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UN green economy vision

Overview#

The UN’s green economy vision has grown out its thinking on sustainable development, which emphasizes both social and environmental sustainability.

Because of the Climate CoLab’s mission is climate-centered, its 2011 contest focuses on the environmental aspects of sustainable development.

But the UN’s green economy work has shown that many actions to ensure environmental sustainability can also help to alleviate poverty and enhance social sustainability.

The transition to a green economy represents a big challenge, one that will involve a major makeover of large sectors of the global economy. The UN has charted a course outlining how the transition could occur.

In particular, the UN has articulated the need for a handful of enabling conditions that will be critical for the transition to a green economy.

  • public investment and expenditures, especially for infrastructure, green subsidies, and green public procurement;
  • taxes or tradeable permits to offset environmental externalities;
  • reform of current subsidies for usage of fossil fuels and practices that damage fragile or overtaxed ecosystems;
  • sound and well-enforced framework that relies on regulations or standards where taxes or permits are infeasible;
  • strong international governance mechanisms.

In addition, the UN has noted the challenge of financing the investments required for the transition to a green economy, estimated at between 1 and 2 percent of global GDP annually over 2010-2050, an amount equal to between 5 and 10 percent of annual global investment.

The UN calls for development of innovative new financing mechanisms that involve a wide range of actors, from private sector institutional investors to development banks to organizations that provide micro-finance.

Not all countries are in agreement with the green economy vision. Some developing countries, in particular, worry that it could be used to slow their development and erect trade barriers. Others have embraced the vision enthusiastically, most notably, South Korea, which has established a Global Green Growth Institute, whose mission is to help developing countries to pursue a green growth strategy.

How the UN’s green economy vision could inform Climate CoLab proposals#

Members of the Climate CoLab community are invited to articulate how the world as a whole and individual countries (and trans-national groups of countries) can put in place conditions that could enable the transition to a green economy.

Members of the community are encouraged to think about the issues enumerated by the UN but are also encouraged to incorporate ideas of their own. The diversity of perspectives present in our community can help to expand and enhance the thinking already undertaken by the UN.

In preparation for Rio+20, UN bodies and other international organizations, national governments, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have undertaken a series of studies that outline what a green economy might look like, what benefits it can bring, and how the world could transition to it.

To help in preparing a proposal for the contest, you may be interested in consulting some of these publications.

Especially recommended are the following sections from the Green Economy Report (GER) prepared by the United National Environmental Programme (UNEP):

UNEP has also produced an interesting report on how economic growth could be decoupled from increasing use of natural resource, Decoupling: natural resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth.

The study, A Green Economy for Canada, prepared by the Candian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy, might be of interest as a model for teams preparing national proposals.

In addition, a number of informal working groups have formed around the world in preparation for Rio+20 and are actively working on issues related to the green economy. These working groups have all developed materials on this theme:

Several individual non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also compiled information on the Green Economy theme: