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   Wednesday, January 17, 2018
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Greed eyeing green
By Sudhirendar Sharma



Is green capitalism a distraction from the real issues that the world needs to address to realize sustainable development?


Designs to create a green economy are driven by greed

Henk Manschot, a Professor of Ethics and Sustainable Development at the Kosmopolis Institute in the Netherlands, shocked a global gathering at a conference in the Hague late last year when he revealed how ‘global footprint’ increases as people move up the human development index. As people consume resources to go up on the index, their ecological footprint stretches on additional hectares of land on the planet. ‘If the resource poor billion plus were to gain improved access to basic services such as health, education and portable water, the planet will run out of its hectares,’ warned Manschot.

The warning is imminent although there is no international consensus on how to reach out to the deprived billions. While global food security has yet to be achieved, the outlook for freshwater scarcity and improved sanitation looks bleak. Collectively, these crises are severely impacting the possibility of sustaining prosperity to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for reducing extreme poverty. Top it with growing fossil fuel and energy demand and the cup of woes will spill over like a never-before tsunami of unprecedented nature. The signs are ominous!

Forty years since Stockholm and twenty years following the Rio Summit, the world has slipped backwards on its race to alleviate poverty and on its efforts to reverse the ecological decline. Conversely, obsession with capitalist model of development has acerbated social instability, economic insecurity and job losses. While some of the biggest western-style economies are dragging the global economy with their sovereign debt dramas, the developing world's obsession with economic growth is leading to deepening of the ecological crises.

To pull the planet from the current mess, world leaders will get back to the drawing board yet again. Knowing well that none of their previous commitments to sustainable development have worked, the congregation at Rio in June 2012 will carve out a new global agenda for survival of mankind. Though global climate negotiations have already hit a road block, the leaders are taking a detour to charter a ‘green economy’ pathway aimed at getting the planet back on track. While ‘green' as a colour seems promisingly soothing, its contents are fuzzy and somewhat contentious.

In its simplest expression, a green economy is low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive. In a green economy, growth in income and employment should be 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. The crucial question remains: isn't ‘green economy’ pathway more appropriate for the debt-ridden western economies that have the onus of generating more jobs for their disgruntled youth?

Why is the developed world, obsessed with the idea of ‘greed economy’, is thrusting its new capitalist variant - green economy - on the growing economies? Is it a calculated move to pin down the growing differences between the north and the south with a green business model?

Why is the developed world, obsessed with the idea of ‘greed economy’, is thrusting its new capitalist variant - green economy - on the growing economies? Is it a calculated move to pin down the growing differences between the north and the south with a green business model? If fine print on two major studies, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) and Green Economy Report (GEC), commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is anything to go by, it is a new way of measuring and valuing natural resources.

Reportedly drafted by an investment banker on sabbatical from Deustsche Bank, these reports have defined the contours of a green economy.

Providing precise measuring and valuing techniques, the reports attach a price tag to all ecosystem services from agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors such that these can be traded in the emerging green markets. On offer on other shelves would be ‘eco-efficient technologies’ that the developed world will barter in exchange for carbon credits that will accrue from such transactions.

It has warned that the new forms of mercantilism and speculation being proposed could further despoil nature while entrenching existing injustices. Can the same bankers, who have not been able to manage the largest financial crises, be believed to manage the planet?

It has been estimated that transition to green prescription will cost the global economy an average annual investment of no less than US$ 1.3 trillion. How will such an investment ever get made? One would doubt if the proposed green prescriptions will deliver a greenwash on the old ‘greed economy’ by innovative market mechanisms that will trade emissions for carbon credits and green technologies. Developing countries are already being lured into such a system, as the Rio+20 summit prepares itself to firm up new institutional mechanisms for a green deal.

Back home, government's intentions on switch to a green economy is mere eyewash. Whereas it has been acknowledged that nearly a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions is attributed to land use changes (agriculture and deforestation), the National Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Bill 2011 is hinged on the inevitability of urbanization a'la land use change. Cities not only account for 75 per cent of energy consumption but 75 per cent of carbon missions as well, and for the first time in history more than half of the world population lives in urban areas.

Bolivia, perhaps the only country that is vocal on the ambiguities of a green economy, has charged green capitalism as a distraction from the real issues that the world needs to address to realize sustainable development. It has warned that the new forms of mercantilism and speculation being proposed could further despoil nature while entrenching existing injustices. Can the same bankers, who have not been able to manage the largest financial crises, be believed to manage the planet? Your guess is as good as mine!

 
Disclaimer:
The views expressed above are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of d-sector editorial team.
 

Sudhirendar Sharma  |  sudhirendarsharma@gmail.com

Dr Sudhirendar Sharma is an environmentalist and development analyst based in New Delhi. Formerly with the World Bank, Dr Sharma is an expert on water, a keen observer on climate change dynamics, and a critic of the contemporary development processes.

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 Other Articles by Sudhirendar Sharma in
Environment Development  > Conservation > International policies and programmes

Price-tag for ties with nature?
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

By ignoring the cultural dimension of climate change adaptation, the capital centric efforts through economic valuation of nature and people's relations with it, will alter forever peoples' attitude towards it.

Carbon Crunching
Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The World Bank has signed an agreement with the state government of Himachal Pradesh for the largest carbon revenue project. However, the conditions of the agreement indicate that instead of putting the carbon revenue mechanism to the competitive advantage of the stakeholders, such projects continue to serve the interest of the clients.
 
 Other Articles in Environment Development
 
 
Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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