A partnership with academia

Building knowledge for trade and development

Vi Digital Library - Text Preview

The Road to Rio+20 - For a Development-led Green Economy: Volume 1

Book by UNCTAD, 2011

Download original document (English)

This volume of essays provides a series of real world references for governments, businesses and civil society on approaches to the Green Economy. This issue also addresses gaps in implementation with one essay providing a 'historical perspective' tracing four decades of high and low points in the environment and development debate.

New York and Geneva, 2011


E +1 9 9 2 2 0 1 2

For a development-led green economy


Editorial team
Gilles Chevalier
Daniel De La Torre U.
Robert Hamwey
Henrique Pacini
Daniel Spiro

33 www.tooft.com
80 Nigel Bruce/Practical Action
89 Michael Evans
91 www.evacanta.com




Photo Credits, by page

The Road to Rio+20
For a development-led green economy

Special thanks go to the authors for contributing their work to this publication.
The team wishes to also express its gratitude to Mr Yann Arthus-Bertrand and
Mr Günter Fischer for providing so graciously their photographs.


Project Director
Lucas Assunção

Günter Fischer

Division Director
Guillermo Valles

Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Project Coordinator
Eugenia E. Nuñez

UN Photo
4 Evan Schneider
6 Rick Bajornas
13 Martine Perret
16 Eskinder Debebe
18 Michos Tzovaras
19 Evan Schneider
22 Marco Castro
26 Mark Garten
44 Eskinder Debebe
78 John Isaac
81 Mukunda Bogati
82 Ray Witlin
86 Teddy Chen
87 Yutaka Nagata
90 Michos Tzovaras
95 Sophia Paris
96 Kibae Park
97 Marco Dormino
98 Jackie Curtis
98 Lucien Rajaonina

Chris M. Simpson


Graphic Design
Andrés Carnevali P.

Technical Support
Rafe Dent
Lalen Lleander

United Nations Office
at Geneva (UNOG)

Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Günter Fischer
UN Photo

All rights reserved. Copyright © United Nations, 2011








The authors of the articles are solely responsible for their contributions.
The views expressed should therefore not be attributed to UNCTAD,
any other institution or Member State.
The presentation of material do not imply the expression of any position
whatsoever on the part of the UNCTAD secretariat concerning the
legal status of any country, territory, city or area, or of its authorities;

the delimitation of the frontiers or boundaries of any country
or territory, or the endorsement of any commercial firm or product.
Material (excluding photographs) may be freely quoted or reprinted,
but full acknowledgement is requested. A copy of the publication
containing the quotation or reprint should be sent to the UNCTAD
secretariat, attention to: Director, Division of International Trade in

Goods and Services, and Commodities, E.8011, Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland.
Photographs are the property of photographers and were made
available thanks to their generosity. They are used without
commercial purposes. The publisher has made every effort to trace
copyright holders.

Readers of the first volume of
essays in the series the 'Road
to ' will recall that the
collection looked back at the
origins and possible approaches
to the 'Green Economy'.
It debated its possible impacts
on trade, the economy and
development and gave voice
to those who support and
those who are not convinced
or oppose the concept.
Further, it assessed potential
outcomes and illustrated the
path of one country towards
green solutions to low carbon
dependency, economic growth
and employment.

The present volume, rather
than responding to the questions
of 'what?' and 'why?', is
primarily concerned with the
question 'how?'. It provides a
series of real world references
for governments, businesses
and civil society; what we refer
to in this volume as

. Questions of the
validity of 'green economy'
concept as a motor for
development, contested in the
previous series, are illustrated
here by national and corporate
experiences, and by insights
from research.

This issue also addresses gaps
in implementation with one
essay providing a 'historical
perspective' tracing four
decades of high and low points
in the frequently contentious
and acrimonious environment
and development debate. It
argues that that the debate’s
main themes are as current
today as they were 40 years ago.

What are potential pathways
for governments to enable the
Green Economy in accordance
with their development

priorities? A number of essays in
this volume attempt to respond,
at least in part, to that question,
for example, by discussing
the kind of support policies
and investment levels needed.
Others sound a cautionary
note in their analysis of why
governments predisposed to a
green agenda have nevertheless
failed to match goodwill with
performance. One essay argues
that governance for a green
economy should be based on the
'think global, act local' model,
where people see tangible
results within their community,
city, region or state such as
green job creation from green
initiatives enacted through sub-
national authorities.

For some authors, will
provide a historic opportunity
to promote a new green growth
model, technical innovation,
and job creation, working to
enhance not only GDP but
critical social and environmental
objectives as well. is
also expected to provide new
trading opportunities, not only
for green goods and services but
more broadly for all products
integrating sustainability
and fair trade criteria. People
and consumers, it is generally
agreed, are prepared to pay
more for products when they
know that its producers in
developing countries are not
being subjected to a ‘race to
the bottom’ in competitive
pricing but, on the contrary,
that they are being correctly

A number of major obstacles
exist, most notably access to
green finance, especially in
the current economic climate,
with some authors identifying
the need to create a large-
scale climate finance network.

The lack of access to credit in
developing countries with rich
untapped energy potential
condemns them to remain in
the fossil fuel trap. Some
authors see trade liberalization
and open markets in renewable
technologies as a means of
driving down energy costs,
along with a credible pipeline
of projects to lure investors.

A possible response may be a

with the role of business, the
innovator, clearly distinguished
from that of government, the
enabler. The approach entails
seizing opportunities from
strategic partnerships and
novel financing mechanisms to
develop renewable technologies,
notably wind and solar,
alternative fuels, or as in one
essay presents, compost-based
fertilizers created from city

As for green business models,
the Clean Revolution is seen as
a means of achieving economic,
environmental and social
sustainability through smart,
clean, low-carbon technology
and new profitable business
practices. In the largely
optimistic but balanced view of
the green economy outlined in
this volume, it is nevertheless
recognized that environmental
goals will require a shared vision
of a better future by political,
business and civil society

A consensus that is fair,
inclusive and disallow green
protectionism can become
a driver in support to the
enabler (governments) and
the innovator (business)
and pave the way for a better
future for civil society.



1 9 9 2 > 2 0 1 2


The green economy and developing
countries: towards a development-centred
and inclusive transition
Supachai Panitchpakdi

Towards a green economy:
moving from concept to reality
Achim Ste iner

Rio+20: opportunities and
obstacles for the developing world
H. El izabeth Thompson

Sustainable strategies, technologies,
processes and products
Tuls i Tanti

Subnational governments can lead
the way to a green economy
Terr y Tamminen and
Chr istophe Nuttal l

Greening the economy
through fairtrade:
a model that works
Michael Kwame Nkonu
and Mart in Rohner

Canada struggles to move towards
a green economy
Ani l Hira and
Chr istopher Kukucha

Greening the global economy through
open markets and skills transfer
Peter Brun

A compass towards a
greener economy
Luiz Eduardo Fróes do Amaral Osor io
and Paulo Bento Maffe i de Souza

1 37


17 51

23 55

29 59


The clean revolution:
a vision for a better,
cleaner, more prosperous world
Mark Kenber

Time to reflect, refocus, reinvigorate
Michael Liebre ich

1 2Government, the green enabler Green business, green profits


Europe is leading by example
- green economy offers opportunities
and benefits for all
Connie Hedegaard

Towards green business - financing
organic waste composting in Bangladesh
If tekhar Enayetul lah and
A.H. Md. Maqsood Sinha

Green energy for development in Nepal
Semida Si lve i ra
Br i jesh Mainal i and
Di l ip Khatiwada

Environment and development
on the eve of Rio+20 / Stockholm+40:
continuity of policy themes and
Branis lav Gosovic

Social policy, participation
and the transition to
a green economy
Sarah Cook, Peter Utt ing and
Kiah Smith

69 85



3 4

issue 2
november 2011

Green transitions around
the world

Going green: history
and social implications


Government, the green enabler

The green economy and
developing countries: towards
a development-centred and
inclusive transition
Supachai Panitchpakdi

Towards a green economy:
moving from concept to reality
Achim Ste iner

Rio+20: opportunities and obstacles
for the developing world
H. El izabeth Thompson

Subnational governments can lead
the way to a green economy
Terr y Tamminen and
Chr istophe Nuttal l

Canada struggles to move towards
a green economy
Ani l Hira and
Chr istopher Kukucha







n December 2009 the United Nations General Assem-
bly adopted a decision to organize the United Nations
Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janei-
ro in 2012. The Conference seeks to secure renewed polit-
ical commitment for sustainable development, assessing
progress to date and remaining gaps in the implementa-
tion of the outcomes of the major conferences on sus-
tainable development, and addressing new and emerging
challenges. Specifically, the Conference will examine how
a global transition to a green economy can help us man-
age our global commons and meet the challenges before
us. It is widely anticipated that the Rio Conference will
reaffirm Principle 12 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Envi-
ronment and Development, and Chapter 2 of Agenda 21
to build a supportive and open global green economy, and
consider proposals to advance their implementation.

Now, with the 2012 Rio Conference just months away, it
is important to reflect on why sustainable development
is such a defining issue of our time; what constitutes a
green economy in the context of sustainable develop-
ment and poverty eradication; and how such an economy
can help us address the urgent environmental, social and
economic problems we face. It should be emphasized that
the concept of a green economy itself remains unclear for
many. Moreover, some governments have concerns that a
transition to a green economy may not generate net gains

for their countries. While the debate over the develop-
ment prospects of a green economy continue, it is clear
that a transition to a green economy must be carefully
designed and managed so that it is able to generate gains
for all, across and within countries.

UNCTAD believes that the Rio Conference provides a
critical opportunity for all countries, developed and de-
veloping alike, to define and shape a green economy that
can attract wide interest by generating new investments,
income sources and jobs among countries of varied levels
of development. Ideally, the Conference will elaborate a
plan of action defining actors, actions, responsibilities and
an effective institutional framework in order to advance
an inclusive and development-led green economy. This
article aims to present what we at UNCTAD believe are
key issues and considerations that need to be taken into
account in the Conference deliberations. It argues that
sustainable development is an imperative rather than an
option; describes the role of states and markets in a tran-
sition to a green economy; highlights the role of trade in
advancing a green economy; and examines developing
countries’ need for technical and financial assistance. In
concluding, ideas are suggested on what UNCTAD can
do to help developing countries secure development
gains from a green economy.

1Supachai Panitchpakdi

The green economy
and developing countries:
towards a development-centred
and inclusive transition


2 Sustaining human development
and advancing social goals

The introduction of modern technologies in the mid-
1800s ushering in the industrial revolution extended
the frontier of human development by improving living
standards for a growing world population. Social benefits
include improved access to food, water, energy, trans-
portation, housing, health and education services, and,
closing the circle, the economic growth and employment
opportunities their production provides. However, with
ever increasing levels of fossil fuel and natural resource
consumption needed to accelerate and spread the ben-
efits of our technological revolution, we now recognize
that in recent decades human development has pushed
the planet as a whole past limits of environmental stabil-
ity. This is resulting in adverse global change: a warmer
more volatile climate, stressed water supply, land degra-
dation, depleted forests, and scarcities of the natural re-
sources needed to continue fueling our modern society.
These and other emerging environmental problems now
impose significant and increasing stress on social and eco-
nomic systems, limiting our ability to advance national
and international development goals. Neglecting to ef-
fectively manage pollution, waste and over-consumption
of natural resources is no longer an option. Moreover,
when considering roles and responsibilities in redressing
global environmental problems, it is important to take
into account equity concerns both among and within
countries and in relation to their current and historical
contribution to environmental degradation and excessive
resource use.

As a society we thus face a major challenge: finding a way
to continue to advance social development while ensuring
that the global commons can be sustained to the benefit
of current and future generations. How can society meet
this challenge? Some have argued that we should moder-
ate economic growth. But this is not an acceptable option.
Why? Because economic growth to reach higher levels of
world output is required both to meet the consumption
needs of a growing global population and to create much
needed jobs and reduce poverty for the world’s poor. Oth-
ers have suggested that we manage population. However,
already at existing population levels current production
and consumption patterns are environmentally unsus-
tainable. Technological progress and an active develop-
mental state to increase resource efficiency thus emerges
as a critical way to achieve the objective of sustaining

continued economic and population growth while at the
same time decreasing the adverse externalities of future
production and consumption processes.

A key thrust of the green economy concerns unlocking
technological progress. Not for its own sake, but to stabi-
lize natural and environmental systems so that economic
and social objectives can continue to be advanced. It aims
to identify and promote new approaches to stimulate
and diffuse technological progress to steer our economy
towards an economically, socially and environmentally
sustainable trajectory. It is not only about hard technolo-
gies – the equipment and hardware we use to produce
goods and services – but also about the soft technologies
– the production processes and consumption patterns we
adopt in our economies and lifestyles.

Importantly, to become politically and economically vi-
able, the green economy must represent much more than
simply green washing the global economy. Beyond im-
proving the economy’s environmental performance and
sustainability, the green economy must be development-
led whilst addressing current social and economic imbal-
ances within and among countries. It should improve liv-
ing standards across and within countries by generating
new employment opportunities for the poor and enhanc-
ing their access to basic services such as energy, water,
housing, transportation, communications, healthcare
and education. It calls therefore for an active develop-
ment state committed to enabling a more equitable tran-
sition to a green economy.

The green economy also seeks to be inclusive. All coun-
tries urgently need ‘green’ technologies to combat climate
change, preserve biodiversity, reduce pollution and con-
serve natural resources wisely. And all countries require
the economic growth and jobs that the green economy
will promote going forward. No population group should
be marginalized from a full and beneficial participation in
a global green economy.

Certainly most would agree that prompt and effective ac-
tions need to be taken by the international community as
the world economy struggles with acute environmental
and natural resource constraints. And although countries
have varied capacities to respond to the challenges of sus-
tainable development, all share a vision that our global
commons must be effectively managed so that the needs
of current and future generation can be met. At the same

We face a major challenge: finding
a way to continue to advance

social development while
ensuring that the global commons

can be sustained


human capital needed to structurally transform their
economies. To fill these gaps, international coopera-
tion will be essential in providing capacity building, fa-
cilitating technology transfer and coordinating financial

Whatever international mechanisms may be agreed
upon to support the transition to a green economy, they
must refrain from imposing new conditionalities on, and
distortions in international trade, development coopera-
tion and financial assistance. They should also avoid im-
posing a ‘one-size-fits-all’ template that fails to account
for countries’ different starting points and diverse devel-
opment priorities. Furthermore, international economic
and environmental agreements must provide develop-
ing countries with sufficient flexibility to sequence and
implement rules and modalities that will be adopted.

The Conference will recognize that countries are at dif-
ferent levels of development and will therefore move to-
wards the green economy transition at different speeds.
Thus, in accordance with the Rio principles, any agreed
approach on how to move forward should offer countries
appropriate levels of international support to help build
their financial, technical and human capacities and their
need to advance at different paces, respecting their level
of development.

The trade dimension

No one country is positioned to supply all of the goods
and services needed in a green economy. Trade thus has
a unique and central role to play in ensuring an inclu-
sive transition to a green economy. By bridging national
markets, trade facilitates the diffusion of green goods
and services across borders. While trade allows countries
to import green products that are not produced domes-
tically in sufficient quantity, it also allows countries to
accrue export gains for those green products that they
produce competitively.

Indeed a green economy transition is already underway
and this is reflected in markets. At the firm level, Cor-
porate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting, which in-
cludes environmental as well as social equity concerns,
is now practiced by over 2,000 corporations in over 90
countries; a figure up from virtually zero at the time of
the 1992 Rio Summit. Moreover, the number of firms
with ISO 14001 environmental management certification
rose from under 40,000 in 2000 to over 200,000 from over
150 countries in 2009; and over 40 per cent of registered
firms are in developing countries.2 The move towards
environmental management by private and state firms
parallels momentum towards a green economy transi-
tion that is evident from market trends in a wide range of
sectors such as energy, agriculture, forestry and services
among others.

time, state and private actors must mount an increas-
ingly effective response to global challenges not as an act
of altruism, but to protect their shared interest in pre-
serving the global commons in order to sustain their own
national social and economic prospects; both public and
private. Building on this momentum, the Rio Conference
aims to reaffirm political commitment for urgent action
and strengthened international cooperation to ensure an
inclusive green economy transition that is truly global in
scope. In other words, Rio+20 should open the door for
a new era of development-led globalization, which effec-
tively addresses current environmental, economic and
social imbalances.

Stimulating the green economy transition

It is evident that a successful transition to a development-
led and inclusive green economy will not be automatic.
Establishing effective frameworks to durably support the
development of the green economy will require reforms
at the national and international levels. National policies
and actions are needed to stimulate and mature green
economy markets, while at the international level, in-
stitutional structures are required to ensure developing
countries derive attractive benefits from engaging in a
global transition. The latter must therefore provide for
effective technology transfer, financial assistance and
safeguarding of market access to new green markets as
well as continued access to existing markets as they be-
come greener going forward.

At the national level, an active role for the state emerges
as critical in ensuring an accelerated and fair transition.
Governments have regulation and incentive-based in-
struments as levers to promote the transition in their
domestic economies. Direct support will also be essen-
tial in the early stages of a transition, including through
grant and subsidy support to green technology research
and development activities, and to productive activities
in green goods and services sectors. In addition, govern-
ment procurement can ensure a base market needed to
sustain green start-up industries. Government support
for a green economy is already a reality. In 2009 almost
USD 200 billion of green stimulus spending – in the form
of subsidies and government procurement – began to be
disbursed globally in 2009 and by early 2010, over 100
countries, developed and developing, had some policies
in place to promote the use and dissemination of renew-
able energy.1 Finally, beyond regulation and incentives,
information dissemination campaigns to facilitate the
choices of consumers and businesses will also be essen-
tial in enabling the transition.

While policies and actions are needed at the national lev-
el to design and drive a green economy transition, they
are also essential at the international policy level to steer
the transition and spread it globally. The latter requires
addressing significant challenges facing many develop-
ing countries that lack sufficient financial, technical and


Recognizing the dynamic growth of nascent green econ-
omy markets, firms in both developed and developing
countries are pursuing expanded export opportunities
for green goods such as efficient and renewable energy
technologies, cleaner production technologies, sustain-
ably produced agricultural, biodiversity including timber
and fisheries products, as well as for green services such as
ecotourism. Given the wide variety of goods and services
emphasized in a green economy, developing countries
should be able to identify export opportunities for green
goods and services for which they have comparative ad-
vantages in production and implement strategies to en-
hance productive capacity in relevant sectors.

Trade volumes of environmental goods and services are
expected to grow substantially, in a dynamic way with an
annual growth rate exceeding that of world trade.6 Com-
bined with growing demand from industry and consum-
ers, the global market in low-carbon and energy efficient
technologies is projected to nearly triple from USD 800
billion today to USD 2.2 trillion in 2020, implying global
annual market growth 11 per cent from 2010-2020. This
could provide developing countries with many new export
opportunities, however, they require capacity-building
assistance to identify opportunities they are well-placed
to seize and build their respective export capacities.

And while it is already clear that trade can transmit green
economy benefits among countries, it is also evident that
current trade patterns will be impacted in various ways in
a greening global economy. The green economy may pose
threats to market access for developing countries due to
changes in the global marketplace. Such changes include
greening national regulation, standards, government pro-
curement, industrial policy, private standards and buying
patterns of consumers.

Specifically, national policy reforms designed to support a
green economy may lead to the introduction of stringent
environmental and social standards that restrict imports
of many ‘brown’ goods currently exported by develop-
ing countries. Such restrictions could include bans on
non-complying products and border carbon adjustments
(BCAs) that impose ‘taxes’ on imports based on the en-
vironmental footprint of their production and transport.
At the same time, the multiplicity of private standards
in the market makes it difficult for consumers to make
informed consumption choices. Improved, transparent

Within the energy sector, global growth rates in renew-
able energy sources contributing to world primary ener-
gy supply now greatly exceeds growth rates in fossil fuel
based energy sources. Since 1990, annual growth in solar,
wind and biofuel supply capacity has averaged 42, 25 and
15 per cent respectively, compared to the rate of only 1.3
per cent for oil.3 The increase in renewable energy ca-
pacity is reflected in recent investment trends. In 2010,
USD 211 billion was invested in renewable energy supply,
more than 5 times the amount invested in 2004.4 And for
the first time, developing countries surpassed developed
countries in new spending on utility-scale renewable en-
ergy projects and provision of equity capital for renew-
able energy companies; USD 72 billion was invested in
developing countries versus USD 70 billion in developed

As within the energy sector, production in the agriculture
and forestry sectors is also greening. The global market
for organic food and beverage products is projected to
reach USD 60 billion this year; a more than three-fold ex-
pansion from 2000 levels. Organic farming is practiced
on 37 million hectares in 160 countries; a nearly four-fold
increase over the past decade. Increases in organic farm-
land are occurring predominantly in developing countries
to respond to growth in demand in developed country
markets. Developing countries are also increasing their
presence in sustainably harvested timber products mar-
kets. Globally, forest land area certified by the Forestry
Stewardship Council has increased seven-fold over the
past decade to reach nearly 140 million hectares in 2010,
with developing countries’ share of this total rising to
about 20 per cent.

Momentum towards a green economy is also present in
the services sector. Ecotourism is projected to capture
25 per cent of global tourism revenues in 2012, with in-
ternational tourists spending USD 240 billion in ecotour-
ism destinations the majority of which are in developing
countries. Cross-border investments in green economy
activities are also on the rise. Over the past decade, the
global carbon market has grown from infancy to become
a major world market today. Its value rose from only USD
11 billion in 2005 to USD 142 billion in 2010. Much of this
market, USD 120 billion, involves emissions trading among
developed countries, but CDM projects in 81 developing
countries supported investments worth USD 20 billion in

No one country is positioned
to supply all of the goods
and services needed in a

green economy


table for technical discussions on focused issues by a
broad range of stakeholders, including governmental and
non-governmental representatives. The Forum would
not be a formal negotiation venue but rather a platform
for science-based discussions aimed at building con-
sensus and greater coherence between trade policy and
green economy initiatives. Sessions would be convened
regularly and would be demand-based addressing topics
reflecting the expressed interests of member states. Fo-
rum topics would be announced well in advance to allow
the fullest participation of interested stakeholders.

By reframing discussions from conflict resolution to con-
flict prevention, the Forum could serve a pre-emptive
function reducing the burden of cases seeking formal arbi-
tration. It would aim to provide the best possible informa-
tion to governments, corporations, civil society, general
public, and international organizations on the issues that
either cause or have the potential to generate conflict be-
tween parties in the transition to the green economy. As a
key objective, the Forum could identify areas of common
understanding to reduce the need for parties to seek me-
diation or formal dispute settlement. Rather than finding
solutions to compensate a complainant, the Forum could
enhance the ability of the parties involved in trade-related
green economy conflicts to find cooperative approaches
towards their resolution. For example, enhanced finan-
cial and capacity-building support could be provided to
developing countries affected by new green standards to
enable them to meet such standards, or specific subsidy
support provided to firms in high-income countries could
be predicated on those firms including a share of develop-
ing country content in their supported green technology
R&D or production activities.

At the Rio Conference, the international community
could explore ways to help developing countries pre-
serve their market access in a greening global economy,
and to explore options to strike a balance between allow-
ing countries sufficient policy space for industrial policy
needed to support their beneficial transition to a green
economy and creation of new markets therein. Equally
important, the Conference should examine how to pro-
tect developing countries from the threat of new green
protectionism, including through constructive consen-
sus-building mechanisms.

and harmonized information for consumers could thus
increase access to green markets by small developing
country producers and enhance overall eco-efficiency of
consumption. International cooperation will be essential
to support developing countries seeking to sustain and
deepen their participation in world trade, not only for
goods and services that are inherently ‘green’ but more
generally for all goods and services that are progressively
becoming ‘greener’. Provisions providing differential
treatment for developing countries, including adequate
adjustment periods for meeting new green standards in
international trade, will be essential.

Countries’ national industrial policies to promote a green
economy by providing domestic firms with grants, sub-
sidies and favorable treatment for taxes and government
procurement can also reduce developing country market
access. While the potential impacts of a greening global
economy on trade can be clearly identified, it is not clear
to what extent they will give rise to new forms of green
protectionism. However, there are already initial indica-
tions that concerns over green protectionism are emerg-
ing in some key markets. For instance, Japan and the EU
have raised objections to Canada’s (Province of Ontario)
requirements for domestically produced renewable en-
ergy equipment in its feed-in tariff programme, and the
United States has raised concerns about China’s subsidies
that support domestic producers of wind turbines. The
potential for conflict between governments’ national
policies to support a green economy and its multilateral
trade obligations strongly suggests that a transition will
have to be effectively managed at the international level
to prevent and resolve conflicts that may emerge. If not,
genuine and legitimate efforts to promote a more sustain-
able and responsible green economy can be impaired by
commitments made in other spheres of global economic

International cooperation could help countries iden-
tify and adopt innovative and constructive approaches
to resolving potential conflicts before they become trade
restricting and worsen into a trade dispute, and impor-
tantly, before economic damage occurs. Towards realiz-
ing this goal, a mechanism for international cooperation
on trade-related green economy challenges could be es-
tablished through a solution-oriented ‘Forum on Green
Economy and Trade’. This Forum could serve as a round-

The global market in low-carbon
and energy efficient technologies

is projected to nearly triple
from USD 800 billion today to

USD 2.2 trillion in 2020


The central role of technology

Since technological progress is the motor of a green
economy, prompt and effective technology transfer will
be critical in promoting a global green economy transi-
tion. UNCTAD’s Technology and Innovation Report of
2011 identifies key issues in renewable energy technolo-
gies and innovation capacity in developing countries with
a clear focus on sustainable development and poverty
reduction. While best available technologies need to be
improved upon, and new technologies developed, to en-
sure environmentally sustainable growth going forward,
we need not wait for improved technologies to accelerate
progress on sustainable development. Even with today’s
state of technological development a lot can be done to
improve the environmental performance and limit the
material intensity of production and consumption activi-
ties. Over the short-term there is an immediate need to
more widely disseminate best available technologies for
cleaner and more efficient production and consumption.
Concerted policy support is required to enable natural
innovation, transfer and adoption of these technologies,
given their greater efficiency in resource use and contri-
bution to sustainable development.

A key industrial sector of the green economy is renewable
energy equipment and production. According to a joint
report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and UNEP, this
sector received investments amounting to USD 211 billion
in 2010, or 1.5 per cent of all investments reported in that
year. The forerunners in capital attraction were wind and
solar power, however, to achieve production efficiencies
both rely on economies of scale which lie beyond produc-
tive capacities of most but not all developing countries.
Indeed a number of emerging economies have increased
their presence in renewable energy industries. Renew-
able energy technologies such as solar panels and wind
turbines are among the manufactures seeing the sharp-
est rise in production. Developing countries have made
significant progress in supplying global markets for these
products; their share of world exports increased from 20
per cent in 2002 to 53 per cent in 2009.7 China is now
the world’s biggest producer of solar photovoltaic panels.
Similarly in the wind power market, China is the world’s
top producer of wind turbines followed closely by India in
third place. In the biofuels market, developing countries
account for over 40 per cent of world bioethanol produc-
tion and 12 per cent of world biodiesel production. Top

producers are Brazil, China, India, Colombia, Republic of
Korea, Thailand and Malaysia.

There is an expanding opportunity for a wider group of
small and medium-sized players in developing countries
to participate in value chains for renewable energy tech-
nologies as large producers seek to attain economies of
scale in production, reduce costs and access untapped
markets.8 As a result, developing country suppliers, espe-
cially from Asia, are increasingly providing products along
the value chain, a trend expected to grow. Although these
developments are positive, increased developing country
capacity will not flow automatically. Production and man-
ufacturing possibilities need to be steadily augmented by
a policy environment that promotes the accumulation of
knowledge and capacity building in order for developing
country firms to upgrade and progress technologically.
Failing this, there is always a risk that a large number of
firms in developing countries will be entrenched at the
lower ends of global manufacturing chains, as can be wit-
nessed in the case of other sectors such as ready made
garments and electronics.

As the green economy creates higher levels of demand for
environmental technologies in developed and emerging
economies, it is driving down prices. This is allowing de-
veloping countries to benefit from more affordable access
to renewable energy systems that can bring electricity
to rural areas where the majority of developing country
populations live. Solar and wind energy systems can also
be effectively commercialized in poor rural communities
to provide jobs in manufacturing-related hardware and
distribution, installation, and maintenance. There are
now numerous programmes supported by international
organizations, donor agencies and NGOs to bring low-
cost and efficient renewable energy systems to the rural
poor in developing countries. For example, supporting
250 independent local retailers in Africa, the Rural Energy
Foundation has successfully commercialized solar home
systems in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Tanzania,
Uganda, Senegal, Mozambique and Zambia. In Bangla-
desh, the Grameen Shakti organization has successfully
introduced a market-based approach that has sold over
500,000 solar home systems in the country over the past
decade. In these and other countries, renewable energy
systems are bringing power, light, water, refrigeration,

International cooperation
could help countries identify

and adopt innovative and
constructive approaches

to resolving potential conflicts


information and communications to homes, schools and
small businesses, improving the quality of life and open-
ing new business opportunities for the rural poor while
boosting economic productivity in their communities.

Beyond energy, access to green technologies is important
to decouple economic growth from harmful patterns of
resource use, improving people's livelihoods and mov-
ing to more sustainable growth paths. Of special interest
to developing countries, agriculture could benefit from
advanced seeds and efficient field machinery that gener-
ates more rural income and improved food security, at
the same time allowing higher yields from lower quality
farmland. Moreover, technology also plays a major role in
enhancing energy and material efficiency from better in-
dustrial engines, materials that improve thermal efficien-
cies of buildings, and less resource-intensive packaging

How can green technology transfer be accelerated? De-
veloping countries remain disadvantaged since most of
them lack the sophisticated regulatory and institutional
frameworks, as well as the business environments, need-
ed to attract technology transfer. Developed country gov-
ernments also have limited power to promote technology
transfer since they do not often have direct ownership
over technologies. The powerful player in this field is the
private sector, which not only develops and owns tech-
nologies, but also spearheads research and production
capacities to propagate them.

In developing countries, private agents transfer technolo-
gies predominantly via licensing agreements, joint R&D
initiatives, through the establishment of manufacturing
plants, via corporate mergers and acquisitions, public-
private partnerships, as well as through capacity-building
initiatives. However robust technology transfer occurs
more often towards countries that already have a number
of macroeconomic and institutional conditions in place,
such as rule of law, good governance and institutional ro-
bustness, financial and regulatory stability as well as the
existence of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection
systems and national capacity to absorb new technolo-
gies. Also important is the ability of consumers to pay for
final products; a limiting factor in the transfer of clean
technologies used in providing energy and water services
to low-income populations. In addition, licensing agree-
ments with non-OECD countries are generally limited
to larger, higher income developing countries, leaving a
large number of countries without access to important

Indeed, because insufficiently strong investment and
business climates narrow prospects for green technology
transfer, supportive financial and technology transfer
mechanisms are needed to offer tangible opportunities
for less advanced and less diversified economies to leap

The Rio Conference will certainly recognize that devel-
oping, absorbing, adapting and diffusing green technolo-
gies requires strengthened international cooperation
and collaboration on research and development. Green
technology transfer will certainly benefit from experience
gained through the United Nations Framework Conven-
tion on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process. In 2012 the
UNFCCC will launch a Climate Technology Mechanism
to facilitate the implementation of enhanced action on
technology development and transfer in order to support
developing country action on mitigation and adaptation
to climate change. The Conference could identify ways to
extend international cooperation on technology R&D in
other sustainable development areas not closely related
to climate change. It may also encourage the introduc-
tion of policy incentives for technology transfer in both
developed and developing countries, and improvements
to the dissemination of information on available green

Additionally, the Conference could explore options to
increase flexibility in the global intellectual property
regime for green technologies. Given the global public-
good character of climate change mitigation, consider-
ation could be given to interpreting the flexibilities of
the WTO Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intel-
lectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) in a way that
would allow compulsory licensing for the production of
equipment and goods that embed climate-friendly tech-
nologies, and for related processes, similar to the exemp-
tions accorded for medicines in support of public health9.
Increased flexibility could include broadening the scope
of compulsory licensing for essential green technologies;
limiting the duration of patent protection; and allowing
more liberal use of existing patented knowledge to gener-
ate new innovations.

This flexibility will be critical to enhancing the dissemina-
tion of future green technologies that will be protected by
IPRs. But it should be recalled that many current green
technologies such as solar cells, wind turbines and hydro-
turbines are not IPR protected; their dissemination is
limited by difficulties in attracting domestic and foreign
investment due to lack of technical capacity to absorb and
adapt new technologies, unfavorable domestic business
environments, and limited access to finance. Indeed, in
many cases, it is easier to attract foreign investment in
technologies that are IPR protected than those which
are not as investors often seek secure guarantees for ex-
clusivity in the commercial activities their investments

Financing for developing countries

Although developing countries’ access to new, additional
and innovative sources of financing to support their
transition to the green economy is a sine qua non con-
dition, developed economies are finding their treasuries


under significant pressure. This means that new green
economy finance cannot rely solely on official grants and
development aid. It should also include public-induced
private investment. It has been widely reported the ac-
cumulated cash reserves of private corporations are at
historically high levels. The Federal Reserve Bank of the
United States reported this year that cash available to
corporations reached 1.3 trillion dollars in 2010; a mas-
sive amount of resources looking for new investment
opportunities. A key priority for developing countries
interested in attracting foreign investment in green proj-
ects and sectors is to create a conducive domestic policy
environment consistent with the country’s own green
economic objectives while at the same time avoiding
protectionist schemes.

It is important to recognize that due to the differences
in institutional development, resource endowment, and
human capital, there will be countries that have little or
no ability to attract private investments towards green
projects and sectors; these countries should be the pri-
mary targets for new and additional official financial

What mechanisms can be envisaged for new funding from
official sources? While there has been no dedicated work
to date on financing mechanism for the green economy,
the High-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Fi-
nancing (AGF) established by the UN Secretary-General
provides a useful example how governments can induce
private investment in global sustainability activities. The
AGF looked into potential funding sources for climate
change mitigation and adaptation activities. It concluded
that it is challenging but feasible to meet a goal of mobi-
lizing USD 100 billion per year by 2020. It recognized that
funding will need to come from a wide variety of sources,
public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including
through the scaling up of existing sources and increased
private flows. Grants and highly concessional loans are
crucial for adaptation in the most vulnerable developing
countries, such as the least developed countries (LDCs)
and small island developing states (SIDS). The AGF
further recognized that key elements of financial flows
would be mutually reinforcing. It concludes that careful
and wise use of public funds in combination with private
funds can generate truly transformational investments.

Strong national mitigation commitments coupled with
the introduction of new economic instruments based on
carbon pricing (e.g., carbon taxes or emissions permits)
are important for mobilizing climate financing. Instru-
ments based on carbon pricing are particularly attractive
because they both raise revenue and provide incentives
for mitigation actions. The AGF emphasized the impor-
tance of a carbon price in the range of USD 20 - USD 25 per
ton of CO2 equivalent in 2020 as a key element of reach-
ing the USD 100 billion per year (carbon prices in August
2011 were in the range of USD 14 to USD 17). The higher the
carbon price, the steeper the rise in available revenues

and the stronger the mutual reinforcement of abatement
potentials and different mitigation measures. Revenues
collected in developed countries can be used to fund in-
ternational financing mechanisms.

Actual estimates of 2020 revenue potential for new public
instruments are sensitive to many assumptions, particu-
larly carbon price and the share allocated to international
climate finance. Based on a carbon price of USD 20 - USD 25
per ton of CO2 equivalent, auctions of emission allow-
ances and domestic carbon taxes in developed countries
with up to 10 per cent of total revenues allocated for inter-
national climate action could potentially mobilize around
USD 30 billion annually. An additional USD 10 billion an-
nually could be raised from carbon pricing international
transportation, assuming no net incidence on developing
countries and earmarking between 25 and 50 per cent of
total revenues. Up to USD 10 billion could be mobilized
from other instruments, such as the redeployment of fos-
sil fuel subsidies in developed countries or some form of
financial transaction tax, though diverging views might
make it difficult to implement the latter universally.

Direct budget contributions based on existing public
finance sources, such as domestic revenues, could con-
tinue to play an important role, as governments may
prefer to increase direct budget contributions before
they implement new instruments. However, the politi-
cal acceptability of direct contributions will depend on
national circumstances and on the domestic fiscal envi-
ronment, which is under extreme pressure in many de-
veloped countries currently experiencing high levels of
public debt. Nevertheless, direct budget contributions are
expected to play a key role in the long term.

Some green economy domains in which developing
countries require financial assistance are green technol-
ogy transfer, climate change mitigation and adaptation,
biodiversity conservation, mitigation of desertification,
export capacity development in green sectors, capacity-
building on international standards (e.g., green economy
related SPS, TBT and private standards), and assistance
on mainstreaming green economy policies into national
economic, employment and trade policies. Within each
of these areas a number of important initiatives have
already been planned and designed following extensive
negotiations. To promote the participation of developing
countries in the transition to a green economy, the Rio+20
Conference should take account of and build upon these
initiatives to provide developing countries with financial
support for environmental activities.

Some mechanisms, such as the Global Environment Fa-
cility or GEF (currently allocating USD 1 billion/yr to envi-
ronmental activities in developing countries), the CDM
(which supported investments worth USD 20 billion in
2010 in 81 developing countries) and the Aid-for-Trade
initiative coordinated by the UN are already being suc-
cessfully or partially implemented. Others, such as the


recently announced UNFCCC Green Climate Fund
(expected to provide about USD 15 billion to developing
countries in 2012 and scaling up to USD 100 billion/yr by
2020), will soon be operational. The Conference should
aim to consolidate these mechanisms into an eventual
roadmap or plan of action to accelerate an inclusive green
economy transition.

Whatever international mechanisms may be agreed upon
to support the transition to a green economy, it is impor-
tant that they refrain from imposing new conditionalities
on, and distortions in international trade, development
cooperation and financial assistance. They should also
avoid imposing a ‘one-size-fits-all’ template that fails to
account for countries’ different starting points and di-
verse development priorities.

Ways forward from the perspective

Discussions at the Rio Conference will need to identify
effective approaches to accelerating the transition to an
equitable, inclusive and development-led green economy.
Approaches will necessarily need to be comprehensive yet
practical to ensure an internationally managed transition
that promotes and supports the participation of developing
countries, whilst preventing the use of possible new forms
of "green" protectionism. Based on its mandate and areas
of comparative advantage, UNCTAD stands ready to sup-
port countries in their transition to a green economy. With
a view towards developing practical tools and generating
new insights to ensure trade and development benefits ac-
crue to developing countries in the transition to a green
economy, UNCTAD is exploring possibilities to:

establish a forum for international cooperation on
trade-related green economy challenges. As described
above, a Forum on Green Economy and Trade would
provide consultation and information exchange

services to governments by reframing discussions
from conflict resolution to conflict prevention;

launch a demand-driven technical assistance programme
that responds to increasing demand for green economy
capacity building. Activities within UNCTAD’s pro-
gramme would be designed to assist interested de-
veloping countries and regional bodies to identify
their comparative advantages for the production and
export of specific green goods and services with dy-
namic growth trends. The programme would provide
a methodology to support trade analyses and both na-
tional and regional interactive reviews of economic,
regulatory, institutional and trade policy factors relat-
ed to enhancing productive capacities in green sectors
of national and regional interest;

organize a multi-year expert meeting focused on exam-
ining critical green economy issues of importance to de-
veloping countries. Over a 4-year period, UNCTAD’s
multi-year expert meeting would support innovative
approaches to a green economy by promoting open
intergovernmental discussion on a wide range of
topics selected by member states, and by serving as
a vehicle for the exchange of best practices, national
experiences and success stories. Among others, top-
ics could include: the design of national and regional
policy frameworks to support green economy activi-
ties; ways to enhance international cooperation on
technology transfer; leveraging finance for technol-
ogy transfer; trade implications of greening agricul-
ture, manufacturing and services sectors.

UNCTAD stands ready to further develop these proposals
and looks forward to its participation in the preparatory
discussions and the Rio Conference itself with a view to
advance the consideration of practical approaches in sup-
port of a development-centered transition to the green

Supachai Panitchpakdi
Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, whose first four-year term as Secretary-General of UNCTAD began on 1 September 2005, was appointed to a second term
by the General Assembly in July 2009. His second term runs from 1 September 2009 to 31 August 2013. He previously served as Director-General
of the World Trade Organization and as Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce. As Deputy Prime Minister, he was in charge of
the country's economic and trade policy-making, signing the Uruguay Round Agreement in 1994 and contributing to the formulation of regional
agreements. Dr. Supachai received his Master's in Econometrics, Development Planning and his Ph.D. in Economic Planning and Development from
Erasmus University in Rotterdam.




