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Is a ‘green economy’ possible? Merging ecosystem protection with economic growth

September 10, 2012

Is economic growth and environmental protection possible? This was the theme of day three of the IUCN congress and the message from the discussions was positive, particularly for freshwater ecosystems. 

Pushing the green economy was high on the agenda during the third day of the IUCN congress. Recognising that healthy ecosystems such as forests, wetlands and river basins play a major role in supporting local livelihoods as well as providing investment opportunities is central to achieve a transition to a green economy. The role that freshwater ecosystems play in providing essential ecosystem services received plenty of attention during the day’s discussion.

Wetland Ecosystem. Photo Courtesy of IUCN.

Among the most significant of the day’s announcements was the creation of an IUCN Red List of ecosystems. The list will identify vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered ecosystems based on an internationally recognised set of criteria. The reason behind the advent of a red list for ecosystems is, according to Jon Paul Rodriguez, Leader of the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management’s Ecosystems Red List Thematic Group, that “functional ecosystems are essential to our livelihoods and well-being”.

The creation of this new red list can assist conservation action on the ground in areas such as land use planning and investment priorities, evaluation of the risks of ecosystem collapse and the subsequent loss of ecosystem services. This is a hugely important development for all ecosystems, and in particular freshwater ecosystems, considering the significant services they provide and the critical status of many. The aim of the IUCN is to have full global coverage of all of Earth’s marine, terrestrial, freshwater and subterranean ecosystems at local, regional and global levels by 2025

In addition to the new Red List for ecosystems, a ‘Green List’ was also announced that will highlight successful management of protected areas. Success would be based on agreed criteria, but would take into account the achievement of conservation goals, effective management and ensuring equitable governance. Predicted benefits include greater international recognition of protected areas and an increased interest in quality eco-tourism.

Grouper Fish. Courtesy of IUCN

Another interesting highlight that attempts to couple environmental protection with a thriving economic industry is the Mr. Goodfish campaign. The campaign, which is supported by the fisheries industries in France, Spain and Italy, emphasises the need to shift our consumption of fish to a seasonal basis. “If you want to keep on eating fish, you need to choose the right fish today” explained Ludovic Escoffier from Mr. Goodfish. This successful campaign comes on the back of figures that show that 40% of freshwater fish in Europe are threatened with extinction and provides some hope that sustainable consumption is possible.

So what do you think? Is it possible to combine ecosystem preservation with economic growth?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. loess permalink
    September 13, 2012 21:34

    the economy is a growing subsystem of the ecosphere, which instead is a finite closed system; with 7 billion people and increasing (improving?) living standards, economic growth should be the focus in poor countries while consumption rates + waste production should decrease in rich countries to reduce inequalities worldwide.

    Healthier and slower lifestyles ‘doing more with less’ are a possibility and a choice.

    Can there be a more sustainable economy in the Western world without it necessarily growing because of neo-classical dogmas?

    Useful links:

    Global Footprint Network –

    New economics foundation –

    The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) –

  2. October 6, 2012 04:39

    Hi Loess,

    Thanks so much for your comment and definitely some food for thought there.

    Working on the assumption that both production and consumption patterns contribute to environmental problems, do you think a change in production patterns and means to more sustainable approaches may be an alternative too? Especially as this approach may have more public support than calling for a reduction in consumption in rich countries?

    Thanks again.

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