Policy Horizons Canada, a think-tank within the Government of Canada, published a report at the end of 2011 entitled “Re-defining progress: The well-being objective.” The report documents the rise of the “well-being movement” – that is, questioning the current practice of measuring progress in purely economic terms and shifting the focus towards well-being – and the forces that could move well-being onto the Canadian Policy Agenda by 2025. Beyond the international forces, the report identifies seven specific pressures internal to Canada, ranging from aging population to equity. The report also discusses the “well-being approach” and Canada-specific future in a form of open questions focusing on topics such as GDP, metrics of well-being, globalization, resource constraints, etc.
The Green Economy Coalition (GEC) has analyzed 18 government sumissions to the “Zero Draft” text (The Compilation Document) for the upcoming Rio+20 conference in June this year (UN Conference on Sustainable Development, UNCSD). The aim of the analysis is to “better understand how governments are responding to the concept of green economy in their different economic and social contexts.”
The analysis report, titled “Green Economy: ‘Everyone’s talking about it'”, notes that significant majority of governments are actively engaging with the concept of a green economy and that there already exist various policies and initiatives that could be deemed green economy (from the view of GEC). However, the report also shows that the definition and meaning of the term “green economy” varies considerably among the governmental submissions, due to its interpretation along the lines of national priorities.
In general, nearly all governments agree that Green Economy is a means and opportunity for achieving sustainable development and must tackle poverty. However, developed countries focus mostly on resource efficiency, job creation and competitiveness, while developing countries highlight the need for poverty eradication and equity and BRICS (Brazil, Russian Federation, India and China) see Green Economy as a tool for shifting the production and consumption patterns of the industrialized countries, as well as for tackling poverty.
The GEC analysis also identified some of the most common practical themes emerging from the submissions, including:
- Sustainable Development Goals
- Alternative metrics to GDP
- Explicit focus on job creating mechanisms
- Focus on technology transfer and Intellectual Property rights
- Need for natural capital to be valued in economic decision-making, and
- Renewed framework for sustainable consumption and production.
The Coalition has also noted absence of some anticipated practical themes, such as Natural capital management schemes, Global financial market reform, and Explicit proposal for how to finance the transition at both the national and international level.
The United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability published a report in early 2012 entitled “Resilient people, resilient planet: A future worth choosing”, detailing the panel’s vision and progress towards sustainable development (SD). The report contains 56 recommendations to put sustainable development into practice and to mainstream it into economic policy as quickly as possible.
One of the key points raised by the Panel is the requirement of transforming the global economy in order to achieve sustainability. Some of the Panel’s policy recommendations in this regard include: incorporate environmental and social costs in pricing, create an incentive road map that values long-term SD in investment and financial transactions, increase finance for SD, and expand how we measure progress by creating an SD index or a set of indicators (well, beyond the traditional GDP).
The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and the World Bank, in partnership with numerous other organizations, launched the “Green Growth Knowledge Platform” (GGKP) in March 2012. The GGKP is a network of researchers and development experts, and its aim is to identify and address the key knowledge gaps in green growth theory and practice. The outcomes will be shared with practitioners and policy makers to “foster economic growth and implement sustainable development.”
Even though this project is still in its infancy, there are already a number of good resources, such as relevant reports and conference links.
OECD Secretary-General, Angel Gurría, suggests in his February article “Green Growth: Making it Happen” that green growth can be seen as a new source of growth with the potential of helping the global economy to get “back on track.” He also highlights that green growth should go in line with sustainable development taking into account all economic, social as well as environmental aspects.
The article touches on the key environmental challenges in the areas of climate change, biodiversity, water, as well as health and environment identified in the “OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050” published earlier this year. It discusses the projections into the future and concludes that change in behavior and policy is needed. Some of the green growth policy change recommendations include: putting a price on pollution (including carbon emissions), phasing out environmentally harmful and inefficient subsidies (e.g. on fossil fuel production and use) and supporting green innovations at all levels (including green investments).
The Secretary-General invites all world leaders to action on sustainable development with the Rio+20 being a perfect opportunity and suggests that green growth can be part of the solution.