1 UNCTAD, 2011, Technology and Innovation Report, Renewable Energy Technologies for Sustainable Development.
2 ISO, 2009, The ISO Survey.
3 IEA, 2011, IAE Database.
4 UNEP, 2011, Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2011, see also UNCTAD Technology and Innovation Report 2011, Chapter 2, p. 26.
5 World Bank, 2011, State and Trends of the Carbon Market 2011.
6 HSBC Global Research, 2010, Sizing the Climate Economy.
7 See UNCTAD, 2011, Technology and Innovation Report: Renewable Energy Technologies for Sustainable Development, chapter 3, box 3.3.
8 UNCTAD, 2011, Technology and Innovation Report: Renewable Energy Technologies for Sustainable Development.
9 UNCTAD, 2009, Trade and Development Report: Responding to the Global Crisis, Climate Change and Development.


Not since the industrial revolution has our global
economy undergone such a massive change... however,

this break from the past aims to be inclusive and provide benefits
for all levels of society –in developed and developing countries

Photovoltaic solar power farm in Jumilla, Murcia, Spain (38°29’ N, 1°19’ W)
© Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Altitude - Paris


11Achim Steiner

Towards a green economy:
moving from
concept to reality

Achim Steiner presents the latest evidence on the green economy moving from concept to reality, and highlights the impacts that are
already being seen in some areas, such as energy. Drawing on the recent findings in UNEP’s Green Economy Report, he illustrates how an
investment of two per cent of world GDP can help accelerate a global transition to a green economy across a range of key sectors, provided
governments create the right enabling conditions. He sounds a note of optimism, stating that, as governments, businesses and civil society
identify their perspective routes, “we can all be hopeful because this common goal is truly within our grasp”.

Not since the industrial revolution has our global
economy undergone such a massive change – one that
is just at its infancy in innovation and development of
new green technologies, which will help us build a new,
low-carbon, resource-efficient and more equitable so-
ciety. From sustainable food production to renewable
energy, a green economy offers us an alternative to the
fossil fuel and consumption-driven society that we live
in today.

Unlike the industrial revolution of the 19th century,
however, this break from the past aims to be inclusive
and provide benefits for all levels of society – in de-
veloped and developing countries. It will also, there-
fore, have a net positive impact on efforts to alleviate

This remarkable economic shift has not come about by
chance. Some countries, such as the Republic of Korea
and South Africa, have already begun to realize tangible
benefits from adopting smart public policies and en-
abling conditions to support a green economy transi-
tion in some of their key sectors. Others, like Barbados
and Indonesia, have been more ambitious, adopting
national strategies and plans that create a framework
for facilitating this change across their society.

The private sector is also attuned to this revolution
and, as a result, more forward-looking companies
are already shifting their business strategies towards
a green economy. Nowhere is this shift more evident
than in the energy sector. In 2010, a total of 22 coun-
tries, including Brazil, China, India and Morocco all
reported growth in their photovoltaics (PV) markets.
Globally, 17.5 GW of PV were installed, which repre-
sented an increase of 130 per cent, and outstripped
even the most optimistic forecasts of banks and energy
experts. According to IMS Market Research, more than
30 countries will be part of this emerging solar revolu-
tion by 2015.

Moreover, considerable manufacturing capacity of PV
has also come on stream, which has halved costs over
the past two years, and prices are set to halve again
this year. Meanwhile, solar plants, large and small, are
proving faster to set up compared with other energy
technologies. A nuclear power plant can take 10 to 15
years to build and a coal-fired power station around
five years. One leading solar plant manufacturer re-
cently reported that the time from receiving an order
for a 5MW to 10MW PV installation to having it up and
running is as little as three months.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that,
to achieve universal access to electricity by 2030 in or-
der to meet a UN system-wide goal, additional invest-
ments in the power sector will need to be around USD
33 billion a year. Much of this investment will have to
be targeted in sub-Saharan Africa, where currently 585
million people still have no access at all. This is not
such a substantial sum when you consider that in 2010,
the 6.5 GW of PV installed above the original forecasts
already represented about USD 32 billion. And this was
just for solar energy: multibillion dollar investments
also flowed into new wind energy schemes and geo-
thermal installations.

Recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) published its summary for policymak-
ers underlining that, with the right kind of public poli-
cies, renewable energy could deliver close to 80 per cent
of total world energy supply by 2050.

Earlier this year, UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative, in
collaboration with many partners, published an analysis

outlining the benefits that investing two per cent of
global GDP across 10 key sectors could achieve—again
backed by enabling policies. The conclusion in the re-
port was that the sum, equating currently to an aver-
age of around USD 1.3 trillion per year, would grow the
global economy at around the same rate, if not higher,
than those forecast under business-as-usual models.
However, it would do this without the rising risks,
shocks, scarcities and crises increasingly inherent in
our existing 'brown' economy.

The findings challenge the misconception that there
is an inescapable trade-off between environmental in-
vestments and economic growth. The findings show
that transitioning to a green economy is not only rel-
evant to more developed economies but can also serve
as a key catalyst for growth and poverty reduction in
developing ones too, where in some cases close to 90
per cent of the GDP of the poor is linked to nature or
natural capital such as forests and freshwaters.

Investing in key economic sectors will not only deliver
real economic, environmental and social benefits, it
can also help reduce risks. Continuing a business-as-
usual approach to water is projected to lead to a large
and unsustainable gap between global water supply
and water withdrawals, which can only be addressed
by investments in infrastructure and water policy re-
form. Such policies can also have a ripple effect in other
areas. For example, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philip-
pines and Viet Nam are currently losing the equivalent
of two per cent of their combined GDP as a result of
water-borne diseases due to inadequate sanitation. By
adopting policies to address the water and sanitation
challenges, these countries would generate savings
while improving water efficiency and health.

UNEP’s Green Economy Report draws on a growing body
of evidence that makes the case for a new economic para-
digm – one that results in improved human well-being and
social equity, while significantly reducing environmental
risks and ecological scarcities. In its simplest expression,
a green economy can be thought of as one which is low
carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.

However, to make the transition to a green economy,
specific enabling conditions will be required. These
enabling conditions consist of national regulations,


A green economy: values
and invests in natural capital;

…and, grows faster than a brown
economy over time

policies, subsidies and incentives, and international
market and legal infrastructure; and, trade and aid
protocols. At present, enabling conditions are heav-
ily weighted towards, and encourage, the prevailing
brown economy, which, inter alia, depends excessively
on fossil fuel energy. Price and production subsidies
for fossil fuels collectively exceeded USD 650 billion in
2008, which adversely affects any incentives for transi-
tioning to renewable energies.

It is clear that we cannot afford to continue in a busi-
ness-as-usual mode any longer. Ecological scarcities
are seriously affecting key economic sectors, includ-
ing fisheries, forestry and freshwater, which are the
bedrock of human food supply and a critical source of
livelihoods for the poor. Today only 20 per cent of the
commercial fish stocks, mostly of low priced species,
are underexploited; 52 per cent are fully exploited with
no further room for expansion; about 20 per cent are
overexploited; and, eight per cent are depleted. Water
is becoming scarce and water stress is projected to in-
crease with water supply satisfying only 60 per cent of
world demand in 20 years. Agriculture saw increasing
yields primarily due to the use of chemical fertilizers,
which have reduced soil quality and failed to curb the
growing trend of deforestation – remaining at 13 mil-
lion hectares of forest per year during 1990-2005.

The UNEP report, Towards a Green Economy: Pathways
to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication,
makes the case for investing in fundamentally new
ways to run our economies and industries. It shows
that a green economy: values and invests in natural
capital; plays a key role in poverty alleviation; creates
jobs and enhances social equity; substitutes renewable
energy and low-carbon technologies for fossil fuels;
promotes enhanced resource and energy efficiency;
delivers more sustainable urban living and low-carbon
mobility; and, grows faster than a brown economy over
time, while maintaining and restoring natural capital.

For example, today, natural capital is undervalued and
often mismanaged, resulting in billions of dollars of
losses to national economies each year. Biodiversity
and the services provided by ecosystems, such as for-
ests, wetlands and river basins, must be seen as assets
and essential natural capital. In Brazil, where the gov-
ernment has included these natural goods and services

on their balance sheet, the national GDP increased
from 6 per cent to 17 per cent.

Greening agriculture in developing countries, particu-
larly in the small farm sector, could contribute to in-
creased farm yields and improved ecosystem services.
Typically, organic farming is more labour intensive and
can thus generate up to 30 per cent more employment
than conventional farming. In Uganda, organic agricul-
ture took hold in 1994 and, by 2004, had 45,000 certi-
fied farmers. This jumped to 206,803 certified farmers in
2007 and represented exports worth USD 22.8 million.

Work undertaken by UNEP and the International
Labour Organization (ILO) makes it clear that “green
jobs” refer to both environmental soundness and de-
cent work. The latter implies jobs that offer adequate
wages, safe working conditions, job security, reason-
able career prospects and worker rights. The joint
Green Jobs Report of 2008 highlighted the excellent
potential for green job creation in sectors such as re-
cycling, renewables, building and construction, pulp
and paper, forestry and organic agriculture. This work
is now being updated and expanded for release early
next year.

We are aware of certain industries where there is high
potential for greening operations but evidence of sig-
nificant risks of substandard working conditions. One
example is the treatment and recycling of e-waste,
where health and safety standards require special at-
tention as we seek to take the greening opportunities
at hand. Of all the waste streams, that from electrical
and electronic equipment containing new and com-
plex hazardous substances presents the fastest growing
challenge in both developed and developing countries.
Improvements, through a green economy approach,
could result in effectively full recycling of e-waste from
a current estimated level of 15 per cent.

A decoupling and green transformation of economies
at the national level may involve introducing more ef-
ficient technologies, shifting to more manufacturing
or services, and more material-intensive imports/ex-
ports. In the process, jobs may be created, substituted,
eliminated or transformed, but governments need to
prepare for these trends by ensuring that appropriate
educational and training programmes are in place.


It is crucial for countries
to combine and balance

environmental protection
with safeguarding market


Business and industry needs to prepare by doing the
same, whilst running open processes of social dialogue
between management and employees. Both business
and government also need to consider how alternative
models, such as extended product life cycles, could
create new job opportunities through extended value
chains that include maintenance, repair and recycling,
including related activities such as the collection and
sorting of used products and reverse logistics.

The need to address social problems such as poverty,
job creation and equity, whilst promoting environmen-
tal sustainability, raises the challenge of decoupling. A
new report by UNEP’s Resource Panel highlights trends
in our ability to decouple economic growth from both
resource use and damaging environmental impact. It
also shows growing discrepancies between the devel-
oped and developing world. Developed countries’ citi-
zens consume an average of 16 tonnes per year of key
resources (minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass) per
capita, a figure that goes up to 40 or more tonnes per
person in some developed countries. By comparison,
the average person in India today consumes only four
tonnes per year.

Despite advances in technology and urban renewal
over the last century, in absolute terms total resource
use grew eight-fold, from six billion tonnes in 1900 to
49 billion tonnes in 2000. This is largely due to popula-
tion growth, continuing high levels of consumption in
the industrialized countries, and increased demand for
material goods, particularly in China, India, Brazil and
other rapidly emerging economies. As a result, total re-
source use is now estimated at up to 59 billion tonnes.
Thus, the Resource Panel has warned that decoupling
is occurring, but “at a rate that is insufficient to meet
the needs of an equitable and sustainable society.”

However, reasons for optimism lie in the possibility,
for example, for developing countries, unburdened by
existing technologies, to move to less resource-inten-
sive processes and goods. Response strategies require a
focus on technology innovation, as well as new models
of doing business and conducting lifestyles, especially
in urbanizing cities where greater population intensity
offers economies of scale to make substantial resource
efficiency improvements. This places special respon-
sibility on developed nations, which may have to put

limits on per capita resource consumption. In as far
as developed economies advance structural change
towards becoming service economies and export their
resource use to developing economies, consideration
can be given to trade liberalization and development
aid as ways of off-setting these exported ecological

Trade-related measures, such as standards, can play an
important role in driving growth in a number of green-
ing sectors. Such measures could also be perceived by
countries as a challenge to market access or a form of
trade protectionism. It is therefore crucial for coun-
tries to combine and balance environmental protec-
tion with safeguarding market access. Standards and
labels can play a key part as forms of self-regulation
and disseminators of relevant knowledge to use the dy-
namic of the market to transform business operations
and consumer behaviour. In recent years, national eco-
labelling schemes have been initiated in Brazil, China,
India, South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand and Tunisia.

The current WTO Doha Round negotiations offer the
opportunity to promote a green economy. A successful
conclusion of these negotiations could contribute to a
green economic transition. For example, negotiations
are currently focused on the removal of fisheries sub-
sidies, which often contribute directly to overfishing.
Another opportunity exists with respect to the current
negotiations aimed at reducing tariff and non-tariff
barriers on environmental goods and services. A World
Bank study found that trade liberalization could result
in a 7 to 13 per cent increase in trade volumes in these

Ongoing negotiations to liberalize trade in agricul-
ture are expected to lead to a reduction in agricultural
subsidies in some developed countries that should
stimulate more efficient and sustainable agricultural
production in developing countries. It is essential that
developing countries are supported through capacity
building to fully exploit the potential gains from trade
liberalization, particularly in the context of a transition
to a green economy.

However, as the Green Economy Report underscores,
the bulk of financing for a green economy transition
will need to come from the private sector; hence, the


Developed countries’ citizens consume an average of 16 tonnes
per year of key resources (minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass)
per capita, a figure that goes up to 40 or more tonnes per person

in some developed countries… the average person in India
today consumes only four tonnes per year

importance of regulatory certainty, sound public and
corporate governance, and well-functioning patent re-
gimes to build investor confidence. The financial ser-
vices and investment sectors control trillions of dol-
lars, and pro-active investment institutions are taking
the lead by committing themselves to the UN-backed
Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).

At the same time, public financing is essential for
jump-starting a green economic transformation. Con-
sider, for example, the massive fiscal stimulus pack-
ages launched by G20 countries in recent years, an
estimated USD 3.3 trillion of which, almost 16 per cent
or USD 522 billion, was initially allocated towards green

In addition, we also need new finance mechanisms
such as the Green Climate Fund set up to support miti-
gation, adaptation, technology and capacity-building

activities in developing countries. Related to this, in-
ternational and national development finance insti-
tutions need to revisit their procedures and commit
to applying environmental criteria, as well as more
ambitious targets, for green lending in target industry

Transitioning to a green economy is rising up the po-
litical thermometer as governments embark on the
Road to Rio, twenty years after the 1992 Earth Sum-
mit. Within the context of sustainable development
and poverty eradication, the green economy is mov-
ing from concept to reality because it offers our society
and future generations a pathway to achieve sustain-
able development. As governments, businesses and
civil society identify their perspective routes, we can
all be hopeful because this common goal is truly within
our grasp

Achim Steiner
Achim Steiner, UNEP's Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, was born in Brazil in 1961. Before joining UNEP, he
served as Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) from 2001 to 2006. He also serves on a number of international
advisory boards, including the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED). His professional career has
included assignments with governmental, non-governmental and international organizations in different parts of the world including India, Pakistan,
Germany, Zimbabwe, USA, Vietnam, South Africa, Switzerland and Kenya. He worked both at the grassroots level as well as at the highest levels of
international policy-making to address the interface between environmental sustainability, social equity and economic development.

Wonga Wongué Presidential Reserve, Estuaire Province, Gabon (0°23’ S, 9°32’ E).
© Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Altitude - Paris

When the world journeys to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, next June,...
we will do so in a markedly different environment from

that which characterised the period surrounding the original
Earth Summit of 1992


The setting for the Rio Conference

When the world journeys to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,
next June, where they will frame a new approach to
development issues, we will do so in a markedly different
environment from that which characterised the period
surrounding the original Earth Summit of 1992. Human
development and existence have been beset by new
environmental, economic, security and social crises;
geopolitical alliances and power are being reshaped;
financial re-regulation is appearing where previously
there had been deregulation; the labour intensive, blue
collar economy has given way to a technology-based,
service-oriented, knowledge-based society and economy;
technology has transformed business, the customer,
and the market in the same way that it has irrevocably
changed communication and human interaction.

The BRIC/BASIC (Brasil, Russia, South Africa, India and
China) countries have become major drivers of produc-
tion, competition, capital and markets. Trade relation-
ships have changed and are now linked to a body of envi-
ronmental rules, while natural and man-made disasters
such as climate change and other environmental factors
are all having a significant impact on national and multi-
lateral regulatory frameworks and policy approaches, as
well as on the strategic and operational decisions which
business managers must make to achieve their compa-
nies’ strategic objectives.

17H. Elizabeth Thompson

Rio+20: opportunities
and obstacles for the
developing world

In this personal viewpoint, H. Elizabeth Thompson sees opportunities in the strengthening of the government-society-business in-
terface on the Road to Rio for investment between countries and companies of the North and South, or South and South, and the
development and trade in renewable energy technologies (RETs). She nevertheless cautions on some obstacles, notably access to
green finance in the current economic climate, possible job losses and the need for retraining, as well as the spectre of green protec-
tionism and green policy targets and conditionalities for funding. Success at Rio, Ms Thompson says, will be measured by the number
of green economy efforts on which state and non-state actors will embark in its aftermath.

This paper, which is written in a personal capacity, will
look at some of the issues which are looming as poten-
tial obstacles or opportunities particularly for developing
countries and SIDS on the Road to Rio. The Conference
which seeks to reinvigorate the global sustainable devel-
opment agenda at the political level, will review previous
agreements on sustainable development to determine
where and why attempts at implementation have fallen
short, and assess the new emerging challenges to devel-
opment which policy makers must confront. The Rio+20
Conference will also consider two broad themes – the
international institutional framework for sustainable de-
velopment, and the green economy within the context of
poverty eradication and sustainable development.

The objectives of Rio+20

The reinvigoration of political will in relation to sustain-
able development is, in this writer’s view, contingent on
a change in the dialogue. First, by energising non-state
actors in order to develop a broader constituency with
an interest in, and keenness to see, a sustainable agenda
put in place. These “converts” will in turn become part
of the lobby to which governments will respond. Sec-
ond, by broadening the dialogue from the usual allies in
ministries of environment, natural resources and related
organisations to those in the ministries of agriculture, en-
ergy, trade, foreign affairs, finance and economic affairs,
the latter of whom will be making the critical decisions
about national policy priorities and budgetary alloca-
tions. It is only in this way that sustainable development
can be mainstreamed into national policy formulation
and implementation.

The themes of the Conference

International institutional framework
for sustainable development
Turning to the themes, many suggestions are on the table
in relation to the theme of the institutional framework
for sustainable development ranging from maintain-
ing the status quo, to re-engineering existing structures,
to radical change of the architecture by establishing a
new global organisation. It would be prudent that any
new framework or institution be crafted only after hav-
ing given consideration to the shortcomings of present
structures and a genuine understanding of how best any
replacement structure and negotiated agreement can

effectively assist Member States with policy formulation
and implementation of the three pillars of sustainable

The theme of institutional framework has not enjoyed
the same degree of discussion as the newer theme of
“green economy”; perhaps because any transition to a
green economy arguably carries greater inherent risks and
social costs for countries than that of institutional struc-
tures. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon
points to the importance of “pressing for global economic
governance that strikes the right balance among the eco-
nomic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable de-
velopment.” He views the Rio+20 Conference as “a timely
opportunity to get the world on track in this regard.”

The Green Economy
The formal theme is “green economy in the context of
sustainable development and poverty eradication.” The
attempt to catalyse a global green economy is a response
to the resource constraints impacting human activity and
enterprise, and an effort to move away from ineffective,
inequitable development models to a more sustainable
model of, and approach to, development. Even before this
theme was chosen, many countries have, of their own
volition, been putting aspects of green economy policies
in place as they seek to improve quality of life for pres-
ent and future generations by growing their economies
through the valuation of their human, social and finite
natural resource capital, without expanding their ecologi-
cal footprint.

While there are some common features which charac-
terise the green economy, it is a flexible tool intended to
create new prosperity for citizens and can be shaped ac-
cording to countries domestic strategic priorities, general
circumstances and natural resource endowments.

Opportunities in a global green economy

In an article published in 2007 in the Harvard Business
Review on Green Strategy, Lovins, Lovins and Hawken
argue that “because natural capitalism is both necessary
and profitable, it will subsume traditional industrialism
just as industrialism subsumed agrarianism.” Whenever
oil prices spike, there is a corollary increase in the calls for
renewable energy technologies (RETs). These calls dimin-
ish in urgency, vigour and frequency when oil prices fall.


Trade relationships
have changed and are
now linked to a body

of environmental rules

UNCED 1992


On this occasion, the voices in support of RETs are reach-
ing crescendo with a large supporting cast and audience
because of the universality and convergence of the social,
economic and environmental problems facing a majority
of countries, developed and developing.

Governments will be responsible for creating the envi-
ronment which will bring the global green economy into
being, through leadership and policies which establish
enabling environments for business sector investment
in green practices and the use and development of green
technologies. As natural resource constraints increase, so
too does the urgency of the challenge facing the South
to meet national development demands, especially those
countries with large populations. Countries of the South
which develop and/or utilise RETs will guarantee them-
selves a new level of national security and sustainability,
and create a buffer from environmental and exogenous
economic shocks (since disaster risk mitigation is a com-
ponent of green economy policy).

One opportunity to which the new global economy will
give rise is that of strengthening the government-busi-
ness-society interface and creating new levels of collabo-
ration on issues of sustainability. Business writers are in-
creasingly speaking to the enhanced profitability which
businesses enjoy when they practise sustainability and
the extent to which this attracts committed, high calibre
employees, enhances brand reputation, generates greater
efficiency and innovation, gives the business competitive
advantage and ultimately benefits society.

Implicit in the green economy is the opportunity for
improved quality of life, economic growth and business
profitability. The heavily industrialised North, with its
broad experience in research and development and its
many multinational corporations, will be easily able to
pursue the new business opportunities. It should not be
assumed however, that all of the green technologies or
successful policy interventions in creating national green
approaches reside in the North, or even in the large de-
veloping countries.

The green economy of which green energy is an important
component, could bring many countries closer to some
semblance of energy security, particularly those with sig-
nificant renewable energy resources, which are also lo-
cated far from the centres of hydrocarbon extraction and
production. Many developing countries, especially SIDS
have an abundance of renewable energy resources which
make them “living laboratories” for the development and
implementation of green technologies. China has made
significant headway in utilising and developing, manu-
facturing and exportation of green technology and equip-
ment. Brazil has been a pioneer in the development and
use of ethanol from sugar cane, which places no threat
on food stocks. This has served to reduce the country’s
energy intensity. Brazil’s leadership in biofuels is all the
more remarkable because it is an oil producing country.

The small island developing state of Barbados developed
an indigenous solar water heating industry in the early
1980s and in consequence is now recognised by the In-
ternational Energy Agency (IEA) as within the world’s top
ten countries per capita of solar water heater penetration.
In the process it has been able to generate jobs, reduce
oil imports on which foreign exchange expenditure has
been saved, generate revenues from the sale of these
units and the licensing rights to produce them. A global
green economy could provide an opportunity for invest-
ment between countries and companies of the North and
South, or South and South, which facilitates financing,
scaling up of the technologies and the opening of larger
markets to sound green technologies and products.

The use and development of renewable energy technolo-
gies, making them market and scale ready, will be central
to the transition to the green economy. The breadth of
the opportunity here should not be underestimated; es-
pecially having regard for the IPCC’s latest report on re-
newable energy, which indicates that with the right policy
initiatives and effort, 70% of energy demand could be sat-
isfied by RETs by 2050. In this regard, the “30/30 energy
goals” of guaranteeing universal access to energy, reduc-
ing energy intensity and increasing energy efficiency and
switching to 30% renewables, all by 2030, are of extreme


Flood Ravages Southeastern Haiti
A scene of the destruction of homes and property
2 June 2004


Photo/Evan Schneider

Even in recognising the opportunities for the South, care
must be taken that, in seeking to create the kind of open
and level platforms such as has been attempted with
trade, there is not greater marginalisation of the smallest
or poorest countries, which lack the financial base, econo-
mies of scale and industrialisation so essential to grasping
and maximising the opportunities in both the brown and
green market places. The reports of the UN SIDS Confer-
ence of 1994, then later, the Commonwealth and World
Bank’s Joint Task Force of 2000, have acknowledged the
“peculiar vulnerabilities” –social, economic and ecologi-
cal- of SIDS and other small open economies.

The benefits to the environment of a green economy
policy and sustainability practices are real and obvious
but it is the people of the world who most need a change
in their circumstances. Some one billion people across
the globe live in abject poverty on less than USD 1 per day,
while the number who eke out an existence on less than
USD 2 per day is 2.7 billion, with millions more forced to
live as refugees. In the global financial meltdown, millions
have lost their homes and jobs. People who saw them-
selves as relatively secure now live in penury and those
previously on the margins of poverty are in extreme cri-
sis. Ensuring sustainable development for all the world’s
people through access to decent work, education, health
care, housing, water, energy, and services improves liv-
ing standards and creates a larger global economy with
increased consumers and spending capacity.

Modern technology creates the opportunity for truly
global participation at Rio by having a virtual forum
which any person on the globe with internet access could
“attend” and contribute to the discussion on sustainable

Obstacles to a global green economy

Management theorists often speak of the complexity of,
and high level of failure in, successfully effecting transfor-
mative change in an organisation. Creating change at the
global level, across countries of differing social, economic,
ecological and political circumstances is even more com-
plex. What then might be some of the greatest obstacles
to the implementation of a global green economy? The
experience with trade has demonstrated that the small
open economy has little opportunity of competing with
the economy of large industrialised nations. Inability to
create economies of scope and scale, capacity to resist

external shocks, high vulnerability indices, a dearth of
skills and training, lack of technology and finance and
lack of resilience capacity, confound developing nations,
particularly those which are small and medium sized.
Care must be taken to ensure that the creation of a global
green economy does not constitute a larger wedge be-
tween North and South.

In this regard, the availability of capital and technology
to facilitate the transition to the green economy are of
concern. How will developing countries be able to afford
the transition without economic damage and reversals or
interruption of development gains? Partnerships and the
Bretton Woods Institutions will play a pivotal role in mo-
bilising finance as well as the development and transfer
of technology. It is yet to be seen what level of traction
will be gained by the proposals being mooted by some for
a Global Green Fund, and that each country should set
aside 2% of national GDP toward the transition. It may be
argued that if we were not in a period of global economic
contraction, countries would be more inclined to make
such a commitment of national resources. Nonetheless,
countries may well see the need to do so as enlightened

It is expected that the transition process may cause some
job losses, but the UNEP Report of 2011 on the Green
Economy assures, based on research done, that the green
jobs created will exceed those which are lost. That will
have implications for the rate at which developing econo-
mies will generate the new jobs and therefore the level to
which unemployment may rise in the short and medium
term. Moreover there will be other social costs including
retraining and retooling the labour force.

There are transition related issues which require careful
cerebration. Emerging policy and regulatory frameworks
must guard against “green protectionism.” The new trade
regimes have, albeit inadvertently, resulted in some de-
veloping countries having difficulties accessing markets.
Some countries are unable to meet phytosanitary and
other eco-conditions. Vigilance will be required to en-
sure that developing countries are not disadvantaged.
Another possible point of difficulty for developing coun-
tries would be having to satisfy green conditionalities as
a prerequisite for trade or the conduct of business. A fur-
ther question being asked is “will International Financial
(Bretton Woods) Institutions require countries to develop
certain green policy targets and conditionalities prior to

Natural and man-made disasters such as climate change
and other environmental factors are all having a significant
impact on national and multilateral regulatory frameworks

and policy approaches


accessing development funding?” Caution must be exer-
cised at the scale and pace at which developing countries
are expected to effect the transition.

Will companies bidding on consultancies or other proj-
ects financed by the IFIs be expected to green their opera-
tions in very much the same way that they are required
to meet other criteria? In time, will commercial domestic
banks have similar rules for business entities which seek
funding? Will green accounting principles become incor-
porated into the accounting systems, practices or busi-
ness plans of the public and private sectors? Countries
may or may not contemplate a National Sustainability
Index (NSI) which incorporates both goods and services
produced in the economy (GDP), as well as quality of life,
national services, decent work, gender parity, health,
education and housing access, amongst other social

Defining success at Rio

This brings us to the issue of what would it take to make
Rio a success? Momentum is building, with greater con-
vergence amongst countries on the issues to be addressed
at Rio. Despite this, the negotiation process is such that
even if they are ad idem on the issues, consensus might
elude governments for any number of reasons. Should
this occur, one could almost write newspaper and blog
headlines in the following days and weeks.

It is my submission however, that if Rio is viewed as a
platform at which a global change process will be initi-
ated, then it is not the road to Rio but the road from Rio
which becomes the primary focus and the ultimate mea-
sure of success. For Rio could become the catalyst and
entry of the global green economy which could provide
stakeholders in the environmental, economic and social
sectors with the programmes, policies and impetus to ul-
timately achieve global sustainable development.

Given the level of discussion, the initiatives being pro-
posed or pursued by a number of UN agencies, Interna-
tional Financial Institutions (IFIs), non-governmental
organizations (NGOs), academia and business, then the
advent of change is here. In that context, the real defi-
nition and test of success at Rio is the number of green
economy efforts on which state and non-state actors will
embark as a consequence of their contact with the Rio+20
process and its stimulation of a thrust for a global green
economy. When the gavel goes down at Rio+20 and mul-
tiple stakeholders, state and non-state, leave Brazil com-
mitted to sustainability across sectors, then the Rio+20
Conference will have been a success. The attainment of
global sustainable development is a work in progress, but
Rio+20 could well be one of those historic times when the
path that is chosen results in transformative change and
the start of a new era

H. Elizabeth Thompson
Liz Thompson is one of two Executive Coordinators of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, appointed at the level of Assistant
Secretary- General. She was a Parliamentarian in Barbados for 14 years and a Government Minister for 12 years. She has extensive experience in
leading sustainable development policy and programmes. In 2007 she spearheaded the development and drafting of Barbados’ National Green
Economy Policy. This article is written in her personal capacity.

New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana, United States (30°00’ N, 90°05’ W)
© Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Altitude - Paris


As progress on sustainable development and climate change
has stalled at the international level, there is growing consensus

that new actors and new processes must help tackle the
sustainable development challenge







Governor of California Addresses Climate Change Meeting
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California, addresses the High-Level meeting on Climate Change, at UN Headquarters in New York
24 September 2007

23Terry Tamminen and Christophe Nuttall

Sub-national governments
can lead the way
to a green economy

The role of sub-national Governments

While national governments, NGOs and the private sec-
tor are more often mentioned as being at the forefront of
sustainable development in general, and climate change
in particular, one still needs to stress the important role
of sub-national governments.

Indeed, as progress on sustainable development and cli-
mate change has stalled at the international level, there
is growing consensus that new actors and new processes
must help tackle the sustainable development challenge.
Sub-national governments1 are key actors for many

First of all, while national governments set policies, these
are almost without exception implemented at lower lev-
els either by decentralized or deconcentrated authorities
or bodies. This is also true in the field of climate change.
According to an estimate by the United Nations Develop-
ment Programme (UNDP) 2, most investments to reduce
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to climate
change—50 to 80% for reductions, and up to 100% for
adaptation—must take place at the sub-national and
local levels.

In the United States, for example, 33 out of 50 states now
have some kind of sustainable development, energy ef-
ficiency, renewable energy or climate change plan that is
based on what the state of California has done. If the en-
tire United States followed California's example, green-
house gas emissions would be reduced by 27% below
1990 levels by 2020.

This is why President Obama was able to announce in
2008 at the first Governors’ Global Climate Summit in
Los Angeles that his administration would adopt the
same goals as California and other leading states to re-
duce greenhouse gases down to the 1990 levels by 2020
and 80% below that by 2050. The US President commit-
ted to similar goals again at the United Nations Climate
Change Conference, COP15, in Copenhagen in Decem-
ber 2009.

But the Green Economy is not only about the environ-
ment; it is also about jobs.

The authors present two emerging issues that, they say, offer great opportunity and hope for the green economy. One is the emerging
role of sub-national authorities who, working closely with citizens, make the majority of decisions for localized sustainable develop-
ment. The second issue is the need for new global governance on sustainable development that challenges the present orientation
where many stakeholders are working in isolation to the detriment of goals. The authors add that ‘R20 Regions of Climate Action’ has
a serious contribution to make towards tackling these challenges.

In cooperation with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Green jobs in California

From 2003 to 2010, when R20 Founding Chair Arnold
Schwarzenegger was Governor of California, he was
able to pass programmes like a ‘Million Solar Roofs’ and
the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. These poli-
cies enabled entrepreneurs to develop efficient solar
panels in addition to other technologies, including new
eco-friendly cars like the Tesla. Added to that, all of the
venture capital that helps launch these companies and
expands markets for clean technology makes California
a truly clean economy engine and creator of new jobs. A
recent survey by the State of California 3 found that green
jobs accounted for 3.4% of the state's total employment,
while the San Joaquin Valley (an area in the central valley
of California) made up 10.6% of the sector.

An estimated 432,840 green jobs, ranging from solar in-
stallers and water system designers to recyclers and heat-
ing, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) technicians,
accounted for 2.8% of all jobs in the eight-county region
of the San Joaquin Valley. With 27,880 employed in such
fields, the region accounted for 10.6% of the State's green
workforce. Of that total, 320 jobs were involved in renew-
able energy, 4,130 in recycling and waste management,
2,780 in energy efficiency, 1,760 in education, compli-
ance, and awareness and 18,890 in natural and sustain-
able product manufacturing.

Although it has been slowing down in recent years, San
Joaquin Valley’s green economy expanded by 55% from
January 1995 to 2009, producing nearly 3,360 jobs and 390
new business establishments. Employment in the ener-
gy generation sector grew 113%—1,200 jobs—during the
same period, leading to 24% of green employment. Recy-
cling and waste management also had a 24% share of the
region's green employment, an increase of 4% from January
2008 to 2009. Clean transportation employment, with a
concentration of 50% above the state average, more than
tripled from 1995 to 2009, growing to nearly 500 jobs.

According to a study conducted by GreenJobSpider.com
last year, California was the top State hiring for green jobs,
with over 7,500 green jobs posted online.

The results in California and San Joaquin Valley can cer-
tainly be replicated at a global level.

For a new sustainable development

A major deadlock for real sustainable development is the
lack of an effective governance system that integrates a
variety of government levels and stakeholders. A new
governance mechanism for sustainable development is
required that would allow for stakeholders to sit at the
same table, discuss, listen to each other, find solutions
and commit to action, but within the context of their re-
spective needs and responsibilities.

There are several intergovernmental organizations work-
ing on similar issues including the UN, the G8, G20, the
BASIC4, and the BRIC5. However, these have traditionally
focused on action at the national government level. In ad-
dition, there are the World Economic Forum, the World
Energy Council, the World Business Council for Sustain-
able Development, NGOs, Think Tanks and Academia.
Increasingly, sub-national governments are participating
in groups such as UCLG, ICLEI, C40, FOGAR, The Cli-
mate Group and NRG4SD6.

All of these different institutions have goals, missions and
activities, but they all work in isolation with very little
concrete interaction at the operational level.

Even with the great efforts made by the United Nations
to tackle climate change through the Kyoto Protocol,
biodiversity, desertification and other matters, only na-
tional governments have a say in these negotiations. Sub-
national governments –where the action is– are invited
only to peripheral events, where nothing really tangible
happens with regard to the negotiations.

Sustainable development cannot be tackled by entities in
isolation, be it the UN, national governments, the private
sector, NGO’s, cities and regions. Such a challenge, which
is huge and complex, needs a new global governance
through a sound coalition of expertise, decision-making
and finance. Hundreds of inspiring small projects are be-
ing undertaken in villages, cities and regions of develop-
ing countries –thanks to the work of UN agencies, donor
governments, NGOs, foundations, private companies
and decentralized cooperation by industrialized cities
and regions.


Even if all these projects have merits, such a scattered and
dispersed approach does not constitute a solid develop-
ment strategy. We can only agree with the UNDP and
UNEP’s (United Nations Environment Programme) terri-
torial approach to climate change, which aims at develop-
ing a truly integrated, strategic development action plan,
based on a low carbon, green and resilient economy.

A contribution towards governance for
sustainable development: R20 Regions of
Climate Action

In September 2009, California and other sub-national
governments co-hosted the second Governors’ Global
Climate Summit in California. At that time, there was
a sense that national governments were not likely to
achieve a new deal to tackle climate change by COP15 in
Copenhagen later that year. However, an important mes-
sage emanating from the Summit was that sub-national
governments were rolling up their sleeves and getting
to work – building sustainable economies and reduc-
ing dependence on dangerous, limited fossil fuels. It
was possible to get states, provinces and cities working
together, and everyone agreed that having an organiza-
tion to share policies, technologies and finance was the
way to go.

This concept was discussed among governors and pre-
miers, with presidents of regions of North and South
America, Europe, Asia and Africa, as well as the United
Nations, other international agencies, clean technology
developers and NGOs; and they all agreed to launch the
R20: Regions for Climate Action, focused on green eco-
nomic development. R20 is not just another NGO or
network of regions. It is a real coalition of forces that col-
lectively believe that sustainable development and green
economic development can be tackled at the sub-national
level. It is a coalition determined to achieve the necessary
paradigm shift already accomplished in California.

Indeed, the diverse alliance of R20 partners, which in-
cludes NGOs, corporations, academic institutions, in-
tergovernmental organizations, international finance
institutions, United Nations programmes and national
governments, will actively support the development and
deployment of low carbon and clean energy solutions in
sub-national governments around the world.

R20 projects are designed to produce local economic and
environmental benefits in the form of reduced energy
consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, strong local
economies, improved public health and new green jobs.
These local actions will help the world achieve shared
global environmental and economic goals.

The R20 develops and implements “Technology in Action”
projects across regions and works with individual regional
governments to showcase, implement, and strategically
advise “Region in Action” projects that are likely to gain ac-
cess to needed finance through “Finance in Action”.

Technology in Action projects follow a “top down” de-
velopment approach wherein the R20 develops a project
methodology and/or performance standard for a specific
low carbon technology (e.g. public street LED, cool roofs,
solar power plan, etc.) that can be implemented simulta-
neously by a large number of sub-national governments.
The large scale of the project ensures cost savings and
maximizes environmental and economic benefits. These
projects are replicable within, and applicable to, a large
number of sub-national governments worldwide.

Region in Action initiatives are designed to promote and
advance past, current, and future sub-national climate
actions. To do this, the R20 provides three services to its
members: 1) Communications and Information Shar-
ing Network, which showcases members’ successful cli-
mate policies, programmes and projects; 2) Low Carbon
Project Implementation Support, wherein the R20 helps
bring technology and finance partners to catalyse imple-
mentation of already identified projects; and 3) Strategic
Climate Advisory Services, wherein the R20 helps regions
without internal resources to develop strategic climate
actions to help improve their communities.

Through these services, the R20 will improve the dissemi-
nation of successful policies and programmes across sub-
national governments, identify key technological and fi-
nancial resources to ensure critical sub-national climate
projects are implemented, and help regions with limited
knowledge and resources better understand how to combat
climate change within their communities, and take action.

Finance in Action: there is already a wealth of informa-
tion on public finance mechanisms and the risks and


R20 is not just another NGO or network of regions.
It is a real coalition of forces that collectively believe that

sustainable development and green economic development
can be tackled at the sub-national level

barriers to the private sector. The R20 believes that a pro-
cess of practical experimentation and collaboration be-
tween the public and private sectors is now critical. By
working with sub-national green economy programmes,
the R20 will help to reduce the gap between generic dis-
cussions and action in the field; notably the gap, due to
the lack of viable projects and the perceived and real risks
associated with sustainable development, between those
seeking capital for low carbon investment and those will-
ing to invest. The R20 will reduce the current distance
between investors and project proponents by:

Providing guidance to regions: mapping of interna-
tional and national sources of environmental finance
for sub-national governments;

Building on existing and facilitating the flow of deals
by creating strategic partnerships with key environ-
ment funds and environment finance facilities;

Bringing in new actors and investors; and,

Creating a dedicated financial vehicle by incubating
the R20 Green Capital Corporation.


The successful implementation in sub-national govern-
ments of low carbon and climate resilient projects for sus-
tainable development will demonstrate that real action is
not only desirable but also possible, given their environ-
mental, economic and health benefits. These proven re-
sults will create momentum for such win-win projects to
be implemented at a national level, and will help nations
better understand how their national climate reduction
goals can be achieved.

