Transitions to a Green Economy require political will and far-reaching transformations in society and economy

Transitions to a green economy are never purely based on win-win solutions, but require taking into account potential trade-offs among multiple goals, across sectors and international leakage. So a broad political will and the inclusion of a broad set of different actors from society and economy are essential, conclude the researchers from five institutes of the Partnership for European Environmental Research (PEER) in a new report on implementing the green economy in a European context.

2016.01.15 | Anja Skjoldborg Hansen

Humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and more extensively over the past 100 years than in any comparable period of time in human history. These developments have been largely driven to meet rapidly growing demands for e.g. food, fresh water, timber, fiber, and fuel as well as minerals. As such they are a result of traditional one-way linear economic models: “resource – product – waste” and may lead to depletion of natural resources and irreversible changes in the environment. Today, society, industry and politics have started to acknowledge the urgent need for the reconsideration and revision of this type of thinking.

Green Economy is an approach to develop more sustainable economies and societies. Greening the economy has lately been promoted as a new strategy for enhancing human well-being and reducing environmental risk, being defined as low-carbon and climate proof, resource-efficient and socially inclusive.

The new PEER report contains conceptual analysis and empirical case studies that indicate the need for far-sighted planning, multi-source financing and wide stakeholder participation in green economy initiatives. 10 innovative cases from Denmark. Finland, France, Germany and the Netherlands were studied. The results emphasise that successful cases include a broad range of stakeholders, have a strong and consistent political support, and integrate research activities into the implementation of the initiative.

“As illustrated by the study, the complexity and multi-sectoral nature of the green economy calls for a broad integration of sectors connected to environment, innovation, transport, housing, energy, agriculture and spatial planning. The case studies also illustrate the need for comprehensive analysis of the effects of regulation and legislation, as well as the importance of stakeholder commitment, good leadership and coordination”, says Lea Kauppi, Director General of the Finnish Environment Institute.

Transforming the economy requires innovation in terms of technology, organisational support, market and broader societal conditions, and an overarching governance framework, but most of all, a consistent and cross-sectoral political will. The practical implementation of the green economy is related to a multiplicity of factors and causalities depending on the context. Some solutions are more compliant with the mainstream economy and require only few changes (e.g. technologies for cleaner production), whereas other solutions are more system-oriented and based on profound transformations in the patterns of production and consumption (e.g. transforming society and economy according to the principles of industrial ecology).

More information

Dr. Riina Antikainen, Finnish Environment Institute, +358 400 148 671 and national contact point in Denmark: Marianne Thomsen, DCE, Aarhus University +45 87158602

The Partnership for European Environmental Research PEER constitutes eight major EU Environmental Research Institutes and has published a report on implementing the Green Economy in a European context with contributions from Syke (FI), Irstea (F), UFZ (DE), DCE, Aarhus University and Alterra Wageningen UR (NL).

The PEER report highlights and reviews the conceptual and methodological framework for the implementation and the monitoring of the different dimensions of a green economy, the critical factors for achieving a green economy in practice, and governance factors with respect to institutional frameworks that may facilitate transition to a green economy. The report analyses 10 practical cases from Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark. It can be downloaded here.

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