The Theoretical Route of the Green Economy Initiatives, Applicability and the Future

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1. Introduction

Since 2008, global conservation movements have taken different paths, with the especial focus towards the Green Economic Initiatives (GEI).  The major stakeholder of global environmental governance, the United Nations, has been advocating for the integration of conservation and developmental themes as well as the establishment of a collaborative platform where all concern stakeholders can contribute to the health of the planet. 

In fostering this concept, the UNEP called for a Global Green New Deal (GEND) in the wake of unprecedented economic stimulus packages.  A UNEP report released in December 2008 called for a GEND and a subsequent policy brief to G20 heads of state urging them to turn the crisis into an opportunity by enabling a global green economy (GE) driven by massive job creation from a more efficient use of resources, energy-efficient building and construction, widespread use of clean and modern public transport, the scaling up of renewable energy, sustainable waste management, and sustainable agriculture that reflects the latest thinking in ecosystem management and biodiversity and water conservation (UNEP-GRID 2009:4). 

However the concept of the GE is still maturing within the UN as well as in academia and global forums for conservation.  The UNEP (2010) notes that the GE is an important concept in linking economic growth to the achievement of environmental sustainability.  It implies the realization of growth and employment opportunities from less polluting and more resource-efficiency in energy, water, waste, buildings, agriculture and forests.  It also demands the management of structural changes such as potentially adverse effects on vulnerable households and traditional economic sectors.  The concept of a GE and its policy implications will be applied differently across the globe, reflecting national circumstances and priorities.  However, for developing countries in particular, widespread opportunities exist to strengthen economic development, including poverty reduction as well as food and water security in developing countries, through improved environmental and natural resource management (UNEP 1010:5). 

2. The theory of green economy

A GE is one whose growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. These investments need to be catalyzed and supported by targeted public expenditure, policy reforms and regulation changes. This development path should maintain, enhance and, where necessary, rebuild natural capital as a critical economic asset and source of public benefits, especially for poor people whose livelihoods and security depend strongly on nature. A green economy (GE) can be defined as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. A GE is characterized by substantially increased investments in economic sectors that build on and enhance the Earth’s natural capital or reduce ecological scarcities and environmental risks. These sectors include renewable energy, low-carbon transport, energyefficient buildings, clean technologies, improved waste management, improved freshwater provision, sustainable agriculture and forest management, and sustainable fisheries. These investments are driven or supported by national policy reforms and the development of international policy and market infrastructure (UNEP 2010:3).

The GE system is also a complex phenomenon which aims to achieve a low-carbon economy, life cycle analysis, and resource efficiency. The GE theory especially captures the notion of the vulnerability of human welfare, which can be understood as the result of widespread application of an unsustainable model of economic development. With the linkages of the recent year’s economic and environmental crises, the UNEP urges cooperative efforts to address bringing economy and environment together, under the notion that the environment is where we live, and the development is what we all do in attempting to improve our lot within that abode. The two are inseparable (UNEP 2007). As the environmental issues have chain effects; these situations also can be seen through the lens of diverse and complex impacts of climate change, water management, biodiversity conservation, and forest and land management (UNEP 2010).

2.1. The major component of Green Economy (GE)

The UNEP GE Report outlines the eleven major issues to be addressed while empowering the social well-being of citizens of the developing world. The report addresses important sectors of the GE along with cross-cutting issues, such as finance and other enabling conditions, which include: “Green Industry Segments; Energy Generation; Energy Efficiency; Transportation; Green Building; Energy Storage; Environmental Consulting; Water & Wastewater; Finance/ Investment; Environmental Remediation; Air & Environment; Business Services; Research & Alliances; Agriculture; Recycling & Waste Materials; and Manufacturing/Industrial” (UNEP-GRID 2009:38-39).

It is important to note however that the UNEP is one of the major partners of the IUCN in theorizing and preparing policy directives, and encouraging governments to utilize GE concepts in the UNEP and the IUCN’s member-states. Dr. Achim Steiner, the UN Undersecretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, notes that the GE concept is also far from being set in stone. It is, on the other hand, providing for some governments a rationale, blueprint, and a focus for actively realizing many of those unmet sustainability goals, albeit at the current level of each nation (UNEP 2010:2).

As noted above one of the goals of a GE is to help reduce poverty, while increasing resource efficiency and improving social welfare.  Importantly, the GE is both a journey and a destination; it has much to do with the MDGs; and it is inextricably intertwined with many of the drivers and factors involved in trying to achieve them (UNEP 2010).  There is a strong connection between the environment and the MDGs, since its goals include the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; the achievement of universal primary education; the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women; the reduction of child mortality; the improvement of maternal health; combating major diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and the creation of a global partnership for development (UNEP 2007). 

The MGDs are based on principles of the people-first approach and the notion of the human well-being.  As the UNEP (2007:13) notes, human well-being is the extent to which individuals have the ability and the opportunity to live the kinds of lives they have reason to value.  People’s ability to pursue the lives that they value is shaped by a wide range of instrumental freedoms.  Human well-being encompasses personal and environmental security, access to materials for a good life, good health, and good social relations, all of which are closely related to each other, and underlie the freedom to make choices and take action.  Furthermore, in capturing the impact of environmental change on human well-being as described in the Global Environmental Outlook -4 (GEO 2007) conceptual frameworks, the impacts of environmental change on human well-being are strongly mediated by social and institutional factors.  Furthermore, the explicit links between environmental change and certain aspects of human well-being, such as food availability and water stress, are better understood than, say, those related to education, personal security, good social relations, and overall access to materials for a good life.  

2.2.The Human Wellbeing and the Green Economy 

Well-being encompasses more aspects than listed in the following text box; they do not, therefore, fully capture the impacts of environmental change on well-being.  However, by enhancing positive impacts, these concepts can pave the way positive environmental change, and it is likely that the addressing the well-being aspects can help to empower society to minimize its impact on the environment.   

The conventional environmental problems are well-known effects of environment degradation; whereas single sources can generally be identified, the potential victims are often close to those sources, and the scale is often local or national. “ Conventional problems such as microbial contamination, harmful local algal blooms, emissions of sulphur, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter, oil spills, local land degradation, localized habitat destruction, fragmentation of land, and overexploitation of freshwater resources” (UNEP 2007:517).  The green economy concept establishes causality of environmental damage and proposes a new way to tackle those causes by bringing all concerned stakeholders together in addressing the issues. 

2.3. Theory behind the GE concept

The GE concept is based on the basic principles of ecological economics and environmental/resource economics. These disciplines are specifically dedicated to the economic analysis of the relationship between humans and the environment; whereas ecological economics considers the economy as a subset of a larger ecological system (Dasgupta 2001; Daly 2005), environmental/resource economics examines the combination of environmental elements with existing classical (or neo‐classical) economic models (Harris, 2006). The following table shows the difference between these two schools of thought (on the basis of Bergh 2000 classification).

Ecological economics takes a broad perspective in framing environmental questions by incorporating laws derived from the natural sciences.  Ecological economy theorists emphasize the importance of energy resources, especially fossil fuels, in current economic systems.  All ecological systems depend on energy inputs, but natural systems rely almost entirely on solar energy.  A fundamental principle of ecological economics is that human economic activity must be limited by the environment’s carrying capacity (Harris 2006:5-7).   

Resource economics is the study of the how society allocates scare natural resources.  Moreover, the green economy concept is situated on the Neoclassical Welfare Economics theory and provides the alternative avenue with the use of ecological economic alternatives to cope with the changing scenario of the global environmental crisis. 

The GE concept accepts the traditional economic model and provides options with the application of ecological economics, resource economics, and industrial ecology for sustainable livelihood.  As Randall (1982) noted long ago, the mainstream economists fall into several loose groupings.  The middle ground is occupied by those who find the mainstream economic methodology useful and even quite powerful, but who recognize that it has some perplexing limitations, especially when applied to policy analysis.  “To one side of the middle, there is a group of free-market zealots, who see the economic system in very simple terms, and who cannot understand why others fail to see what, to them, is obvious.  They divide their time between proselytizing for free-market solutions among known economists and attempting to keep the other group of mainstream economists on the straight-and-narrow.  On the other side of the middle, there is an ill-defined group of those who are quite uneasy about limitations, so the mainstream economists and policy analysts are suspicious that the zealots are confusing methodology and ideology, but are unable to develop a coherent alternative to the mainstream methodology” (Randall 1982:37 and also in Terry 1982:928).

Furthermore, the GE concept accepts the key conceptual issues of neoclassical welfare economics and alternatives to the ecological economic model, which largely overlap each other, as seen in Table 2. 

Adopted from Gowdy and Erickson 2005:213 (Value Monism implies that all objects of utility have some common characteristic that allows them to be compared.  Until the middle of the twentieth century there was a lively debate in economics about varieties of value, including use vs. exchange value, labor and energy theories of value, and so on.  Value Monism lies behind standard cost–benefit analysis (CBA) which uses the notion of consumer surplus to judge the desirability of public policy choices (Gowdy and Erickson 2005:212-213).   As seen in the table, the ecological economy examines the inter-relationships of economic activities that have an impact on the environment.  The ecological economy also looks at the functional relationships of ecosystems, social systems, and economic systems, which has a domino effect on social institutions as seen in Table 3. 

Fueled by the ecological economic functional model, one of the major aspects of the GE is the examination of the impact of human economic activities on the biophysical environment and provisions of alternatives to reduce such impacts.  Similarly, another discipline which relates closely to the notion of the GE is the industrial ecology, which looks more closely at the relationship between human activity and the environment in the context of an industrialized society (IUCN 2010:3).  The concept of industrial ecology is relatively old and uses a systematic approach to examine the trends of environmental degradation.  The concept was first utilized by Jay Forrester at MIT in the early 1960s, to examine the world as a series of interwoven systems.  Industrial ecology is the study of the physical, chemical, and biological interactions and interrelationships both within and between industrial and ecological systems (Forrester 1968, 1971 as in Garner and Keoleian 1995:3). 

The idea of an industrial ecology is based on an analogy of natural ecological systems.  In nature an ecological system operates through a web of connections in which organisms live and consume each other and each other’s waste.  The system has evolved so that the character of communities of living organisms seems to encompass a notion that that nothing which contains available energy or useful material will be lost.  There will evolve some organism that will manage to make its living by using any waste product that provides available energy or material.  Ecologists talk of a food web: a mutual connection of organisms to each other’s wastes. The structure of a natural ecology and the structure of an industrial system, or an economic system, are extremely similar (Frosch 1992:800, also in Garner and Keoleian 1995:31). 

Broadly speaking, industrial ecology is the study of systems, which applies the multidisciplinary approach with orientation toward the future of analyzing interactions between industrial and ecological systems; material and energy flows and transformations; and changes from linear (open) processes to cyclical (closed) processes (so the waste from one industry is used as an input for another).  Furthermore, it looks for ways to reduce the industrial systems’ environmental impacts on ecological systems, to emphasize the harmonious integration of industrial activity into ecological systems, to suggest making industrial systems emulate more efficient and sustainable natural systems, and to identify the industrial and natural hierarchies, which indicate areas of potential study and action (Garner and Keoleian 1995).  The goal of industrial ecology is to promote sustainable development at the global, regional, and local levels, which largely overlaps with the goals of the green economy principles.

Likewise, GE theory is fueled by the principles of environmental economics, which is a subset of economics concerned with the efficient allocation of environmental resources.  The environment provides both a direct value as well as raw material intended for economic activity, thus making the environment and the economy interdependent.  For that reason, the way in which the economy is managed has an impact on the environment which, in turn, affects both welfare and the performance of the economy (The Environmental Literacy Council 2007:6).  Environmental economics examines human relationships with nature using rational choice models of human behavior.  It analyzes the impact of economic activities on the environment, the significance of ecosystem to the economy, and suggests the appropriate ways of regulating economic activity so that balance is achieved in the society.  Furthermore, environmental economics is the understanding of various environmental factors, their influence in the economy, their functions upon the environment, and their impacts upon the life of the people of the present and future.  Environmental economics also examines how the individual and society values the overall environmental dynamism and willingness to pay if needed to address the environment. 

The ultimate goal of the GE is also embedded with the principles of sustainability.  There is a link between social, economic, and environmental sustainability and green economics.  The framework of sustainable development provides criteria for the management of human and economic development, while ensuring a proper and optimal function over time (Goodland and Daly 1996; UNEP 2007).

