Blog / 31 August 2013

Green value for money

Green value for money


I have been an environmental economist for 25 years. All this time I’ve been struck by the huge difference between the theory of the ‘economic value of nature' and its practice. In real life nobody is willing to actually pay for the real value of nature. The Yasuni initiative gave me a glimmer of hope that the 'green economy', in which valuable ecosystems have a realistic price tag, would indeed be possible. Unfortunately, the Yasuni experience now shows us that it takes more than studies and rhetoric during Rio +20 or the World Economic Forum to make the shift.


In fact the term Green Economy as it is widely used has two crucial flaws:
Time and again it is clear that no one is willing to pay a realistic price. In today's world, nature cannot compete with products and services from the real economy. In an endless series of reports, such as for example the acclaimed TEEB report, the theoretic value of nature is calculated, but that value is irrelevant in our economic actions. Look at Yasuni: we pay more hard cash for the oil in the ground and the destruction of the nature than for the forest and the clean waters above it.


A second myth of the green economy is that sustainable entrepreneurship would just development itself automatically. The fact is that entrepreneurs can only benefit from green activities when these are profitable. We will have to create a market in which sustainability can compete with non-sustainable activities. We can not evade measures like taxes, fines, rules and regulations. Governments are vital. Right now they are  "withdrawing", unwilling to make polluters pay and reward sustainable conduct. But only if they live up to their responsibilities the transition to a truly green economy will succeed.


What is happening in Ecuador is a terrible shame: a president abandoned by the international community that is preaching, but not acting ´green´. And in the Netherlands we just stand by. Worse fact, we’re contributing to these developments by continuing to use fossil fuels and unsustainable production methods. It is time to convert our knowledge on the value of nature to sound economic policies and to make sure that Yasuni’s green will yield more profit than the black underneath it!

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