Critique of the Green Economy - Toward Social and Environmental Equity

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Since the first UN Conference on the Environment and Development in Rio in 1992, all the important environmental trends have taken a turn for the worse. In politics and industry decisions are still taken with scant regard for climate change, biodiversity loss or dwindling resources. The idea of unfettered growth as the way to end poverty and escape economic and financial crisis remains largely undisputed and is currently reflected in the concept of the green economy. But not everything that is “green” and efficient is also environmentally sustainable and socially equitable.
This essay outlines a policy of less, of wealth in moderation, to enable the Earth’s resources and atmosphere to support the whole human population and to make a life of dignity and without need possible for all.

In summer 2012, the Heinrich Boell office in Warsaw co-organised – along with the Gender, Macroeconomics and International Economics International Working Group GEM-IWG, the Jagiellonian University, Warsaw School of Economics and Bard College's Levy Economics Institute a summer school and a conference on gender economics in Kraków. The project, 'Economic Crisis in Europe and Beyond: Towards Gender – equitable Macroeconomic Policy – making and Economic Governance' focused, among other things, on analysing new ways of governance, the ways of getting out of the ecological, social and economic crises and creating alternatives to neoliberalism – but at the global and the local level.

One of the subjects discussed in Kraków was the global ecological crisis. It currently has many different dimensions, with climate change, biodiversity loss, food prices speculations, Genetically Modified Organisms and the monopolisation of the agricultural markets by trans-national giants being the most obvious issues. Issues, that also have been raised during the conference.

While in Poland it is difficult to push the discourse of sustainable development into practice, the debate on creating a more ecological economy in the world has many shades. One of the most visible, especially during the Rio+20 conference that took part in 2012, has been a discourse on the Green Economy, promoted i.e. by the United Nations Environmental Program.

At first this idea sound similar to the Green New Deal, promoting investments to make the economy go on a more sustainable footing. But – as Unmüßig, Sachs and Fatheuer argue – something is not right in this concept, as it tries to use market measures, that did not bring more stability to the global economy. Business as usual with some green touch – they argue – is a bad idea, and measures such as monetizing naure or putting too much faith just in technological innovation, and not changes in patterns of production and consumption  will do more harm than good.

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Heinrich Böll Foundation
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Table of contents

Foreword 7
Brazil – the fine line between abundance and over-exploitation 9
The decline of neoliberalism and the precarious process of consolidation 9
The Latin American miracle 10
Resource boom – the cornerstone of success 11
It all comes back to the Amazon 12
From Rio to Rio 16
Stalled agreements 16
Changed power and interest constellations 18
The mistaken creed of development 18
Avoiding responsibility 20
The environmental price of globalization 21
Reversing the trend: a pipe dream 23
Green economy – the new panacea? 24
The green economy according to UNEP 26
Monetizing nature – a way out of the ecosystem crisis? 27
Green growth according to the OECD 29
Bio-economy – the rise of the bio-masters 30
Technology and efficiency as a cure-all 33
A blind spot: human rights 36
Blueprint for an economy of moderation 38
An economy of sufficiency 39
Social commons as an economic factor 41
Wealth in diversity 45
References 50