The GE is also based on the people-first approach whereas the concept of sustainability is based on the planet-first or equal-treatment approaches.  Furthermore, the GE accepts the environment as the foundation for the furthering of people’s well-being by increasing the asset-base and productivity; empowering poor people and marginalized communities; reducing and managing risks; and taking a long-term perspective with regard to intra- and intergenerational equity (UNEP 2007).  Environmental health is central to all four of these requirements.  Long-term development can only be achieved through sustainable management of various assets such as financial, material, human, social, and natural.  Natural assets, including water, soils, plants, and animals, underpin the livelihoods of all people.  At the national level, natural assets account for 26 percent of the wealth of low-income countries.  Sectors such as agriculture, fishery, forestry, tourism, and minerals provide important economic and social benefits to people.  The challenge lies in the proper management of these resources (Bass 2006; World Bank 2006; UNEP 2007:10).  Sustainability and GE stand for quality of life (including and linking social, economic, and environmental aspects); care for the environment; thought for the future and the precautionary principle; fairness and equity; and participation and partnership (Gibbs 2000).  The only difference between the two is the procedure of implementation. In addition to these major theoretical roots of the GE, it can also be examined under the various sociological theories such as governance, stakeholder, institutional, network, and so on. 

3. The GE and environmental sociological theory

The GE can be evaluated within scholarship of environmental sociology.  Environmental sociological scholarship reviews human ecology; environmental attitudes, values, and behaviors; the environmental movement; and technological risks.  It conducts the risk assessment and evaluates the political economy of environmental politics.  Furthermore, environmental sociology looks toward bridging the dualisms – structure vs. agency, nominalism vs. realism, materialism vs. idealism, methodological precision vs. substantive importance – that continue to pervade the discipline as a whole (Buttel 1987:484- 1987).  One of the core implications of the GE is to look at the societal situation in relation to social and environmental justice.  In the same line, environmental sociology looks at society as a globalized marketplace with the understanding that the prevailing forces in our lives undermine the real importance of our human communities and our planet.  Green Economics argues that society should be embedded within the ecosystem, and that markets and economies are social structures that should respond to social and environmental priorities (Cato 2008).  Environmental sociology acknowledges the role of conservationist, naturalist, holistic approaches, and particularly international media, and looks at the societal influence on the global bio-physical environment.  Similarly, it looks at environmental organizations as a loose network structures rather than as dense inter-organizational networks, and finds it difficult to function in corporatist arrangements (Buttel 1987). 

In the broader theoretical line, sociologists have not examined the greening of the world, which is present in sociological scholarships.  The New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) propounded by Dunlap and Liere (of 1977), is one example of sociologists’ concerns about the connection of the environment and society.  The NEP focuses on beliefs about humanity’s ability to upset the balance of nature, the existence of limits to growth for human societies, and humanity’s right to rule over the rest of nature (Goldman and Shurman 2000; Dunlap et al. 2000; Dunlap 2008).  Here the subject matter of the GE and the organization sociology largely overlap.  In this regard, it is noteworthy to see that how the NEP can contribute to the extension of GE, which is still largely being discussed in international environment conservation forums by the United Nations agencies (particularly the UNEP) and conservation organizations like the IUCN. 

It is evident that the subject matters listed in the NEP are subject matters of the GE and are situated in the same nexus.  Both try to understand and search for options to reduce the public pressure on the global ecosystem, with the understanding of the conventional (forest degradation, water pollution, air pollution, acid rain etc.) and the newly explored (climate change, ozone hole, rise in the global temperature and glacier recession) cause-and-effect environmental problems.  The principles of environmental sociology, the NEP, and Green Economics as Kennet and Heinemann (2006) note, are positioned within a very long-term, earth-wide, holistic context of reality as a part of nature.  It also incorporates and celebrates difference, diversity, equity, and inclusiveness within its concepts of society and community.  Its philosophy is to manage economics for nature as usual, rather than to manage the environment for business as usual. 

