One of the most common misconceptions about the green economy is that there is an inescapable trade-off between environmental sustainability and economic development. In addition, that environmental concern would be a luxury that only the developed countries can afford. However, throughout the conference so far, we have seen multiple arguments that incorporating sustainability into the development process is a vital key to alleviate poverty and increase economic growth.
In a session today organized by the Global Research Forum on Sustainable Consumption and Production, Nobel Prize Winner Mohan Munasinghe argued that there are some third world countries that still believe the increased focus on sustainability and the green economy to be “a trick by the western countries to keep down their development process”. Nevertheless, the gap between the north and south on this issue has been narrowing and the world seem to be reaching a general consensus that sound environmental management is vital in order to achieve economic growth, not only in the long run but also in the short run.
In order to achieve this global sustainable change, Dr. Munasinghe argues that one of the most important aspects is to address people’s behavioral context and consumption patterns. That said, many developing countries still need to increase their consumption levels in order to bring its people out of poverty. One should not forget that the developed world is the biggest polluter and that it is the rich countries that first and foremost need to change their consumption patters. In Dr. Munasinghe’s ‘Champagne Glass Model’, illustrating the unequal distribution of the world’s income, he shows how a fifth of the world’s population receives 83 per cent of the world’s income and that the poorest fifth of the world’s population receives only 1.4 per cent. Moreover, that there is a ratio of 60:1 between the incomes of the richest and the poorest 20 % of the population. The model also encapsulates the fact that the division between rich and poor countries is not always appropriate when addressing consumption patterns, in stead; one should make a division between rich and poor people.
Although the environmental sustainability may seem like a recent concern, especially in the developing world, Dr. Munasinghe ends his speech at the plenary session with an ancient Pali blessing from Sri Lanka, illustrating how environmental concern always has been a part of Sri Lankan history and that a favorable environment, economic prosperity and social stability seem to always have been identified as key prerequisites for making development more sustainable:
“DEVO VASSATU KALEN
A SASSA SAMPATTI HETU CA
PHITO BHAVATU LOKO CA
RAJA BHAVATU DHAMMIKO”
“May the rains come in time
May the harvests be bountiful
May the people be happy & contended
May the king be righteous”