Is green capitalism a solution to climate change?

is green capitalism is the solution for climate change

Climate change has achieved global status with its outrageous consequences and has gathered wholesome attention towards its existence. It has initiated debates on the macro-level – UNO summits on climate change – and micro-level – a discussion or dilemma in the minds of laypeople. The attention hasn’t been in vain; instead, it has given birth to policy orientation for climate change, which has two layers: the responsibility of the state to encounter the environment’s devastating activities and awareness of individuals about the protection of ecology.  

Read: Gendering Climate Change

Different nations have adopted strategies to deal with the climate crisis. Pakistan has witnessed the impact of the climate crisis in the shape of heatwaves, floods, and intense weather, but it has developed a policy orientation to contribute to tackling the crisis even at the international level. According to a CityTalk report, Pakistan has aimed to shift 60% to renewable energy and 30% to electric vehicles to mitigate the crisis. Pakistan has also focused on adapting agricultural technologies, urban infrastructure, and the water sector. Furthermore, it has focused on rural development and careful utilization of natural resources. With the help of international organizations, as the climate change profile delineates, Pakistan has initiated different projects to save the environment and make the state more sustainable. 

Over the period, the state is shifting its responsibility to individuals and making individuals eco-friendly. An individual is equally responsible for the ecological damages and is similarly accountable for mitigating the climate crisis by using eco-friendly things, buying environmentally friendly stuff, and promoting greenish beauty. In this rabbit and turtle race, the state enters a sense of denial while transferring the responsibility to individuals.

The thought, which is becoming a perspective, that individuals can contribute to the climate crisis more than the state has two underlying premises: the escapist tactic of the state and the promotion of green capitalism. Though states have played a crucial role in developing policies and have significantly contributed to the crisis with procedural elements, shifting responsibility to the individual is a form of escapism. On the broader picture, state-run machinery, deforestation for industrial gains, and a corporate set-up have badly impacted the environment. 

The other premise, which is the core argument of the debate, is that individual acts promoting a green, safe, and sustainable environment lead toward green capitalism. Let’s overview the definition of green capitalism; it promotes ecologically suitable stuff, enhances the consumerism of green-oriented things, and reduces the less sustainable materials from the market.    

It raises a few questions. How can this consumerism lead to green capitalism? If it leads toward the green-capitalism, what is the problem? Is it not a solution to the crisis?

These are the questions we encounter while discussing the debate of green capitalism. To Answer the first question, tiny individual acts of buying make the profit-orientated marketplace, referred to as capitalism. The phenomenon of buying is known as consumerism. So, establishing consumerism based on an ecologically friendly perception will lead to green capitalism.

It leads to the next question about the problem of green capitalism. In its substantive form, capitalism still needs to do better for the environment. In her book Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein argues that capitalist activities, free market fundamentalism, and a perception of endless growth have deteriorated the climate on Earth. Furthermore, the constant pursuit of profit and market-driven elements has caused ecological disasters and environmental inequalities. When capitalism, in its original form, has not been contributing to crisis, how can we expect eco-consumerism-led green capitalism to benefit from the climate crisis?

Moreover, popular culture and media have started to create fragments of hyper-reality. Eco-friendly advertisements and movies focus on the crisis and posit the solution as a slogan of eco-consumerism leading to green capitalism. These streams of hyper-realities construct an image of eco-piety in the minds of individuals, as Sarah Taylor argued in her book ecopiety. It works in both ways: to give governments a reason to shift the responsibility to individuals, which is a way of escapism, and to give opportunity to corporations to promote consumerism.

Climate change is a serious problem. We have faced the consequences in the form of COVID-19, floods, and intense weather. It is a time to focus on the crisis and find ways to mitigate it; otherwise, environmental lead disasters would become the fate of humanity. Capitalism, green capitalism, eco-consumerism, and shifting responsibilities to the individuals are not the solution. We can deal with the crisis through a robust form of democracy, empowering the communities and relying on climate justice. The crisis needs a policy orientation to address the communities and eliminate climate injustice.           

Read: Ecofeminism

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Jamal Nasir, a research associate at the Institute of Social and Cultural Studies, also serves as an editorial board member at Folio Books. He also contributes articles to and