Thursday, 13 June, 2024

Green Economy Imperatives

Dev Raj Dahal


The green economy and inclusive growth have been the motto of Rio+20 Earth Summit which accompanied the UN Climate Change Conferences and now UN Climate Action Summit of multi-stakeholders in New York on September 23, 2019 to awaken to their commitments to Paris agreements goals, review the progress so far and bridge the gaps between finance and climate adaptation projects and environmental policies and development strategies.
The United Nations Environmental Programme’s definition of green economy as “one that results in improved well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities” provided a new orientation in the thinking of policy makers and practitioners. The critical subject that shapes policies for green growth is not only technology but also value shifts in politics, a shift that seeks to redefine human beings’ relationship with nature. It does not perturb the carrying capacity of the planet but focuses on clean energy, wind, biogas, solar, water, low carbon resilience, tourism, etc. so as to protect forest and biodiversity.
The solely territorial-driven state security is now marked by the free flow of ideas, goods and people, rise of non-state actors and interdependence of bio, techno and social spheres entailing a new security design that balances national and global perspectives based on interdependent choices. The concept of economy based on linear system of excessive processing of nature and accumulation is giving way to an organic and systemic understanding of nature’s cycle.
In this new thinking production is based for essential human needs through qualitative growth by judicious use of the factors of production—nature, labour, capital, technology and management. Proper land use, resource conservation, reducing greenhouse gases, dignity of labour, fair use of capital,  use of alternative energy, low-carbon and environmental-friendly technologies and management are expected to protect the eco-system. The wisdom of green growth rests on cooperative action of people and an improvement in the quality of life. In an interconnected world what happens to the nature globally resonates to Nepal as well. Nepali leaders, therefore, need to familiarize the notion of green growth, engage the wider public and utilise the expertise of scientists to underpin needed innovation for the nation’s climate adaptation.
The traditional concept of development based on economic growth discounts ecological, gender, social and intergenerational costs. It does not support a balance between happier life through the use of clean energy and decent green jobs aiming to satisfy basic needs and freedoms. This means a legally-binding agreement at multi-level governance is necessary to situate human compassion before the operation of market efficiency in creative destruction. A grossly unjust ownership and distribution of natural resources and their reckless exploitation beyond the capacity to regenerate has caused scarcity of public goods, economic and political disorder, erosion of human dignity and even violent conflict.
The sovereignty of demos underlined in Nepal’s Constitution finds limits here because the survival of demos itself rests on the protection of non-human species. In this context, globalization, human rights and environmental issues stretch democracy beyond a myriad of imperatives of human beings.  It has also falsified the reduction of human beings to “political animal” confirming Arthur Schopenhauer’s Vedic belief that human beings are not only earth-bound like earthworm. They are “metaphysical animal,” with the capacity to think above and beyond. This view sees nature a matter beyond the delimitation of political boundaries and seeks to forge human solidarity and collective responsibility to stabilize the planet’s thermostat. 
The right to development is still a critical issue for many developing countries like Nepal. Three key elements of sustainable development are: shifting the conventional patterns of economy--production, consumption and accumulation. They have generated poverty, inequality, unemployment, migration and climate change to sustainable use of resources. Similarly, it entails shifting vertical integration of society where large mass of people are distanced from the decision affecting them and do not have any ownership on the development practices to a system of horizontal participation in the decision-making, co-production and subsidiarity. And shift demands from bounded rationality of disciplinary knowledge’s dominance of nature to interdisciplinary intelligence that unveils the wisdom of sustaining the entire web of life. Investment in eco-friendly technology, tools and green jobs can reduce pollution, enhance resource and energy efficiency and protect the ecosystem.
Democracy as a political system rests on the optimal value of each individual’s freedom of will and duty to others, a mean state between being self-interest and self-restraint. The theorem of optimal value excludes no one from the benefits of public goods. The other is participation of people in the planning, implementation, evaluation and monitoring of the adaptation to green growth mechanism and sharing of benefits. Ecological risks strain the promotion of social equity and welfare at multi-level governance.
The golden rule of politics is rooted into a radically new way of life that seeks a balance of human needs and nature’s capacity for resilience. Finding a common ground among the stakeholders of development requires actors to move to higher ground and acquire the service of a moral leadership imbued with the capacity to infuse civility into politics and liberate people beyond the territorially-defined socializing constraints of political parties, media and the state. Climate change affects both natives and aliens across the borders and, therefore, a duty beyond the border is the imperative of international laws.
Green growth precisely sets premium on systemic thinking. Redefining the basic thinking on green growth requires negotiating complex factors and seeking opportunities for conventional style of utilitarian and positivist policy, law and institutional change. Policy makers must take perspectives from outside their narrow disciplines and learn from scientific insight and the changing ground. Fundamental change in the attitude of policy experts entails that people must come before profits in economic transactions among multi-cultural human community. Leaders and citizens continuously stay in feedback loops to communicate their demands and adapt to ecological crisis-responsive strategies. A response to environmental crisis requires more democracy to regulate powerful economic actors and post-materialist circular economy intending to recycle all the materials as far as possible.
The transition to green economy makes a strong case for regional and international cooperation in the protection of ‘nature.’ As a global common good it promises progress for the creation of equitable society and prevents the commercialisation of nature, culture, security, rule of law, education, health and essential services. Only planetary consciousness about the inter-linkages of sustainable factors of development supports transcending negotiation beyond constant preoccupation of leaders to think about victory in next election and forgetting intergenerational accountability which can only be undertaken by statesman.
The first step to this direction is ecological enlightenment—an awareness about the interconnections of human beings with all species’ lives and nature. Already environmental, women, labour and other social movements are spreading the message of sustainable development and redefining cognitive, biological, social and cosmological dimension of human life. Albert Einstein has rightly said that insanity occurs if people are “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The unification of various streams of knowledge is important to alter the disciplinary perspective and yield a positive outcome.
The second step is to create “binding rules” for mitigation, adaptation to climate change and transition to green economy through reinvestment in the ecological-sensitive technology, infrastructures and public good projects. The process cycle of green economy, policy, institutional innovation and management of trade-off between eco-centric and human-centric approaches to development need to be guided by ethics. The third step is “optimisation” of all the interests in the system, not the exclusion of one at the cost of others. It should be based on the “principle of common” with differentiated responsibilities for stakeholders but capturing a synergy of common interests and values of scientists, businessman, political leaders and ordinary Nepalis for greening of development.   
(Former Reader at the Department of Political Science, TU, Dahal writes on political and social issues)