Which Green Economy?

What should a green economy look like in practice?

As awareness about the ecological crisis and climate change has increased in recent years there is growing agreement we need to make changes to the global economy.

The debate around the green economy will be crucial in determining what kinds of actions countries, companies, communities and individuals take in the future. The key areas of debate are:

  • Objectives of the economy – Current debates about how we measure growth and prosperity will have enormous ramifications for global trade, production and consumption patterns. More information
  • Energy – The energy sources we use in the future will be fundamental to how our societies and economies operate. More information
  • Valuing nature – Ideas about recognising nature’s true value (monetary and/or non-monetary) could revolutionise how we protect the environment safeguarding it for future generations. More information

Read Introduction to the green economy for a summary of green economy debates and how it could affect your work

(UNDP, SolarPanels)The various perspectives broadly agree the current economic model is unsustainable on a planet that has finite resources and limits. 

But they disagree on what needs to change:



  • Do we need to place more or less faith in market mechanisms?
  • Should the state play a greater role in regulation of the economy and the environment?
  • Do we need new ways to measure well-being that go beyond traditional instruments like GDP?
  • Do we need to deepen globalisation or encourage localisation?
  • Do we need to make drastic cuts to emissions of greenhouse gases or can we rely on technological innovation? Are carbon markets and carbon taxes effective?
  • How fast and how much do we need to shift to renewable energies? Should there be subsidies for fossil fuels or renewable energies?
  • Is valuing nature the best way to protect it? Which ecosystem services will be valued most highly? Will this mean nature is commodified? Who will control ecosystem services?

(Zpeckler, carbon, creative commons)

The following questions will be central to determining the type of green economy we see in the future:

  • Who will shape the green economy? Will it be the G7 and developed countries? Or developing countries such as China, India and Brazil?
  • Will a green economy mean a trade-off between economic growth and environmental protection?
  • Will the private sector embrace the transition to a green economy? What role should business play? Should public funds be used to leverage private sector participation?
  • Will a green economy reduce poverty and inequality?
  • Should renewable energies be centralised or de-centralised? Who will control these energy sources – companies or communities?

Key resources

(UNEP Green Economy Report)Green Economy Report (UNEP)



Inside the Green Economy (HBS)Inside the Green Economy (HBS)



(No green economy, creative commons)

Declaration of the People’s Summit at Rio+20


Why Green Economy? blog

(Antonio Cruz da Abr, deforestation in the Amazon, creative commons)Will valuing natural capital protect the environment?



(Coal plant, creative commons)

Europe’s carbon price crash and future carbon markets




Maps, tools and infographics Maps, tools and infographics



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