"The bottom line is that green shopping, even when practiced by millions of people, just doesn’t add up to enough to affect the system. Sociologists call this the behavior-impact gap.." (Source: NY Times)
Excellent contribution by Annie Leonard ("The Sory of Stuff") to an interesting NY Times debate on sustainability, green consumption and system change.
“Our real source of power to make a difference is through changing the polices and structures in which production and consumption happen, and we do that through civic engagement, not better shopping. So shop responsibly. Just be sure that’s where you start, not where you stop. “
“The report argues that the impact of a transition towards a greener economy on labour markets will extend far beyond the creation of new green jobs, such as those related to renewable energy. This transition will create new opportunities for workers, but also new risks. The challenge for labour market and skill policies is to maximise the benefits for workers and help assure a fair sharing of adjustment costs, while also supporting broader green growth policies (e.g. by minimising skill bottlenecks).” (Source: OECD)
This good OECD report presented on 4 June also looks at the need to re-allocate workers from declining brown industries to growing green ones and demands serious reforms of the tax and benefit systems for workers.
Last week the ILO and UNEP presented a similar report called “Working towards sustainable development. Opportunities for decent work and social inclusion in a green economy”. That report sees a potential of between 15m and 60m additional jobs if the world would shift rapidly to a low-carbon future.
“Many of the growth strategies tried around the world have turned out to have built-in limitations or decelerators – what one might call elements of unsustainability.”
Absolute must-read article in Project Syndicate by 2001 Economics Nobel laureate Michael Spence. He seems to be one of the few economists able to think beyond the unfruitful austerity versus growth debate and link the crisis of the economy and economics with the sustainability crisis.
Two interesting quotes from this brilliant analysis:
“Perhaps the largest long-run sustainability issue concerns the adequacy of the global economy’s natural-resource base: output will more than triple over the coming two or three decades, as high-growth developing economies’ four billion people converge toward advanced-country income levels and consumption patterns. Existing economic-development strategies will require significant adaption to accommodate this kind of growth.”
“Contrary to the prevailing wisdom nowadays, some degree of Keynesian demand management in the transition to a more sustainable growth pattern is not in conflict with restoring fiscal balance over a sensible time period. On the contrary, applied both individually and together, fiscal stimulus and consolidation are necessary parts of the adjustment process.
But they are not sufficient. The crucial missing pieces are a shift in the structure of accessible aggregate demand and restoration of those parts of the economy’s asset base that have been run down, implying the need for structural change and investment.”
“I’m not convinced that either side – green growthers or steady-statists – has yet won the argument, even after forty years of doing battle. The historical evidence for green growth is threadbare, even nonexistent – though this should give no-one, not even the steady-statists, any cause for pleasure. What’s more, we can’t assume the past will determine the future (in this debate, if it does, we’re stuffed either way). Rather, the two sides ought to take one another far more seriously, and see the merits of a combined programme for transition.”
Excellent article in OpenDemocracy with an honest appraisal of the inadequacies of both theories.
“A big pile of green-growth reports demonstrates the plausibility of this path to recovery from an historic economic crisis. It is now up to us to realize its potential. Green growth offers a realistic alternative to the faltering austerity approach to overcoming the current economic crisis. Policymakers should incorporate this thinking into the “beyond austerity” narrative that is taking shape in a growing number of key EU member states.”
Good Project Syndicate article by Dutch sustainability expert Roland Kupers on the value of several recent green growth reports and their link to the austerity versus growth debate in Europe.
"Inclusive green growth is the pathway to sustainable development. It is the only way to reconcile the rapid growth required to bring developing countries to the level of prosperity to which they aspire, meet the needs of the more than 1 billion people still living in poverty, and fulfill the global imperative of a better environment.” (Source: World Bank)
In the run-up to Rio+20, another "green growth" reports which remains locked into the myth of "delinking" and efficiency instead of seriously considering the need to question the nature of growth and the need for radical redistribution of wealth.
For an excellent critique of this latest World Bank report, read French economist Jean-Marie Harribey’s analysis “Allô, la Banque mondiale ? Comment faites-vous la croissance verte ?” in Alternatives Economiques (in French). His conclusion: “Dans le cadre de la préparation de Rio+20, la Banque mondiale et l’OCDE notamment rivalisent d’imagination pour donner un prix à la nature, non pas tant pour mieux la préserver que pour la réduire à un capital comme un autre qu’il s’agira de rentabiliser. Valeur économique des écosystèmes et valeur économique des services que rendent ceux-ci sont devenues les leitmotivs de la recherche dans les cercles néolibéraux. Des valeurs que seul l’établissement de droits de propriété sur ce qui devrait être des biens communs, collectifs et publics peut révéler. Allô, la Banque mondiale, vous êtes toujours là ? Non, ils ont raccroché.”
“Green growth” may provide false hope and excuses to do nothing really fundamental to bring about a U-turn in global GHG emissions. The arithmetic of economic and population growth, efficiency limits related to the rebound effect, as well as systemic issues call into question the hopes of decoupling economic growth from GHG growth." (Source: ICTDS.org)
Brilliant analysis by Ulrich Hoffmann (Senior Economic Affairs Officer of UNCTAD).
“One should not deceive oneself into believing that such an evolutionary (and often reductionist) approach would be sufficient to cope with the complexities of climate change. “Green growth” proponents need to scrutinise the historical macro- (not micro-) economic evidence, in particular the arithmetic of economic and population growth, as well as the significant influence of the rebound effect. Furthermore, they need to realise that the required transformation goes beyond innovation and structural changes to include democratisation of the economy and cultural change. Climate change calls into question global equality with regard to opportunity for prosperity (i.e., ecological justice and development space). It poses a huge developmental challenge for the South and a question of life and death for some developing countries.”
Read also the (less convincing) answer to Hoffmann’s piece (“Green growth: is it really an illusion”) by Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker who still believes the only thing needed is political will.
"It is argued in this policy brief that policies to encourage low-carbon investment offer broad and effective opportunities to restore confidence and to
leverage additional, rather than displaced, investment. These policies would generate income for investors and would have credibility in the long term because they address growing externalities and market failures, while tapping into a fast-growing global market for resource-efficient activities."
Interesting new report from the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics.
“The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has called on G20 Finance ministers to drive investment of at least 2% of GDP in the green economy in the wake of independent economic analysis forecasting the potential for green jobs growth.” (Source: ITUC)
From the report:
“There is no choice but to transition to a greener economy, where social needs and environmental protection are at the heart of decision making. Economic research by the Millennium Institute forecast that investments of 2% of GDP in the green economy over each of the next 5 years in 12 countries could create up to 48 million new jobs.”