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The Limits to Green Growth

Instead of rethinking our economies, in order to reconcile their functioning with environmental imperatives, the prevailing conception of the green economy seeks to quantify nature so that it can be reconciled with existing economic systems. That is a formula for little more than business as usual with a coat of green paint.

BERLIN – In recent years, the push to build a “green economy” that can deliver the world from continual environmental and economic crisis and usher in a new era of sustainable growth has been gathering force. But the push has been a source of unexpected controversy, with many predicting little more than business as usual with a coat of green paint. Will reconciling environmental and economic imperatives be harder than we think?

In a word, yes. The mainstream perception is that the green economy will enable us to break free from our dependence on fossil fuels, without sacrificing growth. Many argue that the shift to a green economy can even spur new growth. But, as appealing as this idea is, it is not realistic, as we show in our new book Inside the Green Economy.

To be sure, it is possible for a genuinely “green” economy to be prosperous. But the model that prevails today focuses on quick and easy solutions. Moreover, it reasserts the primacy of economics, thereby failing to recognize the depth of the transformation that is required.

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