June 27, 2012

Beautiful Green World

Ulrich Brand

On the Myths of a Green Economy

It will stop climate change and the extinction of species and in so doing will create high growth rates and millions of jobs: the green economy. It’s seen as a miraculous weapon. Through it, global capitalism will not only be stabilized, but will become sustainable as well. But what is the green economy?

In a green economy, policy parameters are supposed to ensure the flow of capital to make markets and the economy “greener” and create “green” jobs. Enterprises are to pay an “appropriate” price for environmental damage. And not least: The state is supposed to orient its public procurements according to sustainability criteria and create sustainable infrastructures.

In June 2012, at the UN’s “Rio plus 20” conference in Rio de Janeiro, the green economy was to become a new central concept of global policy. As its title indicates, the conference was taking place on the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, where the magic formula “sustainable development” was coined. However, Rio plus 20 drastically demonstrated that sustainable development is not faring so well. CO2 emissions are increasing. Biological diversity is contracting. Famine, impoverishment and social inequality are increasing in many countries. The much feted “conciliation of ecology and economy” is proving hard to construct. In short: The green economy is not what many want to see it as: a magical formula offering solutions on a silver tray for many problems.

With this brochure Ulrich Brand, Professor for International Politics at the University Vienna, Austria, demonstrates that green economy is a contested term, which can be filled with many different contents—according to different interests. At the same time, Brand shows where the proposals fall short, seek a too hasty compromise with the ruling forces and suppress alternatives rather than promote them. One thing is certain: If the green economy does not break with the structures of the old economy and merely serves as a growth program, it will quickly lead to disillusionment and lose its sheen.