November 2011 Newsletter
- Know-How - a selection of some of the latest thinking on green economy
- Global updates - some of the latest news around the world
- Coffee with the GEC - series of interviews with big thinkers
- Events - Putting the Green Economy on Trial
- Coalition updates
This month marks the birth of the seven billionth baby. The world’s population has grown by five billion in a hundred years and some projections suggest that we are likely to reach fifteen billion by the end of the century.
Whether you are an environmentalist, capitalist or socialist, these projections should prompt us all to question the ways in which our planet can thrive or just keep up with the increasing demands on its resources. It should also cause us to ask how a decent quality of life can be assured for everyone, when the pressures on our societies are only set to increase. In short, how can we ensure a better quality of life within the ecological limits of the planet? It is this simple question that continues to guide our collaboration at the Green Economy Coalition (GEC). But so often this apparently obvious problem gets lost in the wider agenda. Let me give two examples.
The first is the Global Green Growth Forum, held in Copenhagen, sponsored by the Danish, South Korean and Mexican governments, and which I attended this month. The event was very high level and brought together lead thinkers from around the world. It proved a fascinating couple of days, and demonstrated the scale of engagement that can be achieved when governments positively back an initiative.
In Copenhagen, Ban Ki Moon spoke of the UN’s ambition for ‘sustainable energy for all by 2030’. The target is one that we are keenly supporting at the GEC. However, disappointingly, the parallel working group on green energy was not nearly as progressive. Familiar narratives were peddled out. The representative from the renewable energy sector stressed the difficulties around planning permissions and funding, while the large power utility tried to showcase its pioneering ‘energy services’. But amid these discussions there was no mention of the need for fossil fuel subsidy reform or much stronger market intervention: very structural questions that lie at the core of the debate and yet were neatly skipped over. These more painful, but more honest conversations must be had if we are to achieve real progress.
The following week I attended the excellent Eco-Forum, a national dialogue process run by GEC member eco-union for the Mediterranean region. One of the many fascinating topics addressed was the role that alternative currencies can play in encouraging local trade and subsidiarity of economic decision making. Given the current crisis that the Euro is now undergoing, a number of questions emerged in my mind: what does the euro do to promote sustainability? The euro and the European common market may be useful in terms of efficiency, but do they generate resilience and sustainability? Does ‘too big to fail’ sound worrying familiar? Again, these kinds of structural questions need to be asked.
We have now submitted our draft for the Zero Draft text to UNDESA, and I want to thank everyone for all of their contributions. I believe we now have a very substantial and far-reaching piece of work that has been woven together from many different perspectives and areas of expertise.
We’re delighted so many of you can make it for our GEC global gathering 14-16th November. There is still time to let us know if you would like to join us. For anyone unable to attend the whole three days, we warmly invite you or your colleagues to our evening event on 15 November, where we will be ‘putting the Green Economy On Trial’ with ‘evidence’ from speakers from academic, economic and political spheres (see below for the details). I look forward to seeing you then.
Convenor, Green Economy Coalition
Each month we bring you a taster of the online articles and think pieces on green economy from our coalition and beyond. If you have a piece to add then please do get in touch. We want to showcase inspiring and thought-provoking articles from contributors all over the world:
Is China setting the world’s green curriculum?
Earlier this year, the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change announced that ‘China is winning the Green Economy Race’. Bloomberg New Energy Finance went on to announce that China has proposed increasing their spending on low carbon energy by 30% to $51.1 billion. The global accounting firm Ernst & Young later announced that China had overtaken the U.S in its quarterly index of the most attractive countries for renewable energy projects.
In one of our latest online articles, Dongying Wang, Programme Coordinator at the Beijing-based Global Environmental Institute, takes a closer look at the kind of policies and programmes that are behind some of these claims. Can China provide a ‘green curriculum’ for other countries? What are the challenges that lie ahead? And what can we learn from the Chinese story? Check it out. If you would like to also add your voice and feedback then you can contact Dongying using the article’s comment box.
The overriding impression of the global economy is that it is powered by multinational corporations, whose tentacles creep across borders from Beijing to Delhi to Mexico City. But closer analysis suggests that the cogs of the global economy are in fact turned by much smaller enterprises and outfits. It is the small, micro and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs) that are the unrecognised drivers of our global economy.
In all of the global discussions and big ideas on a green economy, how can we ensure that smaller organisations are supported and incentivised in the transition to a green economy? In her new think piece for us, Helen Marquard from the SEED Initiative investigates the role that SMMEs are already playing around the world in this transition, and identifies some of the key policy areas that can provide critical incentives for SMMEs to transform their activities. Do check it out online and add your voice to the debate.
