This project, which fed into the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), responded to widespread concern that the social dimensions are not well understood or integrated in discussions on sustainable development. It aimed to develop a conceptual and policy framework that would position social dimensions at the centre of green economy and sustainable development, and informed the Rio+20 process and subsequent policy discussions. The project includes the following activities and outputs:
Background: Bringing back the social?
- Social Dimensions of Green Economy (Research and Policy Brief)
- From Green Economy to Green Society: Bringing the Social to Rio+20 (Special magazine for Rio+20)
- UNRISD submission to the UNCSD, 1 November 2011
- Development: Greening the Economy, Volume 55, Number 1, March 2012 (Special issue)
- Occasional Paper series (see below)
- Think Pieces on Social Dimensions of Green Economy (see below)
- Video series (see below)
- Podcasts on Social Dimensions of Green Economy (see below)
- Conference on Green Economy and Sustainable Development: Bringing Back the Social Dimension, 10-11 October 2011, Geneva
- Rio+20 side events, June 2012, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: ISEE Conference - The Social Dimensions of Markets in a Fair, Green Economy; People's Summit - Towards a Green Society? Participation for Social Change; and Earth Summit Official Side Event - Integrating the Social Dimensions of Green Economy into Policy.
Changes in patterns of investment, technology, production and consumption associated with sustainability—often referred to as green economy—have taken centre stage in international development circles. This potentially transformative approach emphasizes the need to shift from high to low carbon systems. However, the concept of green economy, and the strategies to promote it, are highly contested. There are widely varying assessments of the opportunities, costs and benefits of green economy transition for different social groups, countries and regions, and diverging opinions about the different approaches for achieving the social, environmental and economic objectives inherent in the concept of sustainable development. In this context, the core theme of Rio+20 is “Green Economy for Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication”.
By explicitly linking green economy with the goals of sustainable development and poverty eradication, the Rio+20 process called attention to the importance of the social dimensions of development. What remains unclear is how these social dimensions will be interpreted and applied in practice. As governments, social actors and experts deliberate on how to connect green economy and social dimensions of development, there is a need to guard against narrow interpretations that reduce “the social” to “green jobs”, social protection for those negatively affected by transition, or that simply bolt the Millennium Development Goals onto a green economy agenda. It is far from clear whether a green economy transition will centre on technological fixes and “business as usual” or, conversely, be seized as an opportunity to enhance well-being and transform the social structures, institutions and power relations that underpin various forms of vulnerability and inequality.
Unless social dimensions are addressed more comprehensively, there is a danger that efforts to connect green economy, sustainable development and poverty eradication will fail.
Through this project, UNRISD engaged with past and present research in order to position the social dimensions more centrally in green economy debates within the UN system.
Occasional Paper series on Green Economy and Sustainable Development
This UNRISD Occasional Paper series, produced in collaboration with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) for Rio+20, aims to stimulate debate around the social dimensions of green economy and sustainable development. While the Rio+20 process explicitly links the goals of promoting green economy, sustainable development and poverty eradication, the social dimensions have received relatively little attention compared to economic and environmental concerns.
Poverty reduction and equitable development are often assumed to be outcomes of low-carbon growth, which in turn is achieved principally through market mechanisms. Targeted social protection interventions are designed in tandem to compensate or protect marginalized or disadvantaged groups. Yet the papers in this series show that deeper transformation of the social structures, institutions and power relations underpinning vulnerability and inequality is required to ensure that development processes are greener and fairer for all. Social policy, broadly conceived, has a key role to play in both achieving this transformation, and supporting changes in the structures of production and consumption necessary for a green economy.
Think Pieces on Social Dimensions of Green Economy
- Paper One: Climate Change, Double Injustice and Social Policy: A Case Study of the United Kingdom, Ian Gough
- Paper Two: A Fair Green Economy? Studies of Agriculture, Energy and Waste Initiatives in Malaysia, Adnan A. Hezri and Rospidah Ghazali
- Paper Three: Realizing Local Development in the Carbon Commodity Chain: Political Economy, Value and Connecting Carbon Commodities at Multiple Scales, Adam Bumpus
- Paper Four: The Global Political Economy of REDD+: Engaging Social Dimensions in the Emerging Green Economy, Rocío Hiraldo and Thomas Tanner
- Paper Five: The Political Economy of Green Growth in India, Payal Banerjee and Atul Sood
- Paper Six: Payment for Ecosystem Services Markets on Aboriginal Land in Cape York Peninsula: Potential and Constraints, Michael Winer, Helen Murphy and Harold Ludwick
- Paper Seven: Sustainable Development through Policy Integration in Latin America: A Comparative Approach, Laura Rival
- Paper Eight:The Emerging Policy for Green Economy and Social Development in Limpopo, South Africa, Agnes Musyoki
- Paper Nine: An Institutional Analysis of Biofuel Policies and their Social Implications Lessons from Brazil, India and Indonesia, Mairon Bastos Lima
- Paper Ten: Green Economy or Green Society? Contestation and Policies for a Fair Transition, Sarah Cook, Kiah Smith and Peter Utting
Opinions diverge about how green economy should be defined, and about which approaches are best for bringing together the social, economic and environmental objectives of sustainable development.
