FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Politics of Green Transformation

Talk of transformation is back in vogue. This time the call is for a green transformation. Recent and recurrent financial and environmental crises have drawn attention to the ecological, social and economic sustainability of the global economy. This has prompted calls for a new green industrial revolution, transitions to a low carbon economy or for more radical restructuring for de-growth or the pursuit of prosperity without growth. While calls for radical transformations are often made, but mostly ignored, this one has captured attention at the highest levels, whether through the launching of the Sustainable Development Goals, heightened mobilization around a ‘make-or-break’ climate agreement for Paris 2015, or renewed calls for a World Environment Organisation at the time of the Rio+20 summit in 2012. But what would a green transformation look like and who will bring it into being?  Most emphasis is placed on technology and markets: greentransthe need for massive public and private investment in new technological revolutions or on greening capitalism through pricing nature. But it is also political. What makes it so, and which and whose politics will shape the sorts of transformations that are desirable and possible? These key questions are addressed by a newly published volume on The Politics of Green Transformations which brings together leading thinkers on the politics of sustainability based at the University of Sussex. Questions surrounding what counts as green, what is to be transformed, who is to do the transforming, and whether transformation, as opposed to more incremental change, is required are all deeply political. For many, the green transformation is like no other we have witnessed so far. While history has witnessed numerous waves of disruptive economic and social change, brought about by technology, war and shifts of cultural values, none has been primarily driven by the goal of rendering the economy and existing model of development more sustainable. The political nature of the green transformation is heightened because change is needed quickly. A sense of urgency pervades current debates about sustainability amid talk of tipping points, thresholds and planetary boundaries. But though prefacing the word ‘transformations’ with ‘green’ focuses on the environmental dimensions of change, these almost inevitably raise questions of social as well as environmental justice. In many contexts, especially of developing countries, there is unlikely to be any green transformations if questions of social justice — jobs and access to resources such as land and water — are not part of the debate. The volume challenges conventional assumptions that green transformations can be either solely market or technology-driven. Politics create markets, enforce their rules and deal with questions of access. Likewise, politics determine which technologies are supported and neglected and whose needs take priority. We highlight a key role for green entrepreneurial states, willing to take risks, invest, subsidise and promote technologies neglected by the private entrepreneurs who are often assumed to lead innovation. But we also highlight a vital role for movements in driving change, resisting disruption to their livelihoods (increasingly also driven by green goals of protection and conservation) and articulating alternatives. They also play a key role in grassroots innovation and building alternatives from below. In practice, green transformations — whether state-led, citizen-led, marketized or technocratic — are produced by differing combinations of actors and drivers from ‘above’ and ‘below’. Green transformations must be both ‘top-down’, involving elite alliances between states and business, but also ‘bottom up’, pushed by grassroots innovators and entrepreneurs, and part of wider mobilisations among civil society. Each of these forms, styles and sites of politics combine, and play out in different ways in different places. Which pathways predominate will depend on the context: in China there is a stronger role for the state while marketized and technocratic pathways may be privileged in North America and Europe. They take a different form again in sub-Saharan Africa. But none are protected from the contested politics of who sets the goals of green transformations (whose knowledge counts), who wins, and who loses from particular ways of pursuing them. Current debates about the green economy and the transition to a low carbon economy would well to recognise this. Peter Newell is professor of international relations at the Centre for Global Political Economy, University of Sussex, and author, with Ian Scoones and Melissa Leach, of The Politics of Green Transformations, Routledge, 2015. This article appears in the excellent Le Monde Diplomatique, whose English language edition can be found at mondediplo.com. This full text appears by agreement with Le Monde Diplomatique. CounterPunch features two or three articles from LMD every month.

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Yves Engler
Ottawa, Yemen and Guardian
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Tracey L. Rogers
Dear White Women, There May be Hope for You After All
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
Robby Sherwin
Here’s an Idea
Susan Block
Cucks, Cuckolding and Campaign Management
Louis Proyect
The Mafia and the Class Struggle (Part Two)
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail