Three views on how to save a planet under pressure

What did some participants at IIED's World Cafe event think was the answer to how a green economy can benefit the world’s poorest people?

Suzanne Fisher's picture
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27 March 2012

If someone had peeked into room seven at the Excel centre yesterday they would have seen small groups clustered around tables talking animatedly and scribbling notes onto large pieces of paper. They were part of a World Café session discussing how to ensure poor people can benefit from the green economy.

So, what did some participants think was the answer?

Mathew Aversano-Dearborn, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna

“We need to include all stakeholders in an inclusive way that gives everyone an equal voice. In that process, we need to rethink the dominant paradigms in existing systems – that could mean reforming patent systems, asking questions about some aid systems and [questioning] assumptions that American-style capitalism is the answer.”


Prof Olatundun Janet Adelegan, Department of Economics, Lagos State University,  and a representative of the Global Network for Environment and Economic Development Research, which runs a project to generate off-grid lighting from animal manure in Nigeria

“The poor, rural farmers in my country are living on less than £1 a day. The only way to help is to make [green technological] innovations affordable to them. We need to bring down the cost – perhaps the government could subsidise the technologies?”


Mark Huxhan, Marine Ecologist, Edinburgh Napier University

“First of all listen to the poor, make sure their voices are listened to and heard. …We need to look at the elephant in the room – politics and power. We need a complete political transformation, but first there might be easier wins: we need to use other instruments to measure economic progress (other than GDP, which is used either out of ignorance or convenience). If we had better tools, they might be used.”

Unsurprisingly, with over 50 participants in the room, the range of themes discussed was enormous. Some are listed below.

What is a green economy? There are a range of different economic models that exist worldwide – how does the green economy fit with those? Is it just corporate social responsibility green washing or something more fundamental?

Renewable technology transfer to the South. While one person from Nepal called for more technology transfer to harness the country’s hydropower and solar potential, others said there was a risk of introducing new technologies and ignoring existing indigenous knowledge.

How can the poor buy into the green economy? They won’t buy into it if they can’t financially benefit from it.

Existing models of corporate activity and systems. Can they deliver the changes needed and, if not, what changes need to be made? Systems cited that need to be re-examined included patents and taxation to reduce inequalities between rich and poor. 

Given that conferences often involve a lot of passive sitting and listening, perhaps the greatest strength of the workshop format was getting people to challenge each other’s thinking, make connections and spark new ideas. One of those ideas could get us a step closer to a greener economy.  


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