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What does green economy mean?

Green economy is an economy that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. It can be seen as a means to achieve a resilient economy that provides a better quality of life for all within the ecological limits of the planet. It can be also seen as a means to link the economic, environmental and social considerations of sustainable development in such a manner that long-term economic development is achieved by investing in environmentally friendly and socially equitable solutions.

In the run-up to Rio+20 Conference, the many publications and papers published proposed not only definitions of green economy, but also sets of guiding principles, which provide more insight into what is meant by the green economy concept. These principles, also reflected in the Rio+20 outcome document, can serve as a guide in the application of the concept.

Based on the principles proposed, a green economy can be seen to have the following characteristics:

Environmental

Green economy:

  • Respects planetary boundaries or ecological limits or scarcity,
  • Is low carbon and low emissions
  • Protects biodiversity and ecosystems
  • Is resource and energy efficient

Social

Green economy:

  • Creates decent work and green jobs, facilitates education and skills development
  • Is equitable, fair and just (between and within countries, generations and gender)
  • Delivers poverty reduction, well-being, livelihoods, social protection and access to essential services
  • Is inclusive, democratic, participatory, accountable, transparent and stable

Economic

Green economy:

  • Drives innovation and technology transfer
  • Internalizes externalities
  • Sustains economic growth also to eradicate poverty

Other

Green economy:

  • Uses integrated decision making
  • Is guided by all the Rio Principles, Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation
  • Measures progress beyond GDP using appropriate indicators and metrics

Grounded in the Rio+20 outcome, the United Nations system views green economy as a means for achieving sustainable development and eradicating poverty. In this context, green economy is seen to be at the heart of renewed efforts to contribute to, or progress the broader agenda of, sustainable development and to contribute to achieving internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.


© United Nations Economic Commissions for Europe – 2013