The global context has changed markedly since the creation of the first NCPCs in the early 1990s. Emerging economies have further strengthened their position as global manufacturing hubs. Meanwhile, environmental conditions have continued to deteriorate in developing and transition countries. The need to address climate change has become even more real and urgent. The availability of water and other resources has become an immediate concern in a growing number of locations.
These conditions converge around the key challenge of decoupling economic growth from the increasing consumption of natural resources and energy and the worsening pollution of the environment. Sustainable industrial development is urgently needed to increase health, income and quality of life, while reducing resource use, pollution, waste and impact on nature. UNIDO and UNEP have both recognized these challenges and responded with organization-wide initiatives to foster Green Industry and Green Economy, respectively.
The NCPCs demonstrated that industries in developing and transition countries have significant potential to reduce the material, energy and pollution intensity per unit of industrial output. This also reduces overall ecological footprints (carbon, water, etc.) while at the same time improving productivity and competitiveness. This is essential for the ultimate goal of decoupling of economic growth from increased resource use and further environmental degradation. The term Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production (RECP) was introduced to highlight this strategic opportunity for enterprises to simultaneously address productivity environmental and social imperatives.