Green economy operates within a complex institutional structure comprising local, national, international, non-governmental and private sector entities that act across economic, political, social and environmental domains. Effective and sustainable green growth, therefore, requires a keen understanding of this complexity. This was the opening message during the five-day seminar on Green Growth and Sustainable Development held by the Institute of South-South Cooperation and development (ISSCAD) at Stanford Center, Peking University from 15thto 19th of November 2018.
In his opening remarks, Prof. Fu Jun, the Academic Dean of ISSCAD, said that the seminar series presents an opportunity for students to hone their skills, especially on resource mobilization, needed to organize educational meetings such as expert meetings, seminars, conferences and workshops that facilitate knowledge sharing. He also emphasized that seminars provide an excellent platform to think, scrutinize, reflect and connect ideas which are key in the learning process.
ISSCAD seeks to develop leadership and managerial skills that are key to finding solutions to the world’s complex challenges such as climate change. In achieving this, Prof. Fu Jun elaborated on the interaction between institutions and the concept of eco-civilization and green growth. Humans now consume at a rate 1.7 times what the earth can sustain and the richest eight of us own wealth equal to that of the poorest 3.7 billion. It is clear that we face a choice. We can continue with environmental destruction and wealth concentration or we can create an ecological civilization that secures material sufficiency for all in balance with there generative systems of a living earth. But again a critical question remains: what kind of institutional arrangements do we need to realize this balance?
It was clear from the seminar session that innovative institutions can help to move from a shortsighted to a promising long-sighted approach to ecological matters. This movement not only requires us to construct a new society but also deconstruct the old one. We will need to reassemble the whole world and partner to better understand every single aspect of humanity’s relationship with each other and the natural world. Growth in every country, therefore, needs to be looked at in a wider approach of its effect on the whole universe.
During the seminar, Prof. Fu Jun posed a hypochromic and thought-provoking question: is human life driven by 6 need or human want? It was clear that what one person needs, another person wants. Also, there are a variety of ways to meet a need or a want. Theoretically, most developing economies are driven by needs, such as infrastructure and clean energy needs in order to catch up with the advanced economies. Other economies are driven by wants according to their own unique needs. Then, how do we manage these competing needs and wants to maintain a system closer to equilibrium is a hard bone to chew. Which type of institutions do we need to coordinate these competing forces? The answers to this question clearly show how solutions to green growth can be drawn from multiple disciplines such as sociology, psychology, philosophy, political science, economics, etc.
Institutions that will make a great difference are those that support national and bioregional self-reliance, the free sharing of information and technology and balanced trade in goods. These institutions deeply understand authentic economics for an ecological civilization grounded in the scientific understanding of how living organisms self-organize to create and maintain conditions essential to life’s existence. These institutions measure economic development by indicators of healthy function of individuals, families, communities, local bio-systems, and the earth’s global biosphere. This calls for a transition from completion to cooperation and collaboration as our dominant mode of relating nationally and globally. But again, whether sustainable green development is a strong signal for an advanced economy is a question that needs to be explored further by looking at other variables.
The seminar further looked into the interaction between market and state for sustainable green development. Hierarchical structures that coordinate different actors like cities and local governments should be supported to ensure sustainable environmental management.Private and public knowledge management systems should also be explored to ensure that experts are adequately incentivized. These national hierarchies can willingly collaborate with global actors like the United Nations and its agencies to adjust their policies and strengthen local institutions.
In conclusion, institutions will continue to play an important role in green growth and development. Successful green economy implementation will benefit both developing and developed economies through greening of productivity and innovation, growing marketization, the promotion of flexible regulatory frameworks and incorporation of natural capital into economic thinking. The critical role of academic institutions such as ISSCAD should, therefore, be emphasized because they provide a platform where global officials exchange ideas on green growth and sustainable development.