Further, the R20’s projects should encourage national
governments to accelerate their acceptance and imple-
mentation of international agreements, domestic tar-
gets, and nationally appropriate measures, as the R20 will
demonstrate how nations can work with sub-national
governments to achieve their national goals.

The R20 brings together a diverse alliance of sub-national
governments and partners to develop, finance, imple-
ment, evaluate, and replicate low carbon and climate re-
silient projects on a worldwide scale. The R20 Regions of
Climate Action is a practical, credible solution to sustainable
development that will simultaneously accelerate sustain-
able economic development in communities that most
need opportunities for growth


The R20 has partnered with the ADB on a project to be financed through different ADB facilities. The aim is to create a “Regions
Fund” within one of the existing facilities, which sub-national governments can directly access. According to the arrangement,
the R20:

Participates in the scoping missions that identify a first list of projects.

Works with the sub-national government and the national government and R20 partners such as the International Chamber
of Commerce (ICC) to mitigate some of the risks associated with potential projects (value chain development through local
enterprises, stable policies etc.).

Identifies additional investors for the projects to either co-invest with ADB or create their own syndicate.







Secretary-General's Press Encounter in San Jose
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) holds a joint press conference with Governor
Arnold Schwarzenegger of California in the city of San Jose, California
27 July 2007

Example of cooperation with the Asian Development Bank (ADB)

If the entire United States
followed California's

example, greenhouse gas
emissions would be

reduced by 27 per cent
below 1990 levels by 2020


About the authors
Terry Tamminen is one of the nation's leading authorities on environmental policy. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Mr. Tamminen
Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency in November, 2003, and Cabinet Secretary, the chief policy advisor to the Governor,
in December, 2004. He now advises California Governor Jerry Brown on energy and environmental policy matters and serves as an advisor
to several other governors, Canadian Premiers, European Union leaders, and environmental organizations. Mr.Tamminen is the author of
several books on environmental policy, is a sought-after international lecturer on climate control and energy issues and has received numerous
awards and honors for his achievements. He is the co-founder and Executive Board member of the R20 Regions of Climate Action, a new public-
private partnership among more than 100 regional governments, the United Nations, and numerous clean technology companies focused on low
carbon economic development worldwide. The UK's Guardian newspaper named Mr. Tamminen one of "50 People Who Could Save the Planet."

Christophe Nuttall been Director of the Hub for Innovative Partnerships at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) since 2005,
where he is in charge of the development of partnerships with local / regional authorities. He has also opened institutional relations with
sub-national authorities and the wider UN System and developed the decentralization cooperation programme and a network of 12 training
centres around the world for local and regional authorities. He also launched the international multi partnerships type II initiative on access
to basic services, adopted at the 2007 UN-HABITAT board and then adopted at the 2009 ECOSOC. Christophe Nuttall will be appointed
as the first Executive Director of R20.

Wind turbines of Banning Pass, near Palm Springs, California, United States (33°55’ N, 116°42’ W). © Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Altitude - Paris


1 ‘Sub-national governments’ in this paper refers to the level of government directly below the national government. Depending on the
country, this definition can correspond to a wide variety of structures with diverse prerogatives. Examples of sub-national governments include
states, regions, provinces, districts, metropolitan governments.

2 “Charting a New Low-Carbon Route to Development: A primer on Integrated Planning for Regional Governments” UNDP, 132 p., 2009.

3 The Business Journal, Tuesday June 7, 2011

4 Brazil, South Africa, India and China.

5 Brazil, Russia, India and China.

6 UCLG: United Cities and Local Governments; ICLEI: Local Government for Sustainability; FOGAR: Regions United; NRG4SD: Network of
regional governments for sustainable development.


Louis-Saint-Laurent icebreaker in Resolute Bay, Nunavut Territory, Canada (74°42’ N, 95°18’ W)
© Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Altitude - Paris

29Andy Hira and Christopher Kukucha

Canada struggles
to move towards a
green economy

Andy Hira and Chris Kukucha explore why the environmental performance of Canada has, despite numerous examples of its
remarkable sensitivity to environmental issues, “come up short”. They say that Canada'a current fragmentation in environmental
policy is due to federalism, a primary economic focus on the US rather than national partners, and widely diverging provincial
environmental strategies, based on variable resource dependency and voluntary targets. In their view, Canada's federal-provincial
relations, with excessive decentralization of environmental policy, are a cautionary tale on how not to achieve environmental goals.


What can other countries, particularly developing coun-
tries, learn from Canada’s experience in environmental
policies? In general, Canada’s environmental perfor-
mance has been relatively weak, if measured by its ac-
tions to curb climate change and move towards a green,
sustainable economy. There are several strong initiatives
in Canada that deserve more attention. We conclude
that, despite these positive features, long-term economic
and political constraints impede the structural changes
needed to move forward.

Canadian environmental performance
comes up short

By a wide variety of measures, Canada’s environmental
performance lags behind its status as a major economic
power with high standards of living. For example, the
Yale University-based environmental performance in-
dex (EPI), calculated from 25 different measures, ranks
Canada 46th, behind countries such as Mexico and Al-
geria. The latest (2008) statistics from the International
Energy Agency (IEA) put Canada in 12th place overall in
terms of per capita carbon emitters, behind oil producers,
with Australia and the US the only developed economies
emitting more.

To be fair, Canada, like Australia and the US, is geo-
graphically widespread, meaning that, while it is a world
leader in hydro-based (renewable) sources for electricity
production, transportation is still highly motor vehicle
dependent. Moreover, like the most intensive emitters,
Canada is a major oil producer; thus the nature of its

economic activity presents especially difficult challenges.
There are some remarkable initiatives to address Cana-
dian environmental challenges. However, as the EPI indi-
cates, the problems go far beyond this simple factor and
reflect an overall disappointing performance in terms of
pro-active policies to address climate change.

Interesting aspects of Canadian policy

There are several aspects of Canadian environmental
policies that are worth highlighting. First, the emphasis
in Canada on developing consensus and cooperation
among multiple stakeholders is remarkable. Agencies
such as Environment Canada promote transparency
through the reams of public information on their web-
sites. Environmental assessments are commonly required
in most major projects, and include requirements for al-
lowing public consultation, as well as discussion with
specific stakeholders, notably First Nations (aboriginal)
groups (Sinclair and Doelle, 2010).

Recent elections have featured major national debates
about national policy such as former Liberal leader
Stephane Dion’s championing of a green economy vi-
sion for the future. Another feature was the rise of a Ca-
nadian Green Party, which was successful in securing a
parliament seat for the first time in 2011. Canadian non-
governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Greenpeace
have been very active at all levels in promoting environ-
mental awareness. For example, pressure on the Brit-
ish Columbia (BC) government towards preserving the

Great Bear rainforest led to the government’s decision to
set aside land for public preservation in 2007. Canadian
diamond mines in the Northwest Territories are consid-
ered an interesting model for resource governance with
their provisions for local community participation (Fitz-
patrick, 2008).

The origins of the consensual approach can be traced to
the historically developed limits on federal power, leaving
resource management largely to provinces. However, the
multi-stakeholder approach permeates all levels of policy
discussion. For example, the Greater Vancouver Regional
District, established by the province of British Columbia,
coordinates public service planning across 21 municipali-
ties (Dorcey, 2010).

Providing for initiatives to operate largely at the provincial
level allows for greater tailoring as well as experimentation.
For example, a series of grants through Genome Canada to
provincial counterparts includes attempts to find ways to
reduce environmental waste specific to certain locations,
such as mine remediation in British Columbia. Despite
criticism, Alberta’s management of the oil tar sands in-
cludes several “clean-energy” programmes. The province
has, for example, promised significant financial support for
the development of carbon capture and storage. Alberta
Innovates is a funding programme for research and tech-
nology limiting the impact of energy development.

Reclamation of industry sites in the oil sands is also a pri-
ority, with over 7 million tree seedlings being planted and
ongoing research being funded. It is a legal requirement
in BC for forest companies to replant trees after harvest-
ing. Resource preservation is thus an integral part of Ca-
nadian discourse, in part reflecting lessons learned from
resource depletion, such as the collapse of fisheries in the
Atlantic provinces.

Canada has successfully applied the same approach in
many areas through attempts to coordinate policy with
the US, reflecting its economic dependence on its south-
ern neighbour. For example, new regulations on biotech-
nology not only seek to preserve public safety but also to
help harmonize Canadian production with global stan-
dards, recognizing the need for exports. The importance

of regulatory harmonization with the US goes back over
a century. It includes shared resource management, such
as preservation efforts in the Great Lakes, as well as con-
sensus-building agreements around the shared effects
of pollution. Canadian economic vulnerability to such
problems was brought home in the 1990s when the US
temporarily banned imports of Canadian beef for fear of
mad cow disease (BSE).

Canadian companies have huge stakes in global trade
and investment, particularly in resource sectors abroad.
These concerns have led companies in both the mining
and forestry sectors to undertake efforts in sustainability
and triple bottom line responsibility, such as the Global
Mining Initiative and the Forest Stewardship Council
certification system.

While the Canadian approach has, on the one hand, sig-
nificantly reduced resource conflict and allowed for more
local initiatives, it has, on the other, made the creation
of collective goods, such as the development of adequate
enforcement for fishing off coastal waters, considerably
more difficult.

Sources of challenges for collective
environmental action

The nature of Canada's rich resource base, as well as the
concentration of the population close to the southern
border, has leant itself to a deep historical interaction with
the US economy preventing, in the process the develop-
ment of strong internal economic dynamics. Even today,
there tend to be more North-South economic transac-
tions than East-West. For example, there are a plethora
of energy connections between Canadian provinces and
US states, while East-West connections between some
provinces are far less developed.

Today, although Canada has a highly diversified econo-
my, the nation's fortunes are still closely tied to resourc-
es. Table 1 below shows that resource-based activity is
concentrated in several Western and Atlantic provinces,
while manufacturing is concentrated in Ontario and
Quebec. British Columbia (BC) has developed a more
service-oriented economy.


Alberta British Columbia Manitoba Newfoundland Ontario Quebec Saskatchewan Canada
26 9 11 13 5 7 27 10
32 10 12 50 4 7 32 12

Source: Author calculations, based on data from CANSIM.


Therein lies the dilemma for Canada. Any green initiatives
must involve the provinces

Table 1: Natural resource-based activity by province and nationally (% of provincial GDP)

Resource dependence alone does not condemn a coun-
try to poor environmental performance: indeed, the EPI
rankings place countries such as Costa Rica, Sweden
and Norway towards the top, well above Canada. Part of
the difference is that, from the beginning of its history,
Canada’s resources have been managed by a partner-
ship between generally large commercial enterprises and
the state. Initially, as an English colony, the Hudson Bay
Company was given monopoly privileges for trading in
frontier areas (Easterbrook and Aitken, 1988, 82). In the
19th century, the Canadian government helped guarantee
low interest finance for charter companies building rail-
roads westward, eventually monopolized by the Canadian
Pacific Railway (Easterbrook and Aitken, 1988, 298).

These early public-private partnerships reflected Cana-
da’s small local market and the need for costly and high
risk infrastructure to open up transportation routes that
neither party alone could provide. Motivation was also
provided by concerns over territorial integrity and re-
source autonomy from the rapidly growing US (Easter-
brook and Aitken, 1988, 381).

Similar economic policies were pursued in the twentieth
century. In the 1950s, Harold Innis, through his “staples”
approach, questioned the wisdom of relying on exports
of raw materials, as well as heavy dependency on foreign
investment. He cited the likelihood of high debt levels and
boom-burst economic cycles, such as wheat during the
beginning of the 20th century, and petroleum more recently.

It is precisely these concerns, as well as propitious cir-
cumstances (world economic conditions during the
Great Depression and World Wars I and II), that led to
the Canadian state championing diversification through
industrialisation and, more recently, services. These in-
clude support for well known national companies such as
Petro-Canada (oil), initially a state company; Bombardier
(aircraft); and Research In Motion (wireless communica-
tion). However, the concentration of manufacturing and
high value services in just a few Eastern provinces and BC
have also exacerbated tensions with other provinces that
remain largely resource-dependent (Norrie, Owram and
Emery, 2002, 272 & 364).

Despite the recognition of its economic vulnerability,
Canada has generally failed to gain economic autonomy.
Both in security and economic terms, its fortunes, and

policy initiatives with them, remain closely tied to the
US. For example, it has struggled with enforcement of
its resource base in proximity to international borders.
It is unable to enforce fishing regulations in coastal areas
and the opening of an Arctic passage brings new vulner-
abilities to encroachment. In a sense, Canada gave up on
autonomy when it opened up the economy to large scale
integration with the US through the 1989 Canada-US
Free Trade Agreement.

This historical reality of Canada’s resource-based econ-
omy makes it clear that the development of green initia-
tives will not come solely from government or from the
private sector. Canadian federalism is the key to under-
standing the difficulties of achieving collective action on
the environment.

How federal-provincial relations, rather
than apparent multilateralism, shaped
environmental reactions

Simply looking at international agreements, it appears
Canada is a world leader. Indeed, Canada committed it-
self to the cornerstones of the current environmental de-
bate, including the 1987 World Commission on Environ-
ment and Development, better known as the Brundtland
Commission, and the 1992 United Nations Conference
on Environment and Development (the Rio Summit).
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCC) and its subsequent Kyoto Protocol (1997) were
extensions of Canada's international agenda (McKenzie,
2002, 242-268). For the most part, these commitments in-
cluded a number of broad categories, all with implications
for provincial jurisdiction: water pollution, acid rain, fish-
eries, pesticides, trade, environment and climate change.

However, as foreign obligations increased, so did federal-
provincial tension in the area of environmental policy.
The development of the federal government’s National
Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in 1993, with
its goal of stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions by the
year 2000, also exposed distinct differences between
provinces, especially those dependent on carbon-based
exports, such as Alberta, and others, namely Quebec,
with “cleaner” hydro power. These divisions meant that
Canada’s early goals would be limited to voluntary tar-
gets, making it difficult to actually reduce carbon emis-
sions (Macdonald and Smith, 1999-2000, 112).


Underlying these tensions is resource endowment in-
equity across regions as well as the need to placate
Quebec-based claims of economic discrimination. On-
tario’s domination as a financial and industrial centre has
been perceived to overlap with federal interests (Norrie,
Owram and Emery, 2002, 410). The decline of regions
during resource busts, such as fisheries in the Atlantic,
has led the government to engage in equalization pay-
ments to lagging provinces.

Simply put, the federal government in Canada cannot
politically afford to appear to be discriminating against
specific regions and provinces. The few instances of ma-
jor initiatives to restructure the economy, such as the
1980s National Energy Policy, by which the Federal Gov-
ernment sought to tap in further on rising oil revenues
from Alberta, have been major failures.

Federal environmental policy in Canada is complicated
by basic constitutional realities because Canadian prov-
inces are granted jurisdiction over environmental issues
in Canada's constitution. At the same time, this makes
it difficult for Canada to assume commitments at the
international level. Canadian provinces have the right
to intervene on international matters with relevance
to provincial jurisdiction. Therein lies the dilemma for
Canada. Any green initiatives must involve the provinces
(Kukucha, 2005).

Domestic tensions surfaced again during the 1997 Unit-
ed Nations negotiations over climate change in Kyoto,
Japan. Going into the talks, there was considerable dis-
agreement on Canada's approach to greenhouse emis-
sions between the federal government, Alberta, industry
and environmental groups. Initially, the provinces agreed
to a national target to stabilize emissions at 1990 levels by
2010. By the end of negotiations, the federal government
agreed to a more ambitious target of reducing emissions
by 6% below 1990 levels by the year 2010.

Although several provinces were quick to denounce
these unilateral changes, both levels of government were
eventually able to establish a National Climate Change
Business Plan in 2000. The dissatisfaction of provinces
was further exacerbated by the fact the United States did
not ratify the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, prompting compet-
itiveness concerns in some provinces, especially Alberta.
Despite these problems, Canada's prime minister, Jean

Chrétien, surprisingly declared at the 2002 World Sum-
mit on Sustainable Development that Parliament would
ratify the Kyoto Protocol by the end of the year (Harri-
son, 2003, 338). As promised, the legislation ratifying the
agreement was passed in December 2002.

Despite significant political support from Alberta, Can-
ada’s current Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen
Harper, did not remove Canada from the Kyoto Protocol
following the formation of his first minority government
in 2006. In order to solidify his political base, however, he
made it clear that the Liberal’s previous Kyoto commit-
ments were unrealistic and a threat to Canada’s economy.
As an extension of this provincial strategy the Conserva-
tives also made it a practice to highlight the practices of
large emitters such as China and other Kyoto signatories,
especially in Europe, for not achieving significant emis-
sions reductions.

The election of Barack Obama in the United States al-
lowed Harper to further distance his government from
previous Liberal commitments. Obama and US Demo-
crats prioritized climate change and Canadian officials
responded by calling for a bilateral North American
agreement to counter the broader, and more ambitious,
Kyoto agenda. In pursuit of this goal, both governments
agreed to initiate a Canada-US Clean Energy Dialogue
in 2009, which resulted in the signing of a Declaration
of Intent ("DOI") for Cooperation in Energy, Science and
Technology in April 2010. This agreement focused on
bilateral collaboration for research and development in
bio-energy and carbon capture and storage.

These international initiatives, however, create deep
divisions among Canadian provinces on environmental
issues. Provinces such as Manitoba, Quebec and British
Columbia tend to support reductions in emissions due
to extensive supplies of hydro-electricity. All three prov-
inces are also members of the Western Climate Initiative
(WCI), which has proposed a North American regional
cap and trade system for its partners and observers (five
provinces, the Yukon territory, 15 US states, and six sub-
federal governments in Mexico).

Hydro, along with wind and solar power, are considered
to be comparatively “clean” sources of energy and gener-
ate carbon-credits, which can then be sold to other gov-
ernments. In an emerging cap and trade system, polluters


will be required to purchase carbon-credits to maintain
high emissions. The economic benefits for these provinc-
es are obvious. Other provincial governments, however,
are opposed to stricter emissions standards. Alberta, for
example, with its reliance on oil and gas exports, pro-
posed a more industry-friendly, intensity-based system
in 2007. Under this plan, large-scale industries, such
as those companies operating in the Alberta oil sands,
would lower the amount of energy used per unit of out-
put. The effect would be to reduce the rate of growth in
emissions rather than the actual amount of greenhouse
gases being emitted.

The Harper government made it clear in 2006 that they
had no intention of meeting previously negotiated Kyoto
targets and instead proposed a “made in Canada” solu-
tion. The federal plan announced in April 2007, however,
did not reflect the priorities of all ten Canadian prov-
inces. Instead, it endorsed Alberta’s policy, and called for
intensity-based targets with no ceiling on greenhouse gas

Canada’s inability to agree upon a realistic climate change
plan reflects its divided politics, with the present Alberta-
based government of Conservative Stephen Harper rais-
ing doubts about the need to adopt any major initiatives,
such as a cap and trade system, to meet its treaty obli-
gations. Thus, understanding the provincial level is the
real key for explaining Canadian environmental policy

Provincial environmental initiatives

In response to these federal initiatives, several provinces
continue to pursue stronger environmental controls,
primarily under the WCI (Western Climate Initiative)
framework. Lacking any leadership from Washington
during the George Bush presidency, American states
responded with two specific initiatives, the first being
a cap and trade policy for the regional electricity sector
in the north-east United States. California also initiated

discussions that led to the creation of the WCI and its
above-noted cap and trade proposals for industry and
consumer emissions.

Four provinces, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and Brit-
ish Columbia, are members of the WCI and are moving
forward with specific provincial programs. In 2007, for
example, BC introduced an ambitious “zero-emission”
policy for all new electricity plants, which ultimately led
to the cancellation of several proposed coal and natural
gas plants. In the same year, BC also passed the Green-
house Gas Reductions Target Act, binding the province
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per cent by
2020 (below 2007 levels). In 2008, the province initiated
several climate programmes, including tightened vehicle
emissions, as part of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Cap
and Trade) Act. The province also passed a Clean Energy
Act in 2010 (Jaccard, 2010, 25).

Ontario passed its own Green Energy Act in 2009, with
the goal of becoming another provincial leader on cli-
mate change in Canada. The Act failed to set specific
policies for greenhouse gas pricing but did emphasize re-
newable energy, most notably wind, solar, bio-mass, and
small hydro electricity projects. Ontario has also stated
its commitment to introduce future policies on building
and vehicle emissions (including public transit). As a fur-
ther part of these initiatives, Ontario has discussed the
possibility of a cap and trade system, likely in partnership
with the WCI, as well as the goal of reducing emissions
by six per cent (from 1990 levels) by 2014, and up to 80 per
cent by 2050.

Quebec has also adopted aggressive environmental
commitments, most notably by matching the European
Union’s pledge to cut emissions by at least 20 per cent by
2020 (from 1990 levels). In addition, Quebec passed the
Environmental Quality Act in 2010, which included con-
troversial vehicle emissions standards. Specifically, starting
in 2016, manufacturers will be charged a fine on all new
vehicles that fail to meet provincial standards. The fine


It is important to note, however,
that these provincial initiatives
are not based on altruism. They
are due to economic concerns

related to future federal policies
on climate change

34 will be based on a percentage of USD 5000 (=CAD). For ex-
ample, if a vehicle exceeds provincial standards by one per
cent, the fine will USD 50 per vehicle. (Walton and Seguin,
2010, A6).

It is important to note, however, that these provincial
initiatives are not based on altruism. They are due to
economic concerns related to future federal policies on
climate change. Specifically, in 2009 the Harper govern-
ment announced its intentions to cut emissions by 20
per cent from 2006 levels over the next decade. Although
some critics were sceptical, other provinces understood
that any cuts that did occur would not be Canada-wide.
Instead, other provinces, and not Alberta and Saskatch-
ewan, would be used to ensure Canadian compliance. As
already noted, Alberta adopted an intensity-based sys-
tem that only charged fines for emissions over already
high target levels. Fees were also not applied to gasoline,
home heating fuel and natural gas. Saskatchewan has re-
neged on its stated goal to reduce emissions 32 per cent
by 2020, despite running a provincial surplus of USD 425
million in 2009 (White, 2009, A-9).

Ultimately, protection for emitting provinces will con-
tinue in the foreseeable future for two main reasons.
First, 2010 mid-term elections in the United States re-
turned control of the House of Representatives to the
Republicans, thereby ending hope of any progressive
environmental legislation in Congress by the Obama
administration, especially related to cap and trade. Sec-
ond, the Harper government was elected with a majority
government in 2011, creating a similar dynamic within
Canada’s Parliament.

Reflections on Canadian experience for
developing countries

The role of the Canadian government in green initia-
tives has developed over time as knowledge and values
about environment and resources have evolved. Several
aspects of this evolution contain potential lessons and
tales of caution for developing countries whose econo-
mies are resource-oriented.

First, developing countries with federal systems of
government have the potential of developing several
competing central and sub-federal environmental pol-
icy initiatives, depending on constitutional guidelines.
Developing countries should seriously consider the ad-
vantages of the multi-stakeholder, consensual approach

and local tailoring of initiatives while, at the same time,
digesting the cautionary tale of the inability to reach na-
tional collective policies on larger goals.

Second, Canada presents a cautionary lesson for the dif-
ficulty of changing an economy with large regions still
based on the exploitation of natural resources. Canada’s
deep integration with the US economy has been a key
factor in the development of new resources from oil tar
sands to diamond mines. As the staples theory suggests,
the Canadian state has increasingly moved to support
more value-added and processing of its resources.

Despite these efforts, Canada continues to struggle with
transitioning workers and activities from declining indus-
tries such as coal mining, fisheries, and forestry towards
new industries. In recent efforts, for example, the federal
government has also attempted to generate commercial
benefits related to green technology. They include Sus-
tainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC)’s sup-
port for new technologies in a variety of areas, including
clean energy through providing seed finance.

However, the levels of such finance pale in comparison
with larger competitors such as the US and China, and
such efforts are spread through logrolling throughout
the provinces, further delimiting their ability to spin off
new companies. The recent failure of erstwhile national
telecoms champion Nortel underscores the point. Thus,
there is good reason to be sceptical that Canada can sig-
nificantly capture any new industries, including those in
green areas, absent a significant increase in commitment
levels, which the present government is clearly unwill-
ing to entertain. It is nonetheless possible that, through
the deep integration with the US and its highly capable
workforce, Canada can capture some niches within pro-
duction supply chains, as reflected in its participation in
scientific and technology research, often through inter-
national consortia.

The question is, as for other smaller economies, how to
translate those niches into areas of national expertise
that will allow for creating employment in sustainable
activities that will transform Canada.

Ultimately, Canadians will need to develop a post-staples
view of resources, beyond short-term monetization - one
which sees the their multiple uses and value, including
preservation for future generations

The nature of Canada's rich resource base, as well as the concentra-
tion of the population close to the southern border, leant itself to a

deep historical interaction with the US economy, in the process pre-
venting the development of strong internal economic dynamics



Dorcey, Anthony H.J. 2010. Sustainable Gov-
ernance: Surfing the Waves of Transforma-
tion, 554-581 in Bruce Mitchell, ed. Resource
and Environmental Management in Canada:
Addressing Conflict and Uncertainty. Don
Mills, ON: Oxford U. Press.

Drache, Daniel. 1995. Introduction: Celebrat-
ing Innis: the Man, the Legacy, and Our
Future, xiii-1 in Drache, ed. Staples, Markets,
and Cultural Change. Kingston: McGill-
Queen’s University Press.

Easterbrook, W.T. and Hugh G.J. Aitken.
1988. Canadian Economic History. Toronto:
University of Toronto Press.

Fitzpatrick, Patricia J. 2009. A New Staples
Industry? Complexity, Governance and
Canada’s Diamond Mines, 167-188 in Michael
Howlett and Keith Brownsey, eds. Canada’s
Resource Economy in Transition: The Past,
Present and Future of Canadian Staples
Industries. Toronto: Emond Montgomery.

Harrison, Kathryn. 2003. “Passing the En-
vironmental Buck.” In Francois Rocher and
Miriam Smith, eds., New Trends in Canadian
Federalism. 2nd ed. Peterborough Ontario:
Broadview Press.

Jaccard, Mark. (2010). “The Climate Change
Olympics: Perhaps Some Healthy Provin-
cial Competition can get Canada Moving.”
Literary Review of Canada 18, 4 (May): 22-25.

Kukucha, Christopher J. (2005). “From Kyoto
to the WTO: Evaluating the Constitutional
Legitimacy of the Provinces in Canadian
Foreign Trade and Environmental Policy.”
Canadian Journal of Political Science 38,
1 (March): 129-152.

Macdonald, Douglas and Heather Smith.
1999-2000. “Promises Made, Promises Bro-
ken: Questioning Canada’s Commitment to
Climate Change.” International Journal 55, 1
(Winter): 107-124.

McKenzie, Judith I. 2002. Environmental
Politics in Canada: Managing the Commons
into the Twenty First Century. Don Mills,
ON: Oxford University Press.

Norrie, Kenneth, Douglas Owram, and
J.C. Herbert Emery. 2002. A History of the
Canadian Economy. 3rd ed. Scarborough:
Thomson, Nelson.

Sinclair, A. John and Meinhard Doelle. 2010.
Environmental Assessment in Canada:
Encouraging Decisions for Sustainability,
462-72 in Bruce Mitchell, ed. Resource and
Environmental Management in Canada:
Addressing Conflict and Uncertainty. Don
Mills, ON: Oxford U. Press.

Walton, Dawn and Rheal Seguin. (2010).
“Prentice Attacks Québec's Climate Strategy.”
Globe and Mail (2 February): A6.

White, Patrick. (2009). “Saskatchewan
Reneges on Climate-Change.” Globe and Mail
(23 April): A9.

Winfield, Mark S. 2002. “Environmental
Policy and Federalism.” In Herman Bakvis and
Grace Skogstad, eds., Canadian Federalism:
Performance, Effectiveness and Legitimacy.
Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.

We would like to thank the editors for their helpful feedback, and Neil Boehm for help with research assistance, which was funded by Simon Fraser
University’s work-study programme.

About the authors
Anil Hira is Professor of Political Science at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC. He is the author of 6 books and 23 articles, including The New
Path: An East Asian Model for Latin American Success (Ashgate, 2007). His area of research is examining how industrial, technology, and energy policy
can be used to build globally competitive industries. Recent work includes international collaborative studies on the global wine industry
(forthcoming), the global wireless industry, Brazilian and Paraguayan biofuels, and Brazilian and Argentine aerospace companies (notably Embraer).

Christopher J. Kukucha is an associate professor at the University of Lethbridge. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Alberta and his M.A. from
the University of Windsor. His most recent publication is the second edition of Readings in Canadian Foreign Policy: Classic Debates and New Ideas
(Oxford University Press, 2011), co-edited with Duane Bratt. He is also the author of The Provinces and Canadian Foreign Trade Policy (UBC Press,
2008). In 2007, Chris served as the William J. Fulbright Research Chair in Canadian Studies at the State University of New York (Plattsburgh).
He is the past President of the International Studies Association of Canada and a book review editor for the Canadian Foreign Policy Journal. His
primary teaching and research areas include Canadian foreign policy, international political economy, international relations theory, and Canada’s
global trade relations.

The development of the Federal Government’s National
Action Plan on Climate Change in 1993, with its goal of

stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2000, also exposed
distinct differences between provinces, especially those dependent

on carbon-based exports, such as Alberta, and others, namely
Quebec, with “cleaner” hydro power


Green business, green profits

The clean revolution: a vision for a better,
cleaner, more prosperous world
Mark Kenber

Time to reflect, refocus, reinvigorate
Michael Liebre ich

Sustainable strategies, technologies,
processes and products
Tuls i Tanti

Greening the economy through fairtrade:
a model that works
Michael Kwame Nkonu and Mart in Rohner

Greening the global economy through
open markets and skills transfer
Peter Brun

A compass towards a greener economy
Luiz Eduardo Fróes do Amaral Osor io
and Paulo Bento Maffe i de Souza








37Mark Kenber

The Clean Revolution:
a vision for a better, cleaner,
more prosperous world

In this article, Mark Kenber outlines how a Clean Revolution is the only viable way to avert catastrophic climate change and ensure
that the nine billion people on the planet by 2050 will not only subsist – but thrive. Kenber provides an array of examples on how
governments and businesses are already responding to the challenge by employing clean, low-carbon technologies and new busi-
ness practices. He stresses the importance of leadership and vision on achieving transformational action on the low carbon economy
and bringing about a cleaner, smarter, better world.

t is nearly 40 years now since the international com-
munity first came together to discuss humanity’s impact
on the environment. At the 1972 UN Conference on the
Human Environment in Stockholm, over 100 countries
signed a declaration intended “to inspire and guide the
peoples of the world in the preservation and enhance-
ment of the human environment.”

In the intervening years, our knowledge of the physical
world and the impact our species has on it has increased
dramatically. The rise in environmental awareness
amongst the public and the emergence of green politics
has shown that societies have also responded in kind.
Milestones such as the 1987 Brundtland Report, the Rio
Earth Summit in 1992, and the Kyoto Protocol five years
later have slowly but surely made the environment a
mainstream political issue. Businesses too have respond-
ed, with greener products, more sustainable and efficient
supply lines, and the integration of environmental issues
into the management process. The world is undoubtedly
a better place because of these changes, brought about by
the resourcefulness and ingenuity that are the hallmarks
of humanity.

And yet despite our best intentions, our goal of a truly
sustainable world, which balances economic needs with
environmental capacity, is yet to be met. Indeed, the fun-
damental driver of our modern economies, our energy
system, remains based on climate-warming fossil fuels.
Despite being a decade into the 21st century, the way we
heat our homes, power our industry, and transport our-
selves, remains reliant on a system first developed in the
18th century. With a global population set to hit nine bil-
lion by 2050, and the impacts of climate change becoming
clearer, such reliance is unsustainable. We have to move
on and embrace a new way of producing and consuming
energy. In short, we need a Clean Revolution.


What is the Clean Revolution?

Any successful process of change depends on demon-
strating the benefits such change will bring. It is about
communicating a positive vision of the future.

The Clean Revolution is a process involving a radical
increase in energy efficiency and the large scale deploy-
ment of existing, emerging, and yet-to-be developed
low-carbon energy technologies. It is a future where re-
newable energy sources (wind, solar, marine) provide the
bulk of our energy needs, while transition technologies,
such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) wean us off our
300 year-old fossil fuel addiction. It is a future where off-
grid communities have gained energy independence and
opened up new economic opportunities through self-
contained renewable energy schemes. It is a future where
personal transportation has been electrified, removing
pollutants from city streets and enhancing energy secu-
rity for local and national economies. It is a future where
ultra-energy efficient products such as LED lighting, and
green buildings have dramatically reduced our consump-
tion of energy while maintaining our economic prosper-
ity and improving our well-being.

This is also an urban future. The population of the world’s
cities will almost double by mid-century, which is equiva-
lent to all the urban development in all of human history
being duplicated in little more than half a life-time. In 1800,
only 2 per cent of the world’s population was urban. As we
end the first decade of the "urban millennium", half of the
world’s people are living in towns and cities, with 180,000
people added to the urban population each day. The pre-
dicted global urbanization rate in 2030 is 75 per cent.

Most importantly, however, the Clean Revolution is
about a future where there are no longer two billion peo-
ple without access to electricity. It is a future where rural
women in West and Central Africa have no need to spend
two hours per day manually collecting and carting water.
It is a future where the productive day of 500 million In-
dians is no longer limited by the hours of daylight.

The Clean Revolution is in short a vision of an increas-
ingly urbanized world well on its way to achieving eco-
nomic, environmental and social sustainability, through
the application of smart, clean, low-carbon technology
and new business practices. We have a unique opportu-
nity to help what will soon be nine billion people not to
subsist – but to thrive.

A fast changing world

Getting to this prosperous future is not a given, how-
ever. It will require major shifts in our production and
consumption patterns. It means recognizing the rapidly
changing world in which we live and the fact that busi-
ness can no longer be as usual.

Today we live in an era that is witnessing a level of growth
without parallel in human history. In the next 20 years,
China alone will build another “United States” in terms of
homes and commercial buildings. At the same time, the
world will shift from having less than two billion rich or
middle class people today (primarily in Europe and North
America), to more than three billion by 2020 and five bil-
lion by 2030. By 2020, 70 per cent of China’s population


will be middle class. Some projections suggest that the
global economy may triple in terms of purchasing power
parity in just 25 years and more than quadruple in real
dollar terms by mid-century. Raising the prosperity of so
many people will be an extraordinary achievement.

But this growth will come with extra demand for resourc-
es. Demand for food, for example, is expected to increase
by 50 per cent between 2010 and 2030 and water demand
by 40 per cent over the same period. The International
Energy Agency (IEA) has predicted that energy use will
increase by around 23 per cent by 2025. BP expects the
figure to be closer to 40 per cent by 2030. Squaring these
demands with supply will be one of the key challenges
over the coming decade and beyond. The good news is
that the opportunities for efficiency improvements are

Consider the average American household. Nearly 5 per
cent of its budget is spent on gasoline, yet three quarters
of the energy in this fuel is lost as heat. This inefficiency is
compounded by the generally low level of fuel efficiency
in the US car fleet. In the home, Americans waste 14 per
cent of their food purchases, including leftovers and out
of date products. The average family of four throws out
close to USD 600 per year in fruit, meat and vegetables.
This breaks down in landfills into methane, a potent
greenhouse gas if not captured. Inefficient appliances
and lighting add to the wastage at home. Traditional in-
candescent lights, for example, convert only 5 per cent of
electricity into useful visible light, with remaining 95 per
cent lost as heat. Americans are, of course, by no means
alone with similar inefficient resource use replicated to
varying degrees around the world.

Technological, behavioural and business management
fixes are already available to address these and other in-
efficiencies. They will certainly be needed. By 2050 the
carbon intensity of our global economy will need to be
less than one-tenth that of today. Economic growth of
the future will need to be carbon-negative.

The IEA estimates that in order to halve global emis-
sions by 2050, we will have to deploy the equivalent of
the following every year: 30 nuclear power plants, 15,000
wind turbines (4MW), the equivalent of two-thirds of the
Three Gorges dam in hydropower, more than 50 gas and
CCS plants (500MW), more than 50 concentrated solar

power (CSP) plants (250MW), and more than 300 million
square meters of solar photo-voltaic (PV) panels.The IEA
assumes nearly two-fifths of required action is delivered
through energy efficiency

Recent reviews suggest that current policies and targets
on the table will leave us on track for a dangerous 4oC
of warming even if they are fully implemented. Globally
there is still a significant policy gap.

But change is what we do (although it is not
always easy)

Fortunately, humans have a history of making big chang-
es that have made the world a better place – even when
it wasn’t popular at the time. As US historian, Howard
Zinn noted: “There is a tendency to think that what we
see in the present moment will continue. What leaps out
from the history of the past hundred years is its utter
unpredictability.” The fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of
Apartheid and, most recently, the Arab Spring are con-
crete examples of Zinn’s insightful observation.

We also have a history of directing change when the po-
litical will or business opportunity exist. Take smallpox, a
disease which caused humanity misery for millennia. In
the 1950s, 50 million people a year still contracted small-
pox despite the availability of a vaccine. After a concerted
international effort directed through the World Health
Organisation, the figure had dropped to zero by 1980.
The recent IT revolution provides further examples of
rapid and profound change. In India, 20 million new mo-
bile phone users are signed up every month. This is in a
country where even today there are only 35 million land-
lines for its 1.1 billion citizens. In less than a generation,
India has leap-frogged across a technology divide.

Although our ability to make quantum leaps should not
be underestimated, the reality is that people often doubt
change and are sceptical about the introduction of new
ideas. History is littered with amusing examples. Take Sir
William Preece, Chief Engineer for the British Post Of-
fice who stated in 1878 that, while “Americans may be in
need of the telephone, Britons are not. We have plenty of
messenger boys”. In 1895, Lord Kelvin, British mathema-
tician and physicist, and one of the most eminent scien-
tists of the 19th century, declared “Heavier-than-air flying
machines are impossible.” Eight years later the Wright


The Clean Revolution is a future where renewable
energy sources (wind, solar, marine) provide the bulk of our

energy needs while transition technologies such as carbon (CCS)
capture and storage wean us off our 300 year-old fossil

fuel addiction

brothers made history at Kitty Hawk. And, in 1976, the
president of computer company Atari, told a young Steve
Jobs “get your feet off my desk, get out of here, you stink,
and we're not going to buy your product.”

Even electricity - so essential to our modern economies
- was fiercely resisted when this “disruptive” technology
was first introduced in the US. Thomas Edison’s electrifi-
cation of society is the prototypical example of successful
innovation. In Edison’s time, efforts to bring electricity
to market were fiercely contested by an entrenched gas
industry that mobilized its political power and economic
heft against his new venture. Ultimately, however, the
electrification of cities prevailed through a combination
of Edison’s own business acumen, the growth of new in-
dustries such as automobile manufacturing that utilized
electricity, and the general flexibility with which electric-
ity could be put to use.

The Clean Revolution is not only possible
– it is already underway

Our past experience of technological change should give
us the confidence to take ambitious steps in making the
Clean Revolution a reality. Entrepreneurial leaders in a
range of industries and in government are already lead-
ing the way. The Clean Revolution is not some distant
goal: It is a process which is rapidly gaining momentum.
The energy sector is a case in point.

In 2009, we neared a tipping point in energy production.
Globally 47 per cent of new energy capacity was from
renewables and 53 per cent from fossil fuels. In Europe,
62 per cent of power generation capacity added in 2010
was from renewable energy. The continent is broadly on
track to provide close to 35 per cent of electricity from
renewables by 2020. Globally, wind power capacity grew
by nearly 65 per cent between 2006 and 2008, reaching
120GW. Grid-connected solar PV capacity more than
doubled in the same period, reaching 13GW, with PV
module prices falling 50 per cent in 2009 alone. Renew-
able energy is projected to supply 20 per cent of global
power by 2020, up from 6.2 per cent in 2008. Unsurpris-
ingly, the market capitalization of the 86 largest renew-
able energy companies reached USD 216 billion in 2010,
up from USD 50 billion in 2005.

Major changes are also underway in the transport sec-
tor. In the entrepreneurial tradition of Henry Ford, who
famously said, "If I had asked my customers what they
wanted, they would have said a faster horse", a growing
number of companies are pioneering the shift to electric
vehicles (EV).

In the US, Tesla, the company that re-invented the image
of EVs with its high performance Roadster, is now de-
signing a mid-sized family car. A successful public share
issue in 2010 raised USD 266 million in new capital, un-
derlining investor faith in the company’s future. Japanese
car manufacturer Nissan, meanwhile, has launched the
first fully electric vehicle built for mass production. The
Nissan Leaf has a top speed of more than 90 mph (145
km/h), a range of 100 miles (160 km) on a full charge, and
a fast-charge time of 15-30 minutes. Fifty thousand cars
are expected to be produced each year from 2011.

