This report presents findings from an online survey and a number of expert interviews on the perspectives of European civil society on Sustainable Development and the Green Economy in the run-up to the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. The survey was sent out to civil society organisations in six selected European countries to gain a bet-ter understanding of their views on specific aspects of the Green Economy concept. In ad-dition to this, the data analysis allows us to compare respondents’ answers across different groups of civil society as well as between countries.
The survey questions range from the definitional aspects of what the Green Economy is and what its elements are to the conflict dimensions identified in the first part of the study as well as the risks and opportunities seen in the Green Economy. Finally, it includes the questions what role governments should take and what policy and financing instruments should be used more widely in the transition to the Green Economy.
The Green Economy concept is still an open concept and civil society groups are eager to weigh-in and help define its boundaries and key aspects. With this lack of clarity come many concerns, both internationally as well as on the European level, that the Green Economy could be ‘just a greened capitalism’ that allows for ‘greenwashing’ and ‘social greenwashing’.
A large majority of respondents say that the concept should be based on a three-pillar ap-proach, while questions remain concerning the extent of the social dimension of the Green Economy. Trade unions emphasize the need for better working conditions and international standards, for example by implementing social protection floors. This question in particu-lar is connected to the European debate and the relationship between the Europe 2020 strategy and its flagship initiative on resource efficiency, and the European Sustainable Development Strategy (EUSDS). Unions and environmental groups fear that the EUSDS might be replaced by the ‘narrower’ Europe 2020 strategy that, in their view, lacks a strong social dimension.
The social partners agree that the greening of the economy should be a consensus-based approach that includes all sectors and rejects a view that distinguishes between ‘brown’ and ‘green’ sectors of the economy. There are more diverse views on the questions of what role governments should play and what instruments they should use. Respondents agree that national governments should provide framework conditions and economic incen-tives to businesses and support research and development for green technologies. Beyond that, there is still disagreement within civil society sectors along with significant differ-ences in the member states over what instruments should or should not be used. Similarly, there are differences regarding the question of how much the government should get in-volved in the development of the economy and if there should be an active de-growth of certain polluting sectors.
What respondents generally seem to agree on is that the European Economic and Social Committee can and should play a significant role in providing a forum to bring European civil society together and build consensus, to help civil society’s views be heard in EU poli-cymaking and to work to ensure the EU acts as a role model in the transition to a Green Economy. This report aims to make a contribution to this endeavour.
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