Green Economics can incorporate a much wider, more practical, multidisciplinary range of knowledge than other schools of economics (Kennet and Heinemann 2006:68).  Green Economics highlights forward thinking for long term impact and searches for high-technology based on the practicality of environmentalism on the basis of social dynamism.  However, because the concept is so new there is an urgent need to incorporate accepted sociological knowledge to foster more theoretical grounding.  Linking the theory into the efforts of the UNEP for greening the world, the Max Weber concept of rationalism and the avenue of the global leadership hold very strong positions.  Weber focuses on the trend of rationalization in organizational governance in both the public and private sectors of modern societies and how society can produce more goods and services to fulfill social needs through formal forms of organizations.  It is important to acknowledge that the former and current Secretary General of the United Nations, as well the Director General of the UNEP, have been trying to implement policy directives through UN agencies.  Although there are few indications of a positive direction, it is too early to state the effectiveness of the initiatives.  The UN has, for example, implemented varieties of environmental policy instruments such as standards; bans; permits and quotas; zonings; liabilities; legal redress; and flexible regulations (UNEP 2010), as seen in Table 5.

However, by nature, the implementation of the international policy instruments in the complex phenomena and the globalized the concept and follow the complexity procedure and still try to incorporate all most all component of GE.   

4. Theory of governance, and GE 

The UNEP policy directive on governance notes that the term ‘governance’ has been defined in many different ways, which vary according to the scope and locus of decisionmaking power (ECOSOC 2010).  In recent times, many governance functions that influence individual and collective behavior have been executed beyond the exclusive remit of governments.  Accordingly, there has been a shift to a definition under which the governance, at whatever level of social organization it may take place, refers to conducting the public’s business by the collection of authoritative rules, institutions, and practices by means of which any collectivity manages its affairs (Ruggie 2004).  The most important actors in the process of IEG include national governments; intergovernmental organizations such as the UN and its specialized bodies; civil society groups; private sector associations; and a variety of partnerships between public, private, and civil society actors.  The key institutions and mechanisms through which IEG is carried out include a multitude of intergovernmental, non-state, and public-private processes and initiatives that vary in format, structure, and membership (UNEP 2010: 2).   

Governance engenders a number of perspectives and definitions which are closely linked with the concept of a green economy and the IUCN’s efforts in mainstreaming the environmental governance principles.  This definitional claim of Kahn and Zald (1990) is useful to examine the relationships between the IUCN and its members including INGOs, NGOs, national governments, and private enterprises.  It is an established notion that the global governance includes both nation-state and the non-state actors (INGOs, NGOs, Civil Society Organizations and private sectors (McKormick, 1999; Kauffman 1997; Schreurs 1997).  In the social sciences, governance is also sometimes explained in Foucaultian terms (Baldwin 2003; Agrawal 2005), where government means less of the political or administrative structures of the modern state but rather the people’s internalization of the rules that leads to types of selfgovernance, that is governance without active external enforcement (Foucault 1991).  Foucault’s work is notable; it philosophically illustrates the extensive social and political structures, including the state, bureaucracy, and professions that are utilized in framing the GE.  It also describes how knowledge and power are utilized by a hybrid international organization (such as the IUCN) at the state and transnational levels.  In the broader sense governance is a matter of resolving conflicts, finding common purpose, and/or overcoming inefficiencies between actors in situations of interdependent choice (Barnett and Duvall 2005:6).   

There are various players in global governance that include: multilateral organizations, such as the UN, IMF, World Bank and WTO; international associations, such as the G8, OECD, the Commonwealth and NATO; inter-regional groups, such as SAARC, APEC, and the Trans-Atlantic Partnership; regional bodies like the EU and NAFTA; private governance, such as the IUCN, Greenpeace, WWF, Amnesty International etc.; national governments, of which there are approximately 230 in the world; and finally subnational governments like US states, Canadian provinces, and the German Länder etc. (Cable 1999 as in World Humanity Action Trust 2000). 

5. GE and Global Environmental Governance (GEG)

Global environmental governance (GEG) is the sum of organizations, policy instruments, financing mechanisms, rules, procedures and norms that regulate the processes of global environmental protection.  In the contemporary world, there has been increase in the awareness of environmental threats.  As a result numerous efforts have emerged to address them globally. Since environmental issues entered the international agenda in the early 1970s, global environmental politics and policies have been developing rapidly (Najam et al.2006:6).  In the development of environmental policies the agencies of the United Nations have played the most important roles.  Similarly, from the nongovernmental sector, the IUCN is only the IO who is involved in environmental governance policy formation.  The GEG is the complex issue; therefore it is extremely difficult to evaluate success and failure.  Najam et al. (2006) have tried to outline major efforts of UN in GEG reform, especially in strengthening the role of the UNEP. 

