Publication Alternatives to Society - Socio-ecological Transformation - COP 21 [en] - Climate Justice Brave Green World

The Green Economy myths. Luxemburg Argumente no. 3, updated edition, by Ulrich Brand.



luxemburg arguments


Ulrich Brand,


November 2015

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The Green Economy, we hear, will end climate change, prevent the extinction of species and, as an added bonus, create millions of jobs. This miraculous instrument will solve the global financial and economic crisis, as well as our ecological problems, all in one go. However, what exactly is the Green Economy? By creating certain political framework conditions, greater amounts of capital are to flow into “greening” the economy and possibly creating new “green” jobs. Companies are to pay a “reasonable” price for the environmental damage they cause. The state, too, is to orientate its purchases (public procurement) along ecologically sustainable criteria and make infrastructure environmentally friendly.

In June 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro coined the term “sustainable development”, which then for many years served global politics as a leitmotiv. Two decades later, at the Rio+20 UN conference, the “Green Economy” replaced sustainable development as the new magic formula.

For 25 years now, therefore, we have been enthused with the idea of “greening” capitalism. However, it is also evident that the results of sustainable development are meagre. CO2 emissions continue to increase, whilst biodiversity is declining dramatically; the soils are overexploited, and hunger, poverty and inequality are on the rise in many countries. The acclaimed “reconciliation of economic and environmental goals” proves tough to implement. As a response to the current financial and economic crisis, states applied more “traditional” and often only barely sustainable growth strategies. There is much reason to doubt the potency of the Green Economy magic formula.

This brochure will show that the definition of the Green Economy is contested. Depending on the underlying interests, the concept stands for very different and in part contradicting ideas. On the following pages, we aim to show why certain proposals are too superficial, and we will analyse cases where proponents too readily compromise with the dominant powers and how such an approach tends to suppress rather than support ecologically and socially just alternatives. Other questions will include the possible alternatives to the Green Economy, and what they could look like. A Green Economy that only aims to “green” or even expand capitalism will soon lose its appeal. Society needs a pluralistic project for a socio-ecological transition and not a new growth programme.

Table of contents

1. “The Green Economy invigorates sustainable development”
2. “The crisis is an opportunity for the Green Economy”
3. “The Green Economy reconciles economic and environmental goals”
4. “The Green Economy creates good jobs”
5. “The ‘efficiency revolution’ boosts growth whilst reducing resource requirements”
6. “A strong state is good for the environment and sustainability”
7. “Business is the motor of the Green Economy”
8. “Employees and unions block the transformation”
9. “Green money stimulates a Green Economy”
10. “Germany can use green technology to expand on its position as a world market leader”
11. “With our shopping basket we can force companies to protect the environment”
12. “The Green Economy offers the Global South opportunities for development”
13. “The Green Economy reduces poverty”

Conclusion: In light of the false promises associated with the Green Economy, a socio-ecological transition is necessary (and possible)!

For further reading

Ulrich Brand
(Research assistant: Jana Flemming)

Other languages:

  • Schöne Grüne Welt, German version
  • La meilleure des économies, version française