The EV revolution is also inspiring new business models
within the transport sector. Better Place, an Israeli-based
company, is introducing a battery swap system, which re-
places depleted batteries with fully charged ones at dedi-
cated service stations. The key advantage of this system is
that it allows a car to be ‘refuelled’ in minutes, not hours.
Better Place is rolling out this model in Israel, Denmark
and a range of other locations. With expected per mile
fuel savings of up to 70 per cent compared to conven-
tional cars, the company sees major opportunities, par-
ticularly with the continuing high oil price.

Clean transport is not just about electric cars, however.
In the Netherlands, 19,000 km of cycle lanes have created
a transport system where 27 per cent of all journeys are
by bike. To put that in perspective, the UK figure is 2 per
cent. The Brazilian city of Curitiba, meanwhile, has led
the development of Bus Rapid Transit systems over the
last 30 years. The city’s system is used by two million pas-
sengers a day, reducing pollution and congestion. Other
cities in the region have now copied the system. Tech-
nology is also changing business travel. Cisco, the IT-
solutions company, reduced its travel emissions by 40 per
cent between 2006 and 2009 through the introduction
of its own video-conference system, Webex.

Other business sectors are seeing similar levels of inno-
vation. In the lighting sector, which accounts for 19 per
cent of world electricity use and is linked to 10 per cent


Growth will come with extra demand for resources. Demand for food
is expected to increase by 50 per cent between 2010 and 2030.

Energy use will increase by around 23 per cent by 2025. The good news is that
the opportunities for efficiency improvements are substantial

of world CO2 emissions, LEDs were laughed at five years
ago as replacements for compact fluorescent and tradi-
tional incandescent bulbs. Today, you can buy an LED
light at Home Depot for USD 20. It will last you 46 years.

Entrepreneurial businesses are also developing products
to put personal energy management in the hands of the
consumer. A range of companies now produce home
energy monitoring kits that allow consumers to make
substantial savings on electricity bills by providing real-
time data showing exactly how, when and where energy
is being used in a household.

Smart grids are beginning to be established too. These
combine advanced sensing technology, two-way high-
speed communications, 24/7 monitoring, analysis soft-
ware, and related services. This provides location-specific,
real-time information about the status of the electricity
grid, giving consumers control over their energy usage
and enabling the widespread deployment of renewable
energy sources.

Advances are also being made in packaging. Coca Cola,
for example, has introduced the PlantBottle, a fully recy-
clable plastic bottle made up of 30 per cent plant-based
material. The plant material is a by-product from sug-
arcane processing, meaning that it utilizes an existing
biomass stream, rather than creating demand for new
ones. With the US alone manufacturing 25 billion plastic
bottles in 2008, Coca Cola’s shift towards more sustain-
able packaging of this kind is essential to reducing pres-
sure on scarce resources.

The Clean Revolution is more than clever new technolo-
gies, however. As Harvard Business School Professor
Clayton Christensen, a leading authority on disruptive
technology notes, “the most common misconception
about disruptive innovation is that the disruption is
caused purely by the technology. Characteristics such as
features and functionality are certainly important. But

it’s the business model—the pricing, cost structure, sales
process, and so on—used to commercialize the technol-
ogy that’s truly critical.”

Given all these advances in technologies and shifts in cor-
porate behaviour, it is perhaps unsurprising that invest-
ment into the various strands of the Clean Revolution is
accelerating. Between 2004 and 2009, annual investment
in global clean energy increased nearly five-fold from USD
35 to USD 163 billion. In the first quarter of 2010, USD 2.9
billion of venture capital and private equity investment
was made in clean technology, the largest first quarter in-
vestment in history, according to Bloomberg New Energy

Real progress is clearly being made then, but we should
not be complacent. Fossil fuel use remains dominant,
with global trade totalling USD 3 trillion in 2008. Such
dominance comes at a cost for many economies, includ-
ing the biggest. According to analysts, the US spent USD
440 billion on oil imports in 2008, a payment described by
some as the largest transfer of wealth in human history.

The importance of Clean Revolution leaders

With much still left to do to end our fossil fuel addiction,
the need for Clean Revolution leaders is more important
than ever. This means rejecting incrementalism and
thinking big. Thankfully, there are already individuals,
businesses and governments doing exactly that.

Take individuals like Shai Agassi, founder of Better Place,
the late Ray Anderson of flooring giant Interface, or
Zhang Zue, of Broad Air Conditioning. Each in their own
way has created a company where sustainability is not
some marketing add-on, but a core part of their business
philosophy and day-to-day operation. From developing a
systems’ approach to car ownership, introducing closed-
loop manufacturing into the flooring industry, or pro-
ducing air conditioners 200 per cent more efficient than


As we end the first decade
of the "urban millennium",

half of the world’s people are
living in towns and cities,
with 180,000 people added

to the urban population
each day

Schoolchildren in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso (11°10’ N, 4°18’ W)
© Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Altitude - Paris


Mark Kenber
Mark Kenber is the CEO of The Climate Group. He has worked on climate change for fifteen years and is an expert on international climate policy.
Before becoming CEO, Mark was The Climate Group’s Deputy CEO (2010) and International Policy Director (2004-2010). Mark advised former UK Prime
Minister Tony Blair in the joint policy initiative Breaking the Climate Deadlock (2008-2009). Immediately prior to joining The Climate Group, Mark was
Senior Policy Officer for WWF’s International Climate Change Programme. He has also served as Director of Planning at Fundacion Natura of Ecuador
and Climate Change Advisor to the Ecuadorian Government. Mark currently sits on the Climate Change Advisory Council at Zurich Insurance (since
2009), BP’s target-neutral Assurance and Advisory Panel (since 2007); the Climate Policy Editorial Advisory Board (since 2005); and the Institutional
Investors Group on Climate Change Steering Committee (since 2005).

conventional models, each of these business leaders have
demonstrated that economic and environmental sustain-
ability are not mutually exclusive goals.

At the government level, many leaders of national and
sub-national entities are starting to realise the opportu-
nities from developing low-carbon energy resources in
their jurisdiction. The Government of India intends to
establish a solar power equivalent to California’s Silicon
Valley. It has set a target of generating 20GW of solar
energy by 2020. India’s wind generation potential is also
to be tapped. The sector already produces over twice as
much energy as nuclear. China’s recently released 12th
Five Year Plan includes multiple provisions to acceler-
ate seven strategic emerging industries. The majority
of these focus on low carbon technologies. Much of the
thinking behind this is driven by development needs, en-
ergy security and concerns about competitiveness. China
wants its economic activity to be more valuable, to cre-
ate an export market for high value technologies and to
reduce its own reliance on inefficient infrastructure and
fossil fuels.

State and regional governments also understand the first
mover advantage. Scotland has set a target to produce
100 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources. The
federal German state of North Rhine Westphalia aims to
have 250,000 EVs on the road by 2020. And California is
leading US climate action efforts with its ambitious car-
bon reduction initiatives.

The implications of this transition away from fossil fuel-
based economies to clean energy ones, raises many ques-
tions for business and government leaders. Business and
government leaders, will need to ask how will they com-
pete in an increasingly resource constrained world. How
will they re-invent their business/state/city for the 21st
century citizen? Politicians will need to respond to the
demands of an emerging generation increasingly con-
cerned about climate change and the impacts it will have
on them over their lifetime.

If we are to reach that goal we set ourselves some four
decades ago of preserving and enhancing the human en-
vironment, our political, business and civil society lead-
ers must have a shared vision of a better future. We do
not have to know exactly what the future will look like
or have the precise road map for getting there. But we
will know that everything we touch, see and feel will be
zero per cent carbon. Zero per cent waste. One hundred
per cent opportunity. It will be a smarter, greener, clean-
er world - a better world. And it is this vision of a better
world, created by a Clean Revolution, that should drive
everything we do

“The difference between what we do
and what we are capable of doing would suffice

to solve most of the world's problems”

Mahatma Gandhi


Time to reflect,
refocus, reinvigorate

ith Rio+20 now only months away, the world urgently
needs a compelling vision for sustainable growth for the
next twenty years. Any such vision needs to bring to-
gether an integrated set of actions covering the general
economy, the energy industry and the specific challenges
relating to climate change.

Mainstreaming the green economy

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the participants in
Rio+20 is to make sustainability relevant to mainstream
business and mainstream consumers.

Fifty years after Silent Spring, 20 years after the Rio Earth
Summit, it is surely time to accept that “green”, “sustain-
able”, “eco” and “clean” are simply not brands that can be
sold to everyone.

Mention sustainability and survey after survey shows
that around 15 per cent of the public are engaged, 70 per
cent are passively supportive, and 15 per cent are down-
right hostile. The numbers may vary – in the US right
now the debate is unusually polarised – but the shape of
the response does not. Investors are no different. If a chief
executive talks about sustainability and green initiatives,
15 per cent of investors respond positively, 70 per cent
don’t mind as long as the CEO is not spending money,
and 15 per cent are downright hostile. But if that same
CEO talks about resource efficiency – trying to do more
with less – then there is not an investor in the world who
will not listen with interest.

In order to engage consumers and business across the
very broadest of fronts, the green agenda needs to be re-
stated in terms that will resonate with everyone – and the
only realistic way of achieving that is to restate it in terms
of resource efficiency.

Of course scarcity itself will continue to drive up resource
prices, and there are those that argue nothing more
needs to be done in order to improve efficiency. The fact
is, however, that there are interventions that could speed
up the process. These would start with broad mandated
disclosure requirements on usage: transparency alone
will spur change. The media, non-governmental organi-
sations (NGOs), citizens and consumer advocacy groups
have a vital role to play, particularly given the extraor-
dinary trends in social networking and crowd-sourced
data. Disclosure would be supplemented by provision of
concessionary finance for those without access to capi-
tal, rules restricting public procurement to above-median
performers, and regulation to deal with industries that
refuse to engage in the agenda.

Resources can be broadly defined to include energy, natu-
ral resources, agricultural land, water, space in landfills or
clean air. Even less-obvious commodities like broadband
spectrum, road space, parks and other shared amenities
could be subject to the same treatment. All are scarce, all
are of concern to consumers, business leaders and inves-
tors. And the issue of resource efficiency can be made to
resonate in developed and developing countries alike.

Those who say Africa should not yet worry about energy
efficiency, only about energy access, could not be more
wrong: the more efficiently you use energy, the less you
have to invest in its generation. The world’s energy poor
have a right to energy services: light, heat, power for their
businesses; they do not have a right to build the same
inefficient infrastructure as we are saddled with in the
developed world.

An aggressive focus on resource efficiency would have the
virtue of being self-financing, so rewards would be not only
environmental and geopolitical, but also financial. It would
be a classic win-win-win – except, of course, for those whose
wealth is contingent on our continued profligacy.

Michael Liebreich

Michael Liebreich argues that Rio+20 offers an historic opportunity to divert the world’s economy away from its current resource-
intensive, environmentally and socially destructive pathway and towards something approaching sustainability. First, he says,
leaders must acknowledge the successes and failures of the past 20 years. Then, bearing in mind the brief period remaining before
Rio+20, they should urgently focus their attention on workable solutions in three areas: mainstreaming the green economy agenda;
accelerating the shift to clean energy; and creating a workable large-scale climate finance framework.



Accelerate the clean restructuring of the
energy industry

The second area where Rio+20 can play a decisive role is
in accelerating the shift to clean energy. The world has
already begun a long-term, profound shift towards reli-
able, cheap, clean energy. Emerging trends – in terms
of cost, installation volume and share of supply – are
already abundantly clear for anyone who cares to look.
Investment in clean energy has soared from around USD
50 billion in 2004 to just under USD 250 billion in 2010, a
compound annual growth rate of 30 per cent. Investment
in new, renewable electricity generation capacity has al-
ready all but overtaken that in fossil generating capacity.

Even without subsidies, power from onshore wind can
cost as little as USD 6 cents per kWh, which means today’s
best wind farms produce power at the same cost as a new
state-of-the-art coal or gas plants – and that is before as-
suming a carbon price. Landfill gas and municipal solid
waste can produce power for as little as USD 5 cents per
kWh. Geothermal power starts at around USD 8 cents per
kWh. Biomass-based electricity can come in under USD 10
cents per kWh: a bit higher than coal, but not more than
natural gas in most of the world. Meanwhile sugar-cane
based ethanol provides just under half of the fuel for cars in
Brazil – competitive with oil at around USD 50 per barrel.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) power prices have fallen by
around 70 per cent since 2008. A PV project in a sunny
location can now produce electricity for USD 17 cents per
kWh (without subsidies). Solar thermal starts around USD
20 cents. Although it may take another decade or more for
solar power to become fully competitive with fossil-based
electricity, as of this year, rooftop PV is already cheaper
than daytime household power prices in significant
national markets such as Turkey and Italy, before sub-
sidies. By 2015, the same will be the case in most sunny

countries. Meanwhile in the developing world millions
of families are dumping kerosene lamps in favour of so-
lar power each year – they do not need subsidies, all they
need is access to microfinance and someone to sell them
the equipment. Wind-solar-battery micro-grids and oth-
er clean solutions are replacing diesel generators across
India, Africa and Latin America – again, not because of
subsidies, just because of the high cost of oil.

Even the cost of intermittency is not as high as people
think. Spain derives over 20 per cent of its electricity from
renewable energy, more than half of it from wind, yet
the country’s grid operator estimates the cost of inter-
mittency at no more than EUR 1.80 per MWh, which is
around 3 per cent of wholesale power prices and lower
than monthly volatility in oil or coal prices.

All of these figures are in the public domain (though sub-
jected to withering critiques by those who do not like the
implications), and prices continue to come down. Over
the next decade, the cost of lithium-ion batteries will
drop by 75 per cent. The cost of solar PV will drop another
50 per cent. The cost of LED lighting – which uses 10 per
cent of the energy of filament light bulbs – will drop by
90 per cent. The cost of demand management will drop
by 50 per cent. The cost of wind power will drop 25 per
cent. The first mass-market electric vehicles are only just
reaching dealers' lots, as are plug-in hybrids, which go
1000 miles before needing a trip to the gas station. The
first commercial plants making biofuels from plant waste
are coming on line. Butanol and other chemicals can
now be produced more cheaply from bio-feedstocks than
from oil. A plane has crossed the Atlantic using a 50 per
cent biofuel blend. High-voltage power electronics could
eliminate 90 per cent of transformer losses.

Innovation is accelerating, not slowing down. Individual
elements of the clean energy revolution also reinforce
each other. Low-cost, low-power lighting and appliances
mean available renewable energy resources can meet lo-
cal needs instead of falling short. Mass uptake of electric
vehicles will enable the storage of power from solar and
wind. Infusing the energy system with sensors and digital
controls will not only drive a step change in efficiency, but
at the same time reduce the cost of managing the only
real downside of renewable energy – its intermittency.

Of course many questions remain in the shift to clean
energy. What will be the exact mix of renewable tech-
nologies by region and application? How much can be
achieved by energy efficiency? What will be the role of
nuclear power in a post-Fukushima world? What role will
shale gas play? Its arrival on the scene is highly significant
and welcome, but there are big questions about its long-
term environmental impact and its economics, given that
there is limited data as yet on long-term productivity of
‘fracked’ wells.

The shift to clean energy will pose geopolitical and
macroeconomic questions too. Which countries will be
long-term winners and which will fight the trend and be
losers? Will the shift to clean energy reinforce or reduce
economic and trade imbalances? How will fossil fuel ex-
porters react as clean energy acts, first, to cap prices, and
then eats progressively into demand? Will the sheer vol-
ume of stranded assets – tar sands and coal mines, the
wrong sort of power stations, oil wells under the Arctic
and a transport infrastructure dependent on vanishing
supplies of cheap oil – cause the next financial crisis? Or
the next but one?

But the biggest question of all is how long the shift to
clean energy is going to take. For, while the shift is inevi-
table, its speed is by no means decided. This is an indus-
trial revolution which will take decades – but how many?
This is where Rio+20 comes in.

Design policy to drive down the cost of clean

In order to accelerate the shift to clean energy, policy
mechanisms need to help drive down its costs rather
than create long-term protected markets for particular

The point has been made endlessly over the past few years
that support for clean energy needs to be "Long, Loud and
Legal", and that clean energy investors need "TLC: Trans-
parency, Longevity and Certainty". To date, clean energy
has been significantly held back as policy-makers waver
between support and laisser-faire policies. Energy tech-
nologies are not like pharmaceuticals or software: they are
as much about heavy engineering as intellectual property.
Deployment at scale is required in order to drive process
improvement and develop efficient supply chains. Those
who voice support for clean energy but suggest technolo-
gies should stay in the lab until they are fully competitive
are false friends: they have fundamentally misunderstood
the drivers of industrial cost reduction.

Although there is a categorical need to support deploy-
ment of clean energy technologies while they mature,
which can take an extended period of up to two decades,
history has shown that innovation thrives on deregula-
tion, not on regulation. Feed-in-tariffs are nothing more
than price controls. Around the world we have seen the
prices for solar and wind equipment absorbing whatever
feed-in-tariff is set, and failing to drop fast enough to keep
up with falling costs. The simplicity of feed-in-tariffs may
make them necessary for retail markets but in whole-
sale markets they cannot be justified. Renewable port-
folio standards, meanwhile, are nothing more than the
centrally-planned creation of protected markets. That is
not to say there is no role for these mechanisms, but that
their use needs to be a different sort of TLC: Temporary,
Limited, and Careful.

The number one imperative for the clean energy sector
should not be political lobbying or rolling out current
generation technology at any cost or creating jobs. It
should be to push down costs, consistently and for the
long term. Do it successfully and all the other potential
co-benefits will flow; fail to do it and hard-working con-
sumers and tax-payers will rebel, and rightly so. All clean
energy policy must therefore be designed to have market-
based price discovery at its heart.

Driving down the cost of clean energy also means driv-
ing down the cost of finance – mainly, given the levels of
leverage used for infrastructure projects, the cost of debt.
The difference between debt at 6 per cent and debt at 10
per cent is the difference between a viable wind farm and
one that does not get built. To date, too little attention
has been paid to the impact of policy design on the cost of

Sugar-cane based ethanol provides just under half of the fuel
for cars in Brazil – competitive with oil at around

USD 50 per barrel


finance. Politicians ladle on rewards with one hand while
increasing risk with the other: taking away in increased
financing cost the very returns they are trying to provide
in order to attract investors.

Eliminate fossil fuel subsidies

At least as important as smart policy in support of clean
energy is the need to eliminate subsidies for dirty energy.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that
fossil fuels benefited from USD 312 billion of production
and consumption subsidies in 2009, against an equiva-
lent figure for clean energy of just USD 57 billion. Elimi-
nating these distortive subsidies would cut the growth in
energy demand through 2020 by 5 per cent, equivalent to
the entire fossil fuel consumption of Japan, the Republic
of Korea and New Zealand.

In fact, these figures underestimate the scale of the prob-
lem. They do not include the impact of a number of ex-
ternalities and structural biases which act against the in-
troduction of new clean energy technologies:

Health costs associated with fossil fuels – especially
coal and kerosene – which are paid for either directly
by the public or by general taxation via ministries of

Defence costs associated with securing oil, coal and
nuclear supply chains, paid for by general taxation
via ministries of defence and homeland security;

The cost of energy price volatility, borne by the
economies of fossil-fuel importing countries. It is
clearly a significant factor, given that each global re-
cession for the past 40 years has been preceded by an
oil price spike;

Subsidies to energy-intensive industries. While these
have historically been seen as a way of supporting
growth, in a high energy-price world they are a way
of bleeding a country’s economy dry; tragically many
politicians and economists do not appear to have

And, of course, carbon emissions. Without rehears-
ing the science behind climate change or the costs
of CO2 impacts, it is beyond reasonable doubt that

greenhouse gases are causing damage for which their
emitters are not paying.

It is economic madness to support clean technologies
and at the same time subsidise the very fossil fuels they
are meant to replace. The fact that these distortions have
been allowed to persist and even grow over time is not so
much a failure of the market as a failure of leadership.

At the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, world leaders commit-
ted to “rationalise and phase out over the medium term
inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful
consumption”. What is needed is aggressive follow-up on
that statement, not negotiations over the meaning of the
words. Rio+20 has a vital role to play.

Remove regulatory barriers to clean energy deployment.
Finally, to accelerate the shift to clean energy we need to
systematically identify and remove legislative and regula-
tory barriers which are holding it back.

One area in particular stands out: that of utility regula-
tion. But around the world the rule book has been de-
signed around reliability of supply and keeping prices
low, with environmental performance added as an after-
thought. It has been rendered all but obsolete by three
factors: it is now cheaper to assure reliability of supply by
pervading the grid with intelligence, rather than by the
brute force of overcapacity; consumer focus is shifting
from low unit energy prices to low energy bills; and en-
vironmental constraints have become so various and so
stringent that the only way to meet them economically is
to design them in from the start.

Decades of regulation designed to protect consumers
from local monopolies has had the exact opposite effect.
Power sales are restricted to utilities. Energy efficiency
hits profits. Smart meter investment cannot be recouped.
Electricity markets overly penalise intermittency. Net me-
tering, where it exists, provides for one buyer and a regu-
lated price. Countries and states lack agreements on com-
merce and interconnection. The list of market distortions
and barriers to the introduction of new technology is end-
less. How can we expect technological innovation in this
environment? The utility sector today is like the telecoms
sector in the 1980s – frozen like a rabbit in the headlights
of new technology, and with powerful incumbents argu-
ing that change is far too risky to contemplate.

Over the next decade, the cost of lithium-ion batteries will drop by
75 per cent. The cost of solar PV will drop another 50 per cent.

The cost of LED …will drop by 90 per cent…
The cost of wind power will drop 25 per cent







Utility regulation needs to be rethought from first prin-
ciples. Consumers do not have a right to low unit energy
prices, they have a right to low bills. They don’t have a
right to grid connections, they have a right to reliable
energy supplies. And everyone, everywhere in the world,
has a right to energy that has been produced safely – not
short term, not long term, not locally, not globally – al-
ways and everywhere.

The new regulatory regime needs to reflect the fact that
new technology enables the introduction of competition
in every area of energy provision; not just in power gen-
eration, or in billing, but in things like voltage regulation,
back-up power, management of intermittency, additions
to the grid and investment in energy efficiency. We are en-
tering a new era of competition between electricity, natural
gas, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Heat pumps
allow electricity to compete with natural gas and oil for
heating loads – if they are not first captured by solar hot
water. Electric vehicles allow electricity to compete with
oil on its home turf. A new generation of distributed gen-
eration technologies – based on fuel cells or conventional
approaches – will allow natural gas to provide real compe-
tition in delivering energy to the home. Even the last-mile
connection to the grid, which has for the past 150 years
been a natural monopoly, is no longer so. A combination of
extreme efficiency, local renewable generation and power
storage offers a realistic opportunity of off-grid living in
many locations for the first time in nearly two centuries.

The energy sector is also affected by generations of regu-
lation in areas such as safety, reliability, energy poverty,
commerce, trade and so on. Any new technology stands
at an enormous disadvantage. Planning processes favour
incumbent technologies. Projects require permits from
dozens of agencies. National parks prohibit exploitation
of resources. There are gaps in standards for new technol-
ogies, and agencies lag in certifying new manufacturers.
Building codes create barriers for new technologies. Trade
agreements thoughtlessly apply tariffs. Small businesses
are excluded from government contracts. Appliance stan-
dards gloss over environmental performance differences.
Mortgage structures render energy service contracts in-
valid. In all of these areas, barriers to the rapid shift to
clean energy need to be identified and dismantled.

Financial regulation too needs to change. Pension fund
managers endlessly point out they can’t invest in clean

energy because it is risky. For sure, the sector is subject
to a complex and dynamic set of regulations – but is this
really any different from telecoms, health care, aviation,
or indeed other parts of the energy industry? The Wilder-
Hill New Energy Global Innovation Index (NEX) of clean
energy stocks began life at 100 in 2003, reached 450 by the
end of 2007, slumped to 135 in March 2009 and then re-
covered to just under 200 now. Volatile, to be sure, but it
has nevertheless delivered a compound return of nearly
9% per annum over the period, considerably outperform-
ing the Standard & Poor (S&P) 500.

Meanwhile, during this period, not one clean energy in-
vestor has woken up to find one of his or her investments
has been responsible for the next Deepwater Horizon,
Exxon Valdez, Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, or Fu-
kushima meltdown. In February 2011, unseasonably cold
weather resulted in rolling electricity black-outs across
Texas. Critics immediately blamed the amount of wind
power in the state. The real culprit? The drop-out of 7,000
MW of coal-fired generation due to frozen pipes.

Helping investors understand long-term risks posed by
climate change is too theoretical to change the actions
of today’s portfolio managers. Why should they care if
sea level rise in 50 years renders one of their investments
worthless? They will be long retired. What front-line
portfolio managers are missing is the immediate, signifi-
cant and growing risk to their holdings which is posed
by the current energy system. They have an obligation to
protect their clients’ savings; and if they will not do so
voluntarily, then it is the responsibility of financial regula-
tors to compel them.

Finally, while we are removing distortions that hold back
clean energy, we also need to look at the issue of trade.
In his article, Peter Brun describes the principles behind
a Sustainable Energy Free Trade Agreement (SEFTA),
whereby tariffs on clean energy products, services, feed-
stocks and output are removed, technical standards are
agreed, local content rules are abolished and competi-
tive subsidies eliminated. What more fitting way to unify
right and left of the political debate than in unleashing
the forces of globalisation to the benefit of a cleaner econ-
omy, rather than to its detriment? SEFTA could start with
the G20 countries, but expand from there, and could be
designed to operate within WTO rules. We should admit
that the Doha trade round is going nowhere, the focus

The green agenda needs to be
restated in terms that will

resonate with everyone – and
the only realistic way of achieving

that is to restate it in terms
of resource efficiency

our efforts on SEFTA, which offers so much benefit to
every country in the world.

Addressing these barriers to clean energy deployment
would not generally even cost public money. Very often,
however, it would entail taking on powerful interests
– requiring the expenditure of political, rather than fi-
nancial capital. Are the political leaders who will attend
Rio+20 ready for the challenge?

Climate finance

The final area in which Rio+20 could spur a step change
in outcomes is in the area of climate finance. While Co-
penhagen did not result in a global cap on emissions or a
global carbon price, it did result in the commitment by the
developed world to provide USD 100 bn of funding to the
developing world each year by 2020. In Cancún, further
progress was made, with agreement that a Green Climate
Fund would be established, which would manage “a signifi-
cant portion” of these adaptation and mitigation funds.
Achieving USD 100 bn of investment by the developed
world in the developing world is feasible, under the right
conditions. However, before describing how it might be
achieved, there are again some home truths that need to
be stated.

First, Kyoto is dead. The developed world simply will
not perpetuate any deal which caps their emissions and
leaves the developing world entirely untrammelled. The
idea that there is one group of countries that should pay
for climate change forever, and another that does not,
was always absurd. If in doubt, fast forward to 2050 and
calculate where the bulk of cumulative historic emissions
will have come from under almost any scenario. Answer
– China and India. Of course there can be a face-saving
deal whereby the Kyoto Protocol is preserved; but let us
be clear, it will be in name alone.

Second, linking everything to everything makes it an or-
der of magnitude harder to achieve progress. The climate
problem is mainly an energy problem – which means
essentially an engineering problem. Of the remainder,
the bulk of it is a forestry and land use problem – which
means essentially a social problem. Keep them separate.
Adaptation, by contrast, is essentially a justice problem.
We really should be looking at creating separate adapta-
tion funds, with contributions proportional to historic
emissions. Providing climate loans to help countries deal

with problems of the developed world’s causation, then
charging them interest, is immoral. Charging them inter-
est for solutions which help mitigate future emissions, on
the other hand, is not.

Third, interventions have to be politically feasible. I un-
derstand the challenging task faced by the High-Level
Group (HLG) which fed into the Cancún negotiations;
but what is the point of advocating a global tax on ship-
ping and aviation and a global carbon price when there is
zero chance of these being adopted by key players in the
current political cycle – possibly ever? We must remain
in the domain of the achievable and focused on practical
solutions, not posturing. In particular, it should be noted,
solutions have to be politically feasible in the countries
which are providing the funds. Unless their voters sup-
port any deal, no deal will be ratified, and no funds will
flow. There is no point in designing a Green Climate
Fund to receive and manage USD 100 bn of govern-
ment-to-government funding when no such amount
will materialise.

Finally, to attract private finance on a truly large scale,
solutions have to be brutally simple. If you want main-
stream businesses to participate, you need to insulate
them from all talk of NAMAs, CERs, VERs, ERUs, DNAs
and DOEs, REDD+, additionality, climate bonds and so
on. A good rule of thumb: if it needs a glossary, you can
forget about retail investors and the financial institutions
that serve them. The Clean Development Mechanism
was enormously complex, administratively costly and
open to manipulation; it also left developers with the
risk of carbon price volatility. Meanwhile, public-private
partnerships (PPP) only resonate with people if they are
tightly defined. If you want to use the term PPP, you have
to be clear: do you mean regulation which steers the flow
of private investments to generate public good, or public
tendering for the provision of infrastructure and services?
Or public sector investment in companies and projects?
Or some mix of all of these approaches?

Blueprint for a Green Climate Finance

Any solution which routes USD 100 bn of finance to the
developing world for climate-related initiatives will be
made up of a mix of public and private money, with pri-
vate money predominating. The Green Climate Fund will
not be a World-Bank-style fund, replenished to the tune

Investment in clean energy has soared from around
USD 50 billion in 2004 to just under USD 250 billion in 2010,

a compound annual growth rate
of 30 per cent


of USD 100 bn per annum and handed over government-
to-government. In fact, the Green Climate Fund will be
just one of a range of mechanisms making up a Green
Climate Finance Framework, which together can deliver
the required volume of funds.

The bulk of the capital required will be to finance assets
– either for large-scale projects or distributed solutions.
This means the biggest challenge will be to come up with
around USD 70 bn of debt per annum (assuming average
leverage levels). That is not to say that finding USD 30bn of
equity will be easy, but the equity markets are far more
developed in most recipient countries than the debt mar-
kets. If there are good projects – and investment in capac-
ity-building would be required to ensure there are enough
– equity sponsors will emerge among local economic and
political elites as well as among specialist global investors.
Similarly, investment in technology development, espe-
cially if you count the building of factories under asset
finance, is likely to account for less than 10 per cent of the
funds and will not be the main bottleneck.

We are not just looking for any old USD 70 bn of debt: it
must be USD 70 bn of cheap debt. As described above, the
cost of finance is of critical importance in determining
the cost of clean energy. By starting with the creation of
a pool of cheap debt, you have visibility of the true extent
to which the resulting solutions will require some form
of supplementary support. The Get FiT approach, which
starts by providing overseas support for feed-in-tariffs in
developing countries, would indeed drive down the cost
of capital, but, like elsewhere, it will deliver excessive rent
to developers and investors and lead to boom-bust cycles
in the supply chain.

The first place to look for cheap debt is to increase the
volume of concessionary finance provided by the devel-
opment banks. These already invested around USD 13.5 bn
in utility-scale renewable energy projects in 2010 and bil-
lions more on energy efficiency and grid infrastructure.
They could increase this figure significantly by shifting
lending out of fossil-based projects. Frankly, it is unclear
why the developed world should continue to fund the
deployment of polluting technologies in the developing

The remaining USD 50 bn of debt would need to come
from the private sector. The key question is under what
terms western pension savers and tax-payers can be ex-
pected to allow their money to be invested in infrastruc-
ture development in the world’s poorest countries. The an-
swer, of course, is when it is not going to disappear down
the plug hole. This means it needs to be covered by some
form of sovereign guarantee backed by developed world
countries – perhaps in the form of a credit default swap
or first loss provision – such that it qualifies for an invest-
ment grade rating. The rating is critical if institutional in-
vestors are going to be able to hold the resulting paper.

Risk management in a Green Climate
Finance Framework

Why should western taxpayers underwrite this facility
when the biggest risk is policy change or some form of na-
tionalisation by recipient countries? What is needed is to
make the acceptance of this very cheap debt conditional
on the signature of an investment treaty preventing the
most common ways in which the assets could otherwise
be confiscated. When multilateral banks invest in major
projects, they effectively do this on a case-by-case basis;
here the projects are too small and the private investors
lack resources and skills, so it must be done at the sover-
eign level. At the same time, recipient countries could be
asked to commit to a green growth path by agreeing to
phase out fossil fuel subsidies and refraining from invest-
ing in dirty energy in competition with the projects being
built under the Green Climate Finance Framework.

Of course the signature of an investment treaty does not
preclude a natural disaster, coup or national default from
rendering the debt worthless. Those risks would be cov-
ered by the sovereign guarantee, along with some level of
foreign exchange risk – but, at most, that part of the total
which relates to hard currency costs. It might be possible to
use the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee
Agency (MIGA) here, but it would need to scale up very con-
siderably from its currently-modest volume of business. It
should also be possible to bring in commercial insurers to
take on specific risks – such as construction, or maintenance
performance, where their superior knowledge makes
them effectively lower-cost providers than governments.

Any solution which routes USD 100 billion of finance to the
developing world for climate-related initiatives will be

made up of a mix of public and private money,
with private money predominating


Role of the Green Climate Fund

Once debt costs are brought into line with those in Ger-
many, the UK, Japan or the US, clean solutions would, as
we have seen, cost only marginally more than dirty alter-
natives. Whatever differential remains, however, must be
funded. The main role for the Green Climate Fund should
be as the keeper of grant funding to cover this residual
cost differential. The grants could be delivered in any
number of possible ways, including perhaps guaranteed
tariff payments or premiums for the life of the project.

Project developers should have to bid competitively to se-
cure tranches of Green Climate Fund grants, with awards
going to those developers that can produce the maximum
level of climate benefits with the minimum amount of
money from the fund. This will ensure the most efficient
leverage of public funds provided by the developed world.
Ensuring that each dollar of support goes as far as pos-
sible will be essential to retain political support for the
process. The bidding process could be designed to reflect
the situation of different regions or countries. In the case
of more rapidly developing countries such as China or
Brazil, the availability of grants from the Green Climate
Fund should be limited. For very poor countries it could
be met entirely by developed world sponsors.

Completing the Green Climate Finance

While the sovereign guarantees could be administered by
the same team as manages the Green Climate Fund, or
by multilateral banks on their behalf, there are better op-
tions. Existing providers of export trade finance have con-
siderable skill in this area, as do private insurance compa-
nies and banks. Just as elsewhere, the cost of intervention
will be lower if the developers of clean energy projects
are allowed to shop the best projects around to a range
of different providers, rather than having access only to
one source. There is no reason why developed countries,
or groups of them, should not contribute to a range of
Green Climate Guarantee Facilities, managed by different
public and private institutions.

There is a role for carbon credits in such a structure.
As discussed, although there will be no global carbon

markets, they will still exist at municipal, state, national or
regional level. Each of these schemes could be partnered
with a Green Climate Guarantee Facility, so that regions
supporting projects in the developing world through the
carbon markets would reduce the investment required in
the Green Climate Finance Framework.

It will be up to the project developer to create a bundle
of energy sales agreements, debt, Green Climate Guar-
antees, carbon credits, insurance, and any other induce-
ments on offer from different players; and to have this
certified as viable by a verification provider before bidding
for the lowest possible grant funding from the Green Cli-
mate Fund which enables the project to proceed.

Part of the beauty of this approach is that it minimises
requirements around measuring, reporting and verifica-
tion. All that is needed is a list of clean technologies or
project types which qualify, and then the same sort of due
diligence as on any other type of infrastructure invest-
ment. As long as each qualifying investment is announced
publicly, the flow of Green Climate Finance Framework
funds can be added up and scrutinised by whoever feels
the need.

Clearly there are many questions that need to be an-
swered in the detailed design of a Green Climate Finance
Framework. The point is that it can be done: the promise
of USD 100 bn of climate finance for the developing world
can be met, with sufficient creativity and flexibility all

This brings me to my final point. A rapid shift to a green
economy will bring the world enormous net economic,
social and environmental gains, but it will not benefit
everyone. There will be losers as well as winners; many
of the losers will be rich and well connected. Fossil fuels
have been a good and generous master.

As a result, nothing will happen without leaders who rise
to the challenge. There is no route to a green economy
that does not require vision, clarity of purpose, bravery, a
bias for action and exceptional negotiating skills. Do we
have those leaders?

Time is short. There is much work to be done.

Michael Liebreich (Twitter @MLiebreich)
Michael Liebreich is the head of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the leading provider of information and research to senior investors, executives
and policy-makers in clean energy and carbon markets. Michael serves as a Member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council
on Sustainable Energy and is on the Selection Committee for the Zayed Future Energy Prize. Prior to founding New Energy Finance, Michael was an
entrepreneur, venture capitalist (with Groupe Arnault), and executive, helping to build around 25 successful companies. In the 1990s he acted as
Deputy Managing Director of Associated Press Television, Founding Director of Sports News Television and non-executive director of Interactive
Investor. He also spent five years in the London office of McKinsey & Company. Michael has an MA in Engineering from the University of Cambridge
and an MBA from Harvard. He was a member of the British Ski Team at the 1992 Albertville Olympic Games.


Sustainable strategies,
technologies, processes
and products

volution is inevitable. We are all, albeit in different
proportions, growing all the time; this year alone – 2011
– the global economy is expected to grow at 4.5 per cent
while, within pace with growth, primary energy use is set
to grow 40 per cent through 2030.

In economics, various metrics are used to measure de-
velopment. Based on these metrics the world is broadly
separated into three categories; least-developed, devel-
oping and developed economies. At any stage of devel-
opment or rate of growth, one thing is constant – rising
demand for energy. Growth is, after all, fueled by energy.
The developing world needs energy to power its growth,
as does the developed world.

In this dynamic growth mix, change in just one variable
can change our energy needs drastically; for example,
population. Declining death rates and increasing birth
rates have resulted in an explosion of population. This
is a definite sign of much desired progress, but the con-
sequence is once again unparalleled need for energy,
weighing down the existing energy infrastructure.

Further, economic advancement has rarely been just
and equitable; for decades it has favoured the rich. New
wealth is usually created in the urban areas while the
poor continue to suffer. And this divide is more often
seen in developing countries. For example, over the past
two decades, annual real rural income in India has seen a
growth of just 2.8 per cent. In the next two decades, this
growth is predicted to change by a mere one per cent.
Simply put, almost 70 per cent of the Indian population
stands to barely benefit from India’s rapid economic
growth of seven to eight per cent per year.

Growth and energy use is undeniably interlinked. As
growth accelerated in the industrial era, so did our use
of fossil fuel energy. The most popular image of the latter
part of the 18th century is possibly the endless factories
chugging huge amounts of coal and spitting out black
clouds. These energy sources, apart from producing large
amounts of usable power, also produce large amounts of
undesired greenhouse gases.

Global atmospheric concentrations of CO2, the most
important greenhouse gas, ranged between 200 and 300
parts per million (ppm) for 800,000 years, but have shot up
to about 387 ppm over the past 150 years, mainly because
of the burning of fossil fuels.

The average temperature on earth has already warmed
by close to 1°C since the beginning of the industrial era.
The consequences of this are already being felt across the
world: extreme weather fluctuations, widespread melt-
ing of glaciers, and rising sea levels.

Globally, precipitation has increased even as Australia,
Central Asia, the Mediterranean basin, the Sahel, the
western United States, and many other regions see more
frequent and more intense droughts. Heavy rainfall and
floods have become more common, and the intensity of
storms and tropical cyclones has increased.

Though climate change is the biggest threat facing hu-
mankind – the fallout of continuing to be dependent on
fossil fuels is not limited to it. Fossil fuels may not even
last to witness the full blown devastation caused by cli-
mate change – though they will have rendered enough

Tulsi R. Tanti

The author reiterates the call for a new approach based on the twin challenges of growing energy needs and the already visible
evidence of climate change. He makes a clear distinction in roles between government, the enabler, and business, the innovator.
He highlights renewable energy as an engine for change, notably stressing the benefits of the production of green energy to meet
the demands of growing economies without adding to the climate change risks. As a producer of wind turbines, he emphasizes the
numerous advantages of a technology which, he says, creates jobs, does not impede agriculture and costs less than other renewable



The climate change threat has been looming over us
for decades now, and its interconnections to other fac-
tors make it a devastating prospect. The report by WEF
World Economic Forum? shows the linkages between
climate change and economic disparity, extreme weath-
er events, extreme energy price volatility, geopolitical
conflict, flooding and water security. In other words hu-
manity is in deep trouble.

