United Nations (UN) Environment Programme (UNEP) defines green economy an economy that enhances human well-being and social equity by significantly reducing environmental risks and the use of natural resources. In substance, green economy is an economy low in carbon, efficient in the use of resources and inclusive from a social point of view.

This definition is not opposed to the concept of sustainable development, on the contrary is one of the ways to build the foundations for the progress of society by pursuing a sustainable development.

In fact, its implementation will also benefit the developing countries, improving their approach to the exploitation of natural resources, the quality of sanitation, access to water, and more generally the use of services related to biodiversity. Embracing a new “greener” economic paradigm can indeed help reduce poverty and generate benefits in a number of important productive sectors, while reducing the environmental and economic risks and increasing income and employment.

UNEP has published numerous reports and has strongly advocated the implementation of a new Global Green New Deal (GGND), simultaneously launching a global initiative on this issue (Green Economy Initiative). Launched in 2008, this initiative aims to consider the investments put in place for the transition to a green economy, assessing the benefits on the fight against climate change, new technologies, and energy. In addition, the initiative is aimed at providing analysis and policy support for investing in green sectors and greening those areas that are currently environmental causing damages.

Three levels of activity have been established within GEI:

Drawing up a report on green economy in order to analyze macro-economy, sustainability and the implications on poverty reduction of green investments in sectors ranging from renewable energy to sustainable agriculture, providing guidance on the policies that can attract investments in these areas;Providing consulting services on how to start a green economy in specific countries; Involving a wide range of partners from the sectors related to research, non-governmental organizations, business and United Nations in implementing GEI. Green Economy Report (Towards a Green Economy … Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication) has been prepared by UNEP in November 2011 in collaboration with economists and experts from around the world. The report aims to demonstrate that environmentally-friendly economy is not an obstacle to growth, but on the contrary can be considered to be both a new engine of development capable of creating new jobs and an effective strategy for the elimination of poverty. In fact, according to the Report by UNEP, focusing on a green economy can promote development even in the most underdeveloped economies, where 90% of the GDP of the poorest of the population is tied to natural resources, forests and water resources.

One of the conclusions of the Report is that investing 2% of world GDP (about 1,300 billion USD) in the ten key areas identified by UNEP (agriculture, water, forestry, fisheries, energy, industry, waste, construction, transports and tourism) would lead to a transition from the current economic model towards a green economy.

All of this would reorient the world economy on a more sustainable growth trajectory, producing more long-term benefits of the maintenance of economic growth of a “business as usual” scenario.


UNDESA, UNEP, UNCTAD (2011), The Transition to a Green Economy: Benefits, Challenges and Risks from a Sustainable Development Perspective.
UNEP (2011), Towards a green economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication, UNEP.
UNEP (2012). Green Economy Policy Briefs - key issues for the transformation towards the Green Economy, UNEP.

Editor: Barbara PANCINO; Emunuele BLASI

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