The weakness of the GEG, particularly in the case of the UNEP, has been largely discussed in the UN General Assembly.  In this line, with the realization of a strong international environmental conservation organization, the French President, Jacques Chirac, called for the creation of a United Nations Environmental Organization (UNEO) at the UN General Assembly in 2003.  In response to President Chirac’s presentation, an informal working group was set up to facilitate dialogue among governments on UNEP reform (Najam et al.  2006). Especially, from 2003, there have been long debates in the UN General Assembly and in international forums about the global authority of environmental governance.  Similarly, there have been discussions regarding models of GEG reform such as the Compliance Model, which advocates for the creation of a body that could provide binding decisions; and the New Agency Model, which refers to creating a new organization outside the UNEP with concentrated environmental responsibilities and the ability to steer UN agencies in relation to environmental issues.  This model has been highlighted mostly by the Bierman et al. mostly since 2000.   

Bierman (2004:17) argues that creating a UNEO would pave the way for the elevation of environmental policies on the agenda of governments, international organizations, and private organizations; it could assist in developing the capacities for environmental policy in African, Asian, and Latin American countries; and it would improve the institutional environment for the negotiation of new conventions and action programs as well as for the implementation and coordination of existing ones.   

Similarly the UNEP model focuses to upgrade the UNEP as a departure point for improving environmental governance and suggests upgrading it to a specialized agency to strengthen its status.  Likewise, the Multiple Actors Model argues that the system of governance comprises multiple actors whose actions need to be mutually reinforcing and better coordinated.  Without better integration of these multiple actors, organizational rearrangement cannot resolve institutional problems (Najam et al. 2006:17-20).  The success and failure of the governance depends on the governments’ and other stakeholders’ commitments and mutual efforts to attain the goals.  In the case of environmental management it has a chain of difficulties largely associated with the public well-being.  As Bierman (2004:12) notes, the UNGO is a political response to economic, cultural, social, and eco-logical globalization.  It is not initiated and developed by some centralized decision-making body, but by an amalgam of centers of authority at various levels.   

The efficacy of the current system of global governance has been the subject of intense debate.  It is not only a normative discussion as to increased global governance, but likewise a debate on better global governance.  By nature the success of GEG depends on political will.  As World Humanity Action Trust (2000) notes, the challenge of GEG can also be seen on the basis of the World’s Commons, whereas issues of responsibility have always been challenging.  Furthermore, the effectiveness of GEG also depends on the capacity of tackling the commons as well as on the formation of coping strategies, and the availability of infrastructures for implementation. 

The cause of ineffective GEG is due to the lack of cooperation and coordination among international organizations; the lack of implementation, compliance, enforcement, and effectiveness; inefficient use of resources; and global governance outside the environmental arena. Other causes of GEG’s ineffectiveness can be noted similar to the analysis of Najam et al. (2006:24), such as the lack of leadership; developing country concerns; institutional fiefdoms; lack of political will; and the balance of national interests versus global environmental problems. They further note that developing countries have legitimate concerns about the state of the international system. They are already distrustful of the international system in general and are especially concerned about the rapid growth of environmental instruments and its possible impacts on their economic growth. Although developing countries are not necessarily beholden to the status quo, they fear that any change will necessarily make things even worse. Likewise, the UN institutions that are the major responsible body to implement the governance principles are often loath to let go of any part of their authority even where overlap and duplication are obvious. There is also a marked decrease in the importance attached to environmental issues by the international community.

6. Conclusion

The economy is often given priority in policies and the environment is viewed as apart from humans. They are interconnected, with the economy dependent on society and the environment while human existence and society are dependent on, and within the environment. The separation of environment, society and economy often leads to a narrow techno-scientific approach, while issues to do with society that are most likely to challenge the present socio-economic structure are often marginalized, in particular the sustainability of communities and the maintenance of cultural diversity (Giddings 2002:187).

