Greening the economy from the grass roots up

At next year’s Earth Summit in Rio (Rio+20), the words on everybody’s lips will be ‘green economy’. Across the globe, people are already working to build a clear vision of those words and decide what policy and action is needed — at global, national and local levels — to turn the vision into reality.

Green Economy Coalition logo

Over the past year, the Green Economy Coalition — a diverse group of organisations from different arenas and geographies — has contributed to that effort. Through a series of national dialogues, the coalition, which is housed at IIED, is learning about the reality of green economy debates in different cultural and ecological contexts. It is gathering insights on policy needs. And it is stimulating new civil society ownership of the term ‘green economy’.

If we want to make it in the 21st century, which will be largely defined by resource constraints in an evermore inequitable world, then we need everyone’s brains and actions to work together. Mathias Wackernagel, Global Footprint Network, United States

Green economies need deep roots

In India, the story you usually hear is one of rapid progress: impressive growth rates of 8.5 per cent; a doubling of energy demand over the past decade; and consistently healthy domestic investments at 35 per cent of GDP. But participants in the Indian national dialogue also told another tale — one of enduring poverty, environmental degradation and growing inequalities. Look beneath the statistics and you’ll find that agriculture — which employs more than half the country’s workforce — is in crisis. Many of the poorest people in India still lack even basic access to energy. And the infrastructure behind the rapid growth still relies on unsustainable products and materials.

Participants called for urgent transformation to a green economy. They want a system that “creates decent employment opportunities — green jobs — and produces green products and services with equitable distribution and sustainable consumption leading to regeneration of the environment”.  

The Indian dialogue is one of four held over the past twelve months, alongside ones in Brazil, Caribbean and Mali. Another six are planned for the coming year. All will influence the Green Economy Coalition’s policy positions in Rio+20 and set the tone for broader debate.

The green economy needs to rethink growth, rethink development and be more inclusive — not just of nature but also of people, particularly those who have been left out of the economic system. Juan Marco Alvarez, International Union for Conservation of Nature, Switzerland

What is a green economy?

From each national dialogue run by the Green Economy Coalition, a different understanding of green economy has emerged.

  • In India: priorities are agriculture, renewables, green jobs, construction and infrastructure.

  • In Brazil: green economy is seen as wellbeing and social equity, tackling environmental risk and managing ecological resources.

  • In Mali: green economy methods show how growth in incomes and livelihoods can be achieved in ways that sustain the natural resource base and build resilience to climate change.

  • In the Caribbean: it means long-term prosperity and effective ecological resource management.

Online extra

Introducing the Green Economy Coalition

Coalition members talk about what the coalition is, what it is trying to do and why it is important.

Feedback from the 2010–11 national dialogues

Participants in the national dialogues share their thoughts on the opportunities and challenges facing green economy.



The Green Economy Coalition

Green Economy

IIED Interviews: Pavan Sukhdev on the Green Economy