December 2011 Newsletter
In this month's newsletter you will find some snapshot highlights of Rio 2012 submissions from Member States on green economy. Also details of a fascinating synthesis from the national dialogue series (IIED), which was presented during our 5th Global Meeting, and an update on Coalition activities and news.
- Highlights from Rio Submissions
- Developing country stakeholhers have their say: a synthesis of national and regional dialogues
- Coalition updates
This month’s headlines on the economy show a bleak forecast. Europe faces yet another credit crunch and a double dip recession, which will have repercussions across the world. Commentators talk about the need for political leadership, vision, international cooperation. Our challenge is to stop talking to each other and start talking to governments. A green economy can be that vision and provide those frameworks, responding to the challenges of today by building economy that will last. Rio 2012 offers us a chance to put that plan in action.
A month has passed since the 1st of November Zero draft deadline for Rio 2012. We have had a chance to digest some of the submissions – so what do they tell us about the emerging themes around green economy?
Improving governance and measurement: Metrics of all guises are hot on the agenda. Sustainable Development Goals are widely supported, as are discussions around Beyond GDP indices and calls for improved corporate reporting. The popularity of these themes shows the appetite for macro-level transformation. As we begin to engage with these different discussions on metrics, let us not lose sight of how they all interrelate. Is there not a role for an integrated metrics system? One that would not only tell us how corporations contribute to societal value but would also indicate how countries are doing beyond that of a GDP measure and indicate the wider international priorities. Is this integrated system too bold an ambition? We shall be working with others to progress this discussion between now and Rio.
Driving investment and financial flows: Finance is a strong theme across the submissions, particularly the need to drive financial flows towards new investments required for the transition, and scale up diverse financing mechanisms, e.g. micro credit. Other areas of convergence centre on sustainable public procurement and fossil fuel subsidy reform. We will be building our capacity as a coalition to engage with these debates.
Investing in natural capital: Natural resource management features throughout the submissions, which mention reducing land degradation, preserving forests, scaling up integrated-water-resource-management systems and investing in the marine environment.
Investing in people: The submissions reflect the acute need to put social justice and equity at the heart of the transition. As well as calls for investment in job creation, training, education and re-skilling programmes, the theme of a global social welfare scheme is emerging.
Greening high impact sectors and systems: Food, water and energy generate a lot of attention throughout the submissions. Many submissions focus on driving resource efficiency and intensifying production systems. There are renewed calls for sustainable consumption and production (CSD19). A number of developing countries also vividly express fears around restricted access to markets and green protectionism.
The submissions closely reflect many of the debates that we have been having within the GEC. We will be building on many of these themes as we distil our vision.
In mid November GEC also held our bi-annual meeting in London. Thank you to everyone who took part, particularly those who travelled from around the world to make it such a successful three days.
At the meeting, Coalition members agreed that there is a role for the GEC beyond Rio to continue the understanding, engagement and practice for green economies. We are starting to develop what this next phase of GEC would look like, how it would operate and how it might be resourced.
Between now and then our existing strategic themes: mobilise, build and influence remain relevant, with specific actions identified from the meeting.
1. Mobilise: Continue to support existing national dialogues as their processes evolve. Build stronger links with the corporate and finance communities to strengthen our understanding of financial reform. Continue to grow the coalition in order to connect to new organisations and networks.
2. Build: Distil our policy asks, as outlined in our Zero Draft text, into five key levers of change. Catalyse deeper debate and understanding on all of these key themes amongst global players.
3. Influence: Use our Zero Draft asks and evolving big ideas to engage with the Rio processes, including ambitious media planning and presence at the Summit itself.
Overall, the likelihood of international agreements emerging from Rio 2012 is hard to foretell, but the coalition has decided it is playing the longer game. Our definition of success is that the term ‘green economy’ survives the test of Rio, takes root in many countries and we work with organisations around the world to help nurture its development.
Convenor, Green Economy Coalition
A total of 647 submissions to the Zero Draft text were submitted to UNDESA. Unless you have a spare couple of weeks to read through each and every one of them, we thought we would share some quick highlights from some of the Member State submissions.
Brazil’s submission is bold and visionary. A green economy is founded on social justice and environmental protection. They propose a ‘Global Socio-Environmental Protection Programme’, which picks up on the GEC’s theme of a Social Protection Floor. This would aim to guarantee income as a means of overcoming extreme poverty throughout the world and of ensuring environmental protection, nutritional security, adequate housing and access to clean water for all. Like the GEC, Brazil promotes the view that the introduction of Sustainable Development Goals would point to the macro-objectives that are being sought on the global scale. They also propose an ‘international protocol for sustainability of the financial sector’ that builds on the Brazilian Green Protocol, a national initiative aimed at private banks whereby signatories commit to include environmental dimensions in all of their risk analysis and project evaluation procedures. We would highly recommend you read the Brazilian submission – they certainly have the big picture in sight.
Japan’s submission not only frames the role of a green economy for generating human wellbeing and conserving natural resources in light of the nine planetary boundaries, but also as one that can enhance resilience against natural disasters. They propose some interesting measures, including a gross metering scheme of feed-in-tariffs for renewable energy. They suggest that investment in the environment will be prompted by using interest subsidies and leasing subsidies, and put forward a voluntary initiative for all financial institutions that would embody ‘Principles for Financial Action towards a Sustainable Society’.
G77 and China stress that green economy must not resort to any form of protectionism, unilateral measures or other border trade measures. They also stress that reforming the international financial system, democratising its governance structure, promoting more participation of developing countries and making it more development-orientated is critical to Rio 2012.
