Hilary Benn hosted the launch of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Green Economy Initiative at Defra on 24 October, highlighting the importance of building a greener and more equitable global economy.

Boosting investment in clean technologies and natural resources is the best way to spur real global economic growth, UNEP and the world's leading economists are reported to have said at the launch. The Green Economy Initiative has three main pillars: boosting the potential of nature worldwide; stimulating job growth and clarifying the actions that can be taken to speed up the shift to a more environmentally-friendly economy.

The $4m scheme, funded by the European Commission, aims to deliver to all governments - of both developed and developing countries - a comprehensive guide on how to make the transition within the next two years, identifying clean energy and technologies; sustainable agriculture; ecosystem infrastructure; reduced emissions; and sustainable urban planning as the five sectors most likely to generate the greatest returns.

Commenting on the current economic climate, UNEP Executive Director Achim Stiener said that the 2008 triple financial, fuel and food crises are partly due to speculation and governments' failure to "intelligently manage" markets as well as losses of nature-based assets and an over-reliance on finite fossil fuels. He stated:

"The flip side of the coin is the enormous economic, social and environmental benefits likely to arise from combating climate change and re-investing in natural infrastructure - benefits ranging from new green jobs in clean tech and clean energy businesses up to ones in sustainable agriculture and conservation based enterprises."

Speaking at the launch event, Hilary Benn said:

"The green technological revolution needs to gather pace, as more and more of the worlds jobs will in future be in environmental industries. Britain is committed to building a green economy at home and abroad: it will be good for business, good for the environment and good for development.

"UNEP's initiative will help make this change; in particular by helping us to understand just how much we depend on the environment - soil, air, water and biodiversity - for our very existence."

Dubbed the 'New Green Deal', the event featured speeches from Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn; Chief Scientific Adviser, Bob Watson; Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director; and Pavan Sukhdev, the senior Deutsche Bank economist who is heading UNEP's Initiative alongside his work on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) - a Stern-style review of ecosystem services, which Defra is also supporting.