The concept of "green economy" is a relatively new and promising direction in economic science. In an exclusive interview with ARKA news agency, Gagik Makarian, the chairman of the National Union of Employers of Armenia, speaks on the prospects of its development and possible introduction of "green technologies" in Armenia
ARKA - Mr. Makarian, there is a lot of talk about "green technology" and the "green economy." What are the prospects for ‘green economy’ development in Armenia?
Makarian - First of all, I would like to note that the concept of "green economy" is a promising concept, advanced by scientists in the USA and Europe. For Armenia, this is a relatively new culture. Therefore, in this situation it is too early to talk about specific models, because first of all we need to create a framework for a ‘green economy,’ alternative energy sources, and only then proceed to designing a model for its development.
ARKA - What alternative energy sources are available in Armenia?
Makarian – Very promising is the use of solar energy, because we have more than 300 sunny days a year. Another source of alternative energy is wind power. However, I would like to say that wind farms can not be placed anywhere. Before building a wind power plant a number of engineering problems must be solved, such as choosing the best site and assessing the terrain, reinforcing the soil for the plant. Now Europe has switched to building wind power plants with a few megawatts capacity. It is noteworthy that they are placed in lieu of old plants, which are dismantled and sold at a lower price. Armenia, for example, could purchase these plants and place them in its territory. A wind power may supply electricity to a farm, a village. It may also be used for defense purposes.
ARKA - How many jobs could be created by shifting to alternative energy sources?
Makarian – A great many. Development, manufacturing, distribution and use of alternative energy sources require a large number of experts, including scientists, engineers and builders. Of course, we realize that this is associated with large investments; however, the introduction of green technology will pay off. But more importantly, we can save the environment. Sometimes it seems that the amount of resources in the world is inexhaustible, but it is not: The natural resources are limited, hence the need to take urgent measures to preserve them, otherwise nothing will be left to our descendants in a few generations.
ARKA - What kind of obstacles do exist in Armenia for the transition to the green economy, and what steps should be taken to overcome them?
Makarian – When it comes to introduction of green economy we understand that a great deal must be done. First of all, we need to develop a clear-cut strategy for the conservation of the environment, to identify correctly our strategic objectives, to evaluate the possible consequences and then determine the government’s further policy in this direction.
Second, we should define the priorities of the Armenian economy. This should be done in such a way that separate sectors could develop independently without interfering with each other. For example, mining plants should not be built in the vicinity of agricultural land because otherwise it would be impossible to ensure the environmental safety of manufactured products.
Third, our country has ratified a number of international conventions, which define the issues of environmental protection, but to date the requirements of the conventions in our country are often not observed.
Fourth, we should encourage introduction of low-waste, competitive technologies with minimal damage to the environment. For example, to switch to solar energy, in particular, to use solar panels as a power source, as was done in neighboring Georgia, where the streets are illuminated by solar energy. This method allows around the clock uninterrupted supply of electricity.
We need also to shift to more precise statistics concerning measures applied by organizations to protect the environment. For this I would suggest that the National Statistical Service when preparing statistical data about organizations and companies start also gauging their contribution to the protection of environment. This will reveal which enterprises have environmental protection concepts.
Besides, our country needs to develop tools to assess the impact on the environment. Another major problem is poor public awareness of issues concerning the green economy. Moreover, informing means not only to inform, but also to teach by presenting the risks which have to be taken into account by a country like Armenia due to its small size.
This in mind we need to start a profound teaching of green economy basics as people, who will come tomorrow to the labor market, should possess this information. Moreover, knowledge in this area should be taught not only to those who are going to get education, but also those who are already working in a particular organization. In this regard, it is important that stakeholders conduct joint conferences, meetings and other events, where they could discuss environmental challenges.
ARKA - What steps is the government taking to promote the development of green economy?
Makarian - To this end, our government uses different methods of encouragement. For example, it stimulates and finances business projects which provide for introduction of Environmental Protection Management (ISO 14000). The government also offers a three-year VAT payment deferment for companies importing state-of-the-art technology and equipment.
ARKA - What is the role of the private sector in the development of green economy?
Makarian - The private sector is not independent; its activity depends on the standards which the government adopts, implements and monitors. The private sector, in the first place, must act within the legal framework established by the state. However, it should be noted that private companies can take certain steps to minimize damage to the environment, the protection of which is the key factor for the development of the green economy. We can start with relatively small steps, for example, by placing solar panels at various locations, including in tunnels and on the roofs of houses; introduce restrictions on organizations for one sided printing of documents. Even hermetically closed windows will save heating. It is also important to make greater use of thermal insulation materials in the construction, which will save heat due the thickness of the walls, avoid installing inexpensive metal (aluminum) windows, as the metal is a conductor of cold. Such measures, which at first glance look primitive, in a very short time can lead to positive results.
ARKA - What are the positive effects from introduction of green economy?
Makarian - Since one of the main goals of green economy is to ensure environmental safety, one of the positive results will be the confidence of the people that Armenia-made products are harmless and living conditions are safe. But if we develop the criteria of food safety, while the proportion of heavy metals in them will continue to grow, we will not be able to provide this security. As a consequence, this will lead to the loss of competitiveness of our food products.
ARKA – Given that all above said is observed when can we expect positive results?
Makarian - If local organizations begin to take concrete steps today to protect the environment, within two years we can expect serious results. As for technology, its application, of course, will lead to more significant results, but it will take more time. I would like to note that the green economy has no negative sides at all. On the contrary, it is aimed at the prevention and correction of all existing ills.
ARKA – Does your Union cooperate with foreign organizations?
Makarian - We work closely with the International Labor Organization (ILO), which is very supportive of us, with the International Organization of Employers (IOE), the UN office, which is one of the advocates of "green economy," as well as with the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). However, we do not intend to rest on what has been done so far and will continue to develop our cooperation with other international organizations in adapting their advanced technology, in exchange of experience in education. We will also hold joint conferences and publish relevant literature. -0-