GREEN ECONOMY – Quarry of the time
Mizanur Rahman Bhuiyan
Founder, Notre Dame Nature Study Club
Chairman, Nature Study Society of Bangladesh (NSSB)
Green economy is the Economics of the world concerning work, human needs, the Earth’s materials, and how they mesh most harmoniously with each other. It is primarily about the “usage-value” and not the “exchange-value”; about the quality and not the quantity; about the regeneration of populations, communities, and ecosystems and not about the accumulation of money or materials.
EVOLUTION OF GREEN ECONOMY
The United Nations’ Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), well- known as the “Earth Summit” held on June 1992 at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, adopted fundamental principles and a programme of action called “Agenda 21” for the promotion of sustainable development. Following a review of progress in 1997, the United Nations General Assembly, reaffirming the Rio principles and its commitment to further implement the Agenda 21, decided to convene the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) on August/September 2002 at Johannesburg, South Africa, to find ways and means to fully implement the earlier decisions., The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) as it received renewed support from the WSSD, at its eleventh session (CSD11) held at New York on April/May 2003, decided to formulate a multi-year program of work beyond 2003 (ESCAP, 2003). In response to the financial and economic crisis, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) had called for a “Global Green New Deal” for reviving the global economy and boosting employment while simultaneously accelerating the fight against climate change, environmental degradation and poverty (UNEP, 2009). It invited the 20 most advanced economies to engage in a “Global Green New Deal” by investing at least 1% of their total GDP in promoting green economic sectors.
UNEP recommends that these economies give priority to investments focused on improving energy efficiency in new and existing buildings, stimulating renewable energy sources, and enhancing sustainable transport. The importance of inclusive growth with the creation of employment, decent work and livelihoods in the context of green economy were discussed thoroughly in several consultative meetings in the region on the UNCSD, including the High Level Symposium on the UNCSD organized in Beijing, 2008-09 and Sept. 2011; and the Ministerial Dialogue on the “Green Economy and Inclusive Growth”, New Delhi, 03-04 Oct. 2011 (ESCAP, 2011). It is widely anticipated that the Rio Conference will reaffirm Principle 123 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and Chapter-2 of “Agenda 21” to build a supportive and open global green economy and consider proposals to advance their implementation (UNCTAD, 2011).
It is true that the “Green Economy” is being promoted under auspices of heavily subsidized fiscal policy with the aid of improved technology in developed countries. Seven G20 countries (China, France, Germany, USA, Mexico, Republic of Korea, and South Africa) have announced green components in their stimulus packages, with as many as 10% to 20% range in the sector of railway infrastructure, construction of water infrastructure, sustainable development and land use management, sustainable transport, climate protection, energy efficient buildings, renewable energies, waste management etc. UNEP encourages the G20 Governments to maintain and even accelerate momentum on green investments in the stimulus packages. In response to this, China and South Korea stand out, however, with green investments that represent 34% and 78% of their stimulus packages, respectively (UNEP, 2009). However, as an agro-based nature dependent country like Bangladesh has huge potentials in capturing the benefits arising from different green economy sectors, such as renewable energy, waste management, agriculture, forestry, transportation etc.
Importance of Green Economy
The industrial or capitalist definition of wealth has always been about the accumulation of money and matter. Any use-values generated (i.e. social needs met) have been secondary—a side-effect, by-product, spin-off or trickle-down—to the primary goal of monetary accumulation. For two centuries, the quest to accumulate money or capital drove a powerful industrialization process that actually did spin off many human benefits, however unfairly distributed. But blind material and monetary growth has reached a threshold where it is generating more destruction than real wealth. A postindustrial world requires an economics of quality, where both money and matter are returned to a status of means to an end. Green economics means a direct focus on meeting human and environmental need.
Tinkering with money, interest rates, or even state regulation is insufficient in creating sensible economies. One can scarcely imagine a more inefficient, irrational, and wasteful way to organize any sector of the economy than what we actually have right now. Both the form and the content of sustainable agriculture, of green manufacturing, of soft energy, etc. are diametrically opposed to their current industrial counterparts, which are intrinsically wasteful. There is no justifiable rationale to be producing vast quantities of toxic materials; or generating more deskilled than skilled labor; or displacing labor rather than resources from production; or extending giant wasteful loops of production & consumption through globalization. These are economic inefficiencies, economic irrationalities that can only be righted by starting from scratch—to look at the most elegant and efficient ways of doing everything. As green economist Paul Hawken writes, our social and environmental crises are not problems of management, but of design. We need a system overhaul.
Green economy is not just about the environment. Certainly we must move to harmonize with natural systems, to make our economies flow benignly like sailboats in the wind of ecosystem processes. But doing this requires great human creativity, tremendous knowledge, and the widespread participation of everyone. Human beings and human workers can no longer serve as cogs in the machine of accumulation, be it capitalistic or socialistic. Ecological development requires an unleashing of human development and an extension of democracy. Social and ecological transformation goes hand-in-hand.
