International View on Green Economy
For our assignment we presented a short description about various topics on sustainable development, issues and possible solutions surrounding the flawed systems of development in the world. Green economy, my topic of choice, was an example of solutions to the current economy. A green economy would be a system that leads to more sustainable growth but does not use up more nonrenewable resources or have a negative impact on the environment. In other words decoupling elements of the economy that sound unrelated. I presented it with the Photoshopped picture, seen above, and discussed green economy in both the context of the world through the United Nations and what Switzerland is initiating to create a sustainable economy that works with the environment and society through Cleantech innovations.
Sustainable development has been a mainstream topic of the UN. The UN website describes Sustainable development as creating a decent standard of living for everyone today without compromising the needs of future generations or “finding better ways of doing things” for all the world’s population such as: reducing poverty, encouraging job creation, providing access to clean energy, water, and nutrition and creating cities and transportation that function well all while protecting the global environment. (http://www.un.org/en/sustainablefuture/sustainability.shtml)
The concept of a green economy does not replace sustainable development, but is part of it. There is growing recognition that achieving sustainability depends on getting the economy right. [UN Green Economy 2011 intro p 17] http://www.unep.org/greeneconomy/Portals/88/documents/ger/1.0_Introduction.pdf%5D
Although just a branch of sustainable development, green economy is still a large topic. I started out by explaining how the UN defined a green economy, ”one that results in improved human wellbeing and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.” In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive. To read more go to: (http://www.uncsd2012.org/rio20//content/documents/Transition%20to%20a%20Green%20Economy_summary.pd)
A green economy does not forget the principles of the past such as including Rio Principles and Agenda 21 as part of the green economy. This means that while underscoring the links between the economy and the environment, a green economy should not lose sight of the equity dimensions, including the needs of the poorer members of society throughout the world, the specific needs of developing countries (and of different groups of developing countries) and, of course, of future generations.
I saw the concept of a green economy as a tool box that incorporates preexisting systems and manipulates them to redirect the focus to a sustainable view:
Government can regulate innovations so they are sustainable, can encourage environmentally-friendly pricing policies, can structure taxes and subsidies to limit pollution and emissions and to control over-exploitation of natural resources. This would make products, services and their prices better reflect environmental values that would encourage a green economy.
Technology innovation will be key to the success of the green economy. New ideas will have to make the world more efficient, allow for growth and preserve the environment without reducing overall jobs. – Working towards a more efficient world that allows for growth with out hurting the environmental or taking away jobs. This challenging task ties back to this chain of events diagram:
Green Investment: Invest in green technology–> increase demand–> increase employment
An example of manipulating the tools that are already set in place would be agriculture production. “Food Security” is a term that has shifted back to the traditional concept of greater self-sufficiency and increased local food production. This means putting back many institutions that were dismantled in developing countries due to structural adjustment policies.
Teaching about the sustainable technology, especially in developing countries is important so they can absorb it and then manipulate it for the developing country’s specific needs.
Trade is also a very important part creating a green economy. The re-adjusting of resources brings potential economic benefits to developing countries by opening up new export opportunities. One obvious way trade policy might help in the greening of economies is by lowering tariff and non-tariff barriers to goods such as wind turbines and efficient light bulbs, and services such as environmental engineering.
Switzerland’s View on Green Economy
The Swiss Platform for Rio+20 describes their direct route to a green economy, “The world is facing huge social and environmental challenges. Its rapidly growing population and changing consumer behaviour are putting more pressure on the environment and natural resources. Moreover, social inequalities are on the increase. The current economic model is reaching its limits in terms of overcoming these challenges.” Switzerland is taking leaps and bounds towards a more green economy through programs such as Cleantech and combining government sectors for a more streamlined system.
What is Cleantech you say?
Cleantech is a resource-saving and thus sustainable way of conducting economic activity. The cleantech concept covers all technologies, manufacturing techniques and services that are intended to help protect and maintain natural resources and systems. It incorporates all levels of the value added chain, from research and development to the production of capital goods to exports. The Cleantech Masterplan is a situation analysis and should lead to greater coordination of resource efficiency and renewable energies. By combining the forces of the federal government, the cantons, the private sector and academic actors, Switzerland should become a leading business location for resource efficient products, services and renewable energies by 2020. Few other sectors of the economy are predicted to have the growth potential of cleantech. This field includes technologies, manufacturing processes and services that help to preserve our natural resources and the environment. Switzerland enjoys a strong position as far as foreign trade in cleantech products. There is a broad knowledge base and also considerable specialization. In addition to cleantech, education is a key component of green economy in Switzerland. By 2020, the general conditions for research, knowledge and technology transfer and education will be in place, leading to greater innovation in the cleantech sector. Swiss companies will be able to effectively use the knowledge gained by higher education institutions as a means of developing their economy.
After I finished the green economy presentation and heard what others in the class had to say about this “new” system, is that the system is not different but just re-adjusted to be geared towards a more sustainable mindset. What the UN described had all the same aspects of the current economy, such as: trade, government regulations, tariffs, etc. but they just varied in the degrees of influence. Although the steps recommended for a green economy would probably be implemented relatively smoothly because of the similar structure, I struggle to see where the push would come from for long term progress. If the way the economy is set up now is not leading in a sustainable direction, why would the world overcome the usual resistance to change and use the same structure just in an invisible cloak of shifts labeled sustainable? A green economy would require such a fundamental shift in evaluating the use of scarce resources and expected returns that the concept seems to broadly overreach the confines of economics.
QUESTION TO PONDER:
Why did the UN call this solution “green economy” instead of “green society”? How can you change a system but not have the people change?