Today, many people realize that it’s not about the environment versus the economy, not a tradeoff between unemployment and pollution. It’s not about picking one or the other.
We cannot choose between the environment and the economy. We need both.
This realization is at the heart of an emerging economic and environmental concept, often termed ” the green economy.”
It reflects a growing recognition that, on the one hand, the challenge of sustainability rests almost entirely in getting the economy right. Putting a price on carbon, valuing natural capital and ending perverse subsidies, among other things, are all vital to meaningful environmental reform.
And, on the other hand, if we wish to create a sustainable economy, we must pay more attention to the environment. Against a backdrop of climate change, resource scarcity, the massive loss of biodiversity and a variety of other environmental issues, business as usual is increasingly risky.
The green economy was initially driven by an environmental imperative, the recognition that climate change and ecological degradation threaten our future prosperity. But today, it is driven equally by opportunity, the recognition that a green economy opens up new possibilities for jobs and growth. As a recent report from the U.N. put it, “the greening of economies is not generally a drag on growth but rather a new engine of growth…a net generator of decent jobs…”
Key Features of the Green Economy
Simply put, a green economy is low-carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive. Some of it’s key features include:
- Abundant opportunities for good green jobs that pay a living wage.
- A price on carbon, either through a cap-and-trade program or an economy-wide tax on carbon.
- More efficient use of energy and other resources. For example, huge economic and environmental gains could be made if we had more energy efficient buildings and transportation.
- Greater use of renewable resources, like wind and solar, instead of non-renewable resources, such as coal and oil.
- Greener manufacturing which is resource efficient and doesn’t use toxic chemicals
- Proper value assigned to natural environments and ecosystems, in recognition of all the services the environment provides such as carbon sequestration, flood protection, and waste water treatment.
- A robust recycling and reuse industry, with minimal waste sent to landfill.
Canada has the opportunity to be among the leaders in this green transition. We have an abundance of renewable resources, the capacity to generate ample amounts of renewable energy, and sufficient wealth the finance the transition.
And there is good reason for us to lead, as well. After all, “the governments that act early to establish green economy enabling conditions will not only support the transition but will also ensure they are in the best place to take advantage of it.”