Green economics and green politics both emphasize the creation of positive alternatives in all areas of life and every sector of the economy. Green economics does not prioritize support for either the “public” or the “private” sector. It argues that BOTH sectors must be transformed so that markets express social and ecological values, and the state becomes merged with grassroots networks of community innovation. For this to happen, new economic processes must be designed and new rules of the game written, so that incentives for ecological conduct are built into everyday economic life. The state can then function less as a policeman, and more as a coordinator. This is a very different kind of “self-regulation” than current profit- and power- driven market forces. The basis for self-regulation in a green economy would be community, and intelligent design which provides incentives for the right things.
key dimensions of green economy
Here are ten interrelated principles that cover key dimensions of a green economy:
- The Primacy of Use-value, Intrinsic Value, and Quality: This is the fundamental principle of the green economy as a service economy, focused on end-use, or human and environment needs. Matter is a means to the end of satisfying real need, and can be radically conserved. Money similarly must be returned to a status as a means to facilitate regenerative exchanges, rather than an end in itself. When this is done in even a significant portion of the economy, it can undercut the totalitarian power of money in the entire economy.
- Following Natural Flows: The economy moves like a proverbial sailboat in the wind of natural processes by flowing not only with solar, renewable and “megawatt” energy, but with natural hydrological cycles, with regional vegetation and food webs, and with local materials. As society becomes more ecological, political and economic boundaries tend to coincide with ecosystem boundaries. That is, it becomes bioregional.
- Waste Equals Food: In nature there is no waste, as every process output is an input for some other process. This principle implies not only a high degree of organizational complementarily, but also that outputs and by-products are nutritious and non-toxic enough to be food for something.
- Elegance and Multi-functionality: Complex food webs are implied by the previous principle–integrated relationships which are antithetical to industrial society’s segmentation and fragmentation. What Roberts & Brandum (1995) call “economics with peripheral vision”, this elegance features “problem-solving strategies that develop multiple wins and positive side-effects from any one set of actions”.
- Appropriate Scale / Linked Scale: This does not simply mean “small is beautiful”, but that every regenerative activity has its most appropriate scale of operation. Even the smallest activities have larger impacts, however, and truly ecological activity “integrates design across multiple scales”, reflecting influence of larger on smaller and smaller on larger (Van der Ryn and Cowan, 1996).
- Diversity: In a world of constant flux, health and stability seem to depend on diversity. This applies to all levels (diversity of species, of ecosystems, of regions), and to social as well as ecological organization.
- Self-Reliance, Self-Organization, Self-Design: Complex systems necessarily rely on “nested hierarchies” of intelligence which coordinate among themselves in a kind of resonant dance. These hierarchies are built from the bottom up, and–in contrast to civilization’s social hierarchies–the base levels are the most important. In an economy which moves with ecosystem processes, tremendous scope for local response, design, and adaptation must be provided–although these local and regional domains must be attuned to larger processes. Self-reliance is not self-sufficiency, but facilitates a more flexible and holistic interdependence.
- Participation and Direct Democracy: To enable flexibility and resilience, ecological economic design features a high “eyes to acres” ratio (Van der Ryn & Cowan, 1996)–that is, lots of local observation and participation. Conversely, ecological organization and new information/communications technologies can provide the means for deeper levels of participation in the decisions that count in society.
- Human Creativity and Development: Displacing resources from production and tuning into the spontaneous productivity of nature requires tremendous creativity. It requires all-round human development that entails great qualities of nurture. These are qualities of givingand real service that have been suppressed (especially in men) by the social and psychological conditioning of the industrial order. In a green change – the personal, political, social, and ecological modifications go hand-in-hand. Social, aesthetic, and spiritual capacities become central to attaining economic efficiency, and become important goals in themselves.
- The Strategic role of the Built-environment, the Landscape, and Spatial Design: As permaculturalist, Bill Mollison has emphasized, the greatest efficiency gains can often be achieved by a simple spatial rearrangement of system components. Elegant, mixed-use integrated design which moves with nature is place-based. In addition, our buildings, in one way or another, absorb around 40 per cent of materials and energy throughput in North America. Thus, conservation and efficiency improvements in this sector impact tremendously on the entire economy.
Industry and Manufacturing
There is a common conception that manufacturing sector and nature are disproportionately related. In fact, this is true in conventional economic system where nature is considered as capital supplier and very little attention has been paid to environmental health than growth. Manufacturing sector consumes lion’s share of energy produced, hence emit carbon more than any other sectors. Bangladesh is not an industrialized country; however the emission from manufacturing sector is not negligible compared to other sectors. Yet, isolated efforts have been made to increase energy efficiency and implement conservation measures in some industrial facilities such as sugar mills, spinning mills, fertilizer factories, processing mills and cement mills. ‘Cogeneration’-very low installation costs, small size installations, suitable for rural areas- is another energy efficiency opportunity that has been piloted in several sugar factories and textile mills (Waste Concern, 2010c).
