Greening our Economies
Participants in the International Session will embark on a 7-day learning journey that will link speakers, panels, workshops, case studies and site visits in examining the roles of leadership, learning and technology in creating greener economies and a sustainable world.
“It’s not a choice between our environment and our economy; it’s a choice between prosperity and decline” -President Barack Obama
The international sustainable development community has embraced the concept of the Green Economy (GE) with great enthusiasm. It will be one of two main themes of the Rio 2012 conference. UNEP and a number of partners have just published a Green Economy Report as the key output of their Green Economy Initiative. OECD DAC is about to issue a Green Growth Strategy. The World Bank and several of the regional development banks are also launching similar initiatives. It is linked to the MDG agenda and to developments in climate change finance.
There is no doubt that the GE agenda has achieved a high level of political momentum and visibility – but there are a number of issues that keep coming up in international discussions:
What exactly is it? Many have wondered what is the difference between the GE and sustainable development. There are various answers mainly claiming that GE is today’s pathway to sustainable development through choosing a better model for economic goals, regulatory and market reform and patterns of investment. It offers growth – but green and socially equitable growth. It also captures the momentum for transition to a new approach to economic success built around the climate change agenda and the proposed financing mechanisms.
Does everyone welcome it? There has been some resistance among the G77 – afraid that it will impose more environmental conditionality on poorer countries. Some have seen it as essentially a first world agenda linked to advanced economic production and high-tech cleaner technologies. Others have questioned how the global focus can be relevant to the local level where the poor live. However, many poorer countries have shown a strong motivation to adopt their own version and many elements are happening already. The concept has become sufficiently elastic to embrace both low carbon technologies and a strong emphasis on investing in “natural capital” and the resulting benefits for the poor. Others have commented on the proliferation of concepts and initiatives and the lack of harmonisation among development actors. However, the guardians of “aid effectiveness” are advocating better coordination and will eventually marshal the different initiatives.
What is its value for us? It brings together the diverse and numerous elements of sustainable development in an organising theme – a new economic model that can be green and fair. We can embrace within the GE agenda the spectrum from green technologies to resource efficiency to natural resource based sustainable enterprise. We can apply a model of how GE can be achieved that includes policy and regulatory reform, public and private investment and fostering high- and low-“tech” innovation. We can highlight successes within governments, through multi-national and domestic business actors and at the local level. There are a multitude of entry points for helping to make it happen – all under the GE “brand”.
The big challenge is converting the GE agenda into action in a meaningful and enduring manner – especially in poorer countries – making it happen. The opportunity is there to revitalise the wide range of efforts on the part of many to bring about sustainable development. The challenge is to find a way to get the main actors at the country level to agree on a common approach, consistent analytics and to ensure that the vision of GE gets “mainstreamed” into the actions of governments and the private sector.