Human Impacts Institute on the Road to Rio+20: What is a Green Economy?

Join the Human Impacts Institute for our weekly blog series on our journey to Rio+20 in June of 2012. We will explore the role of U.S. communities in the Rio+20 process, and investigate tools for engagement and issues surrounding sustainable development domestically and abroad. Check out our MobilizeUS! coalition for more ways to engage in Rio+20 and to see what our partners are up to for healthy communities and a healthy environment in the US.


What is a Green Economy?

For too long, humans have viewed the economy and the environment as two separate concepts that are at odds – the rise of one results in the fall of the other.

But what if protecting and caring for the environment actually resulted in a prosperous economy? In a time of such high unemployment, especially amongst the rising youth population, collapsing ecosystems and a financial system in crisis, a transition to a Green Economy could address all of these challenges.

The upcoming Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20) is an opportunity to put the Green Economy in the spotlight, and engage in a global discussion of how to achieve it. One of the main themes of the conference is “Green Economy in the context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication.”

But what is it?

While there is no clear-cut definition of what forms a Green Economy, the United Nations Environmental Program defines it as one that:

“…results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.”

There are many views on the Green Economy, from a Reduce, Reuse and Recycle approach, to a tougher de-growth perspective. Some are afraid that it will remain a superficial concept; while others emphasize that it should not replace the idea of Sustainable Development.

Some key ideas that surface in the Green Economy discussion include:

1. It should take into account the limits of the planet

2. The wellbeing of the economy and the wellbeing of the environment should not be considered a trade-off

3. We must change current metrics to include measures of natural services and human well-being

4. Investing in all people to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to get Green Jobs

5. Creating regulations across governments and companies

6. Sharing technologies and know-how across borders.

The transition to a Green Economy is still under debate, and in the end, each country will have to adapt itself differently to fill the gaps and move its workforce down a path that protects both people and planet.

Interested in the Green Economy? Get informed and get involved!

Check out the Green Economy Coalition, or UNEP’s website on Green Economy.If you are under 30, you can join the Major Group of Children and Youth Green Economy task force, and contribute to the discussion. Otherwise, check out the UN website to see which Major Group represents you.

By Mariana Orozco, 2012 Human Impacts Institute Environmental Leadership Intern

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