Political Ecologies of the Green Economy

Invitation to workshop
Date: 10-11th December, 2014
Venue: Litteraturhuset, Oslo

Political Ecologies of the Green Economy

Both prior to and following the Rio+20 conference in June 2012, a variety of organizations released framework documents on ‘green growth' or the ‘green economy', intended to catalyse renewed support for sustainable development in the context of global environmental and economic change (UNEP 2011; OECD 2012; World Bank 2012). These discourses have since been institutionalized in a variety of organizations and initiatives, including the Global Green Growth Institute, the Green Growth Knowledge Platform, the Green Growth Best Practice Initiative, and the Green Economy Coalition. While a turn towards green(er) economies and development pathways might potentially lead to enhanced sustainability, these broad concepts also open up for a wide range of interpretations, power struggles and practical implementations. Understandably, then, this emerging policy field has also attracted the attention of scholars and students within critical political ecology. In this workshop, we aim to investigate the various implications of green growth and the green economy from precisely such a perspective, exploring the various ways in which these concepts might interact with existing inequalities, vulnerabilities, and struggles for social justice in the context of global economic and environmental change.

Current proposals for pursuing green growth and implementing the green economy perceive entire landscapes as sources of alternative energy, carbon sinks, ‘climate-smart' agricultural crops, and environmental services. This has led to the revaluation and production of space itself in relation to new epistemologies and discourses of sustainability science, resilience, planetary boundaries, Anthropocene geopolitics, earth system governance, and socio-ecological systems research. Selected drivers of these processes include: (1) Food price hikes in 2007-08 and 2011, which caused international investors to ‘rediscover' the agricultural sector in the South; (2) Rising energy prices, which provided an impetus for the conversion of farmland from food crops to biofuel crops, as well as the identification of other alternative energy sources; and (3) New economic incentives for the utilization of land for environmental change mitigation, either in the form of carbon forestry (REDD and other tree planting for carbon sequestration), biodiversity offsetting, ecotourism, species banking, wetland banking, and related schemes. Importantly, moreover, the governance of these initiatives employs new practices of auditing and certification, involving government agencies, multilateral organizations (such as the World Bank, IPCC, UN-CBD and UNFCCC), and nongovernmental organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). Of course, these ‘new' forms of knowledge and land-use change also intersect with ‘old' colonial and postcolonial restrictions of access to land and natural resources, best typified perhaps by the use of state violence to appropriate pastoralists' and farmers' land for conservation, commercial agriculture, or resource extraction, as well as with histories of contestation and resistance to these processes.

Examining the nuances of these phenomena, the workshop will focus on different types of land-use change, their causes and impacts, as well as their interconnection with new forms of knowledge, power relations, and resistance. As such, we invite papers on:

- Drivers of land use change
- Land, water, and resource appropriation
- Practices of certification, auditing, and evaluation in ‘green' markets
- New discourses and epistemologies of sustainability and sustainable development
- Degrowth, diverse community economies, and alternative development pathways
- Environmental governance in the ‘Green Economy'
- Extractive industry and the clean energy transition
- Food, land, and resource sovereignties
- Indigenous rights and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC)
- State formation and violence, natural resources, and internal territorialization
- Case studies of REDD, carbon and biodiversity offsetting, and other payment for ecosystem service (PES) projects
- Resistance strategies, contestations, and compromises across multiple scales
- Environmental justice and social movements
- Alternative epistemologies and ontologies of nature and the environment
- Ecological debt, unequal exchange, and uneven development

Keynote speakers:

Giorgos Kallis, Autonomous University of Barcelona: Imaginaries of hope. The utopianism of degrowth

Erik Reinert, Tallinn University: Renewable energy and green growth

Bill Adams, University of Cambridge: Treaties with the enemy: the reasonable politics of greening the economy

Sian Sullivan, Bath Spa University: What's ontology got to do with it? On nature, knowledge and 'the green economy'


Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 2012. Green growth and developing countries: a summary for policymakers. Paris: OECD.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 2011. Towards a green economy: pathways to sustainable development and poverty eradication. Arendal, Norway: UNEP/GRID.

World Bank. 2012. Inclusive green growth: the pathway to sustainable development. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.