The existing powers of creativity and innovation within society offer opportunities for ‘green growth’. Mobilising this energetic society demands adjustment of the way national government thinks and acts. In its Trends Report, ‘The energetic society. In search of a governance philosophy for a clean economy’, the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency suggests how government could fill this new role.
Learning and stimulating
To combine economic growth and a pleasant environment, society needs to scale back its resource use and the ensuing pressures on the environment, by a factor of five. The challenge is to do more with less; something for which there is no instant solution. Innovation will be required and may be stimulated by a government that sets clear objectives. This involves a number of key elements, such as promoting a motivating perspective that would stimulate people, introducing dynamic regulations that reward innovation and remove restrictive rules, and being open to learning from society.
Don’t miss the boat
Hajer believes that green growth offers opportunities and may enhance the internationally competitive position of the Netherlands. ‘The old credo of “we’re all in the same boat”, has now become “don’t miss the boat”. Countries that manage resources in an efficient way will turn out to be less vulnerable. Ecologically responsible behaviour will become a matter of self-preservation.
The strength of society
A large group of citizens and businesses is willing to become actively involved in creating a pleasant environment. The PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency views this energetic society as an opportunity to tackle the issue of sustainability. ‘Citizens and the business community are motivated by their wish for a clean economy and a pleasant living environment. If we are to tap into the strength of this society, these actors must be involved themselves, and there is no shortage of front-runners,’ as PBL points out. ‘The distribution and marketing of good ideas is where innovation stalls. Government does not have a monopoly on wisdom when it comes to finding solutions to complex issues of sustainability. This task, in fact, is far too large to be tackled single-handedly.'
A change in behaviour
Therefore, the main focus must be on entrepreneurship and society’s learning abilities,’ Hajer feels. He also makes a case for digitalising sustainable ‘achievements’ of institutions and businesses. ‘Fast and continual feedback about behaviour and its consequences are of great value to society.’ The government may gain in effectiveness and legitimacy by approaching issues from a societal viewpoint. This calls for an in-depth look at the current government role. If politicians are serious about a clean economy, they must be prepared to also put non-sustainable patterns of production and consumption, such as old technologies, production processes, institutions and structures, up for discussion. Hajer: ‘Sustainable innovation creates prosperity in the long run, but will also hurt certain sectors.