The Future’s Bright; The Future’s Green. (Or at Least it May Be).


Is it too idealistic to believe that sustainable economies can lead to a more equal global society? Source: Wikimedia Commons

Is it too idealistic to believe that sustainable economies can lead to a more equal global society?
Source: Wikimedia Commons

There is an increasingly consistent rhetoric among some leading politicians and policy makers that there is huge potential of green industries to develop and create jobs within green economies. This is of course an attractive proposition to nations blighted by problems with cyclical unemployment a continuing fall-out from post-industrialisation and developing nations looking to achieve some sort of parity with the global north. However, this does lead to some obvious questions. What are green economies? Are there any current examples? Is everyone on board with them?

From a theoretical perspective it is believed that green economies will not merely be a capitalistic shift from one form of profiteering to another. Green economies offer the opportunity to create a more just, sustainable and fairer global society. This is of course an attractive proposition on paper. In a practical sense the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation defines green economies as striving for a more sustainable pathway of growth through undertaking green public investments and implementing public policy initiatives that encourage environmentally responsible private investments. This continues to be a broad definition. However, two things are clear economic growth must be achieved through sustainable means and this must be led through public investment for private enterprises to flourish.

The European Union (EU) has encouraged member states to adopt greener policies. The EU has seen the potential of a green economy with green industries creating jobs and is advocating a transference in economic direction of the EU members to embrace this. They do highlight that this transition will require [1]“the right choice of employment and skills policies”. The UK is labouring with an unskilled workforce which maintains low wages in unskilled jobs. However, a shift toward a more human development approach from government focus on up-skilling the unemployed could lead to a transition into jobs created by green industries. These jobs could be created by industries such as engineering, manufacturing and agriculture to name only a few of the 15 the EU highlight.

Poland offers a current positive example of an EU member state adopting green industries that has enabled job creation. As a former soviet state the nation was one of the highest emitters of greenhouse gasses in Europe by the pre-accession stages of entry in to the EU. However, the adoption of EU environmental policy and practices has helped Poland onto a greener path.The creation of green jobs in Poland has largely been attributed to the policies adopted at the municipal level that has encouraged the efforts of local enterprises. This is contrary to the EU’s understanding that changes must be driven by policy initiatives from central government. It is estimated that [2]350,000 jobs in Poland could be created by the Renewable Energy Sector alone by the year 2020. This figure is far beyond both the mining and extraction industries combined.

With an estimated [3]80% of the world’s organic farmers living in developing countries it is vital that developing nations are heavily involved with the global greening economy. The East African Community of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda have developed a standardisation for the farmers of the region which enables producers to gain better access to markets. This has been assisted by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). Whilst this highlights that international cooperation for agricultural purposes is progressing it doesn’t necessarily indicate that the UN are promoting overall green intentions.

Does the developing world hold the answer toward a greener future? Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Does the developing world hold the answer toward a greener future?
Source: Marisol Grandon, DFID via Wikimedia Commons.

The major market that the farmers are gaining access to is the EU. The UNEP highlights the financial benefits of access to such a large markets. However, to whom these finances benefit is far from clear. Little is acknowledged by the UNEP regarding this project of the environmental effects of food being grown in East Africa to be consumed in Europe. Whether this initiative and others like it are doing anything to redress the imbalance between the rich global north and poor global south, that greener economies may have the ability to achieve, remains a moot point. This illustrates that these valid concerns are not currently being fully addressed by supranational bodies involved in this remit.


Will health problems lead the biggest polluters in to action? Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Will health problems lead the biggest polluters in to action?
Source: Park Hyatt via Wikimedia Commons.


The future of green economies must be something that is adopted on a global scale. However, there has been some regressive steps taken in recent months with Australia’s repeal of the carbon tax a worrying example. Industrial superpowers such as the US and China must do more to embrace green industries to counter climate change. The world’s largest polluters are continuing to put their citizenship at risk of increasing health problems as a result of pollution levels. The recent walk the walk for climate change (2,000 simultaneous demonstrations across the world) indicated that there is growing activism behind more stringent climate change measures.  However, despite some positive examples of green industries and the transference toward greener economies creating jobs there is not yet a global consensus amongst policy makers regarding this.

Countering climate change must be done on a micro, meso and macro scale in order to counter the global nature of the problem. The potential of green industries to create jobs can and is in some circumstances being realised. It is also apparent that the developing world offers huge potential to contribute to a greener and more sustainable global economy. The potential is there to create a fairer global economy without the huge discrepancy between the winners in the global north and losers in the global south. The potential is there through localised initiatives, national and global cooperation to redress the discrepancy in skills and wages leading to a fairer and more equal society. However, it will not just be policy directives from centralised powers that enables this transition but the stimuli of local actors to see that they are correctly put in to practice.

[1] European Commission. (2012). Exploiting the employment potential of Green Growth. European commission: Strasbourg.

[2] Szwed, D. & Maciejewska, B. (2012). Green Jobs in Poland: Potentials and Prospects. Economy of Tommorrow.

[3] United Nations Environment Programme. (2013). Building Inclusive Green Economies: Success Stories Frome South-South Co-operation. UNEP: Geneva.

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