This paper largely looks only the contemporary scene of macro level theories in which the concept of green economy (GE) is embedded; whereas GE broadly aims to grow the global economy and cultivate social justice without harming earth’s ecosystem. While there has been a long history advancing human wellbeing without destroying the nature, academics really only have paid concerted attention to this issue since the 1980s (Hopwood et al. 2005; Donald 2010), when scholars began to examine the relationship between humans and the environment. Academics have approached GE theory from the perspectives of neoclassical welfare economics; ecological economics and environmental/resource economics; industrial ecology; environmental sociology; and ecological modernization theory, among others. None of these approaches, however, seems to have been able to capture the breadth of GE’s concerns, which are close to those of Sustainable Development (SD). GE not only must capture the imperative to utilize the resources in sustainable way, but bridge the gap of North and South and integrate models for empowering local communities and enhancing environmental ethics (IIED-GlobeScan 2011).

Theoretically, it is possible to interpret environmental problems and recommend environmental reforms with the application of technology-intensive policies to manage environmental problems both in the developed and the developing world (e.g., through analysis of the existing situation, formulation of policy options, and encouragement to apply environment friendly advance technology for sustainable world). GE, as an initiative, is embedded within the framework of SD, including globalization processes and global transformations, and providing the know-how to perceive global economic growth in a positive way.

However, even now, there is no institutional model that encompasses the responsibility to fulfill these assumptions and objectives of the GE.

Innovative knowledge institutions and partnerships are needed, and they must be guided by certain principles. Highly varied local situations and the uncertainty of complex social and ecological systems call for flexible, experimental, and adaptive learning-based approaches. The new institutions must also be problem-driven. The alleviation of poverty and environmental sustainability should be explicit goals for which knowledge must be generated. Institutions must transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries to generate new ideas and technologies and link science with policy and governance to frame questions and foster social change (Bawa, et al. 2008:126).

There presently is no global institution which can coordinate initiatives like GE and bridge the gap between North and South. The role of international organizations (particularly the United Nations; the World Bank) has not been strong in global environmental governance (Najam et al. 2006; Bierman 2004), but effective global governance mechanisms are essential for advancing GE aims. In light of this void, there is a need for umbrella institution that could implement flexible mandates while being free from bureaucratic control, with a focus on specific problems and ability to forge frameworks relevant to identified societal needs (Bawa et al 2008) and work with the principles of mutuality to create a collaborative platform across the global, continental, regional, national and local levels, with a special focus on the developing world. Only such a hybrid institution (German and Keeler 2010) can bring about such a situation. Creating such an institutional architecture could enhance the feasibility of GE

There is also strategic uncertainty in applying green economy theory especially to the developing world because of uncertainty about:

 The likelihood of adverse effects global environmental change;

 The consequences of change;

 The speed of change; and

 The effectiveness of policy instruments.

To effectively apply GE principles, it is essential to have a firm commitment and consensus on how the concept can be implemented. There are several existing international agreements in this vein, but they are not legally binding in their current form and lack clarity around a timeline for establishing a legally binding framework.

These concepts are still relatively new, but there is an urgent need to advance knowledge to foster more theoretical grounding for green paradigms. I believe that for GE to flourish, it should focus on beliefs about humanity’s ability to upset the balance of nature, the existence of limits to growth for human societies, and humanity’s right to rule over the rest of nature, which is one of the major gaps in the GE concept.

In particular, the GE philosophy should provide an equal platform for both South and North to manage the environment by creating an effective institutional structure, strong policy, and framework for policy implementation that can work effectively, efficiently, equitably and transparently within a global governance context. The task that lies before us, particularly of the developing world, where environmental problems are more severe, is to define this innovative and ambitious architecture and assure that it works for the developing world.


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Dr. Bhandari holds Ph.D. (sociology, Syracuse University, NY), Masters in Sociology and Sustainable International Development (Brandeis University, MA), United States; M.Sc. Environmental System Monitoring and Analysis (ITC-University of Twente, The Netherlands) and M.A. in Anthology, TU (Nepal) and has published many research papers in the international and national journals. Dr. Bhandari has spent most of his career focusing on the conservation of nature and natural resources, developing along the way expertise in global and international environmental politics, environmental institutions and governance, forest governance from the grassroots to the national level with a special focus on participatory management, climate change policy and implementation, environmental justice, and land cover and land use change.

Specialties: Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Adaptation, International environmental governance, Green Economy, Sustainability, and assess the economic, social and environmental impacts on the natural resources. My field experience spans across Asia, Africa, the U.S., Western Europe, Australia, and the Middle East.


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