17 June 2012, article by Nick Beglinger, Swisscleantech:
I am looking forward to Rio – I have never been there before and have never attended a UN conference of this size. I fly out early tomorrow morning at 6.30. I am highly motivated, particularly as an economic representative. The global resources and climate problem needs new solutions today – and the economy has a crucial role to play here. So it’s good that the green economy is one of the main themes of Rio+20!
A significant increase in the quality of economic activity in relation to resource efficiency and emissions, in all sectors of industry and on every levle of the value chain, represents the main challenge facing the international community. An increase in quality is essential if we want to develop sustainably. This applies to both the production processes and the products and services that feed our consumption behaviour. They must no longer be «damaging to the environment» («dirty», «unsustainable») and must become «environmentally friendly» («clean», «sustainable»). The green economy is synonymous with «cleantech». The traditional understanding of cleantech is too narrow and fails to convey the potential of a comprehensive new trend. What is involved here is the quality of the entire economy and not just «industrial policy»: it is not about the promotion and support of individual sectors, it is about our future.
The trade association swisscleantech sees itselfa s the voice of the green economy in Switzerland. The new path in this direction already existed for us before Rio. We are liberal and sustainable in our orientation. We support full-cost accounting, that is the «internalisation» of cost factors that were previously considered externally (i.e. not correctly incorporated), for exmaple ozone-forming nitrogen oxides and nuclear risks. And we support the market. This plays sustainably (or «cleanly», «greenly») if the framework conditions (i.e. the applicable laws and regulations) take the full-cost account into consideration. Through this, the clean and not less-clean products and services are systematically rewarded. The rules of the game are changing fore everyone – everyone can and must participate. Innovation is arising and based on the new rules, everywhere and without planned-economy requirements, on which specific technologies or processes should be based. If correctly introduced, this «sustainable market economy» does not need any subsidies either. The rules of the market game require sustainability. Unsustainable management costs.
This is the only way that sustainable development can emerge from its niche into the mainstream – and we can only succeeded in mastering the challenges that face us in the time that remains if the mainstream is sustainable. We must set ourselves these challenges, in our own interest and in the interest of future generations.
For the economy this means that it must be involved in defining the framework conditions. The empty phrase «we support voluntary measures, more research and innovation» is no longer enough. The green economy is not at odds with a regulatory framework per se, as neoliberal thinkg suggests. Instead, the economy must actively ensure that the framework is lean and efficient. Not more but fewer rules are required. But the right rules are urgently needed. Voluntariness is good, however the adequate framework is better – not least due to the planning security it creates.
Rio+20 offers an important platform at international level for discussing the shift in the direction of a green economy. The future we want to aim for should be defined there jointly. The overall meaning of the results is recorded in the concluding document «The Future We Want». Unfortunately, concrete results can hardly be expected from Rio. The specific challenges will continue to exist.
Irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations, the attention that Rio attracts to our global challenges should be availed of as an opportunity to adopt the green economy in a specific way after the conference at international, national and local level. A concrete example of this is the Swiss Energy Strategy 2050. This transformation will be no walk in the park – either at global level or in Switzerland. The «clean» «green» path to the future is essential, however. From September, this must be implemented specifically in Switzerland. The journey will be worth it. ‘The Future We Want’ is the destination.
Nick Beglinger, 42, is an economist and President of the swisscleantech trade associaiton. He has worked internationally as an entrepreneur and established swisscleantech together with Christian Häuselmann and Bertrand Piccard in December 2009. Today, the association represents over 300 member companies and has 20 sectoral associations. Beglinger is accompanying the official Swiss delegation in Rio as an expert.