Reflections on the panel discussion hosted by Fiona Nunan, Professor of Environment and Development at the University of Birmingham with Mao Amis, Director of the African Centre for the Green economy and George Varughese, former President of Development Alternatives in New Delhi. Watch the webinar here
The green economy is supposedly one of the critical solutions to the climate emergency and post-pandemic recovery. It provides the answer to the environmental crisis whilst allowing economic development to continue. Sounds great! Where do we sign up?
Well, as discussed by the panellists, it’s not so straightforward. The term itself is hotly contested, being stretched and adapted by institutions, theorists and politicians in infinite directions. But according to George Varughese, that is part of the green economy’s strength. It can create context-specific policies with the purpose of ‘invigoration’ of livelihoods and natural resources. Both Amis and Varughese agree that the focus on economic development should be a means to achieving greater human aspiration, rather than growth for the sake of growth. That is not to say that economic development is not key but there should be a focus on ‘economic empowerment at the bottom of the pyramid’, according to Amis.
What are the challenges?
As with any attempt to achieve change, there are a number of serious challenges. According to Varughese, the root issue is that the environment is not politically relevant. We cannot wait for major environmental crisis, something needs to happen to make decision-makers act now.
Amis stressed that ‘just transition’ is essential. The need for justice is clear and something that the audience members felt strongly about. Amis highlighted that a just transition cannot be ensured without funding going to areas that need it the most. The key challenge here then is that much climate finance is currently skewed toward northern countries and mitigation efforts. He made a strong case for ‘more people in the room to be more ambitious’ in their solutions in the green economy, for stakeholders who are pushing for adaptation solutions and for the funding to back this up.
What are the priorities?
Jobs, jobs, jobs. Varughese and Amis agree that the need for job security in sustainable industries is key and the most powerful way to get those in power to listen. If those most at risk of the impacts of climate change cannot see how they will sustain themselves in a transition, the goal of the green economy will fail.
Varughese suggested that these new jobs could be in what he termed ‘urban mining’. Mining through the waste in urban areas to recycle and reuse goods efficiently and effectively, perhaps with a goal of achieving a circular economy.
One question that remains unanswered is about urgency. How can we achieve change that is so clearly needed in the limited time we have available? The climate emergency is already upon us, we need actions that make the green economy a reality today rather than a hope for the future.