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UW Economist Makes Case for Inclusive Green Economy

March 16, 2016
man standing in front of trees
Ed Barbier, the John S. Bugas Professor of Economics and Finance in the UW College of Business, published an article in One Planet, the flagship journal of the United Nations Environment Programme. (UW Photo)

The global problems of environmental degradation and income inequality will continue to worsen without international efforts to transition to a more inclusive green economy, a University of Wyoming economist argues.

Ed Barbier, the John S. Bugas Professor of Economics and Finance in the UW College of Business, makes that case in an article published in One Planet, the flagship journal of the United Nations Environment Programme. The special issue may be downloaded by clicking here: http://apps.unep.org/publications/index.php?option=com_pub&task=download&file=011979_en.

Environmental degradation and income inequality are symptoms of a growing structural imbalance in all economies, Barbier writes. As a consequence of the way nature is exploited to create wealth, and how that wealth is shared among the population, natural capital is under-priced, and therefore over-exploited, while human capital is insufficient to meet demand, resulting in higher wages for skilled labor.

“The result is a profound structural imbalance in the modern world economy; global production now uses natural capital excessively, while skilled workers are made much better off, and inequality is increasing,” Barbier writes.

Tackling the twin problems of environmental degradation and insufficient human capital requires moving to a more inclusive green economy through what Barbier describes as a “Balanced Wealth Strategy.” That includes policies aimed at helping resource-dependent economies while ending the significant pockets of poverty worldwide, he says.

“Making the transition to an inclusive green economy will not be easy, but the consequences for the majority of the world’s population of the current pattern of depleting nature to accumulate wealth could be bleak, if not catastrophic,” Barbier concludes.

Barbier’s article, “Righting the Balance: Overcoming environmental scarcity and inequality through inclusive green growth,” is one of several pieces by international experts included in the publication. Other contributors include Achim Steiner, UN undersecretary-general; Catherine McKenna, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change; and Pablo Badenier Martinez, Chile’s minister of the environment.

Widely published in natural resource and development economics as well as the interface between economics and ecology, Barbier has served as a consultant and policy analyst for a variety of national, international and non-governmental agencies, including many United Nations organizations and the World Bank. He has written more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, written or edited 22 books, and published in popular journals.

For more about the UN’s Environment Programme, go to http://unep.org/.


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Chad Baldwin

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