Edward B. Barbier and Anil Markandya, contributing authors to 1989 classic Blueprint for a Green Economyy, have revisited the theme to implement a green economy and published A New Blueprint for a Green Economy. The central theme of A New Blueprint for a Green Economy is how we can make economies green today given what we have learned from our efforts since 1989. In A New Blueprint for a Green Economy, the authors stress “natural capital” embodiment within financial capital to green the economy.
In A New Blueprint for a Green Economy, the authors first discuss the current status of the Earth’s ecology and the lack of progress made since 1989. Next the authors discuss three key policy areas that must be addressed if we hope to implement sustainability globally. These critical policy areas are: valuation of the environment, accounting for environmental impacts, incentives to mitigate environmental impacts. Finally, the book highlights new policy opportunities now available to positively support greening the global economy.
In particular, as the Stockholm Environment Institute (et al) described in a recent publication, that we are now at or have exceeded the Earth’s ecological “planetary boundary” for nine key systems:
- Stratospheric ozone layer
- Chemicals dispersion
- Climate change
- Ocean acidification
- Freshwater consumption and the global hydrological cycle
- Land system change
- Nitrogen and phosphorus inputs to the biosphere and oceans
- Atmospheric aerosol loading
In A New Blueprint for a Green Economy, the authors fortify this discussion by the Stockholm Environment Institute (et al) with their thoughtful and easy-to-read analysis of these boundaries. For example, the authors describe how:
- 2.5 billion hectares, or 21% of biomes measured, according to the GLOBIO team, were lost from 1900 to 2000.
- Global extinction rates are about 1,000 times normal geologic extinction rates. While at the same time from 1981 to 2006, 47% of discovered and developed cancer drugs were sourced from natural products.
- According to World Bank data, CO2 emissions increased 37% from 1990 to 2007 after we had widespread knowledge and capacity to mitigate climate change. This is an increase over the previous 17 years emissions from 1973 to 1990 of 31%. This occurred while the Earth’s greatest polluter in 1990, the USA, instead of decreasing their emissions 7% as under the Kyoto Protocol, instead from 1990 to 2007 increased their emissions 20%.
- Particulate matter 10 (µG/M3), a measure of air pollution, continue to disproportionately impact the lower income communities globally compared to high income communities 3:1.
- Countries with groundwater depletion rates greater than groundwater recharge rates, measured from 1973 to 2005 – Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Libya, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, and United Arab Emirates – some of whom experience significant social unrest.
- Global fossil fuel production and consumption subsidies, in 2008, were US$ 657 billion, roughly 1% of global Gross Domestic Product. Yet phasing out these same subsidies by 2020 could decrease global greenhouse gas emissions 6.9%.
In A New Blueprint for a Green Economy, the authors describe also how we have options to green the economy resulting in mitigating these environmental impacts if we value the environment, account for environmental impacts, and create incentives to mitigate environmental impacts. Demonstrated through the case study method, these options are explained succinctly.
For example, Thailand has lost roughly 60% of its mangroves to shrimp farming. The typical shrimp farm net present value is roughly US$ 9,600 per hectare. This is because shrimp farming is heavily subsidized in Thailand. If instead, we value, account for, and describe the incentives in place to compare shrimp farm vs. existing mangroves, our valuation turns upside down. Instead, profit per hectare shrimp farming net of public costs of pollution and restoration after five years are negative US$ 9,098 while profit per hectare mangroves, after adding public benefits, are US$ 12,392.
In conclusion, the authors provide an excellent description of a clear pathway forward for how to green the global economy allowing for sustainable economic growth and resilience.
How to order:
A New Blueprint for a Green Economy
Publisher: earthscan from Routledge
Author: Edward B. Barbier and Anil Markandya
Gabriel Thoumi, CFA, LEED AP, is a natural resource scientist and financial consultant.
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