Yesterday, I had the pleasure of hearing the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, speak about UNEP’s groundbreaking report: Towards A Green Economy.
I particularly liked Steiner’s framing of the economic environment we now find ourselves in.
As he put it, the debate over whether market-led economies or state-led economies are best has, for the most part, been put to bed. It’s difficult to argue against the dynamism of markets, but post-recession, post-economic collapse, it’s equally difficult to argue that governments should take a hands-off approach to the economy. Today, most people realize that governments and market actors have roles to play in managing and growing the economy to achieve our desired outcomes.
This is certainly true with the green economy. One of UNEP’s key findings is that green economic transitions proceed most effectively where there is an “intelligent interaction of public policy and markets…” Ontario’s Feed-in Tariff program, which Steiner urged us to stay to course on, was cited as example of this intelligent interaction.
Which brings me to another of UNEP’s findings: The green economic transformation is already well under way, both globally and here in Ontario. To be sure, we still have a long way to go, but governments and markets are both starting to realize that the green economy is the most economically sustainable way to proceed.
As Steiner put it, against a backdrop of declining fish stocks, massive species extinction, increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes, droughts and floods, people are coming to see that carrying on with business as usual is extremely risky.
Most everyone in attendance agreed: The case for change is solid. It’s not a matter of whether, but when this transformation will take hold, and whether Canada and Ontario will be a laggard or leader.
Mr. Steiner also spoke with TVO about UNEP's report and Ontario's green economic prospects. Check it out.