What is green economy?
Green economy is an economy that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. The United Nations system views greening the economy as a tool to help achieve sustainable development and eradicate poverty. In this context, green economy is seen to be at the heart of renewed efforts to integrate environmental and social considerations within the mainstream of economic decision-making in the run-up to the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (4 - 6 June 2012), also known as Rio+20, and beyond.
Green economy and the recent crises
Renewed interest in driving the green economy agenda forward arose at the time of the 2008 financial and ensuing economic and social crisis. A number of initiatives proposed a package of green public investment and complementary policy and regulatory reform within the context of national fiscal stimulus packages aimed at boosting the economic recovery and job creation. The crisis has opened a window of opportunity: weak private demand will not suffice to return economies to their full employment levels, and hence needs to be underpinned by public support, while concurrently low interest rates make the costs of investment attractive.
Green economy aims to boost green investment and policy reform
The green economy aims, inter alia, to boost economy-wide policy reform that enables green investment. This can have positive horizontal impacts on the whole economy, bringing large pay-offs that have the potential to reduce poverty and help achieve progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Safeguarding or upgrading a country’s natural capital stock typically has large benefits for vulnerable groups, which are more dependent on natural capital for their livelihoods. Massively scaled-up investment in green infrastructure — especially in the energy, transport, agriculture and waste sectors — typically commands a high social rate of return.
Green economy in the pan-European region
Despite significant achievements in greening the economies across the pan-European region, the ambitious green economy targets being pursued by many countries in the region show that the scale of the green economy challenge for the region is still large.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has an important role to play in the region’s transition towards a green economy. Through its sectoral work in the areas of energy, transport, water, sustainable land management, its five multilateral environment agreements, its International Centre on Public-Private Partnerships, its flagship Environmental Performance Reviews, its work on innovation policy and on statistics, UNECE helps to shape and inform on international good practice, policies, norms, standards and indicators for a green economy.