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Speech by Achim Steiner at the Grotius Lecture ; "Focusing on the Good or the Bad: What Can International Environmental Law Do To Accelerate The Transition Towards a Green Economy?"

Key messages

-While we face multiple and serious challenges, the situation also presents real opportunities to make profound changes in our economies: moving toward a green and low carbon economy will deliver multiple benefits in addressing food, energy and water security and in achieving sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals.

-Well-functioning markets depend on well functioning institutions. If the rules, norms and regulations are not in place markets will inevitably malfunction or create externalities. We need an 'intelligent invisible hand' one that is guided by smart regulation to ensure the economy works for sustainable development and not against it.

-To a large extent the critical role that law will play in delivering a green economy has not been underscored enough.

-Grotius taught us that law can be a conduit for transformative economic change.

-The term "green economy" describes an economic system that recognizes the properties of healthy ecosystems as the backbone of economic and social well being and as a precondition for poverty reduction.

-A Global Green New Deal refers to a set of globally coordinated large-scale stimulus packages and policy measures that have the potential to bring about global economic recovery in the short term while laying the foundation for sustained economic growth in the medium and long term.

-A lot is already being done at national level in response to the financial crisis. Governments have agreed on stimulus packages that have a focus on greening the economy, including in the United States.

-International law has a critical role to play in providing the foundation for accelerating the transition towards a green economy including in relation to; climate change agreements, intellectual property rights; access and benefits sharing; the link between ecosystem services and human rights; and in reforming energy subsides.

-To achieve a Global New Deal it is critical that we match international law with efforts at the national level - the law and the economy can and must work together at all levels to make use of market incentives to actively promote environmental objectives.

-The current multiple and serious challenges also presents an opportunity to re-examine the capacity of governance structures at the national and global levels.

-We are gaining a sense of a new and emerging momentum in addressing international environmental governance amid concerns over how well equipped the current system is address current and emerging issues.

-International lawyers have a critical role to play in promoting the transition towards a green economy and ensuring that international law helps rather than hinders such a transition.

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Further Resources

Global Green New Deal Policy Brief

UNEP Green Economy Initiative

UNEP's Division of Environmental Law and Convention


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