Green Economy: Is it the silver bullet to save the environment in a capitalist world?

It has been established by environmentalists that the current growth patterns are not sustainable; there is only one way forward-Turning to green economy for sustained growth.


By David Okul
May 16, 2019, Updated 6th May 2020

In general, the Green Economy is perceived as an alternative vision of growth and development. It focuses on improving people’s lives while incorporating sustainable development principles. There is no agreed definition for green economy, but at Silvica our definition is consistent with UNEP’s (Now UN Environment), which defines green economy as:

Green economy in Kenya
Green economy is cited as a feasible alternative way of sustainable development (Source, United Nation)

“ an economy that results in improved human well‐being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. It is low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive” (UNEP, 2011).

The common economic growth model focuses on increasing the gross domestic product (GDP) over other goals. Although the approach has yielded results in improving the income and reducing poverty for millions of people, it has also led to potentially irreversible social and environmental damages.  In theory, a green economy approach aims at protecting the planet while uplifting the people and maximizing the profits. We believe that the planet and the people come before the profits.

Why should we make an attempt for green economy?

Poverty is still rampant in the world. It is estimated that close to three billion people in the world are affected by poverty. Ironically, most parameters show that the economies of the world are increasing. In reality, economic growth is accompanied by a growing gap between the rich and the poor. Moreover, the current economic models have led close to 60% of the world’s ecosystem degraded or unsustainably used.

The persistent poverty and degradation of the environment can be attributed to a series of market and institutional failures that make the current economic models less effective. Economists know the markets and institutional failures but are reluctant to address them. For instance, there lack effective mechanisms to ensure polluters pay the full costs of pollution. As such, markets fail to account for inherent externalities of their production that affect the environment.

Many governments are embracing the principles of green economy. These countries are implementing policies that ensure that their economies become drivers of sustainability. For instance, Kenya launched the Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan (GESIP) on 27 July 2017. The blueprint would aid Kenya into the transition into a sustainable path in the thematic areas of infrastructure, natural resources management, resource efficiency, social inclusion, and sustainable livelihoods.

In essence, green economy includes the activities that assist in reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Human-produced carbon is the cause of probably the biggest environmental issue in our time; greenhouse gases and climate change.

Still, want to read more about the green economy and its related concept of Green growth and low-carbon development? Download the Guidebook on the link

The Development of Green economy after the Coronavirus Crisis should be a priority

Of course, we must contain the Covid-19 situation before we even think of resuming work. In the short term, the coronavirus has brought some positive impacts to the environment. If we continue our lives as business as usual, then most of the positive effects will be outdone. However, the situation also presents an opportunity for green growth.

The fact that some economies have crushed means that they can be rebuilt. This time around, we can create a system that is more environmentally sustainable and socially fairer. Even before the pandemic, there was momentum for a Green New Deal. Countries had recognized that developing a green economy is vital for resilient systems.

Some opportunities for the green economy after the coronavirus include;

  • Governments could finance green bonds. Such investments would favor the development of environmental-friendly projects like the renewable energy sector.
  • The coronavirus has exposed the nine-to-five workday. Employers see the possibilities of flexible working hours and the promise of remote working. The changes will have significant effects on carbon emission as transport is a significant emitter.
  • Apart from transport, decarbonization can also occur in the food sector. Many economies have realized that their food production relies significantly on exports. An inclusive green economy would promote local food production. Eventually, sourcing food locally reduces the carbon miles of food. It may also be healthier and cheaper.
  • In short, governments need to focus on strategies that would reduce carbon emissions. It is counterproductive to handle the coronavirus crisis now and create another problem, climate change, soon.

The green economy was an afterthought in the post-2008 economy recovery programs.  The world should not make the same mistake when developing recovery plans after the coronavirus. We believe that a green economy would even prevent further pandemics. After all, Covid-19 arose from poor environmental policy

David Okul is an environmental management professional with over 10 years experience on donor projects, conservation, forestry, ecotourism, and community-based natural resources management. When not working on my active environmental management projects, I spend my time writing for Silvica on a variety of topics. 

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Enthusiast

    I think cap-and-trade offers a better policy directions going forward. It guarantees reduced emissions

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