Based on the idea of "growth without polluting", UNEP defines the green economy concept in macroeconomic terms as “one whose growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. These investments need to be catalyzed and supported by targeted public expenditure, policy reforms and regulation changes. This development path should maintain, enhance and, where necessary, rebuild natural capital as a critical economic asset and source of public benefits, especially for poor people whose livelihoods and security depend strongly on nature.” (UNEP 2011)
Thus, from a social perspective, the concept is limited to income growth and employment as a necessary factor of production without considering the social dimension of health, education, or equity, among others. Although the concept includes the issue of employment, this issue should therefore be reviewed from a social perspective, and the ILO has suggested including the term "decent work" in this part of the definition.
Moreover, by talking about “investments” as a core driving force of the concept, it reveals that it continues to be based on the nature of capitalist accumulation included in the term, i. e., a production-consumption model which still has the same goal: to produce more, and to create more needs to consume more. It is right on this issue where I see the need to understand that economic growth is not necessarily a synonym for development, not even in the global north, where it’s impossible to decouple growth from development.
Also, through ideas such as “producing more with less”, the green economy concept refers to energy and resource efficiency as a means to reconcile the capitalist production-consumption model with the environment, but the overall point is that in reality, the planet can no longer sustain these patterns of consumption.
Finally, the concept of green economy does not say how increased production and efficiency will change the poverty situation in the world, or will ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth, education, and equity. Neither does it identify the relevant actors. So, it is understood that green economy seeks to perpetuate the economic system that – with its logic of unlimited growth on a finite planet – has almost led us to ecological and social collapse.
Ultimately, the Green Economy concept needs to look for other ways of accounting for costs in production and consumption based on the idea that the planet is finite, that development and the economic system are concepts that must be developed locally and nationally, and acknowledging that societies can live modestly, dignified, just and happy on the basis of the concept of "good living" as Sumak Kawsay defines it, instead of "living well" as the “American way of life” imposes, covering basic needs without producing or consuming more.
From my point of view, the better use of natural resources is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition to achieve sustainable development. The green economy concept should effectively pursuit an idea of society’s welfare that does not depend on a continuous increase of production and consumption. Focusing only on reducing carbon emissions and pollution without thinking of any change to the production-consumption status quo, equals thinking that everything is perfect and we only need to find the way to keep doing the same things, but in a less polluting way.
UNEP (2011): Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication – A Synthesis for Policy Makers; available at: www.unep.org/greeneconomy (last accessed on 3.5.2012).
Ulrich Hoffmann (2011): Some reflections on climate change, green growth illusions and development space. UNCTAD Discussion Paper No. 205, December 2011; available at: http://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/osgdp2011d5_en.pdf (last accessed on 3.5.2012).
Serrano Mancilla Alfredo and Martin Carrillo Sergio (2011): La Economía Verde desde una perspectiva de América Latina, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung/ILDIS Ecuador , 2011; available at: http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/bueros/quito/08252.pdf (last accessed on 3.5.2012).
Eduardo Gudynas (2011): Buen Vivir: Germinando alternativas al desarrollo, in: América Latina en Movimiento, Nº 462, February 2011, pp. 1-20.