Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Green economy – learning from the Caribbean

Blogger - Steve shares his thoughts from a Caribbean dialogue on green economy, run by the University of the West Indies and Caribbean Natural Resources Institute. An eclectic mix of government ministers, academics, community leaders and business associations rightly kept the few international observers in check – part of the problem being that small countries suffer often overwhelming outside economic, cultural and environmental influence.

From this Dialogue, the lesson was that Caribbean green economies are about actively building resilience, including

- Regional integration, e.g. a Caribbean single market enabling free movement of labour and capital, and trade agreements built on environmental and labour standards and that do not undermine local production for local consumption

- Disaster preparedness and business continuity planning – including at the micro-enterprise level

- Fixing the housing industry to shift to low-energy and resource efficiency, and resilient buildings

- Taking industries higher up the value chain through better use of biodiversity and culture

- Realising real value from links with Caribbean diaspora all over the world e.g. through food market chains

- Recognising good natural resource management by local communities and assuring the rights and support to sustain livelihoods

In addition Steve Bass raises the questions on the concept of green economy:

- Is its elevation to UN negotiating table also good news? Many developing countries are worried that it appears to be yet another Northern consensus which will lead to overly high production standards and green protectionism.

- Why can’t green economy also mean ‘high-carbon’ landscapes, sustaining livelihoods and industries based on wise use of biodiversity and ecosystems?

- Can it foster the resource efficiency and innovation inherent in the informal sector, and not just tinker with big banks and corporations?

Steve argues that we cannot rely on the same paradigm – economic growth at all costs, stealing from the future – to solve the very problems that this paradigm creates: poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation.

He makes a strong observation that a serious reflection on UNEP’s Green Economy Report cannot repeat the common mistake of international bureaucracies, i.e. jumping straight to countries preparing ‘national plans’ based on a global report. This tends to both impose external ideas and miss the real (local) drivers of change. Instead, every country needs the space to reflect on what green economy means (you don’t get very far until you explore it for a particular economy), what is already in place that can be ‘scaled up’, and what constraints are in the way.

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