But this is not new: we are not only aware of the dan-
gers of climate change – we have also faced them and
will continue to do so. The Food and Agriculture Orga-
nization (FAO) says world food prices this January hit a
"historic peak". The food price index, collated by FAO,
averaged 231 points in January, which is the highest since
1990, when it started measuring food prices globally.
The reasons for the spike are not just the traditional, but
newer challenges of extreme weather events, floods and
droughts, heat and frost waves.

In 2010 itself, two separate grain-growing regions of
the world were being impacted by extreme weather –
extreme cold and frost in Canada and searing heat and
drought in Russia. There were floods in Australia and a
winter drought in China's main wheat-growing regions.
All this has meant global wheat production is down and
prices are high. Bad weather has taken its toll on crops
across the world.

There are many more cases of damage to crops because
of changing weather. And these losses are not contained.
Bad weather, increased food prices have added to pover-
ty and the spilling global unrest. This will only get worse,
if we do not ramp up efforts on each and every facet of
climate change mitigation.

We are in the midst of a revolution once again. A new
world order is in the cards, as the world’s centre of grav-
ity moves from North to South.

Home to one third of the planet’s population, China and
India are taking the sustained lead, unlike any success
stories of the past. Within less than three decades India
is predicted to firmly settle as the third biggest economy
of the world.

The question now is whether we will repeat the patterns
of the past in this new developmental era or apply better
methods for a better world? We now have the opportu-
nity to rebuild an economy which is just and equitable.
In addition, collectively we also have the choice to power
this change on clean, green and sustainable energy.

The question is how and who? Is it the onus of the gov-
ernment or responsibility of the private sector?

The role of the government is to put into place policies and
systems which encourage maximum investments by the
private sector; but it is up to the industries and individual
businesses to bring about the change and spur the country
into action. The function of the government cannot be dis-
counted – after all they provide the much needed structure
and support – but the task of driving research and innova-
tion clearly needs to be with the private sector.

We need more companies to take advantage of the op-
portunity provided by the Government and translate
buzzwords, such as “sustainability” and “climate protec-
tion” into products and solutions. We need each indi-
vidual business to employ innovative methods in the
development of these products. Sustainable strategies,
technologies, processes and products open up complete-
ly new potential for growth; and this growth can only
be powered by collective effort. Companies must take
energy efficient measures rapidly. We need the industry
to rise to the occasion and drive change.

One path that leads to the desired change is the one I
have dedicated my life to – renewable energy. The obvi-
ous benefit is the production of green energy, which will
meet the demands of the growing economies without
adding to the climate change risks. But if you dig a little
deeper, the not so visible outcomes add up significantly.

A wind turbine is made up of
approximately 8,000 components
– a clear indication of the sheer
immensity of the employment

market wind can create

A wind turbine is made up of approximately 8,000 com-
ponents – a clear indication of the sheer immensity of
the employment this business can create. In addition
to manufacturing, various other sectors are involved in
wind energy development, ranging from environmental
consultancy, electrical and civil engineering to financial
and legal services.

Even during the recent economic breakdown, the wind
energy industry continued to contribute to the job mar-
ket. At the end of 2009 more than 600,000 were employed
in the wind energy sector globally. That is equivalent to
almost 15 jobs per megawatt (MW) installed.

Additionally, wind energy can be generated locally and
distributed directly to the local distribution network:
this is known as embedded generation. The distance
over which electricity has to travel is reduced, meaning
less electrical losses in transmission and distribution,
and therefore saving energy.

The benefits from local electricity generation are partic-
ularly valuable in areas remote from centralized systems
and where the transmission or distribution grid is weak.
Local energy generation will also be of great importance
as the world’s fossil fuel sources start to run out.

Importantly, wind energy is not a hindrance to agricul-
tural activities; a critical factor for most emerging econo-
mies. Land under development for wind farms can re-
main in agricultural usage. In fact, easement payments
to land owners can provide a significant second income
without disrupting existing land use (farming, ranching,
etc.). The tax revenue generated by wind energy con-
tributes to the development of community in the form
of better schools and health amenities.

In India, our major cities are crowded and infrastructure
is pushed to the limit. But thousands flock to the cities ev-
eryday in search of work. This, in turn, increases pressure
on our cities, threatens our rural way of life and breaks
up family units. But wind farms typically come up in the
remotest parts of the country. So, at Suzlon, we started
training people in rural communities in wind energy. This
means today they have secure jobs, do not add to the mi-
gration and our customers get great, localized service.

Solutions like the above are plenty. The private sector is
the development catalyst of any economy, and seeking
such opportunities has never been more important than

I believe fervently that today’s business leaders must
shape a greener world to halt climate change. So when-
ever possible, we strive to employ life-changing solutions
that make a difference to our planet and also deliver a
return on investment.

Every business needs to consciously make a difference.
Today, with the threat of climate change, an inclusive
approach is even more urgent.

Suzlon is both a business and the champion of that cause.
It is both providing the world with sustainable green en-
ergy solutions and we are employing them in our own
backyard. Suzlon One Earth, our 10.13-acre global head-
quarters in Pune, is a campus powered 100 per cent by
renewable energy. There is a myth that energy-efficiency
is expensive. Our experience is that the opposite is true.
Meeting LEED Platinum standards and running wholly
on green power, ‘One Earth’ cost about 10 per cent less
to build than a conventional building!

One Earth was named as a tribute to Earth’s unique ex-
istence as a self-replenishing ecosystem. We hope it will
serve as inspiration and proof to others that it is possi-
ble, if we are really determined, to create the sustainable
world we seek for our children and grandchildren.

The private-sector needs to employ both green solu-
tions and also maintain sustained investment into R&D.
I cannot stress enough the role of R&D in any technol-
ogy driven process. It is decades of work, by some very
brilliant minds, to make technology amenable for peo-
ple like you and me. Their work has possibly never been
more important – the challenge for them, in this age, is
to bring about change in an environment which itself is
rapidly changing.

At Suzlon, we have set up research, development and
innovation centres in Denmark, Germany, the Neth-
erlands and India – and soon in China. These centres
focus both on product development and fundamental,
game-changing technology. Today, Suzlon is the only
global wind power company that comes from an emerg-
ing market – arguably because we provide technology at
par with any developed country.

The wind industry today is notably different from that
in the early eighties. Wind turbines now are typically 100
times more powerful than earlier versions and employ
sophisticated materials, electronics, and aerodynamics.
Costs have declined, making wind more competitive
than other power generation options. Even amongst the


Amongst the renewables,
wind is approximately

four times cheaper
than solar

renewables, wind is approximately four times cheaper
than solar.

But the winds of change have just arrived; 37 gigawatt
(GW) of wind energy was installed the world-over in
2009, and 16 GW in the first half of 2010. This growing
demand can only be met through improved production
processes, cleaner goods and services and cutting-edge
technological advances. At Suzlon, we are focused on
continual development of turbine technology that is
not only cost efficient but also more energy efficient per-
kilowatt hour – working towards making wind increas-
ingly competitive against conventional fossil fuels. Addi-
tionally, we are experimenting with options of predictive
performance (condition monitoring / forecasting) and
energy storage.

At the state level, we encourage economies to look at de-
veloping a more holistic grid interface which is geared
to absorb and distribute the growing wind energy

production. Developing smart grids will allow the op-
portunity to track flow of energy and control system
components for economic optimization. The need for
building transmission infrastructure which is ‘green’
friendly is prevalent across development divides. There
are 1.5 billion people who live in the dark, without regu-
lar access to electricity. Electricity is a basic human right:
we need innovative solutions to assure affordable power
to all.

In the end, it is really only about an attitude change. It
has been proved over and over again that employing
green methods is not only necessary but also profitable.
We are obliged to employ all resources offered to us by
nature; it is the only way to maintain its balance.

As an entrepreneur, I am an eternal optimist. I am cer-
tain that my peers will rise to the challenge and work out
solutions which are profitable and build a greener future
for all six billion of us, and for the generations to come


Tulsi R. Tanti
Tulsi R. Tanti is the Founder, Chairman and Managing Director of the Suzlon Group. Starting a textile business in the 1990s, Mr. Tanti endeavored
into a lesser known solution, commissioning two wind turbines to supply electricity to his textile unit. While realizing the potential of competitive
green energy, his textile business changed - in a span of 15 years - quickly specializing in the production of renewable energy.
Today, Suzlon energy is a world-leading wind energy company which employs over 13.000 people and has combined revenues of USD 5 billion
in 32 countries and six continents.


Greening the economy
through fairtrade:
a model that works

o understand the essence of Fairtrade,
it is helpful to take a look at its short but
dynamic history. Its roots go back to the
solidarity movement of the 1980s, which
sought to raise awareness about the ap-
palling working and living conditions
on plantations in the ‘South’ and the
challenges faced by smallholder farmer
organizations exporting agricultural com-
modities to Western markets. For many of
these workers and producers, as well as for
consumers in the ‘North’, the emergence
of World shops, offered an outlet for a
“fairer offer”, challenging mainstream
markets with respect to their social and
environmental sustainability.1

Inspired by the success of organic certifi-
cation and labelling, a first Fairtrade label-
ling initiative by the name of Max Have-
laar was founded by Dutch civil society in
1988. The idea spread quickly across con-
tinental Europe and eventually to the rest
of the world, as local non-governmental
organizations and alternative traders
followed the Dutch example. The Fair-
trade concept, consisting of a guaranteed
minimum price, the self-organization of
farmers and workers, and a collective pre-
mium for socio-economic investments,
enabled thousands of coffee farmers in
Latin America to continue farming their
lands instead of migrating to the cities
and leaving their land uncultivated dur-
ing the coffee crisis of the early 1990s.

Today, over 800 cooperatives and planta-
tions, with around 1.2 million smallholder
farmers or workers, are certified against
the international standards of Fairtrade.
Three producer networks in the Latin
America and the Caribbean, Africa and
Asia-Pacific regions ensure that producers
assume ownership through active partic-
ipation in the system. National labelling
initiatives anchored in civil society pro-
mote the Fairtrade label in the market
and support market access for certified
producers. By the end of 2009, the global
retail sales value of Fairtrade labelled
products reached EUR 3.4 billion, with the
main markets flourishing in Europe.2

Despite the market forces that have
shaped its evolution, Fairtrade contin-
ues to uphold certain core principles that
set it apart from conventional product
certification schemes: participation and
co-ownership by producers; inclusive
multi-stakeholder processes; standards
that effectively reflect the producer situ-
ation in the South and market realities
in the North; a Fairtrade Minimum Price
and a Fairtrade Premium that, in princi-
ple, should ensure that compliance costs
are covered and not simply passed on to
producers; long-term trade relationships;
pre-financing; and – last but not least – a
strong label that assures consumers that
their choices make a difference to the
lives of farmers in the South.

The evolution of Producer Networks
within the Fairtrade system is both
unique and unprecedented. Through
them, producers are able to participate in
standards setting, governance and over-
all management of the Fairtrade system.
These networks also offer the opportu-
nity for producers to engage in market
promotion activities, advocacy work and
public debates. In 2010, for instance, a
group of Fairtrade producers participated
at the UNFCC Conference of the Parties
in Cancun to showcase their experience
in combating climate change and to high-
light their contribution to sustainable ag-
riculture and the mitigation of climate

Producer Networks have also been instru-
mental in facilitating Fairtrade farmers’
exchange of experience and in promoting
local markets. For instance, in South Afri-
ca, the introduction of Fairtrade products
like coffee means trade relationships are
being formed between producers in East
Africa, where Fairtrade coffee is produced,
and a roaster in Johannesburg which car-
ries the Fairtrade label. Similarly, cocoa
producers in West Africa are now able
to access the South African market due
to the growing Fairtrade market in that

Michael Kwame Nkonu and Martin Rohner

Few social enterprises providing innovative market-based solutions to social and developmental challenges have managed to impress upon industry
a different way of thinking about sourcing practices and supply chains more than Fairtrade. Fairtrade is not just another standards and certification
tool: it is an alternative approach to trade based on partnership and equity. At the heart of Fairtrade lies the development and empowerment of small
farmers and plantation workers in the 'South', who for decades have been disadvantaged in the conventional trading system. Despite numerous
challenges, the Fairtrade system illustrates how the global trade system can incorporate sustainable development and empowerment of producers.



Common misconceptions

Economists often argue that the guar-
anteed minimum price advocated by
Fairtrade prevents structural change and
diversification. In reality, the minimum
price and the Fairtrade premium create
the “economic breathing space” to allow
marginalized producers to take a longer
term view of their economic develop-
ment and invest in their future. The so-
cial organization of farmers or workers
and the Fairtrade Premium provide the
momentum to drive collective change.
There are many empirical examples of
diversification among Fairtrade coopera-
tives that prove this point. The Fairtrade
organic premium, for example, helps cot-
ton farmers in Mali reduce the economic
risks associated with the switch from con-
ventional to organic cotton production.3

Equally, it has been argued that Fairtrade
creates “islands of wealth” among the
communities in disadvantaged regions.
However, independent impact assess-
ments have shown that Fairtrade benefits
the wider community. In the Yungas re-
gion in Bolivia, for example, Fairtrade has
led to higher prices, not just for the Fair-
trade certified producer organizations,
but for the region overall.4

There is also a perception that govern-
ments in the South see Fairtrade as an-
other form of Northern driven social and
environmental protectionism. In reality
some governments, such as Malawi, rec-
ognize Fairtrade as a powerful partner
in agricultural development because of
the better terms of trade Fairtrade offers
to their farmers.5 Fairtrade is starting to
catch on as a complimentary approach
to regional development goals, such as in
the Comprehensive African Agriculture
Development Programme (CAADP) of
the New Partnership for Africa's Devel-
opment (NEPAD).6

Often regarded as primarily a social stan-
dards system, Fairtrade standards also
comprise stringent environmental cri-
teria, which, however, take into account
producer realities in the South. Fairtrade’s
environmental strategy is developed
from a producer perspective, recognizing
that the social and economic well-being
of producers is a prerequisite for sound
environmental management and the re-
silience of farmers to climate change.7-8-9

The real challenges

While clearly a success story and a good
example of how civil society has managed
to lead in the quest for a green economy,
Fairtrade Labelling has not remained
without challenges.

First, Fairtrade is a market-based system.
While compliance costs are substantial,
given the stringency of the standards,
producers benefit from Fairtrade only in
as far as they are able to sell on Fairtrade
terms.10 This is why it is important to
continue growing the market and market
access for Fairtrade certified producers.

Second, Fairtrade was conceived as a
“learning-by-doing” approach, whereby
farmers are themselves in charge of their
development. Fairtrade simply sets a
framework that ensures that the terms of
trade are fair and communities are provid-
ed with the means to develop themselves.
While this provides for a sustainable,
community-lead development process,
it can be challenging in a high growth
environment, where market demand
outstrips supply. Thus, there is a tension
between industry’s need for “speed to
market” and the time horizon required
for socio-economic transformation.

Third, even Fairtrade is not void of ten-
sions between Northern consumer ex-
pectations and the realities of smallhold-
er farmers in developing countries. The
commitment to inclusive and participa-
tory multi-stakeholder processes has
been an important factor in the success
and sustainability of Fairtrade Labelling;
however, this requires continuous adap-
tation of the governance structures to
ensure the system remains manageable,
effective and representative.

Fourth, the success of Fairtrade has con-
tributed to the proliferation of ‘ethical’
brands and private sustainability initia-
tives. This is a welcome opportunity to
grow the market for sustainable prod-
ucts more quickly, but there are risks of
unfair competition amongst different
certification schemes with differences
in ambition, standards, independence
and financing strategies. Interestingly,
Fairtrade remains the only movement
that has adopted a guaranteed minimum
price, a social premium and the require-
ment for producers to organize them-
selves; elements that directly tackle the
issue of trade justice and empowerment.

Fifth, Fairtrade relies heavily on an ex-
port-model approach: even though it in-
creasingly works to develop local markets
in the South, the sheer size of the North-
ern consumer markets and the headstart
of the Northern-based labelling initia-
tives means that efforts to enable market
access at fair conditions are still slanted
towards markets in the North.

Finally, and most importantly, the fun-
damentals of the commodity trade have
changed dramatically in the past decade.
Declining soil quality, water shortage and
climate change have taken their toll on
productivity and yields, whereas demand

Coffee Picker in Peru
Max Havelaar Foundation (Switzerland)

Pineapple Worker in Ghana
Emilie Persson, Fairtrade Africa

for food is rapidly rising due to popula-
tion growth and changing eating habits.
Speculative investments and a historic
decline of the major trade currencies are
further drivers of high and volatile com-
modity prices.

In this context, smallholder cooperatives
are particularly challenged by market
volatility and the need for professional
risk management and pre-financing. All
these factors can undermine the cooper-
ative integrity of producer organizations
and diminish their relevance. While the
Fairtrade Minimum Price is lower than
current market prices for most commodi-
ties, Fairtrade remains a guarantor of fair
trading relationships and ensures that
higher prices actually reach producers.


The Fairtrade system illustrates how
the global trade system can incorporate
sustainable development and empower-
ment of producers. It offers a practical
solution to internalize the costs of mov-
ing to a greener economy. By focusing on
producers, Fairtrade ensures that “com-
mercial reciprocity” is not only defined
by economic returns. Instead, it also puts
a value tag on the ’external’ benefits that
trade can generate.

If the world is to fully live up to the con-
cept of a green economy as a global com-
mon good11, support must be provided
to those producers that are least respon-
sible for the negative impacts of global-
ization and environmental degradation.

Fairtrade has achieved a lot in this re-
spect thanks to a close collaboration with
industry, governments and donors, and
the growing support of consumers. But
the journey continues and will require all
stakeholders to remain committed.

While industry is recognizing the oppor-
tunities and benefits of 3rd party certifi-
cation, it should also acknowledge that
sustainable supply chains require social
transformation and support to produc-
ing communities that cannot be achieved
overnight. Certification is a means to an
end, not the end in itself, since certifica-
tion and control alone do not create the
fundamental change that is required for
a greening of the economy. This means
that industry will need to commit to a
longer-term engagement and also accept
that set-backs can occur. Also, fair trad-
ing conditions and sustainable produc-
tion come at a price - a price, however,
that consumers are increasingly willing
to pay!

Consumers have to be further educated
about the impact their purchasing deci-
sions have upon farmers and workers in
the South or on the environment. While
Fairtrade has been astoundingly success-
ful in raising consumer awareness in the
European consumer markets, it is virtu-
ally unknown in other regions. Govern-
ments should support civil society initia-
tives that are committed to this advocacy
and awareness raising role.

Donors should continue financial support
to sustainability initiatives like Fairtrade.

But the level of support should be tied to
their level of ambition of such initiatives.
Moreover, initiatives need to prove that
they have a funding mechanism built
into their business model that ensures
that they will eventually become inde-
pendent from public and private donors
and able to finance themselves through
the market. Donors should avoid subsi-
dizing Corporate Social Responsibility
programmes of large multinational cor-
porations and instead focus on indepen-
dent, civil society-backed initiatives with
strong ownership and participation by

Governments of producer countries are
invited to take a closer look at Fairtrade
and the benefits it can bring to their agri-
cultural sector. Partnerships with nation-
al marketing boards or trade ministries
could allow initiatives like Fairtrade to
become more strategic in their interven-
tions and leverage change across entire

Finally, Fairtrade and other sustainabil-
ity initiatives have to continue to look
at themselves critically and adjust in the
light of changing market parameters and
producer needs. Competition between
ethical trade initiatives that leads to a
“race to the bottom” needs to be avoided.
Instead, creative and realistic forms of
collaboration need to be sought that can
push the envelope of the green economy
even further


V i s i o n

Fairtrade’s vision is a world in which all
producers can enjoy secure and sustainable
livelihoods, fulfil their potential and decide

on their future.

M i s s i o n

Fairtrade’s mission is to connect disadvantaged
producers with consumers, promote fairer trading

conditions and empower producers to combat
poverty, strengthen their position and take

more control over their lives.

Box 1: Fairtrade’s Vision and Mission 12

End notes

1 Schaber, van Dok: The Future of Fair Trade (Caritas Switzerland, 2008)

2 Fairtrade Labelling Organization, Annual Report 2009

3 http://www.helvetas.ch/wEnglish/organic_cotton/info_mali.asp?navtext=Helvetas%20Projects

4 Imhof, Sandra and Lee, Andrew: “Assessing the Potential of Fair Trade for Poverty Reduction and Conflict Prevention: A Case Study
of Bolivian Coffee Producers”, Swisspeace and University of Basel

5 http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/producers/sugar/kasinthula_cane_growers_malawi/default.aspx

6 In 2010, Fairtrade Africa established a partnership with NEPAD and will be rolling out a joint programme within the framework of

7 Fairtrade Labelling Organization: “Environmental Strategy for Fairtrade”, October 2010

8 Nelson, Valerie; John Morton, Tim Chancellor, Peter Burt and Barry Pound. Natural Resources Institute: Climate Change, Agricultural
Adaptation and Fairtrade. Identifying the Challenges and Opportunities (University of Greenwich, 2010)

9 Fairtrade Labelling Organization: “Climate Change and Fairtrade: Why is it Time to Make the Links?", April 2010

10 See also Ruben, Fort and Zuniga: “Impact Assessment of Fair Trade Programs for Coffee and Bananas in Peru, Costa Rica and Ghana”,
Centre for International Development Issues (CIDIN), Radboud University, Nijmegen

11 The Green Economy: Trade and Sustainable Development Implications. Background note prepared by the UNCTAD secretariat for the
Ad Hoc Expert Meeting on 7–8 October 2010. Geneva, Switzerland

12 http://www.fairtrade.net/our_vision.0.html

13 http://fairtrade.net/aims_of_fairtrade_standards.0.html

For more information about Fairtrade, visit www.fairtrade.net

About the authors
As Executive Director, Michael Nkonu works with the Fairtrade Africa Board to develop and manage the strategic direction of Fairtrade Africa. He oversees the work of the
Fairtrade Africa team to ensure the vision is effectively communicated and implemented to various stakeholders both within Africa and internationally to advance the
cause of Fairtrade African producers. Until recently, he worked for the Fairtrade Foundation as Africa Manager spearheading the expansion of Fairtrade activities in Africa.
His work with small farmer organisations, businesses, governments and international organisations has leveraged organisational, technical and financial support for
African producers. Michael, who is a Ghanaian national, has a Master of Science in Agriculture, Food Security and Natural Resources Management from the University
of Hohenheim, Germany.

Martin Rohner is CEO of the Max Havelaar Foundation (Switzerland) since 1 October 2005. In May 2007 he was elected to the Board of the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations
International (FLO) in Bonn, in which the Max Havelaar Foundation is a member. The Max Havelaar Foundation is one of the leading Fairtrade Labelling Initiatives.
From 2001 to 2005 he managed the Multilateral Financial Institutions Division of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). From 1998 to 2001 he was Advisor
to the Executive Directors for Switzerland in the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington. From 1994 to 1998 he worked at the Federal
Office of Foreign Economic Affairs. Prior to joining the Swiss Government, he worked in the private sector in the field of marketing and as project manager for one of the
leading Swiss airlines . He has also worked as a business analyst at a major Swiss bank. Martin Rohner holds a licentiate from the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland
(lic. oec. HSG), and a Masters Degree in Environment and Development from the University of Cambridge, UK (M. Phil).

t Guaranteed minimum price
t Fairtrade premium
t Long-term trading relationship
t Advance financing
t Transparency

t Working conditions (ILO)
t Self Organisation
t Community development
t No discrimination
t Democratic processes

t Environment friendly farming
(equates to IP)
t Interdiccion of dangerous
t Promotions of organic farming
(extra premium)
t Preserve valuable ecosystems
t Water and waste management

Box 2: Standards Overview 13

T r a d e S o c i a l E n v i r o n m e n t


FLO standards


Greening the global economy
through open markets
and skills transfer

reen growth is a matter of making our
societies more sustainable while still com-
patible with a modern way of living – and
thus very much about using our existing
resources differently and more sustain-
ably. The imperative to act becomes all
the greater when considering the impli-
cations of continued population growth.
Indeed, the United Nations estimates
that the global population is likely to ex-
ceed nine billion people by 2050, up from
today’s 6.8 billion. According to the World
Resources Institute, such growth risks se-
verely depleting natural resources such as
fossil fuels, timber, minerals, and water.
Simply feeding the world's expanding
population will increase water demand 70
to 90 per cent by 2050 absent improved
agricultural methods.

Managing resources for greater and truly
sustainable productivity is rapidly becom-
ing one of this century’s greatest impera-
tives. Accelerating resource productivity
investments now will stimulate national
economies through job creation in the
short-run, and will lay essential long-term
infrastructural foundations (physical, pol-
icy, societal) for sustainable economic de-
velopment in an era where societies will in-
creasingly be “running out” of everything.

Technological innovations will contribute
substantially to achieving the shared goal
of sustainable resource management. At

Vestas, we are also confident the rapid
productivity and technological advances
will bring the wind power - at least - on
par with oil and gas. This is our raison
d’être and, as a leading green energy com-
pany, Vestas is often invited to present a
private sector view on green growth strat-
egies at summits across the World. One
such event was the G20 Summit that took
place November last year in Seoul, where
our CEO, Ditlev Engel chaired the Busi-
ness Summit working group on “Creating
Green Jobs”, which presented a range of
strategic recommendations to the partici-
pating Heads of State on how to achieve
a sustainable growth trajectory in four
important sectors – power, buildings, in-
dustry and transportation.

The report concluded that countries that
have been fastest to embrace the green
economy have already created huge
numbers of green jobs and new econom-
ic growth engines that are not dependent
on fossil fuels or scarce natural resources.
Let me mention a few examples:

Germany has created 340,000 jobs in
its renewable energy sector.
China, by some estimates, has created
more than one million renewable jobs.
More than 30,000 jobs have been cre-
ated in Spain’s wind sector alone.

The report provided four equally impor-
tant general recommendations:

Give us a price on carbon – and make
it high and stable enough to change
people’s behaviour and investment
Allow free trade in green goods and
Eliminate fossil fuel subsidies – as fast
as possible, but within five years.
Ratchet up R&D support for green
goods and services.

All of these recommendations are sup-
ported by detailed findings mapping the
growth potential in the above-mentioned
sectors. Unfortunately, such recommen-
dations are not endorsed and implement-
ed overnight, so green industry pioneers
like Vestas have to continue the fight!

Open markets and skills transfer

Vestas Wind Systems has been solely ded-
icated to wind energy for more than 30
years, and we have thus played a central
part in the development of an industry
that already today plays a very important
role in the energy mix of many countries
(Denmark holds the world record with
20% of electricity generated from wind
turbines; Kenya might reach an even
higher per centage when the planned
Lake Turkana project is implemented).

Peter Brun

Peter C. Brun argues strongly that, for the transition to a green economy to be successful, it is crucially important to ensure open mar-
kets and skills transfer for renewable industries. Trade liberalization, he points out, will benefit recipient countries not only because
it will drive down the cost of energy but also because free markets and a stable pipeline of projects will lure investors to countries
that implement green policies. Noting that the wind industry benefitted, in its infant years, from a high degree of openness but has
now come under increasing pressure from Governments to implement local content requirements and other barriers to trade, he
highlights opportunities to be derived from a Sustainable Energy Free Trade Agreement (SEFTA).



When wind energy was still in its infancy,
markets were characterized by a high de-
gree of openness. Vestas and our compet-
itors (initially mostly based in Denmark)
were able to export our technologies to
a number of markets across the world
without significant tariff or non-tariff
barriers. The open markets contributed
to kick-starting the industry, which has
now leapfrogged to a much larger scale.

Having gradually matured from a niche
industry with very few stakeholders into
a highly competitive high-growth sector,
the industry today encompasses a large
number of global green-tech companies
that compete to increase quality and to
drive down the cost of electricity from
wind projects on land and sea. Develop-
ments have been spurred not least by ac-
cess to global markets, with the overall
goal of reliably delivering the largest pos-
sible quantity of CO2-free electricity at
the lowest possible cost.

However, in recent years - at least par-
tially as a result of the global financial cri-
sis -more and more countries have raised
tariffs for renewable energy components
and implemented non-tariff barriers
such as local content requirements that
give special preference to local suppliers.
This development risks slowing down
technology innovation, decreasing qual-
ity and increasing the cost of energy of
wind projects – precisely the opposite
of what regulators, political leaders, and
our customers increasingly demand. The
growing scope of barriers to trade un-
dermines the wind industry’s ability to
build effective and flexible supply chains
and drastically reduces the level of skills
transfer across borders. The only way the
wind industry can deliver on its promise
to supply very large quantities of cost ef-
ficient, CO2-free power is to provide for
stable policy frameworks, economies-of-
scale and open markets.

Local content requirements in the wind
industry - which is presently character-
ized by over-capacity due to significant
investments in recent years – increase
the total costs of projects, stifle innova-
tion and could – in some cases - lead to
contract awards to companies that have
a local manufacturing base but have little
or no previous experience dealing with
the complexities of wind.

We find in our many conversations with
official stakeholders that there is often
too much unwarranted attention on the
short-term gains of forcing wind turbine
manufacturers to invest in local manufac-
turing of towers, blades or nacelles com-
pared to the many other local benefits of
green jobs the project generates, notably
stable operation & maintenance jobs and
jobs in construction and infrastructure.
Experience in countries like Denmark,
Germany, Spain and China has demon-
strated that wind industry manufacturers
and sub-suppliers that have been exposed
to competition in their domestic markets
have much better prospects of develop-
ing into global brands than companies
that are established behind trade walls
with little or no outside competition.

Vestas welcomes free and fair competi-
tion and will be pleased to participate
in the creation of more wind industry
clusters around the globe. Vestas aims to
be “in the region for the region,”and we
will work with government stakeholders
and customers in developing and devel-
oped countries alike to create the right
framework conditions for a sustainable
development of the local wind industry.
In new markets, we typically offer wind
training programmes; develop local sup-
pliers; source local engineers; and localise
components wherever the local supply
base can deliver at the right quality and

Experience from new wind markets over-
whelmingly suggests that open markets
and a stable pipeline of wind projects are
the best ways to create a viable wind in-
dustry. We therefore urge decision-mak-
ers to consider the long-term benefits of
their policy alternatives rather than opt-
ing for short-term gains through local
content requirements and tariff barriers.
Evidence shows that open markets create
a win-win situation for both developed
and developing countries.

A multilateral green energy
trade agreement needed

The last thing green energy industries
need at this difficult moment is a gradual
renationalization of energy markets. We
therefore believe that the multilateral
trade system must now take steps to de-
fend level playing field conditions in all
renewable energy subsectors.

A successful conclusion of the Doha
Round should, of course, have first prior-
ity. However, if an agreement cannot be
reach in 2011 (and prospects look bleak at
the moment) negotiators should acceler-
ate ongoing efforts (in the WTO and oth-
er multilateral bodies) to conclude bilat-
eral Free Trade Agreements like the one
recently signed between the European
Union (EU) and the Republic of Korea.

The third and most rewarding option
would be to bring together a coalition of
the willing to agree on a sectoral agree-
ment on sustainable energy trade liberal-
ization that would serve three important

a) boost green growth and job creation
in developed and developing econo-
mies alike;
b) boost the fight against climate
change by opening market access for
renewable energy technologies; and,

We urge decision-makers to consider the long-term
benefits of their policy alternatives rather than opting for

short-term gains through local content
requirements and tariff barriers

c) break the deadlock in international
trade diplomacy.

Vestas has been working with other
green energy companies to support and
promote proposals to create new mo-
mentum in international trade relations.
In 2009, Vestas together with other cor-
porate members of the World Economic
Forum, proposed the creation of a Sus-
tainable Energy Free Trade Agreement

The idea behind SEFTA is to build the
broadest possible coalition of countries
(initially with G20 countries at its core)
that would commit to sweeping trade lib-
eralizations for renewable energy goods
and services and to phasing out fossil fuel
subsidies to allow for level playing field

conditions between traditional and re-
newable energy sectors (see fact box on
page 62).

Vestas faces competition from other en-
ergy sources head on and we are certain
that – as our industry continues its tech-
nological advances – global wind turbine
manufacturers can present very attractive
business cases to our customers and in-
vestors, not least in developing countries
where energy is scarce and fossil-based
alternatives are expensive and polluting.
Given the right regulatory framework,
the wind industry can create thousands
of jobs, reduce CO2 emissions, facilitate
skills transfer and bring clean electricity
to both rural and urban areas. On top of
this, wind energy uses almost no water
compared to fossil-fuel extraction, which

contributes immensely to water short-
ages, an important added advantage in
countries with water scarcity.


Vestas recognizes that special assistance
is critical for the poorest and most vulner-
able countries to address climate change.
Critical elements that should also be pur-
sued include: a real commitment to de-
velopment and climate change financing;
focused and effective capacity building
efforts; real support for renewable energy
infrastructure; and steady, long-term and
predictable rules. A “SEFTA”- agreement
would be an important step in the right
direction and should be supported with
equal determination by developed and
developing countries alike.


The last thing green energy industries need at this difficult
moment is a gradual renationalization of energy markets


Peter Brun
Peter C. Brun is Vice President of the Global Wind Energy Council and of the European Wind Energy Association, as well as board member
of various national industry federations and wind power associations around the world. A specialist in public and regulatory affairs and former
diplomat with the Danish Foreign Office, he joined Vestas Wind Systems Ltd in 2006, where he heads Group Government Relations charged
with the company’s global dialogue with energy policy stakeholders.

Fact Box
SEFTA proposal: Breaking the deadlock in international trade negotiations

National governments must create clear, predictable and long-term policies to promote investor confidence.
Governments must:
tprovide a clear ambition level, e.g., targets for sustainable energy uptake in national and regional markets;
tmodify existing utility and market regulations to ensure that industry structures and incentives are consistent with these
ambition levels;
tprovide support mechanisms to improve the commercial case for investment to overcome existing market distortions;
t install necessary infrastructure to ensure flexible distribution and transmission networks and other required delivery
mechanisms are in place;
tprovide policy support for the dissemination of renewable energy technology until volume is sufficient to drive unassisted
consumption; and,
t reward end-use efficiency and allow for market-based mechanisms to deliver energy efficiency to consumers.

Furthermore, international cooperation among governments is required to foster the growth of sustainable energy.

The Council proposes creating a Sustainable Energy Free-Trade Agreement (SEFTA) through the G20. This would require G20
leaders to agree and commit to ending subsidies for fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas - which according to the International Energy
Agency (IEA) amount to USD 310 billion annually. By comparison, all investment worldwide in clean energy in 2008 amounted
to USD 155 billion, of which around USD 60 billion took the form of subsidies.

Membership in SEFTA would require four additional commitments to:
tagree on national removal of all fossil fuel subsidies and report potential phase out arrangements in an international
t remove all tariffs and taxes on clean energy products, services and feedstocks;
tagree on common standards for clean energy technologies, to ensure larger markets and interoperability; and,
other environmental costs, and public health and security costs.

Optimally SEFTA would eventually grow beyond G20 membership, as other countries feel able to make the same commitments.

To make SEFTA a reality:
tThe G20 leaders' commitment is required;
tThe establishment of a Secretariat for coordination, communication and (crucially) verification is needed;
tThe Secretariat could monitor and verify progress towards the existing pledge to remove fossil fuel subsidies; and,
tA steering committee consisting of finance, trade, industry and environment ministers would need to collaborate with
other international energy agencies and lending institutions.

Source: World Economic Forum, 2009


A compass towards
a greener economy

Opportunity or trouble ahead?

The current situation regarding ener-
gy-related environmental issues is well
known. However, there are two points
worth noting when setting the context for
future energy scenarios: the expected gap
between supply and demand and climate
change. As much as these present difficul-
ties ahead, they also offer opportunities.

Looking at the energy context, according
to current forecasts, the relationship be-
tween energy supply and energy demand
may not be entirely compatible. Shell En-
ergy Scenarios for 2050 shows us that, in
four decades from now, energy demand
could be three times what it was in 2000.
Even taking into account the fact that new
developments in energy efficiency could
reduce future demand by 20% and that
supply could increase by 50%, the supply-
demand gap would still be as big as the
entire energy industry in 2000 (400 EJ/a)i.
We need, therefore, an enormous growth
in the supply of sustainable energy supply
as well as a serious reduction in demand.

The other context is human responsibil-
ity in, and possibilities to mitigate, climate
change. Research has shown that CO2 and
CH4 emissions have regularly been going

up and down over the last 800,000 years
with a positive correlation to tempera-
tureii. Nowadays, however, CO2 and CH4
have shown an unprecedented increase in
concentration. The transport sector alone
makes a major contribution to this new
and worrisome situation, accounting for,
in 2007, 25% of green house gas (GHG)
emissionsiii. If no action is taken succeeds
to reverse this trend, by 2050 this share
may reach 80%iv.

Transport and its infrastructure are inher-
ently dependent on, and adapted to, deal-
ing with liquid fuels. On the one hand, al-
though this dependence locks society into
the existing infrastructure, on the other,
it opens up possibilities for other types of
liquid fuels rather than fossil, such as sug-
arcane-based bio-ethanol. As an indicator
of the significant carbon savings from this
renewable fuel, each unit of fossil energy
required to produce sugar cane ethanol
generates approximately 9 units of renew-
able energyv.

Can we transform the huge gap between
energy demand and energy supply for the
coming decades into an opportunity? Can
we do it while significantly reducing GHG
emissions? And last but not least, can we
do it sustainably?

Raízen’s sustainable
development strategic needs

This is the context in which Raízen, a joint
venture between Cosan and Shell, was

Shell, a major global oil company, is a lead-
ing bio-fuels distributor, some 9.5 billion
litres in 2010. Shell has been present in
Brazil since 1914 and has invested all its
distribution assets in this joint venture
with Cosan.

Cosan, a leading Brazilian bio-energy
company in the sugarcane sector, has
grown enormously in the last ten years.
As an indicator, the company’s sugar cane
crushing capacity grew from 15 million
tonnes per year in 2000 to more than 60
million in 2010. In 2008, Cosan acquired
Exxon’s distribution assets in Brazil to ex-
pand its business portfolio.

Raízen started with 24 sugar and ethanol
mills managing over 700,000 hectares,
with a distribution capacity of 21 billion
litres per year and over 40,000 employees.
It is the fifth largest Brazilian corporation
by revenue and its electricity cogeneration
capacity is enough to supply a city the size
of Rio de Janeiro. In the next five years,

Luiz Eduardo Fróes do Amaral Osorio and Paulo Bento Maffei de Souza

How does Raízen, a recently created Joint Venture between a major oil company and the largest global sugarcane producer, plan its way towards
sustainability? The answer lies in the creation of a Sustainable Development Compass that may minimize uncertainties in a moment when many
organizations are trying to create their strategies towards a greener economy. This article comments on the broad foundations for this Sustainable
Development Compass and on the company’s particular reasons for creating it.


Raízen plans to reach a crushing capacity
of 100 million tonnes per year.

As a private company, Raízen needs not
only to deliver profits to its shareholders
now , but also sustainably over time. This
will only be possible if sustainable devel-
opment is seriously taken into account in
its operations and expansion.

There is no question that sugarcane based
bio-ethanol is an excellent fuel both be-
cause of its environmental benefits and
the way it requires only small adjust-
ments to fit the current transport system
infrastructure. But does producing an
environmentally beneficial fuel through
good practices, in itself, make a company
sustainable? The answer is no: in order to
sustain itself over the long term, an orga-
nization needs to reference its strategy
on long lasting and scientifically sound

We are confident that the financial as-
pects of sustainable development can be
taken care of through traditional man-
agement. Both Shell’s and Cosan’s histo-
ries show that Raízen started out quite
well prepared in that respect. The ques-
tion is then: what should we add to tra-
ditional management in order to ensure

that Raízen’s activities continue moving
in a good direction when it comes to the
environmental and social aspects of our
operations? What should our compass

The answer is: we need a robust set of
environmental and social guidelines that,
if smartly added to traditional manage-
ment, would result in a solid sustainable
development management system. This
should focus on the core business, while
at the same time, encompassing the three
aspects of sustainable development: eco-
nomic, social and environmental. Ideally
this set of guidelines should be small and
easy to understand. To be permanent
and unchallengeable, it should also be
grounded in universally accepted natural
science and social principles. Lastly, we
should not be afraid of finishing up with
a stringent set of guidelines if that is what
it takes to steer the organization towards
a greener economy.

