developing country. For example, in 2005, the UK imported £52m of flowers from Kenya. Analysing the data in the UN report reveals that a £52m addition to the Kenyan economy would typically lead to all of the following benefits:

  • 18,000 people lifted above the income threshold of $2 per day

  • 2,600 more children enrolled into secondary education

  • 4,200 fewer children underweight for their age

  • 39,000 more people having access to improved sanitation

  • 57,000 more people with improved nourishment

  • 91,000 more people surviving to the age of 40

  • 125,000 more people with access to an improved water

Valentine’s Day and Mothers Day account for roughly 20% of UK flower sales - equivalent to lifting 3,600 Kenyans above the income threshold of $2 per day.

Even though importing flowers from Kenya incurs less CO2 than closer alternatives, there remains the argument that flowers are an unnecessary luxury that we could do without – and save a total of 220,000 tonnes CO2 in the process. But at the same time we would have to forego the social welfare improvements listed above.

So the key to determining whether air-freighting flowers from Kenya is sustainable or not, is to decide whether you would rather lift 18,000 people out of poverty or save 220,000 tonnes CO2?

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