“What soul is to body, the same is sustainability is to the progress of a nation”
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) describes a green economy as “one that results in improved human well-being and social equity while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities” (2010). The concept was first coined in 1989 by the London Environmental Economics Centre (LEEC) in a publication called the “Blueprint for a Sustainable Economy”, authored by David Pearce, Anil Markandya, and Ed Barbier. A green economy aims at converging the environment, society, and economy. However, several encumbrances have obstructed the transition towards a green economy. The foremost being the inefficacy of businesses to invest in the environment. It is mainly due to a myth that it would not yield economic benefits. The investment would generate additional jobs, increase trade and output. A well-framed strategy would facilitate poverty eradication, equity, and growth.
THE COGNITION BEHIND GREEN ECONOMY
A Green Intelligence Report estimated that by 2030, energy-related CO2 emissions in the United States increase to 6.9 billion metric tonnes (MT) under a “business as usual scenario’’. It has been projected that by 2050, the emissions would rise to 42.3 billion MT. According to “Environment Outlook to 2050 “, air pollution has been projected as a major environmental cause of mortality by 2050, ahead of the lack of clean drinking water and sanitation. As cited by The Global Alliance on Health and Pollution, almost 8.3 million premature deaths each year due to air pollution. India and China have the highest number of pollution deaths per year -2,326,711 and 1,865,566 deaths. The reasons for this seem to be their high population and ever-growing industrialization. According to Greenpeace, Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, as a share of GDP, these countries incurred 5.4% and 6.6% of the economic cost of air pollution in 2018. The estimated cost of air pollution was $ 2.9 trillion, equating to 3.3% of the global GDP. These projections indicate the urgent need for action as the cost of damages is exponential and will worsen if not addressed through a strategic framework.
Sweden has been ranked First by The Global Green Index, 2018. At the same time, it was one of the richest countries with the highest GDP per capita, amounting to around 51,615 USD (World Bank). Thus the concept of a green economy provides a potential solution to these problems. According to the study by Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program called “Sizing the Clean Economy, a National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment”, investment in clean energy projects generates 3 times as many jobs as generated by fossil fuel projects. As cited by the report called “Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication”, governments should spend $1.3 trillion a year to facilitate the shift to a green economy.
GREEN ECONOMY-THE PROSPECTIVE SOLUTION
A green economy recognizes the interdependence between the environment, society, and economy. It tries to reduce pollution and uses resources efficiently while generating employment, reducing poverty, encouraging equity. It seeks systematic, accountable, and transparent governance as a prerequisite for framing and implementing effective policies. A circular economy is a potential sustainable economic model, a solution to the problems associated with a linear economy. In a Circular Economy, materials are reused, recycled, or recovered. It avoids or minimizes waste and prevents greenhouse emissions as well. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 on sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and UNEP’s circular economy approach complement each other. SCP is all about producing goods and services responding to basic needs while providing a better quality of life by minimizing toxic materials.
We need to understand that the concept of a green economy is not simply about renewable energy or sustainable utilization of resources. On the contrary, it is much deeper than that. Its ambit extends to factors like societal inclusion in terms of Social Equity, Gender Equity, and other factors like quality of life where everyone has access to basic requirements like sanitation or nutrition. It focuses not only on increasing growth in terms of GDP but aims to achieve inclusive growth wherein no section of the society is deprived of development or is left. Due to these reasons, the Green Growth Index gives significance to factors like social inclusion as well. We need a combined effort involving the active participation of civil society. Since the civilians are well acquainted with the needs and priorities of the local people, it would facilitate the initiative. It would also promote equity and poverty reduction, the underlying motives of a green economy. We ought to understand that environment, society and economy are complementary to each other. Hence we need integrated policy-making and effective methodology to move towards a green economy.