22 Jan 2014

Organisation: Geneva Environment Network

To mark the official launch of the Green Growth Knowledge Platform’s Geneva office, a high-level panel debate and lunch reception was organized at the International Environment House..

Welcome Address
Bruno OBERLE, Director, Swiss Federal Office for the Environment

High-Level Panel “Green Economy and Green Growth: Passing Fad or Future Paradigm?”
Achim STEINER, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme
Howard BAMSEY, Director-General, Global Green Growth Institute
Marianne FAY, Chief Economist, Sustainable Development Network, World Bank
Dale ANDREW, Head of Environment Division, Trade and Agriculture Directorate, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Moderated by Mark HALLE, Vice-President, International, International Institute for Sustainable Development

Lunch Reception (13:00)
Presentation of GGKP web platform, Ben SIMMONS, Head, GGKP
Welcome Remarks by Guillaume BARAZZONE, vice-Mayor of Geneva and Antonio HODGERS, State Councillor of the Republic and State of Geneva.

The Green Growth Knowledge Platform (GGKP) is a global partnership of leading international organizations, research institutes, and think tanks with the mission to collaboratively identify and address major knowledge gaps in green growth theory and practice; and to provide, through world-class knowledge management and communication tools, the analysis, guidance, and data necessary to support a green economy transition.

Meeting and discussions


The idea of the green economy exists since the 1960s and was further pushed with the concept of sustainable development in the 1980s. However a strong neo-liberal economic paradigm did not allow questioning the existing economic system. It was only with the financial crisis 2008/09 that a window of opportunity for the green economy arose, which UNEP used to introduce its concept of an inclusive green economy.

Discussion on the difference between Green Growth (GG) and Green Economy (GE)

  • UNEP: from a practical perspective the difference between GG and GE is less important as both concepts strive for the same goal: sustainable development. From a theoretical standpoint GG aims to transform the existing concept of growth into a green concept, whereas GE aims to move towards a new paradigm for the economy and is therewith more inclusive.
  • World Bank: The question is if we can adjust old concepts or if we need a new concept. GG and GE are both the means to an end, as in they are instruments to achieve sustainable development. Therewith neither of the two is a new paradigm. They interlink because GG helps to move to GE. The World Bank insists on growth because they have a different audience (finance ministries etc.) and need to be convincing towards them to introduce natural capital into economic functions.
  • OECD: Discussing GG vs. GE means discussing progress vs. state, however GG is the progress function towards GE. We have to reiterate that we are greening an existing paradigm, we are not establishing a new one. In the OECD GG is not led by the Environmental Directorate but is an initiative by the Chief Economist to answer to the economic crisis 2008/09, when GG was sellable as a new engine for growth.
  • GGGI: The GG-GE-relation is a philosophical question, which however can become a very practical obstacle when the definitions are understood differently by negotiating parties. Governments in developing countries need growth as a means to lift people out of poverty and they have realized that the classical way of grow dirty and clean up later no longer works. We need the GGKP to get everyone working in GG/GE and sustainable development together to find connections and identify gaps to not let philosophical questions become practical obstacles.

Discussion on GE as a pro- or an anti-development concept

  • UNEP: GE as a concept has entered the discourse on sustainable development faster than any other idea if we look for example at the Rio+20 outcome document. The social public discourse uses GE because you do need an overall approach; growth in this respect is too narrow since a jobless recovery of growth does not help society. Developing countries are interested in GE as it helps them to focus on their own resources and natural capital instead of the technology and knowledge of others. We have seen a natural gravitation from developing countries towards the concept of GE, the interest is there.
  • OECD: GG is universal; it is neither exclusively for industrial countries nor exclusively for developing countries. The direction we actually have to start thinking towards is how to engage business partners and the private sector. While governments are the main “customers” of our organization, we have to integrate the private sector if we want to see real success.
  • World Bank: The decline in global poverty is a result of growth, since we have proven to be very week in reallocation. The question is much more how to measure: GDP is only one side of the coin; it measures capital flows; however we have to also measure our assets for example through the System of Environmental Economic Accounting. We need a radical transformation but the market system cannot provide this transformation in sufficient time; hence we have to transform all systems develop appropriate fiscal and public policy with regulations and standards.
  • GGGI: Governments are fundamentally questioning the economic system right now and the way to enter the discussion is to look into economic opportunities that respond to these government questions. How to look at your natural capital is a question of sovereignty. There is no template available to implement the GE, but we have started learning on what works and what doesn’t work.

How far are we from the tipping point that GE becomes the norm?

  • UNEP: We are on a very promising way if we look at the logic of economic progression.  We will see a revolution in fiscal policy away from the factor labor to the factor resources. Our farming economy is already starting to use Payments of Ecosystem Services and we will increase the efforts. We will see a revolution in energy; a global energy system can be implemented with no carbon emissions. This is all a question of solving the contradictions of public policy.
  • World Bank: it is easier to motivate policy makers when you have visible co-benefits, it will be of utmost importance to make the co-benefits of GG visible. The question is how we can convince developing countries to not grow dirty and clean up later but to pursue an alternative growth path. China in this regard will be a crucial example; a very high demand for a clean environment is there already but will this lead to clean growth?
  • OECD: We include advice on environmental policy in every publication but the uptake is very low. If we look at subsidies, we have not much moved forward, policy coherence is missing looking for example at fossil fuel subsidies and renewable energy subsidies.
  • GGGI: We see leaders questioning the current economic paradigm and yes we also see a movement towards GE. It is the evidence we produce with platforms like the GGKP and are acquiring every day that will turn pessimism into optimism.


  • GG and GE serve the same goal (sustainable development), they have the same itinerary but a different way.
  • A GE movement has been established and is clearly underway, as interest and demand from countries is there, however many challenges remain.

More information and documents

For further information on GGKP, please contact:
Amanda McKee
Email: amckee@ggkp.org