Ten theses of a critique of the Green Economy Ten theses of a critique of the Green Economy


Working Group ‘ societal relationships with nature ’ (GesNat) of the Federal Coordination of Internationalismus (Bundeskoordination Internationalismus – BUKO).


It used to be called sustainability, but today it is the ‘ Green Economy ’. Sustainability was the promise for the ecological of crisis-laden capitalism together with few – or plenty – social elements. And this is what the Green Economy is about. In the following 10 theses we will show why the Green Economy will have to fail in meeting its claim of greening the economy, which is due to the prevailing capitalist and imperialist conditions as well as the unquestioned faith in progress. Strategies of the Green Economy will not be able to outweigh the social and ecological contradictions of capitalism, at best the strategies are able to revise these contradictions. Put differently: capitalist modes of production never operate according to the reproductive needs of humans and nature, who in fact pose limits to the process of production. A Green Economy will only be able to reposition these limits. We therefore argue that dealing with the current crises in an emancipatory, internationalist and solidarity-based manner has to involve a change in the given economic structures and prevailing power relations. We understand this shortened version of our theses as a contribution to discussions about and searches for an emancipatory and socio-ecological transformation of the global modes of productions and ways of life.


Similar to the concept of sustainability, the advocates of a Green Economy promise the reconciliation of economics, ecology and society. Accordingly, the Environmental Program of the United Nations (UNEP) headlines its programmatic 2011 report for the Rio+20 conference as ‘ Towards a green economy. Pathways to sustainable development and poverty eradication’. Yet the current debate about a Green Economy differs from the discussion and strategies around sustainable development in the early 1990s. Firstly, today the technological base of a Green Economy is much more developed. Secondly, in the capitalist centres the Green Economy is hailed as a solution to the deep-rooted (economic and financial) crises. The Green Economy appears most palatable precisely due to the ‘constructive force of the crisis’.


As usual with such debates, the forces responsible for the crisis are identified as the beacon of hope: states and especially markets and capital, as well as the orientation towards growth and competitiveness. With the aid of the Green Economy the driving forces for social and ecological disastrous capitalism are not called into question; on the contrary, they are to be used for a green conversion.


Critique of the Green Economy


Thesis 1: The strict decoupling of economic growth and environmental destruction is not possible under capitalism. Different concepts of a Green Economy, understood as strategies for a new economic paradigm, share the view that a decoupling of capitalist economic growth and environmental destruction are possible through technological and social innovations. That is an appealing promise. Yet the limits to such a perspective become visible on empirical grounds. The so called rebound effect points to the most likely scenario that possible savings through energy ef- ficiency will be nullified or even over-compensated through growing demand based on increases in productivity and the subsequent lowered costs. The formula ‘efficiency=austerity=less environmental destruction ’ does not work out: increases in efficiency and productivity are driving economic growth, which translates into an increase in production, energy and resource use. We need an understanding of social and individual wealth, which does not equal wealth with economic growth.


Thesis 2: The Green Economy is masking exploitation and power relations. The social dimension is reduced to a question of growth, green jobs and poverty reduction.

Within the Green Economy there is no room for a class, gender and ethnic perspective or general questions concerning (re)production and the global division of labour. The Green Economy rests on a fallacious assumption when reducing the social question to a generation of so called green jobs – this will not produce social justice. The first command of capitalist production is maximising profits by increasing production of goods and services. Products, even so called ‘ green’ ones require natural resources like rare-earths or agricultural goods – most visible in the case of agrofuels. These resources come from mines or plantations in the Global South. Most often the social conditions are catastrophic. Mining under the rule of international corporations leads to countless evictions and massive environmental degradation. By cultivating commodities for agrofuels the local food production has to give way to the mobility needs of the global middle and upper class. Simultaneously, (trans)national corporations with sufficient capital push, in accordance with national political elites, for an aggressive form of land grabbing. Instead of counteracting social disparities, racist, class- and gender-specific oppression, strategies of the Green Economy amplify such tendencies.