In this series of short think pieces, researchers from academia, civil society and policy making from across the world reflect on a broad range of arguments, evidence and perspectives that surround the social dimensions of green economy. The papers illustrates that there are many ways to interpret how best to achieve a green economy that is also fair, equitable and that contributes to poverty eradication. Some of the papers offer critiques of the concept of green economy and ways forward; others discuss case studies of where green economy approaches have been, or could be, implemented with social goals in mind.
Together, this collection of short think pieces contributes to the global debate about the importance of bringing the social dimension back into discussions about green economy, sustainable development and poverty eradication.
- A Fair Green Economy: Framing Green Economy and the Post-MDG Agenda in Terms of Equity, Alison Doig and Erica Carroll
- “We have to Correct the Errors of our Ancestors”: Policy Implications of Environmentalism and Gender in Intag, Ecuador, Linda D'Amico
- The Great Lie: Monoculture Trees as Forests, Winnie Overbeek and Raquel Nuñez Mutter
- Emerging Governance in the Transition to a Green Economy: A Case Study of Public Sector Food Procurement in Brazil, Kei Otsuki
- Biofuels and Food Security: Green Economy in Sub-Saharan Africa, Chizoba Chinweze, Gwen Abiola-Oloke, Chinny Kennedy-Echetebu and Chike Jideani
- Civil Society Engagement in the Green Economy Debate, Edouard Morena
- Green Economy and Beyond – Case Studies in Guangzhou, China, Chen Jinjin
- Green Growth, Social Agency and the Regulation of Agricultural Production in India and Brazil, Diego Vazquez-Brust and Evelyn Nava-Fischer
- The False Dichotomy between Economy and Society: Implications for a Global Green Economy, Leisa Perch
- Gender Equality as Key in Defining Human Well-Being and Enhancing Sustainable Development, Gerd Johnsson-Latham
- The Social Dimension of Carbon Trading: Contrasting Economic Perspectives, Pascal van Griethuysen
- Driving Green Jobs through Rural Renewable Energy Systems, Kathrin Bimesdoerfer, Carola Kantz and J.R. Siegel
- Transforming Extractive Industries in the Philippines: Locating Spaces for People’s Participation in Mining Policies, Marie Joyce Godio
- Gender in the Green Economy, Candice Stevens
- Equipping Democracy to Deliver Sustainable Development, Halina Ward
- Sustainable Agricultural Innovation Systems (SAIS) for Food Security and Environmental Protection, Diana Alarcón and Christina Bodouroglou
- Green Economy and Sustainable Development: Which Way for the Informal Economy?, Mary Njeri Kinyanjui and Fredrick Otieno Dawa
- The Social Side of Biofuels in Brazil, India and Indonesia, Mairon Bastos Lima
This project is exploring the use of video as a research communication tool. The project is producing engaging and informative content to introduce themes relevant for stakeholders leading up to Rio+20, and highlight the key issues, challenges and ways forward for research, activism and policy. Six short videos have been produced based on footage from the conference on Green Economy and Sustainable Development: Bringing Back the Social Dimension, and interviews with speakers. The first film
, an overview, situates green economy within sustainable development and explores its potential as a path to inclusive, sustainable development and poverty eradication. The following five films address themes from the conference: markets, social policy, participation, agriculture and alternative visions. These have been released at intervals between January and May 2012 as part of the build up to Rio+20.
Podcasts on Social Dimensions of Green Economy
Also as part of this project, leading thinkers talk about their research on the social dimensions of green economy.
- Strengthening workers: A challenge for the green economy in Latin America, Amalia Palma and Claudia Robles (English / Spanish)
- Interview with Laura Rival on ecological threats, new promises of sustainability and the evolving political economy of land use change in rural Latin America (English / Spanish)