The Eco-Innovation Challenge

The Eco-Innovation Challenge


spots where green economy resources correspond with weak governance zones (Bringezu

and Bleischwitz in press). In those places, a push for transparency and public participation

will be crucial to ensuring that resources are utilised properly and that the resulting revenues

are handled responsibly.

As regards biofuels, the risks of continued land grabbing for large-scale, commercial

investment threatens the security and livelihoods of local landholders. Land acquisition

and leasing has sometimes been encouraged by governments, and there is a risk that the

revenues from selling and leasing the land, as well as those from biofuel production, will not

benefit the majority of citizens in those countries. In the case of mining, opportunities for

corruption are plentiful. For instance, the militarization of mining for tantalum (used e.g. in

mobiles and PCs) in the Democratic Republic of Congo is well documented. The demand for

gallium (used in green-tech) will probably lead to enhanced bauxite mining in Guinea, China,

Russia and Kazakhstan. The need for rare earth metals (used in wind turbines and hybrid

cars) will probably mean more mines in China, Russia, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Botswana

and Malaysia.

Potential measures to prevent the resource curse of the green economy can be learned

from development research (Gylfason 2009) and ongoing activities aimed at the oil, gas and

mining industries. Transparency is a critical first step and organizations like the Extractive

Industries Transparency Initiative, Publish What You Pay and the Revenue Watch Institute

are promoting the public disclosure of industry payments and host government earnings.

The World Bank (2010) proposes transparency as one of their 7 principles for responsible

agro-investment in farmland. International legal instruments may be another method—for

instance Siegle (2009) suggests criminalizing the diversion of natural resource revenues, for

which the United Nations Convention against Corruption could provide the framework. In the

private sector, corporate responsibility is a must. Those corporations which have met high

standards of transparency and sustainability in the mining industry could be used as models

for others, in particular for greening the supply chain. Codes of conduct should promote

adherence to social and environmental standards and continued consultation and oversight

of affected local communities. The Rio+20 Earth Summit is an opportunity to address these

issues and facilitate forward-looking mitigation efforts for responsible resource use; for

instance by establishing open trade for critical metals and recycling, forming an international

covenant to close material loops of resource-intensive consumer goods, and taking steps

towards an international agreement on sustainable resource management (Bleischwitz


In any case, the development of a green economy must not exacerbate the existing resource

curse, but instead draw on experiences and work with ongoing initiatives to prevent it from

the start. In developing the eco-innovations that will enable this transition, it is critical

to also look at life-cycle wide impacts beyond the borders of the EU when establishing

accounting schemes, standards and certification of new products along the supply chain.

In the long-term, the growing strain on natural resources may be best addressed by

enforcing legal requirements, supporting democracy, stepping up civil society oversight

and demanding business commitments to transparency and responsibility. In doing so, the

market opportunities of sustainable resource management and making best use of mineral

endowments will be enhanced.

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