In the build up to the Rio+20 conference, a series of four debates were held at the Natural History Museum, UK. The debates, organised by a partnership of the Natural History Museum, Stakeholder Forum and British Council, focused on key issues at the heart of the Rio+20 conference green economy agenda. The four events, featuring discussions of a panel of leading UK experts, were titled: 1. “Ecosystem Economics – can we put a price on nature?” (25 March 2012), 2. “Beyond GDP – how can we measure progress?” (22 February 2012), 3. “Green Cities in a green economy – how to pioneer a sustainable transition?” (14 March 2012), and 4. “Food Security – how do we feed 9 billion in 2050?” (11 April 2012).
It is possible to watch the full debates at the website of the Natural History Museum.
In line with the growing worldwide debate about economic growth in relation to human well-being and happiness, there are many events relating to this topic that are to be held this spring/early summer. We list here some of the major upcoming meetings and conferences to be held in the next three months. Please contact us if you think there are any important events missing in our list that should be added.
“African Conference on Measuring and Fostering the Progress of Societies,” 19-21 April 2012, Rabat, Morocco; meeting in preparation for the 4th OECD World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policies (New Delhi October 2012), organised by the OECD Development Centre and the Moroccan High Planning Commission (HCP) in collaboration with the OECD, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), http://www.oecd.org/
“Global Green Growth Summit 2012,” 10-11 May 2012, Seoul, Republic of Korea; the meeting is hosted by The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and the Government of the Republic of Korea, in partnership with The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the meeting will convene top economic and environmental policymakers and experts to discuss the concrete ways in which international cooperation can be strengthened to support countries that pursue green growth and green economy strategies, http://www.gggi.org/event/
“International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas,” 13-19 May 2012, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; drawing from previous degrowth conferences in Paris and Barcelona in 2008 and 2010, respectively, the Montreal conference will focus on the particular situations and dynamic of the Americas in terms of Degrowth, http://montreal.degrowth.org/
“Well-being and the Pursuit of Happiness,” 1 June 2012, Vermont, US; the Second Conference on GNH will focus on how we can measure well-being and use those indicators to help shape policy in state and local government and in organizations, it will also explore how to work with communities to further the pursuit of happiness based on what has been learnt from Vermont and National Surveys, http://www.gnhusa.org/
“Strategies for a New Economy,” 8-10 June 2012, Bard College’s main Campus, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, US; convened by the New Economics Institute, the conference will gather together what are often diverse and scattered efforts to reshape our economic system, place them under one tent, and raise the flag to announce that transitioning to a new economy will mean engaging politicians, researchers, media, educators, citizen activists, business leaders, financial experts, scientists, union workers, cultural leaders, advocates for the disenfranchised, and youth — all working together to achieve a common goal, the conference will focus on 10 theme areas: Banking and Financing, Measuring Well Being, Messaging, Responsive Government, Local Economies, Ownership and Work, Production and Consumption, Sharing the Commons, Transforming Money, and Visioning and Modelling, http://neweconomicsinstitute.org/conference
“The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development” (UNCSD, or ‘Earth Summit 2012’, or ‘Rio+20’), 20-22 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Twenty years after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, where countries adopted Agenda 21 – a blueprint to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection — the UN is again bringing together governments, international institutions and major groups to agree on a range of smart measures that can reduce poverty while promoting decent jobs, clean energy and a more sustainable and fair use of resources. The Rio+20 conference will focus on two themes: 1. Green Economy in the Context of Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development, and 2. Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development; there will be also numerous side events, exhibitions, presentations, fairs and announcements in connection with the conference, http://www.uncsd2012.org
“European Conference on Measuring Well-being and Fostering the Progress of Societies,” 26-28 June 2012, Paris, France; undertaken as part of the European Framework for Measuring Progress e-Frame EU FP7 project and organised by the OECD, the Italian National Institute of Statistics (Istat) and Statistics Netherlands (CBS) in collaboration with Eurostat and the European Statistical System, it will focus on recent activities in the field of measuring progress and well-being in the European context and it is the last in a series of regional events being conducted in preparation for the 4th OECD World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policy, to be held in New Delhi on 16-19 October 2012, http://www.oecd.org/
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) works extensively in the area of Green Growth to show that this is “the way to make a cleaner low-carbon economy compatible with growth.” The OECD keeps a regularly updated website with information on OECD’s involvement in Green Growth work. The site contains links to events, news, articles and publications.