UNU-IIGH co-organized seminar on green growth at UN headquarters

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  • 2016•08•02     New York

    UNU-IIGH and UNCTAD-NY organized the debate on green growth in the UN Headquarters on 24 May 2016. The debate was stimulated by the recently published book Green Growth: Ideology, Political Economy and the Alternatives (Zed Books, 2016) co-edited by Jose A. Puppim de Oliveira, Visiting Researcher (UNU-IIGH) and co-editor of the book together with Gareth Dale and Manu Mathai. The panel was chaired by Chantal Line Carpentier, Chief, UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), New York Office and had as discussant Michael Herrmann Senior Adviser on Economics and Demography, UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

    The debate started with a presentation about the main ideas of the book by Jose A. Puppim de Oliveira showing how the discourse of “green growth” has recently gained ground in environmental governance deliberations and policy proposals without much scrutinity. Green growth is presented as a fresh and innovative agenda centered on the deployment of engineering sophistication, managerial acumen, and market mechanisms to redress the environmental and social derelictions of the existing development model. But can the green growth project deliver environmental sustainability, social justice and the achievement of economic life upon a materially finite planet? The presentation answered this and several other questions: what explains modern society’s investment in the green growth idea, why has it emerged as a master concept in the contemporary conjuncture, and what social forces does it serve? How do we evaluate the results of a series of prominent green growth projects? The book argues that even though economic growth have brought tremendous benefits to society, rich countries have had difficulties to grow their economies, and growth per se is not delivering the benefits for society in terms of quality of life, happiness and health. The book shows that unlimited growth can pose tremendous challenges to the planetary health, with implications in the long term and it is very unlikely that countries will be able to keep economic growth without large environmental and social impacts. We need to transform our economic system to move the focus from economic growth to quality of life. Within this context, the presentation weighed up the merits and demerits of alternative strategies and policies, asking the vital question: If not green growth, then what?

    An instigating discussion followed the presentation when the discussant and participants debated issues such as the implications for developing countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and whether green growth can address climate change within the Paris Agreement and the conservation. Sufficiency, along with efficiency, was argued as an urgent necessity.

    The book was part of a project supported by the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research. There were also debates in several other cities, such as New Delhi, Tokyo, Kyoto, Manila, Bangkok, Bangalore, Kolkota, Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai, Jakarta and Seoul.

    Book: Green Growth: Ideology, Political Economy and the Alternatives“. London: Zed Books. Edited by Dale, G.; Mathai, M. V. and Puppim de Oliveira, Jose A. (Eds) (2016).