UNEP’s Green Economy Unit provides feedback on Life Beyond Growth 2012 Reply

We have kindly asked those organisations and institutions whose work has been featured in Life Beyond Growth 2012 for their feedback on the report. We especially  appreciated the response from Joy Kim, Programme Officer at  UNEP’s Green Economy Unit, who gave us a permission to publish her view on the report.

Joy wrote to us:

“Thank you for your invitation to provide feedback on your new publication ‘Life Beyond Growth’.

It is an impressive compilation of new economics and I found it quite interesting to read about the evolution of the growth paradigm. Let me provide a few comments particularly on indicators — the relationship between green economy and sustainable development and the notion of de-growth.

First, it seems that the spectrum of indicators seems to be narrowly defined (basically three clusters: GDP, green GDP and GNH). Yet, such a clustering of indicators does not do justice in my view as the picture of indicators across the spectrum of new economics is very complex and some further work is required in order to identify such gaps in this area.

As you mentioned in chapter 5, there has been vast amount of work done in the filed of sustainable development indicators including ‘Genuine Savings’ etc. The problem is that they appear to play a secondary, or back seat role in policy-making relative to key economic indicators such as GDP (by the way, these indicators are not to replace GDP. GDP is one economic indicator, yet it has been a predominant one so far to measure our economic progress. A key challenge is to understand better the constraints to taking a more integrated approach).

At the same time, there is a paucity of data and indicators that capture the economic transformation in terms of investment, outputs and jobs in environmental sectors (renewable energy technologies, public transport, waste management etc.). The same can be said for similar data from social sectors (by levels of education, occupational training, by social groups such as women and youth, public health care etc.).

In this regard, UNEP has been largely striving to assisting countries to implement a key set of indicators by identifying knowledge gaps and providing guidelines for the implementation of such indicators. The system for environmental and economic accounting (SEEA) is a case in point.

Second, in page 27, you have listed sustainable development in the spectrum of alternative economic frameworks together with green economy and green growth. Yet, sustainable development is a widely accepted overarching concept across the spectrum of general growth paradigm. Hence it is misleading to list it as an alternative economic framework next to green economy, as green economy is a means to achieve sustainable development.

Finally, in the conclusion, it is stated that ‘green economy’ allows selective de-growth. In my view, it would be more accurate to say that green economy is grounded on the notion of decoupling (both relative and absolute although the grounding on the latter is weaker than the former). Green economy attempts to redress the existing growth model by providing an alternative one, but it should be born in mind that economic growth is an important part of green economy.

I hope these are useful and thank you again for this opportunity to provide our views on this publication.”

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