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Green Unilateralism

GENEVA – At the upcoming Rio+20 summit in Brazil, more than 135 heads of state and government, and up to 50,000 participants, including business executives and civil-society representatives, will come together to express their collective commitment to advance inclusive, sustainable development. But, despite the goal of unity and collective action underpinning the summit, the best way forward for the global economy is to build on the actions that individual countries and regions are taking in pursuit of their own interests.

Despite the summit’s aspirational rhetoric, there is no consensus about how to achieve sustainable development, exemplified by disagreement over the potential of “green growth.” Advocates argue that “clean tech,” “smart financing,” and “investment-grade” public policies will usher in a new and enlightened era of economic growth that does not degrade the environment. For opponents, however, green growth is more like “green-washed growth” – a merely cosmetic change to the business-as-usual approach that gave us the global financial crisis, and that perpetuates poverty and exacerbates inequality.