Green should be Fair

The rhetoric around ‘green’ growth has grown significantly over the last 10 years. The COP 21 agreements, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and technological advancements are set to again increase this growth.

The outcome of Green Economy Coalition conference held in July had 2 key messages, communities (at global and local levels) have felt excluded from the carbon fuelled economy and secondly, unless green policies are inclusive and deliver on what these communities need, they will struggle to remain relevant and competitive against the long established ‘brown’ economy.

… communities (at global and local levels) have felt excluded from the carbon fueled economy

The success of the transition to a green economy is largely dependent on its inclusivity. The majority of the transition over the last few years has not come from government or private companies but from people at grassroots level. With a growing concern over climate change communities have mobilised and forced governments to act.

Grassroots initiatives are therefore an important driving force in the transition to a new economy. Particularly in Africa where the majority of the population operates in the informal market, there lies a great opportunity for green entrepreneurship that allows for inclusive and fair practices in participating in the economy.

Grassroots initiatives are therefore an important driving force in the transition to a new economy

This begs the question, how do we create or reconfigure the mainstream financial systems to become more inclusive, and committed to the well-being of people and the environment? “Sustainable consumption for the many will only succeed when the smallest businesses or communities are included, and have access to green solutions pioneered elsewhere” (GEC, 2016).

… how do we create or reconfigure the mainstream financial systems to become more inclusive, and committed to the well-being of people and the environment?

The 4 key ways of moving forward highlighted at the GEC conference 2016 include:

  1. Governance that is inclusive, nationally owned and transformative. Policy and institutional reforms at the national and global levels are the real drivers of progress.
  2. Empowerment of poor women and men and support their livelihoods, rights and capital assets. The excluded should be given the chance to “own” a participatory transition process, and local governments should be active in the change. We should focus on helping poor people build and better use their assets for their own benefit.
  3. Economic structures and financial mechanisms that are more accessible, and they must prioritize the informal economy and SMMEs. Natural resource revenues should be managed to benefit the poor, who should not be saddled with a disproportionate share of the costs of the transition to a green economy. The full range of investors – including the poor themselves – should be recognized, mobilized and linked.
  4. Solid metrics for inclusive green growth. Parallel initiatives on better metrics for wellbeing, economic progress and environmental sustainability should be brought together, and they should put a greater emphasis on inclusion. Such metrics should be used to inform policies and broaden our understanding of market signals.

The growth in the green economy triggers questions around the relevance of our current economic systems and whom it serves, what shifts need to happen and what are the available options. It is an opportunity for grassroot mobilisation in holding governments accountable for a faster and more inclusive transition to a new economy.

 

 

About the author:

Nikiwe Solomon is a research fellow with the African Centre for a Green Economy and is currently pursuing a PhD in Environmental Humanities at the University of Cape Town, where she looks at the Kuils River to better understand how the relationship between the river and communities shape each other. Her interests lie in exploring the human nature relationship in the context of interacting social, political and economic systems.