What is an "Inclusive Green Economy"?

UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative (GEI)

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched the Green Economy Initiative (GEI) in 2008 consisting of global research and country-level assistance aiming at motivating policymakers to support environmental investments as a way of achieving sustainable development. Thanks to this initiative and the work of other agencies, “green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication” was placed on the 2012 Rio+20 agenda and was acknowledged as a tool for achieving sustainable development.

UNEP has developed a working definition of a green economy as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon,resource efficient and socially inclusive.

Practically speaking, a green economy is one whose growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. These investments need to be catalyzed and supported by targeted public expenditure, policy reforms and regulation changes. This development path should maintain, enhance and, where necessary, rebuild natural capital as a critical economic asset and source of public benefits, especially for poor people whose livelihoods and security depend strongly on nature.

Green Economy Brochure - Read about the wide span of activities in the Green Economy Brochure

From GEI to an Inclusive Green Economy

After Rio+20, UNEP felt the need to update the GEI, in particular by strengthening the notion of ecological thresholds and better integrating the concern over equity and inclusiveness. At the UN General Assembly 2015, UNEP published “An inclusive green economy: a summary for leaders” in which concepts such as “sharing, circularity, collaboration, solidarity, resilience, opportunity, and interdependence” are accentuated.

An Inclusive Green Economy is an alternative to today's dominant economic model, which generates widespread environmental and health risks, encourages wasteful consumption and production, drives ecological and resource scarcities and results in inequality. It is an opportunity to advance both sustainability and social equity as functions of a stable and prosperous financial system within the contours of a finite and fragile planet. It is a pathway towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, eradicating poverty while safeguarding the ecological thresholds, which underpin human health, well-being and development. 

Over the past decade, the concept of the Green Economy has emerged as a strategic priority for many governments and intergovernmental organizations. All told, 65 countries have embarked on a path towards an Inclusive Green Economy and related strategies. By transforming their economies into drivers of sustainability, they will be primed to take on the major challenges of the twenty-first century - from urbanization and resource scarcity to climate change and economic volatility.


"Uncovering Pathways Towards an Inclusive Green Economy: A Summary for Leaders" - download the English version