Log in | Register

Q&A: Two minutes with... Oliver Greenfield

Piggy bank

Oliver Greenfield is convenor of the Green Economy Coalition (GEC), an alliance of organisations lobbying for a fairer economy and sustainable development. The GEC is one of a number of bodies that have jointly published Global Goals That Work a guide to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals within a reformed economic system.

Can you explain the background to the GEC?
Oliver Greenfield (OG) (pictured left): “The GEC is a diverse network of collaborating organisations – from civil societies, NGOs and businesses, to UN functions and professional institutes. The impetus for the GEC came about partly from the failure of the Copenhagen climate negotiations in 2009, and the realisation that getting all governments to sign up to climate action would be very difficult if it was always framed as economic growth versus climate action. We needed a new narrative – and parts of the UN system thought that a green economy was a way of breaking this deadlock.
“The conclusion that we all [the GEC’s stakeholders] shared is that if you are going to tackle economic reform, you don’t do it on your own – you do it as a movement.”

What do you hope to achieve, and how can planning help with this?
OG: “Our goal is prosperity for all within one planet’s limits, within which urbanisation and built infrastructure are becoming increasingly important. The world’s urban population is projected to increase dramatically over the next 25 years (4.9 billion people by 2030, roughly 60 per cent of global population). This closely coincides with the time frame we have to almost fully decarbonise the global economy, and with 60 per cent of the built infrastructure for 2050 still to be built we need to get sustainable cities right early in that process.
“We have welcomed Global Infrastructure Basel to the coalition to help us work through these issues.”

How can sustainable cities help towards a green economy?
OG: “City administrations are increasingly proving themselves to be innovative jurisdictions that can take strong action on climate and green economy, ahead of slower corporations and national governments. The C40 Cities network is an excellent example of this leadership and we see this becoming more and more important as the world urbanises and more and more decisions are decentralised down to city level.
“Cities are also increasingly places where the turnaround time between green economy polices/investments and improvements in public services are especially quick – environmentally sustainable transport solutions or retrofitting of buildings can bring more rapid improvements and returns for citizens than elsewhere or at national levels, where there are time lags and more diffuse impact.”

So we can’t rely on national governments and corporations to be the drivers of this kind of economic reform?
OG: “Green economy needs a people-driven movement, and cities can be the hubs. The GEC's view of green economies is broader and more inclusive than a sectoral-driven model – a green economy needs to be wanted by people, which means it must work for people. This makes fairness, inclusion and green jobs central to the agenda – and cities are the best place to start to build this movement and deliver on these areas.”

Download Global Goals that Work: For Business, Government and People

Photo | iStock