Mongolia and PAGE turn crisis into opportunity

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 09 October 2016 - The last five years have been a rocky ride for Mongolia. The country’s economy grew by 17 per cent in 2011, riding high on the wave of a commodities boom, but suffered when commodity prices crashed and neighbouring China’s economy started to cool.

Mongolia faces significant fiscal challenges combined with environmental and social challenges, such as air pollution, public transport provision, and increasing inequality. But the rebound in commodity prices this year, along with supportive government decisions, could give investor confidence a cautious boost.

In the midst of crisis, however, Mongolia’s government saw opportunity, committing itself to exploring options for alternative economic growth based on environmental sustainability and social inclusiveness.

Mongolia became the first country to join PAGE in 2013, determined to place sustainability at the centre of its economic policies. Since then, PAGE has helped the country develop various codes, standards, policies, inventories and implement policy in collaboration with the relevant national authorities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public procurement processes.

In 2014, the Parliament of Mongolia approved the National Green Development Policy and in January 2016 it approved an Action Plan to implement it.

PAGE has since been helping the government unite and align national and international, public and private finance and investment players, supporting them in their efforts to give the Action Plan legs.

The initiative will develop green and inclusive financial products and services, such as green bonds, to direct private finance towards projects that benefit the society and the environment. PAGE is working with the banking sector, the Mongolian Sustainable Finance Initiative and the UN Environment Finance Initiative to identify the opportunities for boosting green finance.

Partnerships for schools and the steady progress to green economies

The first area in which policy has begun to hit the ground is in the “greening” of buildings— one of the most important aspects of planning for any city aspiring to green growth because of its long lock-in horizons.

In this, too, the country found an opportunity: the anticipated need to house 526,000 school children in 2016 offered a chance for the government to develop sustainable state‑owned school buildings.

The greening of school and kindergarten buildings agrees with its Green Development Policy, which includes the introduction of a rating system for green building, energy, technology and standards. The goal is to reduce heat loss from buildings by 20 per cent by 2020, and 40 per cent by 2030. It is also to increase the share of renewable energy in its mix to 20 per cent in 2020 and 30 per cent in 2030. Heating supply accounts for 40 per cent of gross energy consumption, in a country where winter temperatures of minus 20°C (minus 4°F) are normal and wind chill can drive this down even further. Heating is needed nine months of the year, driving up annual per capita greenhouse gas emissions despite the relatively low national emissions .

To address these challenges, the UN Environment under PAGE and the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) partnered with the government of Mongolia to prepare guidelines develop the design and prototype for green school buildings, which can be applied to the 1,200 schools that need to be built over the next five to seven years. These will follow sustainable design principles and have at their heart a cradle-to-grave life cycle approach that will see them built with safe, sustainable building materials.

Schools are just the entry point, a first step— the process should ultimately evolve into a national Green Building Rating System.

Partnerships like those under PAGE often help create and maintain the political and private sector momentum for the long-term, but a sustained effort is needed to build and bring together all the interlinked aspects of a green economy.

Sustainable lifestyles and economies will never be achieved in silos. It’s a lesson policymakers at all levels have learned over the centuries— what is successful in one policy area could spell disaster for another.

In the era of the all-encompassing Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, strengthening in-country alignment is crucial to accelerating the transition towards an inclusive green economy and realizing these agreements.

Stronger and innovative partnerships are key to mobilising and sharing knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources at the national level.

This trio— PAGE, GGGI and UN Environment— also bring together their complementary expertise to support Colombia and Peru in pursuit of their national agendas for greener and more inclusive economies.

The three organisations showcased these partnerships in Jeju Island, Republic of Korea, on 8 September 2016,  as part of Green Growth Global Week 2016, whose aim is to identify practical, innovative solutions to sustainability challenges and strengthen partnerships that deliver growth that is pro-poor, inclusive, and environmentally sustainable. 

The event was attended by ministers and senior officials from over 50 countries, over 500 executives from the private sector and financial institutions as well as the heads of many multilateral development banks and regional UN Agencies.