The trouble with defining “Green Economy”

Green growth should address undernourishment, enhance food production, and address gender due to the feminization of agriculture, says Bina Agarwal when trying to define 'Green Economy'. Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT)

One of the biggest challenges scientists face is defining terminology. The buzzword and terminology being discussed at the Planet under Pressure(PuP) conference taking place in London at the moment is “green economy”. Based on some of the sessions I have attended, I have put together a list of possible definitions as to what “green economy” could mean and those who have alluded to it:

Anthony Giddens: It involves a paradigm shift that requires “utopian neo-realism” that helps to create new technologies that allows for development without destruction.

Yvo De Boer: This may involve investment in renewable energy and implementation of green indicators. “Green economy” will include public-private partnerships but we need a “different” type of dialogue among such sectors.

Bina Agarwal: This should involve “multi-dimensional” green growth. Green growth should address undernourishment, enhance food production, and address gender due to the feminization of agriculture. We need to focus on voluntary collective action to achieve this and promote institutional innovation.

Camilla Toulmin, Director of IIED: It involves low carbon growth, resource efficiency, and technology that creates less waste. It also includes developing a new range of partnerships, redistribution of power and assets, and structural change.

Considering all these different attempts are defining the “green economy”, has “green economy” become the new “sustainability” – abstract and all encompassing? Haven’t environmentalists been addressing “green economy” measures by pushing for the implementation of environmental taxes, green indictors while promoting development, and innovative technologies to minimize fossil fuel use? Is “green economy” a re-packing of what we’ve already been doing? PuP has offered a great opportunity to ponder such questions. If we are to make international processes such as Rio+20 that focuses on “green economy” a success, we not only should address such questions but also develop a unified definition of what this term means. The real challenge maybe is that we have 2 months to develop a united voice!


Moushumi Chaudhury

Moushumi Chaudhury is a social scientist and science officer with the global CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security ( Her research focuses on developing approaches, tools and strategies aimed at enhancing linkages between the knowledge co-produced by researchers, farmers, community organizations, development practitioners and others, and actions that lead to sustainable agricultural practices that enhance livelihoods and resilience to a changing climate. Her expertise and experience includes conducting research and policy analysis on climate change adaptation and mitigation, early warning systems, renewable energy, ecosystem services, gender, and the MDGs for various international research institutes and UN agencies. She can be contacted at:

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