Posted on 15/01/09 in Economy
Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General, recently said: “We have experienced great economic transformations throughout history – the industrial revolution, the technology revolution, the era of globalisation. “We’re now on the threshold of another. The age of green economics.”
But will the disastrous current economic situation be the spark that lights a worldwide green fire? With the industrialised world threatened by unemployment, a decrease in purchasing power, and unsafe savings, people are turning to the Greens. However, before claiming victory, let us look deeper into how “green economics” would be implementated.
A Green New Deal would consist of the application of different policies combining economic relaunch, a reduction of ecological footprint, and global social progress. It is true that many encouraging initiatives can be observed in northern hemisphere countries nowadays. The UK has a huge programme of home insulation that should be fulfilled in 2020, and Kalundborg in Denmark uses “industrial ecology” by forming an alliance between different industries, each using the wastes of another.
Quebec in Canada orientates its funds towards sustainable development investments, for example, the Fonds de Solidarité, which is a trade union-sponsored investment fund.
The province has also seen´progress in the sale of fair trade goods, cars are becoming more and more efficient, and organic products are common in supermarkets.
Indeed, many initiatives seem to have an environment-friendly approach, but we have to be careful regarding two great trickeries, namely “greenwashing” and the “rebound effect”. As we enter this so-called “age of green economics”, we should not be fooled by the big-business marketing technique of “greenwashing” – a real ecological farce.
To be part of the “trendy” green movement, some firms do not hesitate to put on a green pullover, even if they continue to produce polluting products and have poor conditions for their workers.
Thanks to brilliant advertising agencies, these greenwashers manage to acquire a “green image”, thus deceiving the consumer, who naively believes that he or she is buying a product good for the environment.
We should think twice when we see a brand name containing “bio” or a product with a forest drawn on the label. It might be worth collecting information about the so-called “green firm” or looking for the certified eco-label.
The “rebound effect” forms the second threat to a greening of the economy. When it becomes cheaper or more efficient to use energy, people use more of it. If your house is better insulated, do not turn the heater higher, otherwise no energy is saved.
Greening the economy would not only be a question of means but also, first and foremost, a global change in behaviours. That is where citizens play an obvious role. They should stop thinking that the answer to the crisis has to come from above – they must start the green revolution from below.
Do not wait for your government to be green but act in your village, convince your neighbours, and do your best to change things locally, for the green revolution is in the peoples hands.
Disappointment at Poznan
Of course, another tactic would be to convince governments to vote and settle green policies, but the future does not seem so brightly green, if we look at the results of the recent Poznan talks. Although the UN conference declared it would support “green economics”, industrial growth still stands at the centre of the most powerful countries’ concerns.
The conference results were disappointing: not enough ambition in the reduction of greenhouse gases, not enough money allocated for developing countries – the ones who suffer most from climate change – and nothing substantial concerning forest protection. The same happens with the European Union, which lately decided to raise the quotas for cod fishing, even though this species is endangered. It allegedly could not find a sustainable economic solution.
Our governments play a dangerous game. They agree to go with green policies, as long as “growth” and “short-term” gain remain central. They may misunderstand the definition of the concept. That is why it will be so important to vote for the Greens in June.
Greens will nevertheless have a hard nut to crack: to turn the neo-capitalist economic model inside out to shift the focus from growth to people and environment welfare, from a shortterm vision to a long-term one.