Sourcing robust strategic sus-
tainable development guidelines

Among the many definitions of sustain-
able development that we might use to
develop our own set of guidelines, most
offering a legitimate and well written

ethical approach to the theme, there
is one that is very concrete and based on
universally accepted science. In late 1980s,
a Swedish group of scientists began a
study on systemic conditions for sustain-
able development. Eventually, that study
group developed into a larger network
of scientists in pursuit of a definition of
sustainability principles that should meet
the following conditions:

Be based on universally accepted
Be necessary to achieve
Be generic enough to fit all social
Be concrete enough to allow for
critical scrutiny of operations and
strategic planning; and,
Be non-overlapping;

Some of these scientists later created a
foundation named The Natural Step and
defined four Sustainability Principles,
or System Conditions for sustainability,
as these principles are often referred to.
The following sciences laid the necessary
foundation: physics, chemistry, geology,
biology, ecology, systems dynamics and
social sciences. The four Sustainability
Principlesvi are:





In a sustainable society, nature is not sub-
ject to systematically increasing:
1. concentrations of substances extracted
from the earth's crust;
2. concentrations of substances produced
by society;
3. degradation by physical means;
And, in that society,
4. people are not subject to conditions
that systemically undermine their capac-
ity to meet their fundamental needs 1.

These sustainability conditions are de-
clared as limits to human activities and
this is why the phrases are in negative
form. While compliance with them is not
easy to achieve, smartly combining these
four conditions with solid strategic plan-
ning would deliver a robust tool to steer
any organization, large or small, public or
private, towards sustainability and would
eventually result in a non-destructive op-
erational impact.

A strategic approach to sustainability
must happen step-by-step and at a pace
businesses can cope with. Not slower,
not faster. In order to ensure the right di-
rection, it is necessary to backcast 2 from
compliance with the Sustainability Prin-
ciples. Backcasting means “placing our-
selves in the future and imagining that

we have achieved success. Then looking
back and asking the question: ‘how did
we achieve this’?” vii This is an excellent
way to identify strategic stepping stones
paving the way forward.

We at Raízen realized that this approach
could provide us with our tool, since it
appears to be a very intelligent way of
maintaining stringent and uncompro-
mising social and environmental goals
while, at the same time, acknowledging
business reality. What we did, then, was
to define our own set of guidelines based
on these four Sustainability Principles
and prepared our own way of combining
them with our traditional management
systems. We named our set of guidelines
‘The Sustainable Development Compass’
and merged them with our traditional
business approach.


From the definitions above, it is clear that
Raízen’s strategic approach to sustain-
able development is simple, grounded in
practical experience and in scientifically
sound principles. In short: the Sustain-
able Development Compass brings some
conditions that can guide the continuous
improvement of Raízen’s operations and

corporate activities towards a greener
economy. However, what can we do that
might result in concrete, on-the-ground,
implementation of sustainability practic-
es? How can we take steps towards tangi-
ble results? For us, there are two answers.

The first is that every ordinary business
activity, either on the operational or cor-
porate side, must advance the company
towards compliance with the guidelines
defined in the Sustainable Development
Compass, regardless of how long it takes
to get there. This approach is likely, over
time, to help operations strengthen the
natural systems upon which they depend
for resilience and steadiness. To that end,
the focus must be on both the productive
areas and the preserved ones. Attention
must also be on current operations and
future expansion of activities.

These efforts to comply with strategic
sustainability guidelines may help pre-
serve soil fertility, water and air quality,
as well as ecosystems, species and genetic
diversity. We also expect this approach to
help operations increasingly respect and
benefit employees, suppliers, contractors,
local communities and society at large.
We are confident as well that it will result
in industry leadership in sustainability



matters, social license to operate, stake-
holder respect, goodwill, brand value,
reduced turnover and reduced environ-
mental and social risks. Finally, we expect
this approach to facilitate market access
through easier adaptation to different
certification schemes.

This brings us to the second response: the
need to deliver concrete results. Certifica-
tion, according to standards that comply
with our Sustainable Development Com-
pass, may help our movement towards
sustainability. To this end, Raízen has
chosen Bonsucro as it main certification
scheme and, in June 2011, received the
first certificate ever granted by the new
standard. This is quite a meaningful pio-
neering step since Bonsucro is a multi-
stakeholder organization, which, since
2005, has been developing a certification

system specifically designed for the sug-
arcane industry. After a broad, global
multilateral consultation process and,
after following the ISEAL3. Best Practice
Guidance for the development of social
and environmental standard systems, the
London-based Bonsucro organization fi-
nally launched its certification scheme.

Raízen, whose shareholder Cosan had
already started to adjust to this upcom-
ing standard in 2008, had one of its mills
audited by an independent third party in
June 2011 and was granted the first certifi-
cate on the new Bonsucro set of criteria.
On the economic side, Raízen has already
entered into a commercial contract based
on the new certificate. This is an impor-
tant step in delivering concrete results in
line with the strategic guidelines of our
Sustainable Development Compass.

Value chain engagement

However, working within the walls of the
organization is not enough. We know
from previous experience that it is funda-
mental to accompany this with the entire
value chain. A broad web of interconnec-
tions makes every company depend on its
relationship with other players. Within
this context, all value chains depend on
a supporting social and natural environ-
ment. No company can be sustainable if
its business partners are not. Therefore
we focus our attention on our suppliers,
contractors and customers.

As an example of Cosan’s previous experi-
ence in this area, in 2007, one of its cus-
tomers, a Swedish company by the name
Sekab, needed to source fuel ethanol in
compliance with some sustainability re-
quirements derived from a very specific
Scandinavian market demand. At that
time, there was no certification scheme
such as the recent Bonsucro standard.
Cosan and a number of other produc-
ers had, together with Sekab, to agree
on a bilateral set of sustainability crite-
ria in order to comply. As a result, Cosan
and the other producers entered into
a contract with Sekab that required the
involvement of suppliers and contrac-
tors in order to live up to the scrutiny of
a third party independent verification.
This was the first ethanol purchase and
sale agreement with independent veri-
fication of sustainability clauses. In the
sugarcane-based biofuel sector, this was
a pioneering experience of the benefits of
involving the value chain in an integrated
sustainability approach. Sekab was able
to source ethanol within the desired sus-
tainability guidelines. On its side, Cosan,
the other producers, as well as suppliers
and contractors, gained a stable contract
and demonstrated good practicein a very
demanding market.

Most of our focus so far has been on sup-
pliers and contractors. When renewing
their contracts with us, we include sus-
tainability clauses and follow up on them.
For obvious reasons, this must be a step-
by-step approach. However, we must
also mention our firm intention to work
together with our customers. We are
well aware that it is not easy to achieve
a sound strategic approach towards

sustainability . As we develop and imple-
ment our own path, we welcome the
opportunity to work with our custom-
ers, share our knowledge with them and
learning from them. The more we coop-
erate with the entire value chain in terms
of sustainability, the safer our operations
will be and the more confident we will be
in the long-term future.

Final remarks and expectations
for the future

There is evidence that societies' collapse or
survival depends on a number of factors,
among which we can highlight ordinary
daily activities in relation to the resilience
of the supporting environment.viii We also
know that the performance of these day-
to-day tasks – such as energy usage in all

its forms, including that in transport sys-
tems – is envisaged long before it actually
takes place, either through good planning
or through random development.

Although we advocate for robust plan-
ning towards sustainability, Raízen’s Sus-
tainable Development Compass is not
meant to solve the first point we raised at
the beginning of this article, namely the
huge gap between energy supply and de-
mand that humanity is likely to face in the
coming decades. The creation of Raízen,
however, offers in itself a part of that solu-
tion, both in terms of energy production
and in terms of role modelling. Using our
Sustainable Development Compass may,
apart from guiding us towards sus-
tainability in its broadest sense, render
our operations and thus our product

even more efficient than they already
are to deal with the second point of the
overall context of this article: climate

Those familiar with the work of Adam
Smith know that apart from ‘The Wealth
of Nations”, he also wrote ‘Theory of the
Moral Sentiments’, where he states that
self-interest has to be pursued by people
of conscience, informed by their capacity
for moral awareness. That piece of advice
gives a pointer to the direction of sustain-
able capitalism. We at Raízen are con-
cerned with the state of the planet. At the
same time, we are comfortable in saying
that our goal is to be profitable by contrib-
uting sustainable energy to society and, in
doing so, to help create a better future



1 In the original article we refer to, the phrase of the fourth sustainability principle was different. It later evolved to what we transcribe here.

2 Backcasting is a term created to oppose the concept of forecasting in strategic planning. When backcasting, the end goal is pre defined and secure. If forecasting
is used to define end goals, it can only result in the easiest ones and not necessarily in the ‘must-achieve’ ones. Therefore, when dealing with sustainability issues,
forecasting should be used in combination with backcasting in order to steer towards the ideal end goal while acknowledging the real context along the way.

3 The ISEAL Alliance is a global association for social and environmental standards that works with companies, non-profits and governments to support adoption
of voluntary schemes.


i Shell Energy Scenarios to 2050 – 2011 Signals and Signposts

ii Hauglustaine, D; Jouzel, J; Masson-Delmonte, V. 2008 – Atmosphère – Éditions Le Pommier

iii EIA 2009

iv IEA

v Carvalho Macedo, I. 2005

vi Holmberg, J. and Robèrt, K-H., 2000 – Backcasting from Non-Overlapping Sustainability Principles: a framework for strategic planning.

vii Cook, D. 2004 – The Natural Step Towards a Sustainable Society.

viii See: Diamond, J. 2005 - Collapse

ix See: Porritt, J; 2007 – Capitalism as if the World Matters

About the authors
Luiz Eduardo Osorio is Raízen’s Vice President of Sustainable Development and External Affairs. With experience in Law, Governmental Affairs, International
Affairs and Sustainability, Osorio worked in large companies such as AmBev, Shell and Diageo. He graduated in Law from Pontifícia Universidade Católica (PUC)
of Rio de Janeiro. He also holds a Master of Science degree in Development Management from the School of International Service, at American University,
in Washington DC, and has attended executive management programs at Wharton, Insead and Harvard.

Paulo Bento Maffei de Souza is Raízen’s Senior Sustainability Advisor. He is an Associate Professor at Getulio Vargas Foundation and has experience in the biofuel
sector, having worked in the development of Greenfield projects in Eastern Africa, as well as in defining sustainability criteria for the bio-ethanol value chain
between Brazil and Northern Europe. Paulo Bento is a civil engineer by the Maua Engineering Institute and is a specialist in business administration by the
Getulio Vargas Foundation, both in São Paulo, Brazil. He holds a masters degree in strategic sustainable development by the University of Blekinge in Sweden.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand
GoodPlanet Foundation
Born in 1946,
Yann Arthus-Bertrand
has always had a passion
for the animal world and
the natural environment.
In 1967, he settled in
central France and became
the director of a nature
reserve. During an overseas
experience in Kenya where
he studied a family of
lions, he started taking
photos from a hot-air
balloon and discovered
aerial photography.

GoodPlanet Foundation
launched 10 :10 in France, a
campaign to get individuals,
companies and institutions to
reduce their carbon footprints
by 10% during 2010.

In 1991 he founded Altitude,
the world’s first aerial
photography agency. In his
own work, he turned his
attention towards long-term
projects, books and exhibitions,
that examined the links
between man and nature.
His book The Earth from Above
is the highlight of this new
perspective and led the way
to future projects.

In 2003, Yann Arthus-Bertrand
launched the project Six Billion
Others, which was exhibited in
Paris’s Grand Palais in January
and February 2009 and is now
on tour around the world. A
team of film directors went to
meet men and women all over
the world and recorded on video
the testimonies they received
on general themes (such as life,
death, love, hate, etc).

He then created the foundation GoodPlanet in 2005,
a non-profit organization that aims to raise public awareness
of environmental issues and to develop concrete solutions towards
a more sustainable way of life - one that is more respectful
of our planet and its inhabitants.

To launch the official UN
declaration of year 2011
as the International Year of the
Forest, Yann Arthus-Bertrand
produced a short-film, a book,
an educational poster campaign
and an exhibition on the
in parallel with the United
Nations Forum on Forests
(UNFF), as well as participating
as a distinguished member
of the jury at the UN International
Forest Film Festival.

"GoodPlanet Solidarity"
was set up to implement
bioclimatic schools in Northern
Africa among others projects
in developing countries.

As an independant film Director,
Yann Arthus-Bertrand has just
founded a non profit production
company «Hope production».

For the World Water Forum
in March 2012, Yann Arthus-
Bertrand, in collaboration
with Baptiste Rouget Luchaire
and Thierry Piantanida, is
producing a film narrating the
history of water and reminding
us that reasoned management
of water is a crucial
challenge for our century.

For Rio+20, Yann is also working
with the director Michael Pitiot
on the film "Planet Ocean".
This film aims to promote
understanding of the importance
of the oceans in the ecosystem
and recognition of their strategic
value, leading to the conclusion
that international governance of
the oceans is now a vital necessity.







In August 2008, the project
GoodPlanet Junior was launched
in collaboration with the
French League of Education.
It offers vacation schemes
to disadvantaged youngsters
and teaches them about
eco-citizenship whilst spending
time in protected natural

In partnership with ADEME (the French Agency of the Environment and Energy
Management) he developed Action Carbone, which offers institutions, companies

and individuals the possibility to calculate, reduce and offset their greenhouse
gas emissions by changing their own impact and by funding renewable energies,

energy efficiency or reforestation projects, carried out by NGO’s in the global South.

This was followed by projects
such as Why Sustainable
Development? in collaboration
with the French ministries of
Education and of Environment.
This is an educational
exhibition free to schools,
which includes his aerial
photographs accompanied by
a series of texts that can be
used for educational purposes
by teachers.






These projects have one common thread:
The GoodPlanet Foundation's desire to
act by suggesting concrete solutions to the
public that will enable us to put the
environment at the core of our consciences

Yann Arthus-Bertrand
was designated Goodwill
Ambassador for the United
Nations Environment
Programme on Earth Day (April
22nd, 2009) in recognition
of his outstanding advocacy
work for the environment.
He was also named a UNEP
2009 Champion of the Earth
in the category “Inspiration
and Action.”Yann Arthus-Bertrand undertook the

production of a full-length feature
film: HOME. It deals with the state of
our planet and the challenges we will
have to face if we do not protect it.

The GoodPlanet Foundation attended the UN climate
conference in Copenhagen in December 2009 with
a new film “6 Billion Others -Climate Voices,” and organized
a film festival showing documentaries on climate and
the environment at the Danish Film Institute.


Green transitions around
the world

Europe is leading by example - green economy
offers opportunities and benefits for all
Connie Hedegaard

Towards green business - financing
organic waste composting in Bangladesh
If tekhar Enayetul lah and
A.H. Md. Maqsood Sinha

Green energy for development
in Nepal
Semida Si lve i ra
Br i jesh Mainal i and
Di l ip Khatiwada






Europe is leading by example
– the green economy
offers opportunities and
benefits for all

hen my grandmother was born, there
were not even two billion people living
on this planet. When I was born, we were
already over three billion. When my chil-
dren are my age, the global population will
have grown to over 9 billion. At the same
time more people are escaping poverty
and becoming better off. This is, of course,
excellent news, but it also presents us with
a challenge.

The planet's resources are limited and we
are already exhausting them at an alarm-
ing rate. For instance, every day 24,000
football fields of forests are burned or
felled, causing the loss of ecosystems and
affecting our climate in terms of less pre-
cipitation. Today's fishing fleets harvest
nearly seven times their catch in 1950, with
the result that 80% of our fish stocks are
fully exploited, or even over-fished, leav-
ing no room for further growth. And, 20
years from now, the available water supply
will satisfy only 60% of world demand.

In short, we have entered an era in which
humanity’s impact on the planet is alter-
ing the stability of the climate and threat-
ening the very ecosystems upon which we
depend for our prosperity and well-being.

As the world's population continues to
grow, more than a billion more people will
enter the middle class by 2050. Again, this
is to be welcomed. But, the fact is that, if

they use the production technology and
adopt the consumption patterns that pre-
vail in industrialised countries today, we
would need at least two and a half plan-
ets to meet mankind's demands. Building
more sustainable models of development
and adopting sustainable patterns of con-
sumption and production are the obvious
answers to this challenge.

The Rio+20 conference in 2012 will be
an important opportunity to accelerate
this process. I have the honour of being a
member of the Global Sustainability Pan-
el, which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-
moon has set up to formulate a blueprint
for a sustainable future as a key input to
the Rio+20 preparations.

A new paradigm for sustainable develop-
ment needs to be based on two elements.
First, it must secure people's basic right to
food, water and energy, give them access
to social protection, education and health
services, and allow them to participate in
their own governance. Second, it needs
to build on a 'green economy' approach
which emphasises the inherent role of
ecosystems and environmental protection
in fostering economic prosperity. Climate
change threatens both of these elements.
Preventing climate change from reaching
dangerous levels is therefore fundamental
to sustainable development.

The international community has rec-
ognised that global warming should not
exceed a 2°C temperature increase. This
limit is widely seen as a key tipping point,
beyond which irreversible and potentially
catastrophic changes in the global envi-
ronment will become much more likely.
Yet science tells us that we are most likely
heading for a total global temperature in-
crease of as much as 4°C by the end of this
century and, in the worst case scenario,
more than 6°C. Such levels of warming
would represent runaway climate change,
which would carry enormous human and
economic costs. The landmark Stern Re-
view of the economics of climate change
estimates that uncontrolled climate
change could cost the world as much as
one-fifth or more of its annual GDP in the
long term.

It is evident that global action is needed to
prevent these nightmare scenarios from
becoming reality. To keep within the 2°C
ceiling, global emissions will need to be
at least halved from their 1990 levels by
the middle of this century. This calls for
a comprehensive, legally binding global
agreement covering greenhouse gas
emissions from all major economies. The
Copenhagen and Cancun climate confer-
ences have brought important progress
towards such a deal, but we are not there
yet. Data released by the International En-
ergy Agency (IEA) in May 2011, showing

Connie Hedegaard

EU Commissioner Connie Hedegaard paints an optimistic picture, seeing opportunities in the 'green growth' model, notably the economic dynamism
of innovation and related job creation, as well as a competitive environment in green technologies. She highlights EU leadership in setting emissions
targets and outlines EU plans for an investment framework in the transition to a low-carbon economy as well as concrete measures to increase energy
efficiency. Ms Hedegaard also describes EU plans for national accounts to integrate a broader range of social and environmental indicators to comple-
ment Gross Domestic Product (GDP), part of a worldwide trend to underpin sustainable development.


that global emissions reached their high-
est level ever in 2010, underlines the ur-
gent need for further progress.

It goes without saying that the richer
countries of the world have a duty to help
poorer nations, especially the least de-
veloped countries, face up to the climate
challenge. For the European Union (EU),
as the world's biggest provider of official
development aid (ODA), climate change
has become a major funding priority over
the past decade. The EU and its member
states have committed to provide EUR
7.2 billion in 'fast-start' climate finance to
developing countries over the 2010-2012
period and we are on track to deliver.
Together with the rest of the developed
world, we are also committed to increas-
ing total climate finance to developing
countries to USD 100 billion a year by

Climate change is no distant or future
threat. We are already witnessing more
frequent and more severe extreme weath-
er events around the globe. We need only
think of the floods in Pakistan and Brazil
in 2010 and in Australia at the start of this
year, the heat wave and forest fires in Rus-
sia last year, or the worst drought for de-
cades that is affecting parts of China and
India. More recently, deadly tornadoes
have caused widespread damage in the
United States.

The consequences of these dramatic
events are felt not only in the regions
directly affected but also by consumers
around the world, for example through

by 2020. Europe will double the share of
energy we get from renewable sources to
20% in 2020 and we will improve energy
efficiency by 20%. Europe will, according
to the Member States' Plans, reduce its
emissions of greenhouse gases by at least
20% and, with an enhanced focus on ener-
gy efficiency, move into the 25-40% range
as recommend by the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Europe's leadership in successfully setting
out these 2020 targets put pressure on
our international partners to come for-
ward with emission targets of their own
in time for the Copenhagen Conference at
the end of 2009. Today some 90 countries
in the developed and developing worlds
alike have set domestic targets for reduc-
ing their emissions. Even if these pledges
are not yet enough to keep global warm-
ing below 2°C, they are no small achieve-
ment. The right direction is set for a sus-
tainable pathway but we need to speed up
the implementation.

European leaders have set a cut in emis-
sions by 80-95% as the objective for 2050.
We need to plan today for the long term
in order to create the right framework for
investment in the more sustainable, low-
carbon solutions we require. In March
2011, the European Commission set out
a Roadmap for the transition to a low-
carbon EU society by 2050. The analysis
shows that the EU can by then reduce
its emissions by at least 80% through do-
mestic measures alone and on the basis of
technologies that exist today.

higher food prices. Globally, we are pay-
ing almost 40% more for our food in 2011
than in 2010.

This is, of course, not due to climate
change alone. Higher food prices are the
reflection of many factors, including in-
creases in the price of oil, on which the in-
tensive system of agricultural production
that prevails today in developed countries
depends. But climate change exacerbates
such trends. It is a threat multiplier. It is
a further compelling reason for making
the transition to a sustainable model of
development and consumption.

The 'green growth' model needs to be
one that reduces our ecological foot-
print, emits much lower quantities of
greenhouse gases and uses less energy
and fewer raw materials. This is a huge
challenge - but also a huge opportunity.
These changes will require technologi-
cal innovation - and innovation is what
makes an economy dynamic. It is what
drives growth and job creation. Further-
more, an economy that is more sustain-
able, more resource-efficient and lower in
carbon also promises greater energy secu-
rity and better quality of life, for example
through cleaner air and water, which in
turn translate into better public health.

In Europe, the transition to a low-carbon
society is already well under way. Back in
2007, EU leaders committed to transform-
ing Europe into a highly energy efficient,
low greenhouse-gas emitting economy
and fixed a set of ambitious medium-
term climate and energy targets to be met


To do so, the EU would need to raise its
overall investment level from 19% to 20.5%
of GDP. To put it in perspective, this 1.5%
increase would simply take us back to the
investment level seen before the econom-
ic crisis. And the additional investment
would be largely, or even entirely, paid
back by energy savings. The analysis shows
that, by shifting to a low-carbon economy,
the EU can halve its imports of oil and gas
by 2050, thus greatly reducing our depen-
dence on fossil fuels from abroad.

The most cost-effective way to achieve
these changes is to continue improving
energy efficiency. That is why, for in-
stance, the European Commission is pro-
posing to raise the refurbishment rate of
public buildings. Buildings are responsible
for 40% of Europe's energy consumption
and emissions. Governments should take
the lead in improving this. We are there-
fore proposing that EU countries should
retrofit 3% of public buildings every year.
That is double today's rate and will have a
real effect on the market.

The money we save on energy could in-
stead be invested in developing climate-
friendly technologies and appliances, or
smart infrastructure. This could generate
new sources of growth and jobs – jobs that
cannot be outsourced.

Though we are among the first to develop
a roadmap to 2050, Europe is by no means
alone in shifting towards the low-carbon
economy. Indeed, companies and govern-
ments around the world are engaged in a

race to gain the biggest possible share of a
market that is growing rapidly and set to
continue doing so. Last year, a record of
nearly USD 250 billion was invested in clean
energy technologies in the G20 countries,
30% more than in 2009, according to one

Europe still leads the market but China is
catching up fast. It attracted almost 40%
of clean technology investment last year.
India was also one of the most successful
countries in attracting private investment.
Now it looks like China will out-invest the
EU in renewable energy and grid infra-
structure. Under China's new five-year
plan, seven priority industry sectors will
move from a share of 3% of GDP today
to 15% by 2020. Meanwhile South Korea's
green growth plan foresees up to 1 million
jobs by 2020. And let us not forget the al-
most USD 90 billion the US is putting into
green technologies and infrastructure as
part of its recovery package.

This race to the top is exactly what is
needed to kick-start the low-carbon revo-
lution around the world. For Europe, this
competition means we have to redouble
our climate action if we want to remain in
the vanguard of this transition and reap a
maximum of economic benefits. Our low-
carbon roadmap points the way forward
for businesses and governments by setting
cost-effective milestones for reducing our
greenhouse gas emissions after 2020: a
40% cut below 1990 levels by 2030 and a
60% cut by 2040, on the way to an 80% re-
duction in 2050.

Our experience in Europe shows that it
is possible to break the link between eco-
nomic growth and emissions. Thanks to
a battery of measures we have taken to
tackle emissions, they are now more than
14% below their level in 1990; whereas
the EU economy has grown by more than
40% and manufacturing has expanded by
more than a third over the same period.
By far the most important of the measures
we have introduced is the EU Emissions
Trading System (EU ETS), a cap-and-trade
scheme which covers 50% of our carbon
emissions. Europe is also the main source
of investment in emission-saving proj-
ects undertaken in developing countries
through the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Devel-
opment Mechanism (CDM), since most
CDM credits can be used in the EU ETS.

In pursuing the global drive towards the
sustainable development that we need,
we must include a new way to measure
human progress and wealth.

Since the 1950s, GDP - gross domestic
product - has been the economic indica-
tor of choice. It has come to be seen as
the key measure of a nation's success or
even its well-being, yet GDP is, in fact ,no
more than an indicator of economic activ-
ity. It does not capture the natural wealth
of a country nor issues that are crucially
important to the quality of our lives such
as a clean environment or social cohe-
sion. Something that is bad for society
as a whole, such as a natural disaster, can
actually boost GDP because the recon-
struction work that follows it increases


economic activity. No matter if precious
natural resources like forests or farmland
were lost in the disaster - their value is not
measured by GDP anyway.

This is not the fault of GDP itself, of
course, but it is a problem when GDP is
wrongly understood as the unique yard-
stick for progress. If boosting GDP is seen
as the only measure of success, policymak-
ers can be misled into doing more harm
than good.

Tropical forests are a classic example. Fell-
ing a forest brings a one-off increase in
GDP in the short term, but at what cost
in the long term? The forest and the eco-
logical functions it provided, such as wa-
ter purification and carbon absorption, are
lost for good. And the soil the trees stood
on is often too poor to support farming
and quickly turns to dust.

In a century that risks being marked by
climate change and increasing resource
scarcity, it is time to develop a broader
measure of progress and wealth to under-
pin sustainable development. We need to
go beyond GDP.

This does not mean abolishing GDP,
but rather complementing it with envi-
ronmental and social indicators to gain
a more comprehensive picture. It also
means drawing up environmental and
social accounts to go alongside tradi-
tional national economic accounts. The
European Commission is working on
introducing these innovations as part of
our 'Beyond GDP' initiative which also
involves the OECD, the European Parlia-
ment and non-governmental organisa-
tions. The Commission adopted a con-
crete road map for action two years ago
and the first items have been delivered,
including a Regulation on integrated
environmental-economic accounting ad-
opted on 7 June 2011.

Much work on integrated environmental-
economic accounting has also been done
internationally, including within the UN
system. The Rio+20 process should focus
global attention on these issues and ac-
celerate the development of the practical
tools that are needed to help countries
across the world start implementing a
better measure of their progress towards
sustainable development.

To meet the objective of remaining be-
low the 2°C temperature increase, we still
need to do much more in terms of emis-
sion reductions. But there are grounds for
optimism with green growth at the cen-
tre of economic policies in many coun-
tries around the world; not only due to
concerns for dangerous climate change,
but also energy security and, last but not
least, national interests in ensuring sus-
tainable growth. It is, indeed, good news
when the economic agenda aligns with
the environmental agenda


Connie Hedegaard
Connie Hedegaard is European Commissioner for Climate Action and member of the UN High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability. A former journalist
and TV and radio news anchor, she became a Member of Parliament in Denmark in 1984 and was Minister for Climate and Energy (2007-2009),
Minister for Environment (2004-2007) and Minister for Nordic Cooperation (2005-2007).


Towards green business
- financing organic waste composting
in Bangladesh


Promoting the concept of waste as a re-
source and putting a market value on
organic waste are primary interests of
Waste Concern. Working in partnership
with communities, it undertakes waste
management in Dhaka, Bangladesh, im-
plementing a house-to-house waste col-
lection system, with promotion of source
separation of waste.

Waste Concern also undertakes the col-
lection of waste from vegetable markets.
Household and market waste are taken to
a composting plant where they are trans-
formed into organic fertilizer. To ensure
utilisation of the fertilizer and to sustain
this system, it contacts and negotiates
with fertilizer companies to purchase and
nationally market the compost by-product
or ‘bio-fertilizers’. This process also assists
communities in marketing the product.

The system introduced by Waste Concern
has created a chain reaction among many
sectors in Bangladesh. It has expanded the
organic fertilizer industry and has created
new entrepreneurs. It is providing jobs to
the urban poor, who are hired to do the
job of waste collection and processing.
It has stimulated behaviour changes in
urban communities, who have begun to

appreciate the value of waste, and also
among professionals, who learn how
to orient communities towards waste

These stakeholders also experience the
impact of converting waste into a resource.
Amidst these changes, Waste Concern
has helped to address the environmental
problems of diminishing topsoil fertility
(due to the use of synthetic fertilizers and
pesticides) and greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions. A good indicator of the success
of Waste Concern is the government’s in-
clusion of composting and recycling in the
National Safe Water and Sanitation Policy,
as well as in the National 3R Strategy for
Waste Management. The government has
also encouraged the promotion of source
separation of waste since 2010.

The challenges that created
the system

The management of an increasing volume
of solid waste in urban areas has become
a serious problem in Bangladesh. Intensi-
fying economic activities due to increas-
ing urbanisation and rapid population
growth are contributing to the generation
of 15,000 tonnes of urban waste per day

nationwide. The World Bank predicts that,
in 2025, Bangladesh will generate 47,000
tonnes of waste daily in urban areas.

In Dhaka, 3,500 tonnes of waste are gen-
erated per day, of which 80 per cent is
organic. However, Dhaka City Corpora-
tion (DCC) collects only 50 per cent of
the waste. At this rate, it is unable to take
care of additional increases in the city’s
waste. As a result, more uncollected waste
is piled up on the roadsides or dumped
into open drains and low-lying areas, fur-
ther deteriorating the environment and
the quality of life. This is despite the fact
that almost 80 per cent of the waste is or-
ganic and can be converted into compost
or soil conditioner. Thus, this potential of
waste as resource is unseen and the new
resource remains unutilised. Opportuni-
ties for developing partnerships between
the government and stakeholders in waste
management (who will engage in com-
posting or recycling to reduce waste) are
not explored because of the absence of a
waste management policy. Waste reduc-
tion, reusing, recycling, and segregating
waste at source or at the household level
are not commonly practised.

Iftekhar Enayetullah and A.H.Md.Maqsood Sinha

Iftekhar Enayetullah and A.H.Md.Maqsood Sinha describe the early challenges and current activities of Waste Concern, which transforms house-
hold and city waste products into compost. The firm, a joint venture between a Bangladesh entity and a Dutch waste management company, also
benefitted from funding under Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol. The authors outline their experience with the venture and
provide a series of recommendations for governments of the region to adopt for the successful and profitable processing of city waste.

The concept’s innovative

The concept of Waste Concern helped
Bangladesh seize a new opportunity for
foreign direct investment using the Clean
Development Mechanism (CDM) of the
Kyoto Protocol. This was achieved by
successfully developing a city-scale com-
posting project to reduce GHG emissions
while improving the environmental con-
dition of the disposal site.

Objectives of the Clean
Development Mechanism (CDM)

The CDM project has been designed to:
Ü develop a sustainable model for solid
waste treatment based on recycling;
Ü establish a large-scale composting
plant for the resource recovery of or-
ganic waste from the households and
vegetable wholesale markets in Dhaka
Ü develop an alternative solid waste
management system to reduce the bur-
den on the municipality, especially on
Ü create job opportunities for the urban
poor, especially women and waste-pick-
ers, and
Ü save hard currency at the national lev-
el and strengthen the trade balance by
substituting, in part, chemical fertilizer
with locally produced compost.

Brief description of the project

The project as submitted to the United
Nations Framework Convention on Cli-
mate Change (UNFCCC) is called 'Har-
nessing CDM for Composting using
Organic Waste'. It is a joint venture be-
tween Waste Concern and World Wide
Recycling BV of the Netherlands. It repre-
sents the first compost project registered
successfully with the UNFCCC and the
first organic waste recycling project in the
world to claim carbon credits. For its im-
plementation, Waste Concern and World
Wide Recycling BV created a joint venture
company called WWR Bio Fertilizer Ban-
gladesh Ltd. The project is anchored in a
15-year concession agreement between
Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) and WWR
Bio Fertilizer Bangladesh, Ltd, signed on
24 January 2006.

The significant features as described in the
terms of the concession agreement are:
Ü WWR Bio Fertilizer Bangladesh Ltd
has the exclusive right to collect 700
tonnes of organic waste (in phases)
from different markets and areas of in
Dhaka City on a daily basis.
Ü Three compost plants will be estab-
lished around the city. The first plant,
which commenced construction on
25 November 2008, has a 130-tonne-
per-day capacity. It is located in Bulta,
Narayanganj (25 km south-east of Dha-
ka City).

ÜVegetable waste from the market is
collected using the project’s own trans-
port networks and taken to a compost
plant built on land owned by the proj-
ect. For the collection of waste by WWR
Bio Fertilizer Bangladesh, Ltd, DCC will
make no payment.

How the Public-Private
Partnership (PPP) works

The project is not a conventional public-
private partnership (PPP) because it does
not involve a government agency as part-
ner sharing the profits as well as the risks.
It may be better categorised as a public-
private cooperation project. The partici-
pation of the government is through the
DCC, which has granted a concession to
the private company WWR Bio Fertilizer
Bangladesh, Ltd, to collect and process
waste. WWR Bio Fertilizer Bangladesh
Ltd will self-finance its collection and pro-
cessing activities. It will procure vehicles
to transport waste and build composting
plants. There is no investment on the part
of the DCC. On the other hand, WWR Bio
Fertilizer Bangladesh Ltd has Waste Con-
cern and its Dutch partners – World Wide
Recycling BV, FMO Bank and High Tide
– as joint venture partners.


Figure 1: PPP Model used in Dhaka




CDM Board Project Approval

Project Investment
Harnessing CDM

Signed concession
agreement for 15

(carbon credits)


International market

Rural farmers

Urban population

Organic waste

Joint Venture

High Tide

Attracted Foreign
Direct Investment

vegetable markets
and community participation

The carbon financing set-up

The breakdown of the EUR 12 million
project financing is:
Ü 38 per cent: EUR 4.6 million equity;
Ü 45 per cent: a EUR 5.4 million soft loan
from FMO Bank and Triodos Bank;
Ü 17 per cent: a EUR 2 million loan from
a local bank in Bangladesh.

Current state of affairs and ex-
pected results

The first 130-tonne-per-day compost plant
was in operation by 25 November 2008.
The second plant is awaiting construction
because of a delay in obtaining an electric-
ity connection from the state-owned util-
ity due to a national energy crisis and the
halting of new connections since 2009;
new industries are expected to be con-
nected by the fourth quarter of 2011.

The salient facts of the project are that it:
Ü collects 700 tonnes of waste per day
from the DCC area in 3 phases;
Ü produces 50,000 tonnes of compost
per year;
Ü saves 89,000 tonnes of methane gas
emissions per year;
Ü provides jobs to 800 urban poor
Ü costs EUR 12 million.

The project also helps the poor: it is not
fully mechanised and thus provides an
opportunity to employ people from the
informal sector at a salary higher than
government rates, offering them good
working conditions, health insurance,
a day-care facility and free meals. In ad-
dition, the compost produced is cheaper
than chemical fertilizers; it helps poor
farmers improve the health of their culti-
vable soil as well as providing expectations
of higher production. Finally, apart from
its positive environmental impact, the
project helps municipalities reduce their
waste management budget.

The two sources of project cash flow are
sales proceeds from compost and certi-
fied emissions reduction (CER); 20 to 25
per cent of each tonne of organic waste is
transformed into compost, whose price at
the factory gate is EUR 60 per tonne.

Positive impacts of the project

Among the positive impacts of the
Ü It creates a demand for compost,
which can improve soil conditions and
ensure food security.
Ü It complies with national agriculture
policy, which considers compost as nec-
essary to improve soils.
Ü One of the largest marketing compa-
nies in Bangladesh has signed a contract
to market compost throughout the
Ü Local banks are now interested in
investing in similar waste-related proj-
ects, a good indicator of the project's
Ü It has demonstrated that, even with-
out support from the government, the
private sector can invest in solid waste
related projects and harness carbon
funding to make it attractive for finan-
cial backers.
Ü The government of Bangladesh,
convinced by the project’s success, has
taken the initiative of replicating the
model throughout the country using its
own fund and the CDM approach.
Ü In contrast to the municipal system,
the CDM approach promotes transpar-
ency and good governance since each
step in its process is documented and
properly monitored. In this project, for
instance, monitoring equipment is in-
stalled in the compost plant: it includes
an electronic weighbridge to keep a re-
cord of incoming waste, a gas meter to
gauge oxygen, a thermometer to record
temperature, and a moisture meter to
record moisture content.

Early challenges

The project faced a number of challenges
during its initial stages. First was the anxi-
ety of convincing policy-makers, engi-
neers, and bureaucrats of the benefits of
the CDM and the opportunities from car-
bon trading. It was also a challenge, in the
absence of any UNFCCC methodology, to
prove that aerobic composting of organic
waste reduces methane emissions. It was
therefore left to Waste Concern and its
Dutch partner to develop a methodol-
ogy (AM0025) which showed that aerobic

composting does not generate methane

Second, there was as yet no Designated
National Authority (DNA) for CDM,
which is necessary for project approval. To
resolve this, Waste Concern approached
the United Nations Development Pro-
gramme (UNDP) to assist the Ministry of
Environment and Forests (MoEF) in set-
ting one up.

Third, it was extremely challenging to get
the DCC to sign the concession agree-
ment. Although the project had been ap-
proved by the DNA, with the active par-
ticipation of the DCC, some DCC staff
and officials, who had acquired a vested
interest in the management of the city’s
solid waste, openly opposed the project.
Prior to the agreement, the municipal
waste management system was not trans-
parent or properly documented. There
were issues related to ‘ghost’ labour, false
trips, pilfering of gasoline for trucks used
in waste collection and other unreported
acts of malfeasance. However, under the
current agreement, such petty acts of
graft and corruption have been eliminated
since WWR Bio Fertilizer Bangladesh, Ltd,
undertakes the collection and recycling of
waste every day without any cost to the

Fourth, even after the opening of its first
compost plant, the project had to wait 12
months to obtain a licence from the gov-
ernment to market compost. This delay,
due to a new regulation regarding com-
post standards and field trials introduced
by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2008,
meant the project could not initially reach
a capacity of 100 tonnes per day.

Fifth, 56 permits and licences were re-
quired from different government agen-
cies and departments, causing further un-
necessary delay.

Sixth, the government practice of pro-
moting compost but offering no subsidy
while providing a subsidy for chemical
fertilizers distorts the market. Other ob-
stacles include a 5 year tax holiday for
compost projects (a green project), while
other green projects, such as wind and


solar, benefit from a 15-year tax holiday.
Another market distorting factor is that,
while the municipality pays a tipping fee
for land filling of waste, the government
does not pay a tipping fee for recycling of
organic waste in Dhaka. These fiscal poli-
cies, instead of providing incentives to in-
vest in organic waste recycling projects,
actually discourage potential investors.
This issue should be addressed by the na-
tional government.

Lessons learned

Using the carbon financing scheme or
the Kyoto Protocol’s CDM, organic waste
commonly generated by towns and cities
of developing countries can be converted
to compost without any form of invest-
ment from the government. The scheme
helps overcome technological and finan-
cial barriers in waste management and
can create new opportunities for green

Carbon financing can open a new window
of opportunity for poor cities to attract
investment in waste management and
promote public-private partnership or
cooperation. The CDM allows the private

sector to invest in the collection, transpor-
tation, and disposal of waste, saving the
government considerable overheads and
management costs. It gives investors con-
fidence since the project is endorsed by
the government and the UNFCCC. Fur-
thermore, it makes a waste-based project
attractive to investors because it reduces
the payback period.

CDM projects can be pro-poor and, in
small- and medium-sized towns, appro-
priate for small-scale projects. In addition,
the CDM provides an opportunity for
bundling small-scale compost projects.

However, a ‘one-stop’ approval process
is necessary to reduce, if not eliminate,
delay in project implementation and the
UNFCCC CDM process has to be simpli-
fied for developing countries to make the
transaction costs affordable. Moreover, to
promote organic waste-based green busi-
ness, governments should provide fiscal
and regulatory incentives, which at pres-
ent are absent.

There is also a need to raise awareness
within government and the private-
sector about CDM and carbon-trading

Can the project be replicated?