The EU proposes that the green economy can offer ‘win-win opportunities to all countries, regardless of the structure of their economy and level of development’. They put forward a green economy roadmap with specific goals, objectives and actions at the international level. They also stress the need for innovative and private instruments of finance, highlighting the importance of these in areas such as climate change and biodiversity, and stressing the role of the Leading Group on Innovative Finance for Development.
Botswana notes that the ‘concept of a green economy resonates well with the approach of the Government of Botswana to long-term development policy and practice’. As a result of a national dialogue process (supported by our coalition member, IIED), they have agreed a ten-point vision on green economy. They stress that countries must commit to a process of ‘accounting for the environment’ by quantifying the value that natural systems bring to our economies. Green accounting frameworks need to be integrated into national accounting practices. Botswana also urges the international community to commit to the development and implementation of new ways of measuring national ‘wealth’, specifically with new indicators on societal well-being and environmental health.
India’s focus on a green economy is one directed at rural connectivity and employment. They cite post-harvest management facilities, improvements in agricultural inputs as well as crop productivity, strengthening farm and non-farm linkages, and decreasing the price spread between farm harvest and wholesale prices.
Switzerland imagines an international green economy roadmap with a timeframe of 20 years as one of the key outcomes of Rio 2012. The global roadmap would apply to the international community as a whole, but with differentiated responsibilities and solutions for each country. It also backs ‘ecological market transparency and trade’, reform of fossil fuel subsidies, and sustainable public procurement.
China recognises green economy as an important instrument to achieving sustainable development. However, it notes that developing countries face constraints in financing, technology and capacity building in making the transition. As such, the international community must provide an enabling environment for developing countries to embark on green economy transformations, which must entail opposition to trade protectionism in the name of green economy. At the same time, developed countries must commit to changing their unsustainable ways of production, living and consumption.
The GEC secretariat is in the process of undertaking a deeper analysis of the Rio 2012 submissions around green economy, which we will circulate in the coming weeks.
How is the concept of green economy of relevance to developing countries and in the context of equity and poverty-reduction? Many have low expectations for an equitable or transformational outcome from Rio, suspicions about the motivations behind the green economy agendas being promoted from the North and frustrations with the insistence on a neo-liberal economic model to achieve sustainable development. But they also communicate a common desire for transformative change, and a shared enthusiasm for continuing the dialogue so that each country can define its own set of priority areas of action in the transformation to a green economy and shape what principles should guide that economic transition.
IIED, on behalf of the GEC, have synthesised some of the discussions that are emerging from three national dialogue processes and one regional dialogue, with which the GEC has been engaged. These are taking place in Mali, India, Brazil and the Caribbean – a set of geographical, ecological and cultural contexts that could not be more distinct, and are continuing with the aim of engaging an ever-widening range of stakeholders in a consciously inclusive process that accepts the inevitability and value of diverging opinions, and that aims to influence policy and practice, locally, nationally, regionally and globally.
Our key message is that, despite this huge diversity, all of the dialogues have concluded that any new approach to economic development will only be meaningful and legitimate if it is built on a common set of five broad principles: sustainable development, equity, resilience, accountability and citizen empowerment.
Beyond these, the document summarises some of the concrete and innovative ‘next steps’ identified by the dialogues, and that can begin to translate these principles into actions and practicalities, right now. We must conduct deeper green economy diagnoses of key sectors and issues; initiate action learning from existing best practices to support innovation and scaling up; focus on finance and capital to support ‘green’ SMMEs (see Helen Marquard’s blog for us, here, on the importance of SMMEs in driving the transition); call for scaling out through regional economic cooperation to reduce dependency and create economies of scale; target key sectors and invest in strategic actions to transform them; and broaden and deepen the dialogue to engage a wider range of stakeholders including businesses, ministries of finance and youth. All of these next steps could be initiated with local resources but also benefit from external support.
What do you think about these principles? And how do we now get from principle to practicalities, at national and international levels? Please do let us know.
We know that many of our members and friends are engaged in other dialogues in many different forms. We would like to begin to share and – literally – map out our members’ country or regional level plans, both to build on this initial synthesis and to generate online resources for country-to-country learning. Where are you holding or planning to hold dialogues, or thinking of doing studies? Please get in touch!
Green Economy on trial: the verdict? On 15 November we invited leading economists, business representatives and political figures to respond to the GEC’s vision for a green economy and our asks for Rio 2012. Hosted by Jo Confino of The Guardian at IIED’s London offices, we heard from a panel of economists, business leaders and civil society representatives.
The debate was energetic and the points made by the panellists were pertinent. If the concept and ideals of a green economy are going to take-off, then:
- Our narrative needs to be one of opportunity, not threat.
- Our policy asks must be distilled into a series of core themes, or levers of change, that can capture the essence of transformation.
- Social justice must be at the very core of our understanding of a green economy.
- There is a distinct need for much greater and broader dialogue.
So, we’re following up with our panellists and will be hosting a series of debates in the new year that tap into the ‘big ideas’ for Rio 2012.
Business gets behind biodiversity: Aldersgate Group has just released a new report on the value of biodiversity for business. The report underscores the link between economic success and a healthy environment, and stresses the need to reflect the value of biodiversity and ecosystem services in prices and policy appraisals. Focusing on the UK, it makes a series of practical suggestions including:
- By the end of Parliament, the Chancellor should present a draft natural capital budget alongside the fiscal budget.
- Ensure cross-departmental responsibilities to guarantee that the objective of zero net biodiversity loss becomes a reality.