What does a Green Economy Look Like?

The transition to a Green Economy has a long way to go, but several countries are demonstrating leadership by adopting national “green growth” or “low carbon” economic strategies. And there are many examples of successful, large-scale programs that increase growth or productivity and do so in a sustainable manner.

  • The Republic of Korea has adopted a national strategy and a five-year plan for green growth for the period 2009–2013, allocating 2 percent of its gross domestic product to investment in several green sectors such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean technology and water. The government has also launched the Global Green Growth Institute which aims to help countries (especially developing countries) develop green growth strategies.
  • In Mexico City, crippling congestion led to a major effort to promote Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), a sophisticated bus system that uses dedicated lanes on city streets. Significant public investment in the BRT has reduced commuting times and air pollution and improved access to public transit for those less able to afford private cars. This remarkable success is now being replicated in cities across Mexico and has led to investment from the federal government in urban public transit for the first time.
  • China now invests more than any other country in renewable energy. Its total installed wind capacity grew 64 percent in 2010. This growth is driven by a national policy that sees clean energy as a major market in the near future, and one in which China wants to gain a competitive edge.
  • Namibia is managing its natural resources to generate economic, social, and environmental benefits. Local communities across the country are granted the right to use and capitalize on the benefits of using wildlife and other natural resources within the boundaries of “communal conservancies.” With an economic incentive to sustainably manage these areas, food and employment is being provided for hundreds of thousands of Namibians in rural areas. More than half of the jobs are filled by women, and wildlife populations have increased.
  • Businesses are increasingly leading progress toward a Green Economy. For example, the carpet company Interface FLOR is improving its competitive positioning in this normally petroleum-intensive industry by focusing on how sustainability can enhance its business model. The company is working towards a closed loop system, meaning that its waste products are also its manufacturing inputs. Its company culture reinforces its goals – when employees know they are making a difference in the world, they tend to work harder and be better at their jobs, making the enterprise more productive. Interface’s CEO, Ray Anderson, has said “If we can do it, anyone can. And if anyone can, everyone can.”
How does Green Economy differ from previous efforts to promote sustainability — what is new?
What are some of the concerns and tensions with the concept of a Green Economy?
What are the challenges to a transition to a Green Economy, and what will make it happen?

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