What is an "Inclusive Green Economy"?

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UN Environment’s Green Economy Initiative (GEI)

United Nations Environment launched the Green Economy Initiative (GEI) in 2008, which consisted of global research and country-level assistance encouraging policymakers to support environmental investments within the context of sustainable development. Thanks to this initiative and the work of other agencies, “green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication” was placed on the 2012 Rio+20 agenda and was acknowledged as a tool for achieving sustainable development.

UN Environment has developed a working definition of a green economy as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.

Over the past decade, the concept of the Green Economy has emerged as a strategic priority for many governments and intergovernmental organizations. All told, 65 countries have embarked on a path towards an Inclusive Green Economy and related strategies. By transforming their economies into drivers of sustainability, they will be primed to take on the major challenges of the twenty-first century - from urbanization and resource scarcity to climate change and economic volatility.

From GEI to an Inclusive Green Economy

An Inclusive Green Economy (IGE) has evolved from earlier work on Green Economy. In its simplest expression, such an economy is low carbon, efficient and clean in production, but also inclusive in consumption and outcomes, based on sharing, circularity, collaboration, solidarity, resilience, opportunity, and interdependence. It is focused on expanding options and choices for national economies, using targeted and appropriate fiscal and social protection policies, and backed up by strong institutions that are specifically geared to safeguarding social and ecological floors. And it recognizes that there are many and diverse pathways to environmental sustainability.

Our approach speaks to the multiple benefits – economic, health, security, social and environmental – that such an approach can bring to nations, mindful of the different challenges faced by states along the development continuum, be they developed, developing, emerging, or in conflict. It argues for policies that are nuanced, context-dependent, and modulated. An integrated approach can help states understand how to maximize, prioritize, and sequence the different benefits to human well-being that can be derived from a healthy environment. At the end of the day, an inclusive green economy must provide not only for jobs and income, but for our health, our environment, and our future. This is our common challenge: creating the conditions for enhanced prosperity and growing social equity, within the contours of a finite and fragile planet.

Going Forward

An Inclusive Green Economy is an alternative to today's dominant economic model, which generates widespread environmental and health risks, encourages wasteful consumption and production, drives ecological and resource scarcities and results in inequality. It is an opportunity to advance both sustainability and social equity as functions of a stable and prosperous financial system within the contours of a finite and fragile planet. It is a pathway towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, eradicating poverty while safeguarding the ecological thresholds, which underpin human health, well-being, and development.

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