The Bangladesh Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) acknowledged the concept of 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) and proposed to promote these in order to improve upon hazardous and unsustainable waste management practices. Sixth Five Year Plan (2011) also emphasizes on measures toward management of wastes and generating electricity from waste for environment, climate change disaster management for sustained development. The opportunities for greening the waste sector come from three inter-related sources: 1) growth of the waste market, driven by demand for waste services and recycled products such as recycled paper, plastics, etc.; 2) increased scarcity of natural resources and the consequent rise in commodity prices, which positively promotes the demand for recycled products and the waste to energy (WtE); and 3) emergence of new waste management technologies (UNEP, 2011). Creation of new jobs in waste management sector is also a promising prospect. Waste Concern (2010b) estimates that composting urban waste and plastic waste recycling account for around 90,000 and 68,000 jobs respectively in Bangladesh.
Transportation sector is one the biggest sources of Green House Gases (GHGs).Even though man and car ratio in Bangladesh is very low compared to many countries, but in urban areas it is increasing alarmingly. More importantly, the urban environment has been experiencing untenable traffic jam due to inadequate roads and increased number of private cars, which results in decreasing valuable working hour along but increasing environmental degradation. Despite the challenges, there is a huge potentiality of making transportation sector greener and environment friendly. Bangladesh is well ahead in the road of green transportation. Government has increased tax on private car to encourage public transport sector and introduced Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as fuel alternative to petrol and diesel which could be regarded as important initiatives towards a green transportation system.
Forestry is now under critical scrutiny by both policy makers and practitioners with the increased attention to climate change. Its mitigation potentiality and financialization of nature has broadened the scope of utilization. However, risks persist on benefit distribution, whether real forest users would have access or market will determine the future of forest? With an increased focus to nature, nursery business, social forestry, agro-forestry afforestation, and reforestation could generate huge employment opportunity within the country. In addition, Bangladesh can collect money from international climate market through selling carbon stored in different natural forest under REDD+ (Reducing Emissions Avoided Deforestation and Degradation) framework. It is intriguing that Bangladesh has developed its „Green Development Program‟, which calls for an inclusion of donors and the private sector to work in collaboration with the government. Even though forestry is a less prioritized sector in terms of employment generation in Bangladesh, but ILO (2010) estimates that in the forestry sector as many as 2,8813 jobs may create annually under green economy framework.
Climate change adaptation
Climate change adaptation is one of the promising sectors of green economy in Bangladesh. Considering this, „Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF)‟ was initiated in 2009 with an initial budget of Tk. 7000 million. In FY 2010-11, 60 Government projects and 53 NGO projects were selected at a cost of Tk. 7,196.1 million and Tk. 213.4 million. By contrast, in FY 2011-12, Government included another 20 projects under 13 ministries now the total cost under BCCTF stands at Tk. 9,791.73million (MoEF, 2011). However, climate adaptation activities account for most of the identified environment-related jobs. On average nearly US$2 billion is spent on adaptation activities each year. These investments support around 1.7 million jobs across key sectors such as agriculture, water, construction, and public administration. Adaptation jobs are created in physical adaptive measures – flood protection, cyclone shelters and water efficient irrigation – and ‘soft’ measures, such as early warning systems for natural hazards and better guidelines, education and communication (ILO, 2010). Financial mechanisms, transfer of technology, skilled manpower, process of fund disbursement, inadequate allocation of climate change adaptation sector by government of Bangladesh etc. are major challenges in this sector.
Green economic conversion must be radical, but it must also be incremental and organic. How is this possible? Rodale cites the need for a kind of economic succession which mimics ecological landscape change. We need “pioneer enterprises” which can thrive in today’s hostile economic landscape, but also prepare the ground for more ecological and egalitarian enterprises to come. A vision of what each sector of the economy would look like in an ecological economy–based on the specifics of each place–is a starting point. This vision must be coupled with practical action in each of these sectors, gradually moving toward this vision. Enough practical activity can eventually generate the impetus for state action to level the playing field for ecological alternatives.
The green economy has ambivalent implications for Bangladesh. Some sectors could run well under green economy framework such as forestry, tourism, transportation, water resources management etc. Conversely, cautious approach is needed in implementing green economy principle in agriculture sector since production may reduce initially in extensive farming which may create a temporary food crisis for a land deficit country like Bangladesh. It does not mean that we should continue environmentally destructive mechanized agriculture forever, rather we should start green agriculture now, may be in a limited scale that can be replicated as wider scale in future. Equally, we have to be careful about equity and justice issue. The benefits arisen from green economy should be distributed following the principle of equity and justice.
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