Can Green Capitalism Stop the Climate Crisis?

The destructive effects of capitalism on the environment are supposed to be transformed through the use of new technologies or ecological business models. But this cannot ensure genuine socio-ecological change and a good life for all. We need a system change based on the principles of solidarity and care.

Green Capitalism - How Is That Supposed to Work?

Image of a Barista, Production Machines, Executives on a conference table.
Green capitalism aims to solve the multiple social, environmental and economic crises by engaging nature with new policies and practices. In reality, however, it is not socially and ecologically responsible for various reasons.

Why Green Capitalism Doesn't Work

❌ First, it is still based on endless growth which is neither sustainable nor possible on a finite planet.

❌ Second, the capitalistic way of production and accumulation (external link, opens in a new window) is based on injustices and exploitation of humans as well as natural resources. A green energy transition is therefore rooted in global relations of power, inequality and appropriation of raw materials. Although restructuring a greening economy is the right step to start caring about the environment and sustainability, the process fails to challenge growth oriented policies, market mechanisms, as well as neocolonial structures.

Solving the multiple crises requires the imagination of a new world order, a different system and way of living together, based on principles of solidarity (external link, opens in a new window), cooperation, sovereignty (external link, opens in a new window) and self-determination at the basis. For the Global South (external link, opens in a new window), it would concretely imply an elimination of the odious debt and a transfer of technology (external link, opens in a new window) so it can develop and diversify (external link, opens in a new window)its role in the world economy to be in equilibrium with the Global North.

A False Solution: The Green Economy

Baum mit Geldscheinen als Blätter.
The green economy is considered a magic wand that will solve all the crises at the same time. Green economy seeks to create an appropriate political framework with policies for more capital inflows to "green" the economy. Companies should pay an "appropriate" price for environmental damage. The state should also align its own purchases (public procurement) with environmentally sustainable criteria as well as make infrastructures environmentally friendly. Yet, what we see globally is that the environment continues to degrade as carbon emissions rise, biodiversity shrinks and soils are being overused. On top of that, the social problems such as hunger, poverty and inequality are (again) growing all over the world. Reconciling the ecology and the economy does not seem to be working as well as expected. Therefore, leading to questions and doubts about the power of turning capitalism green, while holding on to the principles and values of capitalism.

Busting Myths of the Green Economy

In the following method, flashcards have been used to provide the users with arguments not just against green capitalism and the green economy but also to shed light on the social and ecological issues of a green energy transition. The front side of the cards contain the arguments put forward by green economy (taken from Brave Green World: The Green Economy myths. Luxemburg Argumente no. 3, updated edition, by Ulrich Brand) and on the back side users can find the counter arguments against green capitalism. 


Green Capitalism: Not such a beautiful "green" world

Alternatives to Green Capitalism

The concept of green capitalism with its obsession on profit-oriented economic growth to solve the environmental problems is not a solution. Decoupling of economic growth from consumption of natural resources and from CO2 emissions is impractical within green capitalism. Instead of overcoming the problem, green capitalism only shifts the problem to some other place or to some other people. Therefore, we urgently need to look for alternatives that go beyond the so-called imperial mode of living (external link, opens in a new window). We need a fundamental change in the current global economy. Our values need to shift to moderate and sustainable consumption that is not just based on solidarity, but also socially and ecologically just.

In the following method, you will be presented with alternative concepts that offer radical alternatives to capitalism and the current global economy. These include: degrowth and the right to development.

Alternative: Degrowth

The Right to Development

Development projects are often imposed upon local communities in top-down decision-making processes that lead to serious violations of the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities. Economic development policies also have an impact on the environment and the climate. The right to development provides a framework for equitable development. It states that development processes must be based on the active, free and meaningful participation of the people. It aims to achieve self-determination and sovereignty of peoples in choosing their model of development which is based on equality and mutual respect. Explore the inalienable right to development in the following video.

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Mapping the frontiers and front lines of global environmental justice: The EJ Atlas

What is environmental justice?
Environmental justice refers to social movements focusing on the links between environmental issues and social justice. The term was first used during the 1980s in the United States among Black and Latino communities. The movement originated from the recognition that the most disadvantaged and marginalized communities are most affected socially and environmentally by damaging projects and extracting activities.

What is the Environmental Justice Atlas?
The Environmental justice Atlas documents and catalogues social conflict around environmental issues. It collects stories of communities fighting for environmental justice and makes and aims to make them more visible.

Try the EJ Atlas here

Mapping the Frontlines and Frontiers of Global Environmental Justice

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Using and Sharing!

This article is part of the series Exiting the Crisis! - Understanding Crises and Paths to Global Justice, which was produced in cooperation with Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie (external link, opens in a new window). Online Editing by Alina Kopp. This article is published under the terms of the Creative Commons License CC BY 4.0 (external link, opens in a new window)! Share, use or adapt it for your educational work. Don't forget to republish it under the same conditions and mention L!NX and the authors.

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Climate Catastrophe, Inequality, Exploitation - I'm Having a Crisis

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Free Trade: Alternatives, Actors and Resistance

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Development: A North-South Debate

In the name of aid, progress, growth, empowerment or sustainability, development has always had the sense of being something "good" or "positive". But poverty and inequality are outcomes of the systematic and unequal integration of "poorer" countries into the global economic structures. Learn more about this with a timeline of western development politics, its criticism and movements fighting for alternative concepts to improve and change the world.


Food Sovereignity: Good Food for All

Anyone who deals with the topic of agriculture and climate will realize that agriculture is both the cause and the victim of the climate crisis. However, agriculture cannot simply be abolished or replaced. But can it be made more climate-resistant and climate-friendly?


Ready for a Better Future?

We live in a time in which one crisis follows the next: Pandemic, war, poverty, flight, climate crisis or even the collapse of the financial system. How can we still not lose sight of our dreams and utopias, take action and what can give us orientation?


Can Green Capitalism Stop the Climate Crisis?

The destructive effects of capitalism on the environment are supposed to be transformed through the use of new technologies or ecological business models. But this cannot ensure genuine socio-ecological change and a good life for all. We need a system change based on the principles of solidarity and care.

Bild von einem Barista, Bagger, Holz, Lastwagen und Fertigungsanlagen.

No Time for Care Work?

Who runs the household when all the adult members of a family work eight hours a day? Coming home, picking up the children on the way and quickly doing some errands before cooking and tidying up - where is the time left for leisure, relationships or political work? You can find out here who still has this time, who doesn't and how things can be done differently.


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