What Is a Green Economy?


This is the opening question in a brand new publication of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The title of the report is A Guidebook for IUCN’s Thematic Programme Area on Greening the World Economy (TPA5). It can be downloaded from the IUCN website. It a great collection of sources on this subject.

This guide is intended to offer an overview of available literature relating to the main topics covered by IUCN’s Thematic Programme Area on Greening the World Economy (TPA5). It is a compilation of papers, reports, and articles that can be freely accessed on the internet. It is not intended to serve as a complete bibliography of available literature, but more as an overview of the different concepts and discourses that animate ongoing discussions on the topic of the ‘Green Economy’.

The array of articles and reports is quite extraordinary and should become a great resource for anyone working on issues around sustainability and economy. The content is great, but language used to set the conceptual frame is flawed. The report answers the question above as follows:

The first challenge in the exploration of this new topic consists in understanding what the Green Economy concept is about. Simply put, the ‘green’ economy can be considered synonymous to a ‘sustainable’ economy. However, the Green Economy concept often carries a more distinctive meaning, one that focuses specifically on the fundamental changes that are required to ensure that economic systems are made more sustainable. It results that the ongoing discourse on the Green Economy is often animated by ambitious and forward looking views on how to overcome the deeply rooted causes of unsustainable economic development.

The mistake comes simply in equating green with sustainable. This might work in other times, but today the meaning of green has become so bastardized that it is often given to things and processes that may actually run away from sustainability. Sustainability is more than greening, no matter how the word is used. Greening is often associated only with the environmental dimensions of sustainability, but not the human side. It is not surprising that the IUCN with its focus on the natural world would frame the issues as they have. But this is really only a small complaint about a excellent and most useful work.