Yes, the project can be replicated. Current-
ly, 51 replications of this model have been
carried out by other groups (Government,
NGOs and the private sector) in 30 Ban-
gladeshi towns. The United Nations Eco-
nomic and Social Commission for Asia and
the Pacific (UN ESCAP) has recently begun
promoting Waste Concern’s community-
based composting model in Matale City
in Sri Lanka and Quay Nhon City in Viet
Nam, scaled up using carbon trading. Still
more recently, a number of South Asian
countries (such as India and Pakistan) are
adapting the methodology (AM0025) de-
veloped by Waste Concern and its Dutch

Recommendations for
promotion of such projects

Despite their favourable environmental
and social benefits, organic waste man-
agement projects have a payback period of
at least seven years. It is therefore essential
that the government devise a combina-
tion of fiscal incentives and market-based
instruments to promote private sector in-
vestments in them, for example:


Open-air dump, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (18°28’ N, 69°53’ W). © Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Altitude - Paris

Tax holidays. Entrepreneurs setting up a
compost plant as part of a joint venture or
within the private sector should quality
for a tax holiday of 10 to 12 years and be
exempted from customs duty, excise duty,
value added tax, sales tax, and other local
taxes on equipment, machinery, process-
ing plant, etc.

Capital subsidies. Entrepreneurs should
qualify for a capital subsidy of up to 50%
of the plant cost (if the municipality owns
the plant, for example build-operate-
transfer (BOT)), and 30% of plant cost (if
owned by the private sector, for example
build-operate-own (BOO)). Moreover,
for the aspect of the project financed by
banks, lower interest rates should be fixed
by the government along with a long loan

Two financing patterns for administering
capital subsidies for setting up compost
plants were suggested by the Government
of India Inter-Ministerial Task Force on
Integrated Plant Nutrient Management
using City Compost, including: (i) where
a local body owns the compost plant, a
50% grant subsidy, 15% equity (local body),
and 35% debt from financial intermediary
(FI), or (b) where a joint venture between
the ULB and a private company exists, a

30% grant subsidy, 30% equity (15% each
partner, including land), and 40% debt
from FI.

Tipping fees. A private sector entity op-
erating organic waste recycling facilities
such as compost, biogas or RDF plants
should not be asked to pay royalties to
the municipality. On the contrary, tipping
fees should be paid by the municipality for
each tonne of waste processed by the en-
trepreneur since waste recycling reduces
land filling costs. The payment of tipping
fees to private operators is the norm in
Europe and North America.

Concessionary rates for utilities. The
entrepreneur should be supplied electric-
ity, diesel, and water at the same rates as
provided to the agricultural sector or at a
concessionary rate, whichever is less.

Long term lease of land. One of the ma-
jor barriers for implementation of organic
waste processing plants is the lack of the
availability of land. Entrepreneurs should
be provided land at existing dumpsites on
a long term lease, free of cost, for setting
up compost, biogas, or RDF plants. The
private sector (in the case of BOO) or mu-
nicipality (in the case of joint venture such
as BOT) should be allowed to raise loans

from commercial banks and others by
jointly mortgaging the land, if required.

Creating parity with chemical fertilizers
– a compost subsidy. Although govern-
ments throughout the South Asia region
promote compost use, they provide sub-
sidies to chemical fertilizer companies
while neglecting to provide subsidies to
organic fertilizer/compost manufactur-
ers. The use of compost has multiple en-
vironmental and economic benefits, such
as reducing GHG emissions and providing
a higher yield when used in conjunction
with chemical fertilizer. These benefits
warrant increased government subsidy. It
is recommended that funding for the pro-
duction of compose should be 5 to 10% of
annual subsidy to chemical fertilizer.

Co-marketing of compost with chemical
fertilizers. Fertilizer companies can adopt
a ‘basket approach’, which would entail the
co-marketing of compost with chemical
fertilizers. For larger scale compost plants,
the use of fertilizer marketing companies
for distribution and sale of compost pro-
vides a great advantage. A suggested ratio
is four bags of chemical fertilizer with one
bag of certified registered compost

About the authors
Iftekhar Enayetullah, a civil/environmental engineer-urban planner, co-founder and Director of Waste Concern, has spent more than 20 years working, conducting research, operating and
managing projects in the fields of solid waste management, industrial pollution control, environmental management and clean energy. He is actively involved in the planning, design and
implementation of several decentralised waste management projects in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Viet Nam, Cambodia and Nepal, as well as the design, financing and implementation
of CDM-based waste management and energy projects in Bangladesh and other developing countries.

A. H. Md. Maqsood Sinha, an architect-urban planner, co-founder and Executive Director of Waste Concern, has spent more than 24 years working and conducting research in the fields of solid
waste management, sustainable development, clean energy and municipal services planning. He is involved in the planning, design and implementation of several waste management and
recycling projects in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam, as well the design and implementation of CDM-based waste management and energy projects.



Member State of the United Nations
since 14 December 1955



Green energy for
development in Nepal

Green energy for sustainable

Poor countries have a pressing develop-
ment agenda. Although increased under-
standing about the role of energy for pro-
moting sustainable development has led
to many policies for electrification in de-
veloping countries, orchestrating the en-
ergy transition from traditional to modern
and more efficient energy technologies
and services remains a major challenge
both nationally and globally. In fact, ener-
gy provision to large poor populations can
be a difficult and costly proposition with
negative environmental impacts unless
coupled with strategies to trigger socio-
economic development.

How can the green agenda contribute to
address this challenge? The green econo-
my is understood as a key element in sus-
tainable development, one that requires
addressing whole production, exchange
and consumption chains, and transform-
ing them into resource-efficient and envi-
ronmentally-sound processes over time.
This is a major task that stretches from lo-
cal to global levels of action. On the other
hand, promoting sustainable develop-
ment in the face of major national needs
requires activating weak markets and
boosting jobs and incomes, often within

a context of precarious institutional set
ups, constrained financial resources and
stringent global competitiveness. Thus,
the promotion of the green economy and
sustainable development requires the
identification of strong entry points that
can satisfy multiple agendas at various
scales at the same time.

In other words, actions need to be simul-
taneously pro-development and pro-en-
vironment. There need not be a contra-
diction between the two as long as local
potentials and needs are understood and
taken as starting points. Energy provision,
for example, can serve both national and
global agendas if solutions with low envi-
ronmental impacts are put into practice
to provide energy services for productive
activities that can boost local economies.
Electrification efforts in Nepal serve to
show that markets for renewable energy
technologies can, in fact, be created in
remote and poor areas. At the same time,
bottlenecks constrain the production and
use of renewable fuels in the transport
or generation of bioelectricity within the
context of significant opportunities for
ethanol production, agricultural mod-
ernisation and local-based electrification
solutions. Support from the interna-
tional community can help address these

Electricity provision in Nepal

Nepal is among the poorest and least in-
dustrialised countries in the world, with
nearly one third of the population still
living below the country's poverty line.
It is a land-locked country with a popu-
lation of 28.6 million inhabitants. Glob-
ally, the country is mostly known due
to Mount Everest, the highest mountain
peak in the world. Nepal is basically an
agrarian country with more than 80% of
the population living in rural areas. Ac-
cording to the Asian Development Bank,
Nepal has the highest Gini-Coefficient in
South Asia (0.47), indicating large income
inequalities (ADB, 2011).

Nepal’s per capita energy consumption is
one of the lowest in the world. A Nepal-
ese citizen consumes 14.28 GJ/year (mea-
sured in total primary energy supply), or
only 6% of the energy consumed by the
average Swedish citizen (IEA, 2010). More
than 56% of the total population lacks ac-
cess to electricity. However, the pace of
electrification has increased significantly
along with the introduction of specific
support programmes and policies. Access
to electricity has increased from 15% to
44% in the last 15 years.

Semida Silveira, Brijesh Mainali and Dilip Khatiwada

In their outline of ongoing rural electrification in Nepal, the three authors note that the country is endowed with large amounts of renewable energy
resources but still trapped in imports of fossil fuels, a major drain on the national economy. They argue that the ongoing process of rural electrifica-
tion is progressing well but unevenly and that challenges lie ahead for reaching the poorest communities. The authors call on government agencies
and donors to consider strengthening credit opportunities for renewable energy at the local level. They say that market-based rural electrification
mechanisms can function well in least developed countries, subject to understanding the peculiarities of the local demand, anchoring efforts on lo-
cally available human and natural resources and creating mechanisms of support to improve affordability.

Market-oriented policies for renewable-
based off-grid technologies have been
used as a mechanism to promote rural
electrification in Nepal. This has resulted
in an expansion of the rural electrification
market based on renewable energy (RE)
such as micro/mini hydro and solar pho-
tovoltaic (PV). Along with increased mar-
ket size, entrepreneurial forces have been
triggered and the number of installation
and manufacturing companies, as well as
non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
working in the RE sector has doubled in
the past 10 years. The experience of Nepal
shows that it is possible to mobilise pri-
vate finance and small business under a
strong umbrella of public coordination to
create markets for renewable energy even
in poor remote areas of developing coun-
tries (Mainali, 2011).

RE-based off-grid electrification in Nepal
builds upon the country’s high availability
of natural resources. The definition of ru-
ral energy subsidies and delivery mecha-
nisms, the periodic revision of subsidy
policies (revision 2000, revision 2006 and
recent revision 2009), the rural energy
policy 2006, and the exemption of im-
port tax and value added taxes (VAT) on
RE equipment have been instrumental in
the development of RE-markets. Subsidies
have served to channel demand towards
solar home systems and micro-hydro so-
lutions by making them more affordable
to villagers. There has also been an in-
crease in the local equity share invested in
renewables over time. Thus remittances
from Nepalese expatriates seem to be
playing an important role in the electrifi-
cation process. However, remittance flows
are intertwined with the global economy
and, as such, could be reduced in the face
of financial downturns, constraining the
pace of rural electrification. In this con-
text, the limited availability and access
to affordable credit for electrification re-
mains a major challenge (Mainali and Sil-
veira, 2011).

Distributional analysis of rural electrifi-
cation in Nepal has shown that, after the

introduction of solar PV in 1991, electrifi-
cation coverage has grown significantly.
Analysis has shown that off-grid rural
electrification in general, and solar home
systems in particular, helped overcome
some of the economic constraints of ex-
tending transmission lines, thus speeding
up the electrification process. However,
analysis has also revealed that only parts
of the population have been supplied, the
technology distribution is uneven, and
real challenges remain ahead if the poor-
est are to be reached. Therefore, in the
long run, government agencies and do-
nors should consider strengthening the
credit opportunities for renewable energy
at the local level. In addition, a decentra-
lised and more efficient subsidy delivery
could better spread the benefits of subsi-
dies, ultimately helping intensify the elec-
trification process.

The institutional and regulatory frame-
works supporting the formation of RE-
markets are evolving, and the peculiarities
of the market are increasingly understood
by policy makers and market players op-
erating in rural areas. Adjustments are
needed with the purpose of intensifying
the electrification process and alleviat-
ing poverty throughout the country. Our
studies have shown that the market-based
rural electrification mechanism can func-
tion well in least developed countries. For
that, it is necessary to understand the pe-
culiarities of the local demand, and to an-
chor efforts on locally available resources,
both natural and human capital, as well as
to create mechanisms of support to im-
prove affordability.

Renewable transport fuels and
bioelectricity – an untapped
opportunity in Nepal

Commercial energy amounts to only 12%
of the total energy consumed in Nepal,
and consists of fossil fuels (i.e. petroleum
and coal) and grid connected electricity,
especially from large hydropower plants.
The other 88% consists of traditional en-
ergy sources, basically biomass. The con-
tribution of electricity in the primary en-
ergy share is only 1.8%. Although the use
of modern renewables (i.e. biogas, micro-
hydro, and solar) increased approximately
three-fold between 1999 and 2009, it has a
negligible share in the total consumption
(less than 1%). Nepal does not have fossil

fuel reserves. Therefore, petroleum and
coal are imported, placing a huge burden
on the national economy. The govern-
ment has refrained from passing the full
costs of oil imports to the users due to po-
tential political unrest.

A major untapped opportunity remains
that can help Nepal address energy se-
curity and costs in transport as well as
intensify the electrification process with
bioelectricity. The transport sector is the
largest consumer of petroleum products.
Two major renewable fuel options are at
hand to improve the energy base of the
transport sector: one is based on the huge
potential to generate electricity from hy-
dropower; the other is based on bioetha-
nol from molasses.

Battery-operated electric vehicles
(3-wheeler) are already in use in the Kath-
mandu Valley and can continue playing an
important role if electricity generation ca-
pacity expands and is used to charge bat-
teries. Nepal is one of the countries with
the highest hydroelectricity potential per
capita in the world. Yet the expansion of
installed capacity of hydroelectricity has
progressed at a very slow pace. Nepal has
added only 507 MW hydropower capacity
to its matrix (from public finance) since
the 1950s against a development target
of 3785 MW (i.e. 13.4% of the target). Elec-
tricity demand is increasing at an average
rate of 10% per year and Nepal produces
less than half of its needs in the dry sea-
son when not enough water is available
for electricity generation. As a result, the
country is at present facing a huge crisis of
electricity supply.

The second option is related to the im-
mediate potential that exists in Nepal to
produce ethanol from molasses to offset
the use of gasoline. Nepal produced 2.6
million tonnes of sugarcane in 2006/07
using 64 thousand hectares of land. Ap-
proximately 70% of the total sugarcane
produced in the country is used in sugar
manufacturing, thus 1.8 million tonnes of
sugarcane are presently available for sugar
mills. With that, Nepal can immediately
produce 18 million litres of bioethanol an-
nually. The production would be based on
molasses, a bi-product, thus not compro-
mising the production of food products
(i.e. sugar and traditional sweeteners).


The Government of Nepal has already
decided, in principle, to blend 10% etha-
nol in petrol. Yet, this has not been imple-
mented due to technical, economic and
institutional problems. Kathmandu Val-
ley consumes 70% of the gasoline import-
ed to Nepal, or 71,338 m3 annually. Most
light vehicles (cars, jeeps and vans) use
gasoline and a huge fleet of two-wheeler
motor-bikes also consume gasoline. Using
E10 in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal can
save 4,860 m3 of gasoline per year, which
equates to a reduction of 6.8 % in gasoline
imports and significant savings for the
country. As much as 14% of import reduc-
tion is possible if vehicles go for E20. The
use of E20 in the Kathmandu Valley would
equate to direct savings of USD 10 million
(Silveira and Khatiwada, 2010). The intro-
duction of E20 can contribute towards
avoiding 23,397 tonnes of CO2 emissions,
which is 14% of the total annual emissions
from gasoline (2006/07).

Exploring synergies to provide
energy and promote sustainable

The agricultural sector employs 74 % of
the labour force in Nepal (CBS, 2008).
The increase in sugarcane production ob-
served in the last decades was mainly the
result of expansion of planted area, while
improvement in yields was only marginal.
The average cane yield in Nepal is only
40.6 tonnes per hectare. In comparison,
sugarcane yields in India reached an av-
erage of 68.2 tonnes/ha in 2001/02. In
Brazil, sugarcane productivity is steadily
increasing and yields already surpassed
80 tonnes/ha in 2004. There is potential
to increase yields significantly in Nepal,
subject to innovation practices which are
well-known and proven in agriculture.

In recent studies, we have developed the
entire life cycle analysis for the estima-
tion of energy and greenhouse gas (GHG)
balances of sugarcane-based bioethanol
in Nepal: energy (fossil and renewables)
and material flows inventory from sugar-
cane farming (human labour, irrigation,
and fertilizers/chemicals), transportation,
sugar cane milling, fermentation, distil-
lation and dehydration and treatment of
wastewater have been analysed for the
production of anhydrous ethanol (Khati-
wada and Silveira, 2009 and 2011). Bagasse
as a source of renewable energy is used to

generate heat and electricity required for
sugarcane milling, distillation and dehy-
dration processes.

Molasses is converted into anhydrous
ethanol fuel (EtOH). Distillery waste wa-
ter effluent is treated prior to disposal,
generating biogas which is later fed as
fuel into the boilers. Overall, analysis in-
dicates that the production and use of
bioethanol as transport fuel reduces life
cycle GHG emissions compared to con-
ventional gasoline. In addition, analysis
shows that significant improvements can
be achieved in the total energy balance of
bioethanol production if modern tech-
nology processes are properly applied and
better synergies for multiple services are

At present, sugar industries in Nepal are
self-sufficient in energy requirements.
However, excess bagasse can be used to
provide surplus electricity to replace die-
selpowered electricity to local industries.
With more efficient use of bagasse and
cane trash, surplus bioelectricity can be
generated also to promote electrification
in the country. The evaluation of one sugar
mill in Nepal showed that 17% excess ba-
gasse is available at present, after internal
energy requirements are met (Khatiwada
and Silveira, 2009). Improvements based
on readily available knowledge and tech-
nologies can further enhance the energy
exchange and gains of the land and bio-
mass resources available in Nepal. Overall,
there is a large potential for improvements
along the sugar-ethanol production chain

including: (a) modernisation of agricul-
tural practices and improvement of cane
yields; (b) efficient use of cane bagasse and
trash to generate bioelectricity; and (c)
upgrading and optimisation of industrial

Another important synergy that can be
achieved with the use of bioelectricity is
related to the possible complementar-
ity with hydropower. Most hydropower
plants in Nepal are of the run-of-the-river
type. This means that they are subject to
seasonal river flows, and cannot provide
electricity in their full capacity in the dry
season. Nepal can hardly afford to run
thermal plants with imported fossil fuels.
In any case, this would not be a sustain-
able alternative. Lack of proper infrastruc-
ture is the cause of frequent power short-
ages and blackouts which are detrimental
to the development of the country. Fi-
nancial resources are needed to plan and
develop the necessary infrastructure and
better utilise the country’s hydroelectric
and biomass potential.

Installation of high pressure boilers and
turbines in sugar mills, replacing ineffi-
cient low pressure turbines, would open
opportunities to supply additional elec-
tricity to the grid. Since the dry season and
the period of operation of the sugar mills
coincide, the complementarity of the two
sources is evident. For instance, 313 GWh
of surplus electricity could have been sold
to the grid in 2006/07 (Khatiwada et al.,
2011). Instead, 329 GWh were imported
from India in the same year (NEA, 2010).


This means that bioelectricity could cover
about 35% of the total electricity demand
during the sugarcane crushing period (dry
season or 150 days between December
and May), equivalent to 95% of the elec-
tricity imports from India. With demand
for electricity increasing rapidly, it is im-
portant to make sure that sustainable al-
ternatives are chosen as new investments
are made to expand capacity. Proven
technologies based on abundant natural
resources available in the country are low-
risk attractive options.

Matching local and global

Nepal is a country endowed with large
amounts of renewable energy resources,
providing a significant opportunity to
develop a sustainable energy system. Un-
fortunately, the country is still trapped
in imports of fossil fuels. Fossil fuel costs
have become a major drain on the na-
tional economy, compromising political
stability and development. Consequently,
immediate societal and environmental
gains can be achieved by using renewable
alternatives to provide energy services and
build a solid basis for a green economy in
the country.

By using natural resources wisely, with
technologies that are readily available,

Nepal can pursue development while also
shifting its economy towards more envi-
ronmentally sound paths and contributing
to the global green agenda. For developing
countries, finding alternatives based on lo-
cal resources means not only the opportu-
nity to increase energy security but also to
develop local economies and improve the
trade balance. From regional and national
solutions, there will also be opportunities
for expanding towards global solutions as
green international markets expand.

Many opportunities for sustainable solu-
tions to meet energy needs exist in Nepal.
Biomass, solar and hydropower can all
contribute in different ways to meet en-
ergy requirements, while also triggering
modernisation in agriculture and indus-
trialisation, and increasing energy secu-
rity. There is no contradiction between
the energy options that are attractive to
the country and the goals of developing
a global green economy from the energy
point of view. In addition, recent experi-
ences in the country indicate that poverty
can be reduced through the formation
of markets for green technologies for

One of the Millennium Development
Goals is to develop a global partnership
for development. The role of donors is
key in this context, for example, helping

developing nations focus on renewable
solutions, bridging financial constraints,
facilitating institutional development and
improving technology affordability. Nepal
and other LDCs are largely dependent on
development aid, so it is important to sen-
sitise donors about the potential that these
countries have and the specific context in
which technologies are to be deployed.

Awareness about RE-technologies and
willingness of people to invest and pay
for electricity has increased significantly
in the past years. However, there is still
a huge financial gap between the cost of
electrification and its affordability to the
poor. Bridging this gap is a crucial issue
that needs to be addressed for the smooth
expansion of rural electrification. In ad-
dition, access to electricity in itself is not
sufficient to bring about rural economic
growth – a supportive environment for
productive activities is also needed. This
is better achieved by exploring synergies
between energy and other productive

By exploring its bioethanol potential, Ne-
pal can address multiple problems to im-
prove energy security and reduce reliance
on imported fuels, control local and global
environmental impacts, while also trigger-
ing the modernisation of agriculture and
improving the total efficiency of its energy


system. Residues from the sugar-ethanol
industry can serve to further promote
electrification in the country. Favourable
governmental policies, proper institution-
al mechanisms and coordination amongst
concerned stakeholders, including private
and public sectors, are required to guar-
antee a sustainable energy path. Both the
political and institutional concerns have
become the most urgent issues to address
at this stage when mature conversion
technologies are already available and


Not only are the poor outside food mar-
kets but many have limited access to ba-
sic services such as education, health and
energy. Properly applied to the benefit
of development, the environmental and
green economy agendas can make clear
contributions to employment generation

and the formation of markets for green
technologies. Examples can be found in
the energy sector. By exploring the po-
tential for biofuel production that exists
in many developing countries today, sig-
nificant fuel substitution can be accom-
plished in the transport sector while also
creating conditions for increased electric-
ity generation.

Energy access can play a role and become
a vector to promote sustainable devel-
opment in developing countries while
contributing to the shift towards a global
green and low carbon economy. The story
of Nepal illustrates that well. The story
is similar in many other poor countries
in Africa and Asia that are dependent on
oil imports. Agriculture needs moderni-
sation, not least to produce more food;
industries wait for a dynamic push of
markets; and large populations need jobs,
income, electricity and transport fuels.

Many LDCs are strongly dependent on
development assistance to reform insti-
tutions, make infrastructure investments
and support the generation of markets.
Donors often operate through projects
and are increasingly emphasising global
agendas. By strengthening the multiple
objectives of projects and the links with
local and national contexts, better mo-
mentum can be achieved. Planning for so-
cial, economic, spatial and environmental
balance simultaneously is crucial for cor-
recting distorted processes of regional
degradation and turning them into pro-
cesses of sustainable development. Turn-
ing the energy sector green and increasing
energy access are essential steps in these
processes. Clean energy provision is a cen-
tral element of the green economy, which
needs to be simultaneously pursued na-
tionally and globally

Notes and references

1 ADB, 2011. Asian Development Outlook 2011: Nepal. Available at www.adb.org/documents/books/ado/2011/ado2011-nep.pdf [consulted June 07, 2011].

2 CBS – Central Bureau of Statistics, 2008. Report on the Nepal labour force survey, 2008. National Planning Commission Secretariat, Government of Nepal.

3 IEA, 2010. International Energy Agency (IEA). Key world energy statistics.

4 IEA, 2008 New Electricity Data Base. Available at: www.worldenergyoutlook.org/database_electricity/electricity_access_database.htm [4th June 2010]

5 Khatiwada D, Silveira S, 2011. Greenhouse gas balances of molasses based ethanol in Nepal, Journal of Cleaner Production (in Press).

6 Khatiwada, D., Seabra, J., Silveira, S., Walter, A., 2011. Power generation from sugarcane biomass – a complementary option to hydroelectricity in Nepal and Brazil,
presented at the 6th Conference on Sustainable Development of Energy Water and Environment Systems, 25-29 Sept, Dubrovnik.

7 Khatiwada, D., Silveira, S., 2009. Net energy balance of molasses based ethanol: the case of Nepal. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 2009 (13), pp.

8 Mainali. B., 2011. Renewable Energy Market for Rural Electrification in Developing Countries: Country Case Nepal. Licentiate thesis, Division of Energy and
Climate Studies, KTH.

9 Mainali. B., Silveira. S.. 2011. Financing off-grid rural electrification: Country Case Nepal. Energy 36, pp. 2194-2201.

10 NEA - Nepal Electricity Authority, 2010. A year in review 2010, fiscal year 2009/10.

11 Silveira, S., Khatiwada, D., 2010. Ethanol production and fuel substitution in Nepal – opportunity to promote sustainable development and climate change
mitigation. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 14 (6), pp. 1644-1652.

About the authors
Semida Silveira is Professor of Energy and Environmental Technology and head of the division of Energy and Climate Studies (ECS) at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Sweden.
Previously, Prof. Silveira worked as sustainability expert at the Swedish Energy Agency and as energy and climate programme manager at the Stockholm Environment Institute. Her most recent
activities include bioenergy and climate change policy work, promotion of Swedish knowledge and technologies in development assistance and international business cooperation with
corporate responsibility.

Dilip Khatiwada has 12 years of experience in a number of private, public and international development agencies, including assistant spokesperson at the Ministry of Environment (Nepal),
component manager for a Danish International Development Agency environmental project, national focal person for a Regional Air Quality Project in Nepal, electro-mechanical
specialist/consultant for a Nepalese project sponsored by the Asian Development Bank and technical under secretary at the Nepalese Ministry of Industry. He is currently a PhD candidate
at the division of Energy and Climate Studies, KTH.

Brijesh Mainali has 15 years of experience in the field in Nepal as a consultant/expert on rural electrification to development agencies, NGOs and the private sector. With expertise in project design
and development, he was member of National technical review committee responsible for assessing and appraising rural energy projects for subsidy approval. An expert in rural energy project
design and development and energy research, he was editor of an energy magazine in Nepal. He is currently a PHD researcher in the Energy and Climate Studies in KTH Sweden, working with
Renewable Energy for developing countries.



Going green: history
and social implications

Environment and development
on the eve of Rio+20 / Stockholm+40:
continuity of policy themes and
Branis lav Gosovic

Social policy, participation and the
transition to a green economy
Sarah Cook,
Peter Utt ing and
Kiah Smith





Environment and development
on the eve of Rio+20 / Stockholm+40:
continuity of policy themes and


The year 2012 will witness the next, fourth
in a series of major United Nations confer-
ences devoted to interrelated problems
and global challenges successively referred
to as environment, human environment,
environment and development, sustainable
development, and most recently the green

For those who, since the beginning, have
been involved in or followed the related de-
bates and negotiations in the international
arena, most of the issues and controversies
likely to arise remain basically unchanged
and are rooted in the structural traits that
characterize the global system. Because the
institutional and collective memory is weak,
it is worth recalling some of the early events
and actions, and to illustrate continuity of
themes and issues. This is the aim of this
analytical aperçu, which could be of special
interest to those belonging to the younger
generation engaged in ongoing multilateral
processes and who may not be familiar with
the earlier phases of this continuing saga.

After 40 years, multilateral efforts in the UN
to deal with inherently difficult global envi-
ronment problématique continue to be un-
favourably affected by the same underlying

issues. These were manifest from the very
beginning, in the late 1960s, when the atten-
tion of the international community was first
drawn to environment-related problems:

North-South differences and conflicts,
and gaps in levels of development;
The fact that the environment-devel-
opment nexus questions the social,
economic and material sustainability of
the dominant structures, and challeng-
es the paradigm that the world system
is based on, and is thus subversive and
disturbing to the status quo;
The inadequacy or inappropriateness
of existing, traditional socio-economic
constructs, methodologies and institu-
tions to deal with many of the sustain-
able development challenges, espe-
cially those of longer-term significance,
common welfare implications and
planetary dimensions;
The financial cost of the policies and ac-
tions that are required – in a situation
of competing interests and priorities,
chronic scarcity of resources, recurring
economic crises, and controversies re-
lated to respective responsibilities and
burden sharing between states, often at
widely differing levels of development.

Branislav Gosovic

Branislav Gosovic highlights some of the benchmarks in the initial phases of environment-development debate, from the early beginnings at the time of the 1972
Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment and its immediate aftermath, when the stage was set and issues defined for continuing North-South controversies
that have lasted to the present day. He notes the emergence of a neo-liberal globalization paradigm in the early 1980s, reinforced during the 1990s, which, he
says, undermined the already difficult objective to evolve an integrated approach to global environment/development challenges. Given past history and inertia
of existing structures, Gosovic wonders whether the Rio 2012 Conference will be followed by another déjà vu period. He considers, however, that global context is
changing, the dominant paradigm is being doubted, a rising South is on the world scene, and the climate change complex of issues is forcing on the international
community, willy-nilly, an integrated approach to the global challenges of sustainable development. Rio+20 could thus, one would like to hope, turn out to be a
watershed and the beginning of a more promising era of international cooperation.




The Launch of the Spanish edition of the South Commission's
report "The Challenge to the South", Havana, August 1990.
From left to right, Branislav Gosovic, member of the South
Commission secretariat, Manmohan Singh, Secretary-General
and member of the South Commission, Julius K. Nyerere,
Chairman of the South Commission, Fidel Castro, and Carlos Fortin,
member of the South Commission secretariat

broadening of the definition of environ-
ment to include many problems specific to
their situations. They were now more at ease
about attending the Conference.

The Founex seminar report brought to
surface the underlying contradictions and
dilemmas, which in the later years played a
major role in North-South disagreements,
making effective global environmental ac-
tion even more difficult to mount. It referred
in particular to the self-evident conclusion
that environmental problems could not
be dealt with in isolation and without ad-
dressing their causes, or by resorting to “end
of the pipe” solutions and technological
fixes, but required comprehensive advances
in the development process itself. This in
turn implied the need to address and deal
with the whole international development

1972 – UN Stockholm Conference on the
Human Environment (UNCHE). The intru-
sion of development and of developing
countries’ views and concerns had a sig-
nificant impact on the nature of the UNCHE
and broadened the scope of its agenda. The
Conference represented the first opportu-
nity at the intergovernmental level to bring
the international development and environ-
ment agendas closer together. By imposing
a comprehensive perspective on the many
and varied aspects of the environmental
problématique, including as it presents it-
self at different levels of development and
in different settings, the Stockholm Confer-
ence effectively laid the foundations for an
integrated, holistic approach to be pursued
in the period that followed.

Difficult negotiations took place, with devel-
oping countries – energized by China which

Recalling landmarks of the
first decade

1968 – decision to convene a UN confer-
ence on the human environment. The
UN decision to convene a conference on
the environment was viewed with reserve
by many in the South. At that time seen
narrowly as the problem of pollution and
conservation, it was considered by them as
a domain of primary, if not exclusive inter-
est to the already industrialized nations. The
developing countries worried that the new
issue would cause a reduction in develop-
ment assistance flows, add to the cost of
transfer of technology, and give rise to non-
tariff trade barriers erected to respond to en-
vironmental concerns. Some resented na-
ture conservation efforts as interfering with
their national development, while many
opined that Malthusian, natural resource
depletion and limits to growth arguments
and debates in the North implied barriers
to their development, industrialization and
economic growth.

As the preparatory process progressed, de-
veloping countries’ reticence increased vis-à-
vis the Conference which, at the same time,
was embraced enthusiastically by the North.
Many among them even talked about not
attending. In order to reduce growing ten-
sions and allay suspicions, the secretariat of
the Conference decided to convene an ex-
pert seminar on relation ships between en-
vironment and development. The aim was
to arrive at a broader definition of “human
environment” by linking organically envi-
ronment and development. As well, the ob-
jective was to identify those aspects which
would be of particular interest to develop-
ing countries and correspond more closely
to their development situations and needs.

1971 – Founex seminar on environment
and development. The Founex gathering
broadened definitions of environment be-
yond their initial formulations by highlight-
ing those environmental problems caused
by underdevelopment and poverty which
to be dealt with and resolved required eco-
nomic growth and higher levels of devel-
opment. In this manner it affirmed the link
between environment and development
agendas; thereafter reference to environ-
ment and development or environment-
development became common.

The developing countries were pleased with
twinning of the two agendas and with the

had just joined the United Nations – trying
to shore up the international development
agenda from being undermined by the
North’s new preoccupation with environ-
ment and pollution issues. This was achieved
by recalling some basic principles in the UN-
CHE Declaration, as well as by approving a
number of specific recommendations in the
Plan of Action. These included the concept
of “additionality”, which called for financial
resource support for environment-related
actions in developing countries to be “addi-
tional” to standard official development as-
sistance (ODA). As well, the Conference rec-
ommended that the transfer of appropriate
and environmentally sound technologies to
developing countries should be made on
easy and favourable terms. An innovative
recommendation was adopted calling for a
study of global taxation measures, as a new
source of funding for international action on

It appeared that the Conference had suc-
ceeded in offering to developing countries
sufficient encouragement and grounds to
become engaged from the very start in the
international quest to protect the human
environment and to manage Planet Earth
and its finite and fragile resources. These
countries expected that the international
community would agree to revive and act
on the largely stalled international develop-
ment agenda, and in this manner support
their national development efforts, which
in turn would make it easier for them to
address those environmental problems re-
lated to poverty and underdevelopment.
They were also looking forward to addi-
tional financial assistance, and transfer by
the North, on favourable terms, of experi-
ence, advanced knowledge and technolo-
gies, inter alia to help them deal with those
environmental problems that arise through
economic growth and modernization of so-
ciety and economy.

The Stockholm Conference thus ended on
a positive note and with high expectations.
However, unseen and behind the scenes, as
was revealed some 30 years later in papers
declassified by the United Kingdom govern-
ment, the so-called “Brussels Group”, a hand-
ful of developed countries (but without the
host Sweden and other Scandinavian coun-
tries, and Canada), was meeting to discuss
“damage limitation” from the outcomes of
the Conference. With its significantly broad-
er scope and the link with the develop-
ment agenda, the Conference represented


Secretary-General of the UN Conference on the Human
Environment, Maurice F. Strong (right), shows UN Secretary-
General U Thant a design for the official Conference poster.
Ambassador Keith Johnson (Jamaica), Chairman of the
Preparatory Committee for the Conference is at the left.
15 September 1971

a “different ball game” and had veered off
the desirable course as far as key developed
countries were concerned.

1972 – UN General Assembly’s decision
to move UNEP Headquarters to Nairobi.
The UN General Assembly decision to locate
the headquarters of the new organization in
Nairobi, Kenya was taken in autumn of 1972,
shortly after the Stockholm Conference. It
exposed the underlying tensions and differ-
ences between developed and developing

The Group of 77 had for some time been
pressing for the headquarters of a major UN
organization to be located somewhere in
the South. With Kenya playing a leading role
and offering an impressive new conference
centre to house the UN Environment Pro-
gramme (UNEP), the developing countries,
relying on their voting majority, succeeded
in securing the establishment in Nairobi
of the new organization to work on imple-
menting the decisions of the Stockholm

One of G77 political objectives of locating
UNEP in the Third World milieu was to ex-
pose and sensitize the new organization to
conditions in the South, and to make it more
responsive to the development side of the
environment-development nexus. Indeed,
the developing countries feared that were
UNEP to have its headquarters in the North,
it was likely to fall under the strong influence
of developed countries’ governments and its
many energetic and enthusiastic NGOs, and
that their perceptions and priorities would
relegate development-related concerns to

Going along with the decision reluctantly,
the developed countries were unhappy and
were taken aback. They also argued that the
peripheral location in Nairobi, in addition to
logistical difficulties, would hamper UNEP
in fulfilling its system-wide coordinating
role, its institutional model having been de-
signed on the assumption that it would be
“centrally-located”, i.e. in Geneva.

In the period that followed, the location of
UNEP gave rise to a number of developed
countries’ initiatives aimed to correct this
“shortcoming”, including the still pending
proposal to create a comprehensive world
environment organization. It also contrib-
uted to fragmentation of efforts, and the
establishment of spin-off mechanisms,

such as the UN Commission on Sustainable
Development and the various conventions,
located in the North. Yet, logically, these
should have been physically under one roof,
given the organic interrelationship of issues
under consideration.

1973 – First Governing Council and the rise
of Group of 77 in UNEP. The first session of
UNEP’s Governing Council represented an-
other landmark in this start-up phase. Held
in Geneva, before the UNEP secretariat had
moved formally to Nairobi, this opening
session of the Council was marked by the re-
emergence of North-South policy differences
and by the Group of 77 becoming active in the
fold of the new organization. The appearance
of the Group of 77 displeased the countries of
the North. They argued that the group system
of negotiations characteristic of UNCTAD was
inappropriate and should not be replicated in
the new environment organization.

However, prior to the activation of the G77
which took place only towards the closing
stages of the first Council and as long as the
developing countries spoke individually
and without a coordinated group position,
their views appeared to have little influence
on the proceedings. At the same time, the
developed countries acted as a group and
coordinated their position, and had a clear
idea what they wanted to achieve with re-
gard to programme priorities and the allo-
cation of financial resources from the Envi-
ronment Fund.

The appearance of the G77 helped shift the
focus away from Earthwatch, environmental
assessment and management to develop-
ment-related concerns. Thus, human settle-
ments emerged as the number one priority
in allocating available financial resources.

This reordering of programme priorities was
yet another early episode that contributed
to disenchantment of the developed coun-
tries with the fledgling organization and the
direction it was taking under the influence
of a pro-active South. What was shaping up
did not quite correspond to their expecta-
tions, with developing countries affecting
the course and character of the new institu-
tion by taking initiative at critical junctures
early in the follow-up process. They were
not pleased with the importation of “extra-
neous” international development agenda
issues into the nascent work programme
and the resulting “dilution” of what they felt
should have been the priority concerns.

1974 – New International Economic Or-
der and the Cocoyoc Symposium. While
UNEP was settling into its new home in
the Kenyatta Conference Centre in Nairobi,
where the secretariat moved in mid-1973,
important events were taking place on the
global scene. They included the OPEC action
to increase the price of oil, and the Algiers
Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement
(NAM) which called for the establishment of
a new international economic order and for
national sovereignty over natural resources.

Environment Conference Meets at Stockholm
Carlos Calero Rodrigues (left) of Brazil, Chairman of the Third Committee, conversing with

A.M.A. Hassan (Sudan), Rapporteur.
13 June 1972

Official Emblem for the
UN Conference on the Human Environment

UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata

The energy and economic crisis triggered
by the oil price rise led to the convening of
the 6th Special Session of the UN General
Assembly in the spring of 1974, to consider
its implications for the world economy and
for individual countries. This opportunity
was seized by NAM to present its New Inter-
national Economic Order (NIEO) proposal.
The G77 and NAM were attempting to ad-
vance the implementation of the interna-
tional development agenda by linking it
with measures to deal with the energy crisis.
Encouraged by the OPEC actions, they were
trying to move forward on a broader front of
what effectively were interrelated develop-
ment issues. Similarly, developing countries’
expected that outcomes of UNCHE would
serve as an additional impulse for action
on the international development agenda.
They considered that their own readiness
to engage and cooperate on environment
matters which were dear to developed
countries was effectively a quid pro quo of a
kind which would elicit North’s more coop-
erative stance regarding their development

UNEP waded into the generalized hiatus
surrounding OPEC, NIEO, the Charter of Eco-
nomic and Social Rights and Duties, and the
newly topical concerns of high energy cost,
oil scarcity and exhaustion, and manage-
ment and national sovereignty over natural
resources. This occurred when, with the sup-
port of the Dag Hammarskjold Foundaton,
it organized a joint UNEP/UNCTAD Sympo-
sium on “Environment, Development and
Patterns of Natural Resources Use” in the
autumn of 1974. The symposium, chaired by
Barbara Ward, was held in Cocoyoc, Mexico.

The Cocoyoc Declaration that was adopted
ranged broadly over the global economic,
social and political agendas, and the inter-
relationships of issues concerning North-
South relations, environment, development,
natural resources use, and population. It
pulled a number of threads together, ques-
tioned the ability of the free market to re-
solve the environment-development chal-
lenges and issues, and highlighted the need
for changing patterns of production and
consumption, and hence lifestyles. The Dec-
laration was an attempt to contribute to the
evolution of a comprehensive framework
to deal with the many interrelated issues in
the post-UNCHE period, issues which were
normally dealt with in a sectoral way by dif-
ferent international organizations. It also

reflected the rising voice and newly found
self-confidence of the South in the wake of
OPEC action and the NAM/G77 NIEO initia-
tive. However, the Declaration was perhaps
politically too audacious and explicit, given
the prevailing sensitivities and outlook of
key developed countries, for example, in its
questioning the market and trickle-down
theories or in speaking of maldevelopment
and exploitation.

