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The Transition to a Green Economy: Benefits, Challenges and Risks from a Sustainable Development Perspective - 2012
Report by a Panel of Experts
Second Preparatory Committe Meeting for
United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development
Prepared under the direction of: Division for Sustainable Development, UN-DESA
United Nations Environment Programme
UN Conference on Trade and Development

*The views expressed in this report are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the sponsoring UN organizations.


The Transition to a Green Economy: Benefits, Challenges and Risks from a Sustainable Development Perspective. Summary of Background Papers
by Jose Antonio Ocampo, Columbia University

The concept of a green economy
The macroeconomic dimensions of green economic growth
Developing countries’ green development strategies
Domestic and international technology issues
International trade and investment rules
Financing developing countries’ green economies

The macroeconomics of the green economy
by Jose Antonio Ocampo, Columbia University

Under the influence of the United Nations, particularly the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the concepts of “green economy”, “green growth” and “global green new deal” have emerged into the global policy debate. There is no unique definition of the concept “green economy”, but the term itself underscores the economic dimensions of sustainability. Thus, the Secretary- General’s report to the second Preparatory Committee of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) states that “The concept of green economy focuses primarily on the intersection between environment and economy” (United Nations 2010b: par. 5), and the recent report by UNEP on the green economy makes it clear that the concept responds to the “growing recognition that achieving sustainability rests almost entirely on getting the economy right”. It also emphasizes the crucial point that economic growth and environmental stewardship can be complementary strategies, thus countering the view that still holds a strong influence that there are significant tradeoffs between these two objectives.

Valuing the welfare of future generations
Aggregate supply and demand analysis
Green growth as a process of structural change
Financing developing countries’ green economies
Policy conclusions
Technical appendix: Optimal consumption paths and the social discount rate


Trade, sustainable development and a green economy: Benefits, challenges and risks
by Aaron Cosbey, UNCTAD Advisor on Green Economy

This paper explores potential trade opportunities and risks from a transition to a green economy, and examines trade policy options that are relevant for this transition. It is written in the lead up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), to be held in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, and is a complement to two other papers also focused on the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication: one on the macroeconomic aspects of the green economy and the other on development, poverty and the green economy. A synthesis of the three papers is also being produced. In the section that follows this, it discusses the transition to a green economy, asking why it is desirable, and in what ways trade policy might help. The third section explores the impacts, both positive and negative, that might be expected by countries whose trading partners are pursuing a green economy. The fourth section asks what role there might be for the international community in ensuring that trade and investment policy and practice contribute to a widespread and equitable pursuit of the green economy, and last section offers some concluding thoughts.

Transitioning to a green economy
Impacts of the transition in major trading partners
What role for the international community?

Challenges of the green economy concept and policies in the context of sustainable development, poverty and equity
by Martin Khor, Executive Director,
South Centre

The “green economy” has become a topic of growing discussion in light of the environmental crisis. It is for example the subject of a major initiative by UNEP, which launched its Green Economy report in February. It has also become a rather controversial term, perhaps because it has become the subject of a multilateral negotiating process, within the Rio-Plus-20 framework. The “green economy” is not a concept that has yet to enjoy widespread agreement (among economists or environmentalists) or an international consensus. It is an extremely complex concept and it is unlikely there can be a consensus on its meaning, use and usefulness and policy implications, in the short term. A “green economy” gives the impression of an economy that is environmentally-friendly, sensitive to the need to conserve natural resources, minimise pollution and emissions that damage the environment in the production process, and produces products and services the existence and consumption of which do not harm the environment.
Among the difficult questions are whether the attainment of such an economy constrains other aspects (including economic growth of poor countries, and social development goals such as poverty eradication and job creation); how to identify and deal with the trade-offs; what are the appropriate combinations between these aspects and at different stages of development as well as stages in the state of the environment; what is the role of the state in regulation and investments and defining frameworks; how compatible is a green economy with the free market and what is the appropriate way to address the role of the private sector; how to build an economy that is more environmentally-friendly, and how to handle the transition from the present to the greener economy?

The context of sustainable development and green economy
Risks of misuse of the green economy concept
Policies and measures for promoting sustainable development and green economy
Technology development, transfer and cooperation
Financing of sustainable development

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