Sustainable Economy

Green Economy – A Sustainable Concept?

As a new global economic paradigm the concept of the Green Economy is aimed at helping to establish sustainable development. However, the concept must first prove its social credentials.

In the pursuit of sustainable economic and development models the concept of the »green economy« and – based on that – the notion of a worldwide »Green New Deal« are increasingly taking the place of the model of sustainable development. However, although the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) defines the green economy as one which »results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities«, many doubt that the green economy concept is fully adequate to the idea of sustainable development.

Above all, developing countries and some emerging economies, as well as civil society groups are sceptical of the concept of the green economy. According to critics, its central dangers are, on one hand, its lack of differentiation: in particular, economically weak countries fear that a one-size-fits-all model could be imposed on them that serves the interests of the richer countries, while neglecting their own needs. On the other hand, voices are increasingly being heard reproaching the green economy approach for contracting the sustainable development model in environmental and economic terms, neglecting the social dimension. There are also fears that a Green New Deal could be misused by the industrialised countries to establish a new »green« protectionism and to impose environmental conditionalities on the provision of financial aid.

But various actors from the industrialised countries also are not entirely positive towards the challenge of comprehensive structural change, the line of conflict cutting across industry, science, civil society and politics. This scepticism is sustained by uncertainties about competitiveness in a »green« global market, but above all by worries about losses in economic growth and jobs and exacerbating social injustices.

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung approaches the concept of the green economy critically as a model for a sustainable society and development. In dialogue with emerging and developing countries and with the involvement of civil society actors we are working out strategies dealing with how the transition to climate-friendly low carbon economies can be designed in the sense of a »green recovery« in line with social justice, both nationally and at the global level. This is not a matter of finding a standard recipe for overcoming current structural problems. Rather common issues and challenges should be identified as a basis for developing models oriented towards the economic structures and political and socio-economic processes of the countries concerned, taking into account the level and nature of their integration in global processes.


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