Brazilian Society of Ecological Economics (ECOECO)
- Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
- Stakeholder type: Major Group
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The Brazilian Society of Ecological Economics-ECOECO, founded in 1994, is a regional society affiliated with the International Society for Ecological Economics ? ISEE. ECOECO is a nonprofit scientific society, whose aims are to build ecological economics as a field of study and transdisciplinary understanding on the interactions between society and nature, motivating academic debate and interaction with public policies. ECOECO held its 9th Biennial Conference in Brasília from Oct. 4-7, 2011, having as one of its principal lines of discussion, the potential for transition to a ?Green Economy?. This synthesis reflects on the discussion and makes recommendations for consideration during UNCSD (?Rio+20?).
1. Definitional issues: the ?Green Economy? and Decoupling in focus
1.1 In our view, Green Economy is not exactly a new concept, but rather a toolkit for sustainable development:it should be understood as a pragmatic effort to change the real economy so as to be in alignment (with) and serve as a promoter(for) sustainable development.
1.2 From the Ecological Economics perspective, the Green Economy is based on the ?Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC)?.As a reiteration of ?old? ideas in new clothing; it is a proposal to put in practice the technological effects and (sectoral) composition that it is supposed may be able to compensate for the ?scale? effect of economic growth in a finite world. An important difference from the EKC, is that it proposes political activism to accelerate the transition, to induce the construction of a ?tunnel? under the EKC, so as to improve human wellbeing and social equality and at the same time as it would significantly reduce the risks of environmental damage and limitations (UNEP, 2011).
1.3 Preoccupation with ?sustainable scale?is included in the green economy ?toolkit? in a very limited form, through the valuation of ecosystem services, internalization of environmental externalities and revision of the system of national accounts to signal tendencies of depletion of natural resources and loss of environmental quality. It would thus act as an ?EarlyWarning System? of potential collapse.
1.4 The transition to a Green Economy is not spontaneous: it is clear that ?business as usual? will be incapable of conducting the transition toward a green economy. On the contrary, such a transition will require substantial effort and engagement of all segments of society, in particular governments and private sector agents. It would demand, on the part of governments, that they level the playing field for ?greener? products through removal of perverse incentives, revision of policies and incentives, introducing new market and regulatory mechanisms, redirecting public investments and public acquisitions. On the private sector side, it is necessary to respond to these policy reforms through increased financing and investment, as well as capacity building and the ability to innovate to take advantage of the opportunities opened up by the green economy.
1.5 Decoupling:implies a significant separation of rates of economic growth and welfare improvement from rates of resource consumption and associated negative environmental impacts ? combined with resource productivity enhancement and increased eco-efficiency. These are resultantprocesses from the application of instruments proposed for the ?Green Economy Initiative?; that is, decoupling will arise from a profound change in the structure of economic incentives present in a given country.
2. Policy dimension: potential North-South, South-South and domestic conflicts
2.1 The contextof systemic crisis as an opportunity:as a consequence of a series of simultaneous crises (financial, economic, climatic, food security, energetic, ethical...), that configure a systemic crisis, debates and reflections have arisen throughout the world about the need for a new economy. This is an opportune moment to finally introduce into the economy.
2.2 Recognition that the transition for a green economy will not be neutral, since there wil be losers: despite the multiple synergies and focus on measures that can generate win-win outcomes, it should be recognized that the green economy also implies losses for some actors. It is necessary to undertake measures that protect workers and smooth the way toward green jobs.
2.3 North-South conflicts that can be stimulated by the Green Economy: since currently green technologies are the domain of only a few developed countries, it is important to be attentive that the green economy not be a source of increased international disparities. Some developed countries possess a series of advantages, such as human resource capacity, technological infrastructure, high R&D investment, consolidated and long-term finance mechanisms and existing economic incentives, etc. International cooperation and new and additional financing should be considered as mechanisms to impede that the green economy serve to introduce new sources of disparities. The transition to a green economy must become a strategy of endogenous development in less developed countries.
2.4 The impact of green technologies along the social dimension: our concern here is with the complementarity or conflict between technological market solutions (protected by intellectual property rights) and ?environmental social technologies? (adaptive, less sophisticated solutions in the public domain).It is necessary to evaluate carefully the impact of new green technologies on employment, both nationally and internationally so as not to exacerbate preexistent inequalities.
2.5 South-South conflicts that the Green Economy can generate: Southern nations are more and more heterogeneous. Brazil has moved closer to the BRICS and further from Latin America. It is necessary to create a means to favor the transition globally and minimize consequent losses.
2.6 Domestic conflicts that can be generated by the Green Economy:changes in the incentive structure of a country can benefit some and harm others. Losses must be minimized. How can Decoupling be conciliated with a commodity boom? How to internalize environmental costs without losing competitiveness?
The ?Green Economy Initiative? involves economic insterests through the market for environmenal technologies, but should not be confused with a proposal for economic liberalism; on the contrary, it should be clearly recognized the need for regulation, governmental interventions that allow a break with given existing technological trajectories to give space to new ecological technological trajectories.
The green economy has different meanings for developing and emergent economies. For the emergent, it means not only to continue growing with low impact, but also as an opportunity for endogenous development. In this sense, the obligations of Northern countries with those in the South in the name of the common good should contemplate technology transfer not as a return to neocolonialism, but involving an awareness of responsibility for environmental service payments as an ecological debt.
The operational dimension: how to promote transition for a green economy in Brazil
Transition policies should have as a goal the creastion of instruments with the objective to change the structure of incentives, but also, disincentives, so as to induce agents to consider environmental effects in their production and consumption decisions (internalize the externalities).
Education has to be a highest priority, principally basic education (fundamental and high school levels), including technical training. With regard to environmental education, its principal focus should be to influence demand, that is, to educate the consumer.
Economic policy should orient investment in pro-transition sectors in which Brazil has competitive advantages, and to define special public policies that for micro and small businesses, since large enterprises react to investor pressures and regulatory rules.For this, it is necessary to create incentive and eco-innovation mechanisms,which would have as a basis the conception of innovation mobilized by profits. Some strategies in this sense include: investment in win-win-win (social, economic andenvironmental) strategies; investment in social technologies ? already available, at low cost, with great local potential; promotion of policies of endogenous technological innovation and reverse logistics; and creation of a robust system of indicators that consider the environmental dimension.
Contribution of the scientific community (ECOECO)
The integration between scientific knowledge and development of new products, the articulation of scientific knowledge with theoretical-methodological qualification in the involved concepts are mechanisms that contribute to generate academic products consistent with reality and the needs of the economy as a whole. Examples of this are the TEEB and Green Economy studies conducted by UNEP; and studies on the costs and benefits of different market instruments and public policies that enable a transition to a green economy. Such engagement of ecological economics practitioners should be stimulated.