[Perspectives on RIO+20 > Suzana Kahn ]


Ready for a Commitment: A View from the Region


Much has been said about the cost of inaction related to climate change. Today we face an even broader cost, one that has to do with our current development path.  It is widely acknowledged that our current model is unsustainable. However, in spite of well-known facts such as the unsustainable use of natural resources, biodiversity loss, a changing atmosphere and intractable poverty, the world continues to pursue the same pattern of growth. Rio+20 is an opportunity to promote a shift to a new development paradigm.

With this in mind, green economy is a framework used to build this new way forward: growing and developing with quality. The identification of the paths towards this new paradigm should be done in a case by case basis. The recognition of the peculiarities of each region is a key aspect of the green economy. This mindset leads to specific solutions to local problems, taking into account circumstances that range from climate to culture. Therefore, it is impossible to set up a single framework and criteria that will define what green economy is.

Due to this heterogeneity of challenges, problems, and solutions, it is hard for a group of countries to determine what the best path is. There is no “one size fits all” new development model, but a mix of possible solutions and tools for overcoming barriers to sustainable development.

Within this new paradigm, regional governments have a particular and relevant role in promoting a transition to a green economy. The ability to implement local and regional solutions in an efficient way, coupled with the agility and flexibility of their governance structures, gives regional governments an advantage in leading this transition process.

Several regions have already shown strong leadership within this movement. If some of these regions gathered themselves in a strong coalition, aimed at issuing a joint green economy commitment, it would be possible to start a movement to a better development pattern. In order to display a strong pledge, these regions must go beyond recognizing the difficulties at hand and propose well defined targets and deadlines.  In broad terms, it is possible to identify some fundamental steps this global coalition of regions can agree upon.

The first step could be the articulation of an inter-regional panel to elaborate common metrics for key indicators of green economy. A new development model must redefine what it understands by success and, as a governance tool, develop new measures that will complement traditional metrics, such as economic output, with measures of resource stocks and well-being. This panel has to have a strong linkage with an international platform of "knowledge sharing" that might be established during Rio+20. This initiative will serve as a "think tank" of important issues related to this new economy and also work to channel international efforts towards theoretical as well as practical aspects of the green economy. This panel & platform could start their activities by 2013.

For the following year, 2014, a green accounting system has to be in place.  Each region would define what their main environment and social assets are, so they can be measured and, whenever appropriate, valued. The next step of this coalition, to take place in 2015, would be the report of “green GDP” and other green economy indicators, considering their stocks and natural capital. At this stage green jobs should also be defined and accounted for. A monitoring system for their main environment assets should be implemented.

2016 would be the last year of this commitment and would be the year of the evaluation of the results from the coalition. At this date, Regions would reconvene and then present their Regional Green Development Plans which would consider directives such as the increase of the use of renewable energy, green buildings, and job creation among other targets that could be included in the coalition commitment.

So, if we, as regions from the world are ready to commit ourselves to a shift to a more sustainable development model, we need to promote the transition in our own backyards.  The best way to start this process is through setting common methodologies and accounting and monitoring systems, sharing experiences, adding efforts, and showing results so that we can build a green economy strategy for the world using a bottom up approach.

In a four year period the regions of this coalition could show the world how they achieve their sustainable development goals and give an example of an alternative way of international cooperation.

We are ready to do so and ensure that Rio +20 becomes a landmark event for bridging the gap between economy and environment, theory and practice and promotes innovative international partnership towards global sustainable development.


The opinions expressed in these articles are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of UNEP

Further Resources




Suzana Kahn is the President of the Scientific Committee of the Brazilian Panel on Climate Change and the Green Economy Sub- Secretary at State Environment Secretariat – State Government of Rio de Janeiro.


Linking the Green Economy to National Happiness - Alan AtKisson

Generation Y and the Global Green Economy: Counting Us In - Ximena Prugue

National View: Women must be leaders of the green economy - Kathleen Rogers

Ocean Life in the Balance: Will Science Overcome Politics at Rio+20 conference? - Susan Lieberman

International Environmental Governance Reform Within The United Nations - Sylvestre Manga

The future's lateral: the new (green) economy-Jeremy Rifkin

A World Environment Organization to serve Developing Nations – Professor A.H. Zakri is the Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of Malaysia

Time for a global environment organisation?

Models for Local Government Organizations (LGOs) involvement in a strengthened UNEP -Konrad Otto-Zimmermann

No sustainable development without healthy, nutritious and culturally adapted food for all – Hans Herren is an internationally recognized scientist and president of the Millenium Institute in Washington

Let’s Make Some Progress at RIO+20!- Andre Giacini de Freitas

Let's lock in green growth - Oliver Letwin, Minister for Government Policy, UK

What does the Green Economy have to do with us (Africans)?- Meles Zenawi

A unique opportunity to make the fundamental “change of-course” - Maurice F. Strong 

Time to Consider a World Environment Organization - by YAB Dato' Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak Prime Minister of Malaysia

Six minutes to save the earth by Severn Cullis-Suzuki

Millennium Consumption Goals (MCGs) can preserve the planet, protect the poor and promote prosperity - Prof. Mohan Munasinghe

When the best options are unavailable: what space do we really have? - Mark Halle


India makes a strong case for a Green Economy  
President Felipe Calderon on the Green Economy
 Perspectives on the Green Economy