United Nations Environment Programme environment for development
Towards Greener Economies


The industrialised states of Western Europe are nowadays keen to develop in a sustainable manner, combining economic growth with social justice and improved environment. Within this context, there is need for a transition to a new, efficient and climate-neutral ‘Green Economy’.

UNEP has defined a green economy as: one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. A green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.

In the green economy scenario, growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. To make this happen, significant policy reforms and regulations modifications need to be introduced. Since natural capital is a crucial economic asset and source of public benefits, especially for poor people whose livelihoods depend on nature.

The UNEP-led Green Economy Initiative (GEI), launched in late 2008, consists of several components aiming at providing the analysis and policy support for investing in green sectors and in greening environmentally unfriendly sectors.

Within UNEP, the Green Economy Initiative includes three sets of activities:
  • Producing a Green Economy Report and related research materials, which analysed the macroeconomic, sustainability, and poverty reduction implications of green investment in a range of sectors from renewable energy to sustainable agriculture, and providing guidance on policies that can catalyze increased investment in these sectors; 
  • Providing advisory services on ways to move towards a green economy in specific countries;
  • Engaging a wide range of research, non-governmental organisations, business and UN partners in implementing the Green Economy Initiative.
The Regional Office for Europe provides active support for the Green Economy Initiative, organising workshops, briefings, and conferences to improve governments’ knowledge on the concept of green economy and how the transition to it can be implemented.

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