It is no wonder, then, that the UNEP secre-
tariat as the major driving force and respon-
sible for the symposium, would be called to
order. Indeed, only a few days after the Co-
coyoc meeting had ended, it received a telex
signed by the then United States Secretary
of State Henry Kissinger. The telex objected
to the political tone of the Declaration, and
its underlying premise that “everything is re-
lated to everything else” which made it pos-
sible to lump together what were distinct
issues. It pointed out that UNEP’s mandate
is limited to environmental concerns. And it
argued that many of the issues raised in the
Declaration were not stricto sensu environ-
mental and belonged to other domains of
the international agenda and thus to other
international bodies mandated to consider
and deal with them.

The underlying message was emphasized
soon thereafter when the US announced
that it planned to withhold its voluntary
contribution to the UNEP Environment
Fund. Given that the US share amounted
to 40% of the total in the Fund, the imple-
mentation of the environment programme
which was dependent on these resources
was in jeopardy. This sign of displeasure il-
lustrated the vulnerability of UNEP and an-
nounced the shrinking of policy space that
would be available to the secretariat and to
the organization itself.

This episode marked the beginning of what
became common practice by developed
countries of exercising unilaterally policy
control by using their financial contribu-
tions. And it was an explicit statement of an
overarching policy that rejects comprehen-
sive, holistic treatment of the environment/
development nexus and issue linkage in the
wide-ranging North-South agenda.

The Legacy of the 1970s. As noted above,
the meeting of the Brussels group of devel-
oped countries at the time of UNCHE marked
the beginning of efforts by the North to

counter what these countries consider as
unwarranted intrusion of developmental
concerns and broader political preoccupa-
tions into the sphere of environment.

The period following the NIEO and the Co-
coyoc Declaration, in part triggered by these
two events, witnessed the gradual emer-
gence of a North strategy of generalized
containment of the UN and of the South as
concerns environment and development.
Its principal elements, deduced by observ-
ing the actions of developed countries, can
be summed up as follows:

Exercising broad control over the inter-
national environmental agenda to fore-
stall or neutralize undesirable develop-
ments and “excesses”;
Maintaining initiative, while keeping
developing countries off-balance, and
encouraging divisions between them;
Discouraging issue linkage and consid-
eration of underlying socio-economic
causes, while giving preference to case-
by-case, technological or methodologi-
cal/management approaches to single
Objecting to demands that develop-
ment-related measures in international
economic relations be relied on to foster
environmentally sound development.

Yet, the very character of environmental is-
sues and how they were initially formulated
at the Stockholm Conference had already al-
lowed “the genie to escape out of the bottle”.
It made it possible in the global forum of the
UN to take an in-depth and incisive look at
the nature of human society, thus opening
the way to question, however timidly, the
dominant economic and political paradigm
and the overarching world system.

The issues that emerged from the early con-
ceptual and policy efforts and framework
depicted above have been present ever
since in intergovernmental debates and
negotiations. They have influenced various
attempts to formulate or reformulate these
challenges to find solutions which would
command a broad consensus of the South
and the North.

Given the potential of these issues to trouble
the dominant order, the establishments in
the countries of the North pursued a policy
of blocking or simply ignoring unwanted
initiatives of the South, while increasingly






placing developing countries on a defen-
sive, including by projecting an image of
their responsibility for specific environmen-
tal problems.

Thus already by the mid 1970s, the tone was
set for the future official responses of the
North to the environment problématique.
The pattern has largely held in the years that
followed; it is responsible to a significant de-
gree for continuing North-South tensions,
for conflictive issues that occur in discus-
sions, debates and negotiations, including
today on climate change, biodiversity and
the green economy, and for the frustration
developing countries often experience
when environment-related matters are con-
sidered in multilateral forums.

Some highlights of the
second decade

1980 – World Conservation Strategy. The
IUCN/UNEP/WWF World Conservation Strat-
egy should be mentioned because this was
the first time that the now current concept
of “sustainable development” made its ap-
pearance in an international document, al-
beit in the context of managing the renew-
able resources of the biosphere.

1981 – The Cancun North-South Summit.
The Cancun summit of world leaders
was convened in 1981 to consider the
recommendations of the report of the
North-South Commission chaired by
Willy Brandt. The aim was also to give
impulse from the highest level for their
implementation, particularly since the
ongoing intergovernmental negotiations
concerning the international development
agenda were largely stalled.

However, instead of resulting in progress, the
Cancun Summit negated decades of effort
and negotiation. The leaders of the two most
powerful developed countries declared their
lack of interest in continued engagement.
They argued that the whole international
development agenda and related intergov-
ernmental efforts represented a flawed ap-
proach to development challenges, as did
planning and regulation. Instead, they pro-
posed that for attainment of development
objectives one should rely on the private sec-
tor, unleash individual initiative, and supplant
the role of the state in the economy by the
mechanisms of the free market.

This was a significant turning point. It ef-
fectively marked the end of North-South
development dialogue, and signaled the
coming disengagement of the North from
earlier commitments and agreements. It an-
nounced the rise of the neo-liberal policy
outlook and the beginning of a globaliza-
tion process anchored in what came to be
known as the “Washington Consensus”.

Unavoidably, this had an impact on the en-
vironment agenda and also removed a basic
building bloc of a possible North-South com-
promise that was implicit in the outcomes
of the Stockholm Conference. The earlier
linkage of more narrowly environmental
concerns with the broader international
development agenda, already tenuous, was
thus weakened further. Given the increas-
ing likelihood that this agenda would not
be implemented, the developmental side
of the environment-development equation
was bound to be negatively affected. And, in
view of the ascendance of the new market-
based neo-liberal paradigm, a number of
measures of support sought by the South
from the international community through
intergovernmental action were no longer
admissible and could not be counted on.

This fundamental policy shift, however, was
not abrupt and the earlier practices and pro-
cesses, as well as illusions, continued well
into the 1990s.

1987 – World Commission on Environ-
ment and Development. Thus, the exist-
ing momentum maintained the debate
along well-traced tracks. North-South dif-
ferences of position and outlook surfaced
in the independent World Commission on
Environment and Development (WCED),
chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland. Having
met during the period 1985-87, it produced
its acclaimed report “Our Common Future”.
The Commission laboured under a cloud of
disagreement among its members, as well
as secretariat staff, from the North and the
South, who could not find common lan-
guage regarding the linkages between en-
vironment and development. In particular,
they argued concerning the role of interna-
tional economic relations and of the exter-
nal economic environment in enabling, or in
hampering the developing countries both
in their development, and in their ability to
respond to the requirements of the environ-
ment-development agenda. They disagreed
even more over the specific responsibilities
of the North, both as concerns global envi-
ronmental problems and support that the
developed countries would extend to the
developing countries.

While intense, these disagreements were
eventually smoothed over and the Com-
mission completed its work. Compromise
was found in the concept of “sustainable
development”, to which everybody could
subscribe. It was appealing, sufficiently
vague and had multiple possible meanings.








Heads of State at the Cancun Economic Summit of 1981 in Mexico
23 October 1981

1992 – UN Rio Conference on Environ-
ment and Development (UNCED). The
notion of “sustainable development” which
was launched by the WCED, soon became
the new, mobilizing motto, a programmatic
concept, a synthesis of environment and
development concerns. The 1992 UN Con-
ference on Environment and Development
(UNCED), held in Rio 20 years after the Stock-
holm Conference, embraced it and made it
into one of its key policy recommendations.

The Rio Conference represented the last
stage of this initial period, defined by the
Founex, UNCHE, NIEO and Cocoyoc events.
It resulted in Agenda 21, and the biodiver-
sity and climate conventions. The Group of
77 argued forcefully for the linkage of the
environment and development agendas.
In particular, it pressed for additionality
principle and obtained the establishment
of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF),
as a means of securing some of the much-
needed additional financing.

Significantly, the G77 secured the accep-
tance of the principle of “common but differ-
entiated responsibilities”. It implied, at least
as the developing countries saw it, that since
the developed countries were primarily re-
sponsible for many of global environmental
problems, had incurred an environmental
debt vis-à-vis the South and the planet as a
whole, and were highly advanced and rich,
they should assume corresponding respon-
sibilities for global action and bear a major
share of the costs involved.

Post-1992 age:
The rise of the neoliberal

During the period when the Rio Conference
took place, seismic processes were already
under way, which were to change radically
the world geopolitical context and result in
a unipolar system wholly dominated by the
North. The developed countries no longer
felt under pressure or obliged to engage se-
riously with the South and respond to its tra-
ditional demands contained in the interna-
tional development agenda. They ignored,
inter alia, developing countries’ concerns
over trade barriers and conditionalities aris-
ing from environment issues, their calls for
additionality in development assistance and
for transfer of appropriate technologies on
favourable terms, and their efforts to revive
the North-South development dialogue.

Developed countries were not keen to ac-
cept the idea that intergovernmental action
was needed to correct and guide, indeed
regulate the market and the international
economy, in order to accommodate de-
velopment goals and needs. Also, facing
growing agitation and pressure from their
own NGOs and environmentalists on one
hand, and from the corporate sector on
the other hand, and eager to minimize the
disruption and costs they would incur due
to environmental policies, the developed
countries pursued a 2-pronged internation-
al strategy:

a. To focus attention increasingly on the
responsibilities of developing countries
and to present them as the cause of given
environmental problems;
b. To promote the market as the more
effective means of avoiding the difficult
choices presented by other approaches
to environmental problems. The market
would thus substitute for national and
international measures and regulation,
while the profit motive would be enlisted
as the principal vehicle in the efforts to at-
tain elusive environmental goals. The con-
cept of carbon-trading and carbon sinks,
thus emerged as the preferred approach
to global climate change. It embodied the
“market environmentalism” paradigm and
was used as the cornerstone in negotiating
the Kyoto Protocol.

In the newly established WTO, what was
perceived by many in the developing coun-
tries as environment-related trade barriers
and “green” protectionism of the North,
signaled the coming of the new age. De-
veloping countries were subjected to trade
conditionalities in support of specific envi-
ronmental objectives. It was also a conve-
nient way for some developed countries
to please their own environmental NGOs
which were clamouring for action, while,
when possible or required, also to use these
conditionalities as a non-tariff trade barrier.

In WTO, as well, the new trade-related intel-
lectual property regime, embodied in the
TRIPS agreement, effectively undermined
the UNCHE recommendation and the long-
standing demand of developing countries
for transfer of appropriate and environmen-
tally sound technologies on favourable and
easy terms.

Importantly, the principle of the “level play-
ing fields”, which is at the very foundation of
WTO and the agreements it embodies, put
an end to the hard-won principle of “special
and differential treatment” for developing
countries. It marked the dawn of the new
age of “equality” among unequal players,
in what were decidedly un-level playing

These developments, in which WTO played a
key role, had a negative policy and practical
impact on the next iteration of the earlier en-
vironment-development conceptual frame-
work, which following UNCED was referred
to as the “sustainable development” agenda.






s T



A general view of world leaders meeting during the Summit Segment
03 June 1992
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


In sum, as a consequence of a policy and par-
adigmatic shift, driven by the changing out-
look and preferences in key countries of the
North, a weakening and marginalization of
the collective South, and disjoining of the is-
sues in the UN system on a sectoral basis, one
witnessed a significant departure in practice
from the original premises laid out at the time
of the Stockholm Conference, even though
these were broadly reaffirmed in the docu-
ments adopted by the global conferences in
Rio and Johannesburg which followed.

The developed countries were successful in
turning the tables on the developing coun-
tries, who continued to plead for assistance
and generosity of the largely unresponsive
partners from the North. At the same time,
the South, and especially its two major
countries with rising and industrializing
economies and very large populations as-
piring to higher standards of living, was de-
picted as the looming global environmental
threat of the future.

These changes and the stance of the devel-
oped countries were significantly influenced
by the policies and outlook of the leading
power, where domestic and corporate in-
terests exercise influence in key domains.
Its position determines permissible inter-
national outcomes and possible directions,
given the “convoy syndrome” which must
travel at the speed of the slowest ship.

Indeed, the dominant view and policy ori-
entation among powerful, ascendant con-
servative forces in the North played a major
role in stalling, in fact holding hostage the
ambitious international agenda, slowing
down and delaying timely responses and
actions to global environmental challenges
for decades. Significantly, this generalized
trend also diminished the importance and
influence of the favourably inclined social
forces in the North, which had played a lead-
ing role in the earlier period, both in placing
issues on the agenda and in defining pos-
sible responses. These were marginalized
from the establishment and found a solace
in the civil society encampment.

2012: Rio +20 / Stockholm +40
Conference and after

Forty years of this environment-develop-
ment conceptual and policy tug-of-war
have not changed the underlying causal
problems, nor have they removed the

fundamental issues of controversy. North-
South tensions over mutual responsibilities
and roles are as present and acute as ever.
One such area is the recent emergence of
the “green economy”, as the supposed pana-
cea and rallying cause for attaining goals of
sustainable development, more specifically
those having to do with climate change, and
thus helping shield Planet Earth and human
civilization from risks posed by contempo-
rary society, economy and world peoples
who all claim their rights and have high

The “green economy”, depending on how
it is eventually defined and translated into
practice, could mean the narrowing of the
vision, the sectoralization of approaches,
shrinking of the agenda, and distancing
from the integrated and holistic vision em-
bodied in “early works” on environment-
development, initiated at the time of the
Stockholm Conference. Also, it risks a new
round of definitional and political squab-
bling over the meaning, intent and implica-
tions of “green economy”, with the resulting
delays and diverting attention from needed

Rio+20/Stockholm+40 will no doubt delve
on these questions. It offers an opportunity
to revisit and revive the early environment-
development issues and goals, and to ex-
amine learning and experience, in order to
chart the road to the future. It is an occasion
to initiate efforts to transcend the obstacles

encountered to date, including those re-
lated to the current globalized ideological
headlock, the policy compulsions originat-
ing in some countries, and the interests of
the increasingly influential and powerful
corporate players with a global reach.

While the “green economy” offers useful so-
lutions and approaches which need to be
pursued in the quest for sustainable devel-
opment, unless it is placed in an integrated
context it is likely to result in new forms of
inequities and problems between the ad-
vanced and developing countries. And it
should not be reduced to or subjected to
such incentives as greening corporate im-
age, profit, the development and export of
new technologies, the creation of new jobs
or the energy independence in a single or a
handful of developed countries.

A “green economy”, or rather a “green so-
ciety”, should be placed in the context of
a changed world economic and political
order, inspired by the shared needs and
welfare of the global community, as was
posited, rather idealistically, during the
earlier stages of international deliberations
on environment-development. The climate
change problématique, by its very nature
and by requiring an integrated, holistic ap-
proach, may yet turn out to be the magic
key that will open the door for the human-
kind to engage seriously with the multiple
challenges it faces and to reinvent the global
civilization needed for a promising future.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

One question that arises today is whether
the countries of the South, 4/5 of this hu-
mankind, are ready to take the lead in ori-
enting the discourse on sustainable devel-
opment, the green economy and climate
change? Will they admit the futility of plead-
ing with unresponsive developed countries,
who now eye the markets of the South as an
opportunity to sell their advanced “green”
technologies and know-how, on commer-
cial terms much like they do with their phar-
maceuticals? Should the developing coun-
tries not conclude that trying to persuade
the North through endless negotiations and
debate may not be the optimal strategy to
follow, and needs be accompanied by their
more forceful, independent and self-reliant
South-South cooperation and stance?

The answer to these questions is a condi-
tional “yes”. No doubt the growing impor-
tance and economic power of some major
developing countries, their S&T advances,
the diversification of their economies, and
their cumulative experience and expertise
can and will contribute in this direction.
As important, the developing continents
– Africa, Asia and Latin America – occupy
the central, strategic position in search for

In what has to be a joint quest by the inter-
national community, one should draw les-
sons from the efforts that have already been
invested in this complex subject and which
remain relevant and topical today. More
importantly, however, one should work to
understand the nature of the contempo-
rary global system and seek promising ap-
proaches and solutions.

This objective also calls for the revival of ho-
listic thinking and vision. This is a role and
task for which the United Nations is mandat-
ed and best positioned, but which has been
constrained and significantly eroded in the
recent decades of unipolarity, primacy of
economistic and financial reasoning, and
undermining of UN capacity to think and
lead on global systemic issues. Can the 2012
Rio event provide an impulse in this direc-
tion and make possible genuine, enlight-
ened planetary analysis and policy-making
on this subject of critical importance for the
future of the humankind?

A pro-active Global South that sees itself
as an equal partner and a legitimate policy
leader in the global arena, a reenergized
United Nations secretariat entrusted with
a global mission, and the like-minded
North consisting of both the civil society

and certain governments, would form a
powerful global coalition that could influ-
ence the nature and outcomes of the 2012

And, if the Conference, given the strength
of the neo-liberal edifice, both in the North
and in the South, the resilience of interest-
based geopolitics, the strength of parochial-
ism, and the usual short-term outlook that is
prevalent, yields another least common de-
nominator consensus that is acceptable to
the forces of the systemic status quo, then
at least, an alternative paradigm will begin
to be articulated and take shape during the
Conference preparations and proceedings,
and on its margins by civil society, much as
happened during earlier conferences.

Such a paradigm, and the supporting con-
ceptual and policy framework, would play
a positive role in the post-2012. This period
will represent the fifth decade of continuing
efforts to attain the elusive and demanding
objectives of the planetary sustainable de-
velopment agenda. Its outcomes are uncer-
tain, except that once it is over in the year
2022 it will be crowned with yet another
planetary gathering. By then, half a century
would have elapsed since the Stockholm
Conference, which started it all.


Branislav Gosovic
Branislav Gosovic holds a Ph.D in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of “The Quest for World Environmental
Cooperation, The case of the UN Global Environment Monitoring System,” Routledge, London and New York, 1992. He worked in UNCTAD, UNEP,
UNECLAC, WCED and the South Commission. From 1991 to 2005, he was in charge of the Secretariat of the South Centre. Now in retirement, he divides
his time between Montenegro and Pays de Gex, France.

Forty years of this environment-development conceptual
and policy tug-of-war have not changed the underlying

causal problems, nor have they removed
the issues of controversy


Social policy, participation
and the transition to
a green economy

Framing the debate: Where and how
does the ‘social’ fit?

Current discussions over green economy
increasingly acknowledge the place of so-
cial alongside economic and environmental
dimensions of sustainability. Nonetheless,
social dimensions tend to receive least at-
tention, from the conceptualization of the
problem through to policy recommenda-
tions. Within the literature, social issues and
responses to them are defined in a variety
of ways. Most frequently, these involve a
focus on categories of people - the poor;
those considered vulnerable by reason, for
example, of age or gender, location or eth-
nicity; those likely to be affected most di-
rectly by climate change (often overlapping
categories with the above); or those likely
to be disadvantaged by transitions to green
economy (workers in ‘dirty’ industries). In
these terms, responses are most likely to
be framed as protection, or as adaptation
to enable the most vulnerable to manage
and respond to climate related risks. Policy
issues are identified that (i) have signifi-
cant ‘social’ consequences (those affecting
the livelihoods and well-being of individu-
als, families and communities, or (ii) have
wider implications for the public good and
where economic and social goals can be

complementary, such as achieving climate
and employment objectives through green
(and decent) jobs; compensating for poten-
tially regressive impacts of carbon taxes; or
the empowerment of communities to man-
age their own resources.

Policies for addressing the social dimensions
of sustainability thus range from compensa-
tory forms of social protection, through a
‘green jobs’ agenda aimed at mitigation (and
to a lesser extent adaptation), to approach-
es that address the institutional and gover-
nance incentives that structure systems of
production, consumption and distribution.
Debates are framed in terms ranging from
the residual interventions needed to ensure
the efficient working of the market, to more
transformative agendas around human
rights and social / climate justice, and to calls
for alternatives to globalisation and market
liberalisation policies. The type of discourse
used by different actors reflects diverse
worldviews, interests, experiences, loca-
tion and capacities. The latter approaches in
particular suggest that contestation among
different social actors will shape transition
paths particularly where initial patterns of
production, consumption and distribution
are perceived to be unfair.

Sarah Cook, Peter Utting and Kiah Smith

The authors examine the various ways in which the social dimensions of sustainable development are currently incorporated into debates around the goals of, and
transition paths towards, a green economy. They propose two sets of policy considerations that they suggest are essential for any green economy transition – social
policies and participation – and consider what kind of social policies, together with broader public action, forms of participation and accountability will be needed to
produce transition paths in which green and sustainable economic development is compatible with goals of social justice, equity and poverty eradication.

flow from the implementation of an efficient
market transition.

The second column summarises what has
been termed a ‘strong sustainability’ ap-
proach2 that links green economy with
governance and institutional reforms, and
that places greater emphasis on the need to
address forms of vulnerability and inequal-
ity that hinder a ‘just’ transition. This implies
changes in institutional or governance ar-
rangements to support industrial restruc-
turing, requiring shifts in both production
and consumption. It recognises a stronger
role for the state and public policy, and for
global governance mechanisms, in man-
aging and facilitating the transition. It also
places more weight on policies that may
affect distributional outcomes as well as on
the incorporation of a wider range of social
actors in decision-making processes, largely
framed as ‘social dialogue’. From a social per-
spective, it is likely to build on and extend
the kind of social protection interventions

The approach in the first column, which
can be characterized as ‘Green Capitalism’,
adopts an essentially liberal market ap-
proach2 centered on technological, eco-
nomic and institutional conditions and in-
novations conducive to low-carbon ‘green
growth’ and eco-efficiency. It relies on mar-
kets as the key mechanism for achieving
the transition (through investment, R&D,
technology transfer and industrial restruc-
turing), with limited emphasis on the role of
the state except as regulator and as provider
of minimal protections. Business or private
sector behaviour is assumed to change
through altered market incentives and pric-
ing policies which reflect true environmental
costs (or externalities), coupled with volun-
tary initiatives (through corporate social re-
sponsibility). Poverty reduction is assumed
to follow largely from new jobs generated
by ‘low carbon growth’, pollution reduction
and environmental remediation. Changes
to institutional and governance arrange-
ments, related for example to labour, trade,

technologies and regulation, are supported
to the extent that they continue to “fit” with
or reproduce a market liberal worldview.

Here, interventions related to the social di-
mensions are principally compensatory and
protective, with efforts to minimise negative
social impacts through assistance to those
affected either by climate change or by the
transition path - often assumed to be those
who are already poor or vulnerable. Social
protection mechanisms are likely to include
social assistance programmes for vulnerable
groups, along with efforts to support em-
ployment and income generation (possibly
linked to adaptation efforts). Participation
- again, often of representatives of already
poor or vulnerable groups - is generally un-
derstood as improving ‘consultation with
key stakeholders’ through governance pro-
cesses in which individuals are informed
and given opportunities to sit ‘at the table’.
However, in some cases, the social dimen-
sions are presented as residual issues that


Table 1 below provides a schematic overview of key relationships between green economy transition paths, as found in the literature, and
identifies the ways in which social dimensions are incorporated.

Source: authors

Table 1: The social dimensions of transition paths under different models for ‘Green Economy’ 1

Green Capitalism

Market liberal

‘Green’ jobs
Social protection for vulnerable
Equality of opportunity
Green consumerism

Technology transfer

Low-carbon ‘green’ growth
Voluntary CSR
Market mechanisms to revalue
environmental externalities (e.g.
carbon markets)
Production focused

Strong Sustainability


Global cooperation
Stronger local & national
Inter/intra-generational equity
Capacity building
Social dialogue; social pacts

Stronger and more effective
global environmental
governance regimes

Economic and trade reform
Green finance
Green taxes (i.e. redistribution)
Enhance state capacity

Social Economy

Social green

Social justice
Equity, as equality of outcomes
Ethical consumerism
Citizen action

Environmental justice
Grassroots environmental

Localisation of trade and
Reforms to global economic
From international investment
agreements to regional solidarity






described under the first approach. While
stronger public policies tend to be defined
largely in terms of environmental interven-
tions, regulations or financing mechanisms,
this recognition of the role of the state none-
theless provides a basis for identifying social
policy instruments that can simultaneously
support sustainability and equity objectives.
(Such policy options will be elaborated in
the following section).

A third perspective, associated most strong-
ly with climate justice, social economy or
alter-globalisation movements, draws on
the discourse of rights, and recognises the
need for redistribution and deeper struc-
tural change to overcome initial inequali-
ties. Advocates of such approaches often
promote participatory governance and pol-
icy processes that empower local people in
ways that can ultimately alter economic and
social relations between key actors - states,
business and civil society. While many of the
social protection interventions noted above
remain necessary, such mechanisms are rec-
ognised as short-term responses that need
to be complemented by more fundamental
transformations of social relations and in-
stitutions, and in the distribution of power
and resources. Inevitably, these more trans-
formative goals reveal the contested nature
of the green economy, and highlight the
diverse forms of politics and range of actors
– from the local to global levels, and from in-
dividuals to collective groups – that will be
involved in such transitions.

Without attempting to be exhaustive, these
approaches broadly illustrate three gen-
eral ‘transition paths’ to a green economy
found in the literature. While no one ap-
proach represents a blue print for change,
they highlight a number of critical features
with different emphasis placed on a range
of goals, institutional arrangements and
mechanisms that could shape green econo-
my transitions. Key variations related to the
social dimensions include the role of market
versus state; the definition of solutions as
technical, incremental or requiring deeper
structural transformation; the power and
participation of different actors; and the ex-
tent to which pre-existing inequalities need
to be addressed to achieve a just transition.
The following sections elaborate on two ele-
ments, which could be situated within the
strong sustainability and social economy
approaches, that to date have been rela-
tively neglected in the discussions: the role

of social policies and the need for a renewed
politics of participation.

Beyond protection: social policy
as an instrument of transformation

Social policy is defined as the range of pub-
lic policies or state interventions designed
to manage social risks. Key social risks cov-
ered by welfare states have included loss of
employment and falls in income, fluctua-
tions of income over the life cycle (particu-
larly through ageing), ill-health and disease,
malnutrition, illiteracy, effects of natural
disasters and resulting displacement, social
integration, lack of access to basic services
such as energy and water, and the burden
of social reproduction (child-bearing and
rearing, caring for other family members).
Because such risks have wide social conse-
quences, governments have taken on the
role of financing, regulating or ensuring the
provision of collective or public goods that
contribute to general welfare. Different ‘wel-
fare regimes’ with varied levels of coverage
and benefits, lead to different welfare out-
comes in terms of poverty and inequality.

Ecological threats posed by climate change
present more pronounced social risks (or
more accurately - uncertainty) not initially
incorporated into the design of welfare poli-
cies by industrialised states. We can now rec-
ognise the costs to the environment - and
thus the creation of social risks - of a high
carbon economy. A just transition to a sus-
tainable green economy needs to recognise
the necessity of an economic model that

minimises and mitigates social risks going
forward, as well as the need to address those
social risks already created by the economic
development path to date.

What role can social policies play in this pro-
cess? Historically, states – from Western Eu-
rope to East Asia -- have used social policies
for various purposes: to support economic
production as well as for protection and re-
distribution; for achieving goals of nation
building and social cohesion, as well as de-
velopmental and welfare purposes, and for
facilitating transitions as well as mitigating
their impacts3.

Social policies are a key instrument for
building the human capital and productive
capacities of the labour force, particularly at
times when industrial upgrading or other
major economic shifts are needed. They are
used also to shift consumption patterns, for
example as part of demand-side stimulus
programmes. Similarly, they can be used to
shape patterns of investment – towards so-
cial infrastructure, housing or public trans-
port, enhancing economic activity along-
side social outcomes. Social policies have
also been used to reduce the private burden
on the household (and more explicitly on
women) of social reproduction – caring for
children, the sick and elderly, as well as the
daily tasks involved in ensuring a well-nour-
ished, healthy population and labour force.
Such policies are often justified in terms of
gender equality and by enabling women to
enter paid employment. A sub-set of social
policies include social protection to assist

(low cost housing, public transport, health
care) or through regulation. For example,
policy choices could ensure that new social
housing that conforms to higher environ-
mental standards also provides employ-
ment, improves well-being, and is more
resilient to disasters while also reducing
emissions. To date, however there is limited
focus on the behavioural changes necessary
(and by whom) to support a wider mitiga-
tion agenda; or on the policy incentives to
ensure such changes at the necessary scale
and speed.

The distributional consequences, both of en-
vironmental and climate crises themselves,
and of the policies required for a transforma-
tion to sustainability, will also require strong
social policies that many welfare states have
managed. Redistributive goals and mecha-
nisms must be built in centrally to any equi-
table and sustainable transition path that is
to achieve poverty eradication. This includes
both current and inter-generational equity.
Historically, redistributive processes have
occurred through interactions between
economic policies and varying processes for
gaining of political consensus around pub-
lic policy goals, resource mobilisation and
redistribution. At their best, social policies
have successfully enabled the major chal-
lenges and concerns of societies outlined
above to be addressed.

The challenge of climate change raises ad-
ditional challenges that the field of social
policy will need to tackle. First, social poli-
cies need to be increasingly concerned with
uncertainties and complexity associated
with climate change, rather than only with
traditional social policy risks. Second, the
systems themselves will need to be more
flexible and adaptable to respond to such
uncertainties (for example, where large pop-
ulations may be suddenly affected, where
migration is likely to increase, or where re-
sources –e.g. water – become a source of
conflict). Third, climate change risks are not
bound by national borders, and will require
new cooperation around global social policy
issues. Finally, a social policy lens is likely to
identify opportunities and instruments for
transformation that differ from those based
on economic or scientific analysis. The next
section addresses the kinds of politics, par-
ticipation and accountability of social actors
– states, business, civil society, communities
and individuals – that are essential to inte-
grating the social dimensions within any ap-
proach to green economy.

more vulnerable social groups, as well as so-
cial policies for the redistribution of income
and cross-subsidisation of food, fuel and
basic human services such as health care,
education, electricity and water.

The multiple roles and transformative po-
tential of social policy become increasingly
relevant in today’s world where production,
consumption, distribution, reproduction
and protection must be addressed simulta-
neously (and urgently) within an increasing-
ly resource constrained environment. In the
context of climate change, welfare regimes
need to adapt and respond to new risks and
uncertainties but can also provide key in-
struments for the structural transformation
to a green economy.

Current policies focus primarily on a set of
social protection interventions to protect
the poor and alleviate poverty (notably
cash transfers or public employment instru-
ments). Within the UN’s Social Protection
Floor these are complemented by access
to health care and other basic services. An
even broader set of social policy instruments
could combine environmental and poverty
reduction goals. A good example would
be a focus on energy poverty: this impacts
harshly on, for example, the daily lives of
poor women responsible for providing food
to families or workers with limited transport
options. For such groups, energy intensive
products constitute a large share of house-
hold expenditures (fuel, food, transport,
housing) which could be reduced through

creative public policies that address social
and environmental goals while also creat-
ing employment.

Sectoral change at the production level has
huge implications for employment, with sig-
nificant potential for job creation in sectors
that support a green transition, such as the
production and maintenance of green tech-
nologies, the provision of environmental
services, and the reactivation of small-scale
agriculture, all of which can be accessible
to the poor in low income countries. This
demands investments in skills, education,
training, health and infrastructure that un-
derpin productive capacities. The provision
of basic infrastructure and services that sup-
port family care, as well as decent work for
health and care-workers, can also create
socially necessary and ‘green’ jobs. Beyond
‘green jobs’, however, there is little analysis
of broader labour market and employment
disruptions or opportunities arising from a
green economy transition, and their impli-
cations for poverty, equity and inclusion.

Shifts in consumption are also needed for
a green economy, and could be facilitated
by more concerted policy interventions –
to change consumption patterns in ways
that shift resources to the poor. Social poli-
cies are among the key instruments used
by states to influence or change behaviour,
for example, through direct transfers and
conditionalities, through the tax system,
pricing or other rationing or redistributive
mechanisms, the provision of social goods



Beyond consultation: participation,
empowerment and accountability

Which green economy model and transi-
tion path prevails will depend not simply
on rational decision-making by leaders and
technocrats informed by consultations with
stakeholders; it will rely on political process-
es and governance arrangements, including
the balance of social forces, collective action
by social movements and organised inter-
est groups, the nature of claims-making and
participation in knowledge networks and
policy processes, as well as coalitions, alli-
ances and social pacts. ‘Active citizenship’
and contestation have a crucial role to play
in transforming relations of power and pat-
terns of inequality underpinning poverty
and unsustainable growth.

In the 1970s, UNRISD defined participation
as “the organised efforts of the hitherto
excluded to gain control over resources
and regulative institutions”4. Since then,
participation has been widely assimilated
into the discourses of mainstream develop-
ment agencies and actors. In the process,
however, we would argue that key aspects
were lost in translation. ‘Participation’ was
often reduced to ‘consultation’ or ‘dialogue’
with selected stakeholders. Key elements
such as organised efforts or collective ac-
tion were sidelined. Similarly, mainstream
institutions borrowed the term ‘empow-
erment’ from more radical discourses but
defined it in terms of ‘gaining voice’ rather
than ‘gaining control’. Social actors became
‘stakeholders’, whose involvement is needed
to improve the success of projects. Contes-
tation, social mobilisation, collective action
and the notion of interest group bargaining
were sidelined as persons or NGOs claiming
to have affinities with the disadvantaged
were welcomed to the table to share their
views. Such consultative processes not only
marginalised forms of participation that are
key in any transformative process, but there
was no guarantee that ‘voices’ would actu-
ally be heard or significantly shape decision-
making processes, or that subaltern groups
would be effectively represented. Change
resulting from such processes has generally
failed to transform mainstream policies, in-
stitutions and structures.

By contrast, our analyses suggests that
participation and empowerment for trans-
formative change is more likely to follow in
the wake of (a) contestation and conflict, as

groups affected by environmental degrada-
tion react to threats in defense of livelihoods
and rights; (b) social organisation, as groups
strengthen their organisational capacity for
collective action; (c) social movement activ-
ism to frame public opinion and policy agen-
das, (d) campaigns and advocacy, as groups
and grassroots or civil society organisations
set more formal objectives and propose
concrete demands and alternatives; and (e)
coalitions for change, as groups garner sup-
port from allies associated with civil society,
local and national government, interna-
tional organisations and business. Further-
more, civil society organisations can act as a
conduit for local knowledge to shape public
policy. These elements extend far beyond
‘stakeholder dialogue’ or consultation. They
draw attention to the need for active citizen-
ship in making claims on the state or other
power-holders, in order to shape policies
that are just and, in particular, address the
needs of vulnerable citizens.

While much research and practice has fo-
cused on enhancing the capacity of the
poor to mobilise resources and access de-
cision-making processes, it is also necessary
to regulate the powerful. Actors and institu-
tions, whether of the state or the corporate
sector, must be accountable to those affect-
ed by their actions, with penalties incurred
in instances where they have not complied
with agreed standards. Furthermore, disad-
vantaged groups must have the right to ef-
fective remedy and redress through judicial
and non-judicial institutions that can play
an arbitration role – whether at local, na-
tional or international levels. Accountabil-
ity of corporations, including transnational
ones, for social and environmental impacts
will be crucial to any equitable green econ-
omy transition. Key social processes for in-
creasing accountability around these issues

(i) campaigns of social movements, NGOs
and trade unions (for example against
deforestation and mining practices, or for
ethical and Fair Trade) that raise aware-
ness of particular social/human rights and
environmental problems, and exert social
pressure on large corporations to modify
their behaviour;
(ii) networking that connects actors at lo-
cal, national, regional and global levels;
(iii) consumer and shareholder activism;
(iv) participation by NGOs and trade
unions in the governance structures of
standards-based institutions involved in
monitoring, reporting and verification
(such as the Forest Stewardship Council
and the Ethical Trading Initiative);
(v) watchdog organisations (such as Oil-
Watch, BankTrack, OECDWatch);
(vi) participation in complaints proce-
dures and processes aimed to seek re-
dress, for example, through Public Inter-
est Litigation in India or the Permanent
People’s Tribunals in Latin America;
(vii) coalitions and alliances between civil
society organisations and progressive
business interests (for example, to control
conflict diamonds and corruption in the
extractive industries); and
(viii) ‘active citizenship’ directed at states
to ensure that public policy and law play
a key role in business regulation and are
not sidelined by business preferences for
self-regulation and voluntary initiatives.

Such actions require a strong role for state
and civil society in monitoring and regu-
lating business. However, the broad-based
participation of marginalised or vulnerable
groups within such processes does not nec-
essarily equate with their empowerment.
Powerful actors and institutions are able to
resist change, dilute agendas and policies
for reform, partially or selectively accommo-
date oppositional demands, and otherwise
control the agenda of change. In relation to
green economy transition, corporate power
is likely to resist a tougher regulatory envi-
ronment and to promote agendas favour-
ing corporate environmental responsibility
through eco-efficiency (reductions in energy
use relative to output rather than absolute
reductions), voluntary initiatives and private
regulation. However, such approaches have
limits. For example, research indicates that
voluntary re-regulation of trade through fair
or ethical trade schemes offers some bene-
fits to some categories of farmers, but they
may also reproduce local level inequalities

Notes and references

1 Adapted from Clapp, J. and P. Dauvergne. 2005. Paths to a Green World: The political economy of the global environment, MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts
and London.

2 Neumayer, E. 1999. Weak versus Strong Sustainability: Exploring the limits of two opposing paradigms, Edward Elgar, Cheltanham, UK.

3 These ideas have been developed at length in work by UNRISD. For summary discussions, see for example UNRISD 2010 Combating Poverty and Inequality:
Structural Change, Social Policy and Politics; UNRISD (2006). Transformative Social Policy: Lessons from UNRISD Research, Research and Policy Brief no. 5,
UNRISD, Geneva (p. 2-3).

4 UNRISD (2003). Research for Social Change, UNRISD, Geneva (p. 69).

About the authors
Sarah Cook is the Director of the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD). She previously held positions as a Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, University
of Sussex, UK and Program Officer in the Ford Foundation’s Beijing office. Recent research has focused on social protection in Asia, social policy, informal employment and gender in China,
and the rise of China as a development actor. Recent publications include "Social protection as development policy - Asian perspectives" (edited with Naila Kabeer), 2010, Routledge India,
and ‘Harsh Choices: Chinese Women’s Paid Work and Unpaid Care Responsibilities under Economic Reform’ (with Xiao-yuan Dong) "Development and Change" (Forthcoming, 2011).

Peter Utting is Deputy Director, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), where he co-ordinates international research projects in the fields of corporate social
responsibility, business regulation, and the role of social movements and non-state actors in governance and policy change. His recent publications include "Business, Politics and Public Policy"
(co-editor José Carlos Marques, 2010, Palgrave Macmillan), "Corporate Social Responsibility and Regulatory Governance" (2010, co-editor José Carlos Marques, 2010, Palgrave Macmillan);
and "Corporate Accountability and Sustainable Development" (co-editor Jennifer Clapp, 2008, Oxford University Press).

Kiah Smith is a Research Analyst at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD). Her recent research focuses on voluntary ethical trade regulations, gender and
sustainable livelihoods for smallholder farmers in Kenya. Current research explores the socio-political-economic aspects of global social and environmental movements, such as those
relating to green economy, climate justice, food security/food sovereignty, ethical and fair trade, and alternative globalization.

What is evident is that any new model for
sustainable development must address
the barriers to achieving inclusivity, equity,
empowerment and rights on a global scale;
to do this social policies must be more than
residual or compensatory mechanisms; the
ambition must go beyond creating new em-
ployment opportunities and ensuring mini-
mal livelihood protections for the poorest;
and a more politicised notion of participa-
tion should be addressed. In this paper we
have pointed to the possibilities for framing
the discussion to achieve greater balance
between economic, environmental and so-
cial objectives, as well as to some promising
policy avenues for reconciling developmen-
tal goals with greater social justice.

(excluding women farmers, for example),
and only minimally improve environmental
sustainability or local food security. Such
examples highlight the potential contradic-
tions between approaches to green econo-
my laid out in Table 1.

Social activism associated with the green
economy is at present relatively frag-
mented. Nonetheless, there would seem
to be considerable potential within Rio+20
processes for greater civil society engage-
ment in processes that simultaneously ad-
dress economic, social and environmental
issues. This would open up greater possi-
bilities for addressing the structural roots of
poverty, social rights and inequality, with

participation from a broader range of social
actors in policy making, while moving to a
sustainable economy.


Rio+20 presents a much-needed opportu-
nity to deepen the international commu-
nity’s policy response to the challenges of
sustainable development outlined at the
first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. Whether
current thinking around green economy will
meet that challenge will depend to a large
extent on ensuring social dimensions are
repositioned centrally within discussions of
economic and environmental sustainability.


Development that meets the needs
of the present without compromising

the ability of future generations
to meet their own needs

Sustainable Development as defined in
Our Common Future

also known as the Brundtland Report,
from the United Nations World Commission

on Environment and Development
1 9 8 7

Printed in Geneva






















n w



d b
y t



g S


e o
f t








a (


) w






r 2


e I


1 e



l c