Sustainable development versus green economy: The way forward?

Shawkat Alam, Jona Razzaque

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


1. Introduction Sustainable development (SD) is an inherently dynamic, indefinite, and contested concept. Its outcomes are heavily dependent on the pathways and operations of each country. The implementation of SD varies depending on the different levels of development and strategic priorities of each country. As stressed by the G77 and China: “[r]egarding sustainable development […] each country has the sovereign right to decide its own development priorities and strategies and consider that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.” Southern and Northern countries differ over the interpretation and implementation of SD, and the narrative of SD can be perceived as just a “‘diplomatic trick’ to bring all stakeholders under a common banner” to pursue coherent actions on SD. So far, the “state-centric talk fests” have not managed to bring any “meaningful change” to unsustainable practices. Thus, political pragmatism remains a significant element for the future progression and operationalization of SD within international environmental law. The UN Conference on Sustainable Development, 2012 (Rio+20) identified “a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication” as one of its main themes. The concept of “green economy” came to prominence following the Rio+20 conference, and promised a new paradigm of environmentally responsible growth. The outcome document of Rio+20 did not provide a definition of ‘green economy’ and encouraged “each country to consider the implementation of green economy policies in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, in a manner that endeavours to drive sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth and job creation.” The key aim for a transition to a green economy is to enable economic growth and investment while increasing environmental quality and social inclusiveness. It is hailed by international institutions (e.g. The United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank) as a great enabler for economic rebalancing between the North and the South, leaving aside questions as to who reaps the benefits of unsustainable economic activity and who bears the burden of resource depletion and pollution.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Environmental Law and the Global South
EditorsShawkat Alam, Sumudu Atapattu, Carmen G. Gonzalez, Jona Razzaque
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781107295414
ISBN (Print)9781107055698
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


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