As the world’s population reaches a mighty seven billion people, the question of consumption has perhaps never been more pertinent or pressing. In her article, Camila Haddad investigates alternative consumption patterns that are being experimented with across the world, in which under-utilised assets – from physical goods and spaces to intangibles like time and skills – are finding new marketplaces. A new paradigm of service-based businesses is emerging that could transform the very nature of consumption.
Do these initiatives provide a glimpse of the future? Can they be scaled up to transform the levels of consumption that currently define our era? Is there any such initiative that you would like to share with the global community? Let us know what you think.
GLOBAL SUSTAINABILTY PANEL DIALOGUE
Two weeks ago, the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability (GSP) hosted an interactive dialogue co-chaired by Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, and Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa, to provide an update on their latest thinking.
It is worth briefly noting that many of the points under discussion within the high-level GSP tally closely with the discussions we have been having within the Green Economy Coalition, including:
- Urging the international community to recognise the Nine Planetary Boundaries.
- Examining new measures for sustainable development that take account of externalities in the environment, social justice and the financial system itself.
- Supporting new SDGs that tackle social justice and poverty alleviation, as well as environmental constraints.
- A recognition that sustainable development is particularly important for developing countries.
They will be generating their conclusions towards the end of the year. We will keep you posted.
DAVID CAMERON & RIO 2012
Last week it was also announced that David Cameron will not be attending Rio 2012, due to the Queen’s Jubilee. While Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for the Environment, will be attending in his place, the announcement certainly sends a poor message to other Commonwealth heads of state. As one of our coalition partners, WWF, noted, ‘John Major managed to make it to the historic Earth Summit against a backdrop of IRA bombs in the City’. A campaign has just been launched, ‘Planet Before Protocol’, urging Cameron and other Commonwealth leaders to attend Rio. Check it out.
While the phrase ‘green economy’ has only recently entered the UN lexicon, its principles are founded on 40 years of thinking and practice around sustainable development.
We want to make sure that conversations about green economy build on that bank of expertise and knowledge. So, we are launching ‘Coffee with the GEC’; a series of short film interviews with leading thinkers around the world. Each 15 minute interview aims to capture the latest ideas and emerging thinking, gather responses to the GECs priority areas, and delve into some of the key debates going on around green economy.
Over the next six months we will be badgering economists, catching up with civil society representatives, chewing the fat with environmentalists and pestering the policy-makers...So, for the latest and best thinking on a green economy come join us for a ‘Coffee with the GEC’.
PUTTING THE GREEN ECONOMY ON TRIAL
The transition to a green economy is not just about vision and ideals. It is about practicalities, it’s about policies, and it’s about solutions. But if we are going to shift the current economic paradigm to one that generates a fairer and greener future for all, then those solutions need to be robust. They need to be scrutinised from all quarters and informed by all stakeholders.
The Green Economy Coalition is putting itself on trial. We are inviting economists, business experts, civil society representatives, media and policy-makers to review and critique or policy positions Rio 2012. We want to hear what appeals and what doesn't appeal for different audiences. The panel discussion will be followed by an open audience conversation, focusing on how we can build a collective movement amongst all organisations and sectors for a green and fair economy.
Come join the debate at 7pm on November 15 for ‘The Green Economy on Trial’ (7 – 9pm) in London at IIED’s new event space and offices on Gray’s Inn Road. Note that seats for this event are limited. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest in attending.
- Our coalition partners, Global Footprint Network, the UNEP Finance Initiative and Volans are collaborating with a number of leading financial institutions in a project that will investigate the correlation between ecological risks and country level risks in sovereign bonds. This is a very exciting initiative, which will help to shed light on the threats which are currently not included in mainstream credit ratings, and runs to the very heart of the sustainability challenge.
- Our coalition partner, the ILO, has just released a new World of Work Report for 2011. The report shows that the global economy is the verge of another jobs recession, which may ignite more social unrest in scores of countries. It argues that it will not be possible to recover successfully from the Great Recession unless social inequalities are addressed through well-designed policies.
On behalf of the GEC, Emily Benson took part in a day long dialogue in New York organised by Stakeholder Forum, the New Economics Institute, and the New Economics Forum (NEF) for an initiative called the Global Transition. The day involved a wide ranging discussion on the role of food, water and energy security, equity and financial sector reform in a green economy and a good discussion about the role of natural capital management in a green economy.