MILAN EXPO 2015 – green economy

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MILAN EXPO 2015 – green economy

What is meant by a “Green Economy”?

The green economy is defined as an economy that results in reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities, and that aims for sustainable development without degrading the environment. It is closely related with ecological economics, but has a more politically applied focus. A UNEP Green Economy Report argues “that to be green, an economy must not only be efficient, but also fair. Fairness implies recognizing global and country level equity dimensions, particularly in assuring a just transition to an economy that is low- carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive.”

A green economy is also a methodology of economics that supports the harmonious interaction between humans and nature and attempts to meet the needs of both simultaneously. The green economic theories encompass a wide range of ideas all dealing with the interconnected relationship between people and the environment. Green economists assert that the basis for all economic decisions should be in some way tied to the ecosystem.

Green economists perceive nature as being extremely valuable and seek to maintain it. Supporters of this branch of economics are concerned with the environment and believe that actions should be taken to protect nature and encourage the positive co-existence of both humans and nature. Emphasis is placed on creating value through quality rather than on accumulating material items and money.

A feature distinguishing it from prior economic regimes is the direct valuation of natural capital and ecological services as having economic value and a full cost accounting regime in which costs externalized onto society via ecosystems are reliably traced back to, and accounted for as liabilities of, the entity that does the harm or neglects an asset.

Green Sticker and eco-label practices have emerged as consumer facing measurements of friendliness to the environment and sustainable development. Many industries are starting to adopt these standards as a viable way to promote their greening practices in a globalizing economy. Green economy and the related field of ecological economics share many of their perspectives with feminist economics, including the focus on sustainability, nature, justice and core values.

Green economy is becoming one of the main economic development strategies worldwide. Combining tradition and innovation, sustainability and quality, its production model is a way to achieve competitiveness. Investing in eco-technologies enables firms to undertake productions with higher value added and to acquire positions of leadership internationally in a sector whose economic and technologic potential is very high.

This is why a green economy is the object of several private industrial enterprises in all advanced countries, where the shortage of natural resources, the production of energy from renewable sources and the recycling of production and consumption waste have by now become topical; therefore it is precisely from environment preservation that the development and the re-launch of economy must start, so as to ensure its sustainability. Green economy seems to be a promising way to get out of the economic crisis and to attain stability.

I have found that 2014/2015 is the “European year of green economy”: the European Union has the goal to increase the number of jobs related to the environment, by supporting businesses in their transition towards a green economy which enables them to compete globally. In Europe nine firms out of ten have so far resorted at least one measure to improve energy or resources efficiency, thereby obtaining energy and materials saving and remarkable waste reduction.

The Green economy plays an essential role for economic development, both for the important contribution it makes to production and employment and for its integration with the rest of the industrial system; it may amount to a chance for relaunching our competitiveness.

In Europe, Italy is technologically in the lead in the energy efficiency sector, which currently counts over 300,000 firms and 3 million workers. Its promotion should be directed to the most promising and innovative industrialised sectors. For instance, the electric sector, which has experienced exceptional development from renewable sources, has obtained incentives that are among the highest in Europe (10,7 billion euros until 2013). The most relevant contribution to the reduction of environmental impact and of the use of fossil fuels has so far come from the development of energy generation from renewable sources, notably in this sector.

The scenario is positive in terms of competitiveness: 17.5% of the businesses which have invested in green technologies export, whereas the percentage is only 10% for non-green businesses. This result can be ascribed to the higher efficiency of production processes, to the consequent reduction of costs and to the improvement of the quality of products and services offered. Benefits can be seen in employment as well: as much as 38% of recruitments in 2013 come in fact from firms that invest in green technologies and these are again the businesses that recruit the highest number of youth below 30.

A leading role for green economy is played by the territory and by the various small and medium businesses that have been so cunning and ready as to invest in eco-technologies in order to generate innovations related mainly to renewable sources and to energy saving, to waste reduction and to limitation in the use of materials and water. Such businesses, especially those of the chemical sector (the one which drives Italian businesses to the top of the European lists of green economy with 41% of businesses that have invested in sustainable technologies and production processes and reduced its environmental impact), textile and clothing, automotive, food, wood and furniture, are in charge of the green reconversion of the Italian production system.

Innovation and quality have been the answer to the economic global crisis for small and medium businesses, because the higher efficiency that they imply has stimulated home and foreign demand, so leading to an increase in GNP and in the number of jobs.

Expo 2015 will be an opportunity to present the development of a model based on green economy, where it is advisable to invest at all levels, from energy to mobility to consumption, in order to get out of the deep economic crisis. The industrial system, composed of very flexible and innovative small and medium businesses, can integrate new technologies in products that can provide green solutions to the actual problems of consumers. By adopting this production model can increase the qualitative profile of processes and products so as to catch new business opportunities and to re new consumers and new markets, not only in Italy but also abroad.

Kathy Kiefer


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