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Prof. Maria Madi: Analysis of COP20

Maria Alejandra Madi holds a PhD in Economics and a MSc in Philosophy. She is currently Chair of the World Economics Association Conferences, Editor of the World Economics Association Pedagogy Blog and Assistant Editor of the International Journal of Pluralism and Economics Education. She is also Director of the Ordem dos Economistas do Brasil and Counselor of the Conselho Regional dos Economistas do Brasil-SP. Former Professor at the University of Campinas, Brazil (1983-2012), her career includes visiting professorships at the University of Manitoba (2008) and the University of Kassel (2010) and she is also currently Avocational Lecturer at Steinbes University Berlin (2014-2016). More recently, she has co-edited some of the Green Economic Institute books, including The Greening of Global Finance, The Greening of Global Banking and The Greening of Latin America and the WEA book The Economics Curriculum: towards a radical reformulation. Her latest publications include Small Business in Brazil: competitive global challenges. Her research interests include finance, economic development and social justice.

My passion about green economics is based on its relevance to face the urgent need for an epistemological profound change in economic science. Green economics is about the consideration of different theoretical approaches aimed to the apprehension and understanding of the real-world. Besides, green economics is aware of the constant movement of construction, reconstruction and renewal of ideas and concepts. Time and space are not neglected as they shape the possibilities of observation, analysis and interpretation of the main economic issues that configure the societies where individuals live. Finally, I can say that the need for trans-disciplinary and interdisciplinary work is highlighted in the green economics approaches. Considering this background, I believe that the greens economists are “embedded economists”, that is to say, their thoughts and actions are embedded in their historical, political, social and cultural scenarios. That is why green economists reject the Cartesian approaches to ontology and epistemology. In other words, green economists reject the theorization of knowledge under some anthropocentric foundational model of rationality, complete order and truth. As a result, green economists have searched new linkages among theoretical approaches in order to open up new analytical perspectives in the understanding of contemporary capitalism.

My participation at COP 20 in Lima, Peru, was a very exciting experience. The scenario of the discussions held in the plenary sessions certainly revealed the political tensions between developed and developing countries, and between China and other developing countries. At the beginning of the last week of the COP 20, the co- chairs of the ADP presented a draft negotiation during a plenary session. There were pessimistic reactions from Bolivia, India, Algeria, Venezuela, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Nicaragua and China because these countries were concerned about the legal status of the draft. They also believed the draft was unbalanced and complained that the criteria for the selection of the proposals included was not clear. In fact, these countries had also deep doubts about how to move forward from this draft.

Global discussions also revealed the deleterious effects of the main features of contemporary capitalism. First, the commodification of natural resources is a feature of the long-run process of financial expansion characterized as the financialization of the capitalist economy where social vulnerabilities have increased - mainly in developing countries. Second, market deregulation opened up new energy investment patterns in a context where institutional investors have assumed an active role in the selection of high profit potential projects. Under the expansion of monopoly-capital, deep concerns have arisen, since energy policies and investments could pass down social and environment safeguards.

Considering this background, civil society’s engagement in UN multilateral conferences is key to ensuring positive and ambitious agreement amongst negotiators. At this respect, some of the side-events’ discussions addressed the practical ways that civil society can be involved through the activities of international non-governmental actors.

In the “side-events”, some relevant discussions about the challenges to fix the climate change could also be highlighted. First, there is the climate finance challenge as private actors are the main actors of the investment process while the governments lead the climate change negotiations. Second, there is the educational challenge both between children, young people and professionals to face the requirements to improve teaching practices towards the environment and disaster risk reduction. Third, there is the investment challenge of promoting a low carbon economy. The main problem does not seem to be technology, but the lack of suitable policies. Indeed, it seems to be a mismatch between the actions of the ministries of environment and the ministries of economy and finance all around the world.

Indeed, after the COP 20, I believe that the main questions to be deepened in future GEI discussions are: Is another economic pattern of development possible? Could alternative energy policies be implemented in the short-run as they could play a decisive role in sustainable economic growth? How can new energy policies be articulated to financial and social policies? Is China interested in building a strong partnership with other developing countries, so as to face climate change vulnerabilities? Is the USA moving toward changes in energy patterns?

In truth, there is a lack of articulation between governments and the private sector in order to promote changes in investment patterns and to face education challenges towards a green economy. Today, I am convinced that restructuring energy policies to face climate change require comprehensive solutions in order to include issues related to regulation and finance, technology and innovation, governance and politics, besides environment and social inclusion.

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