Sustainable Cities and Communities

Living Edition
| Editors: Walter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Luciana Brandli, Pinar Gökcin Özuyar, Tony Wall

Green Economy and the Transition to Sustainable Development

  • Julia SwartEmail author
  • Loek Groot
Living reference work entry



The United Nations (UNEP 2011) defines a green economy as “one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities” (p. 9). Furthermore, a green economy has three main characteristics: (i) it is low carbon; (ii) it is resource efficient; and (iii) it is socially inclusive. In a more extensive definition, we could add that a green economy encompasses:
  • Internalization of negative externalities associated with pollution

  • Internalization of positive externalities associated with environmental conservation

  • Substitution away from unsustainable consumption, production, and energy sources

  • Efficiency gains in the use of natural resources and less waste generation

  • Investment in green sectors

  • Creation of green jobs


The term green economy and the term sustainable development are often used interchangeably as an...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Utrecht School of EconomicsUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

Section editors and affiliations

  • Erin A. Hopkins
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Apparel, Housing and Resource ManagementVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA