How can we shift from an economic model that squanders the Greater Mekong’s natural capital to one that uses it as the foundation for inclusive, sustainable development?

The Greater Mekong is blessed with natural riches – from forests full of life to fertile floodplains and the world’s most valuable freshwater fishery. Its ecosystems provide people with vital services, like clean water, flood prevention and a stable climate.

But rapid development is depleting the region’s natural resources and degrading its landscapes, waters and biodiversity, leading to a loss of natural capital. As a result, the people of the Greater Mekong risk losing the many benefits that healthy ecosystems bring.


WWF’s Regional Green Economy Initiative

Everyone understands that it makes financial sense to invest your money wisely, rather than spending it all at once. Similarly, careful stewardship of natural capital brings long-term economic, social and environmental benefits that far outweigh the short-term financial gains from unsustainable exploitation.

Shifting to a green economy that recognizes the value of nature is crucial for millions of people in the Greater Mekong, now and in the future. To enable this, WWF is launching a green economy initiative that will expand incentives for people, governments and businesses to maintain, enrich and restore the region’s natural capital.

 rel= © Turner et al. 2011. Bioscience.

The map shows the economic value of the services and benefits provided by nature: the Greater Mekong is one of the places richest in natural capital.
© © WWF / Greg Funnell
Workers at the Hung Vuong factory and fish farms unload their live catch of pangasius.
© © WWF / Greg Funnell

Retail value of Mekong river fisheries estimated at more than US$4 billion a year 

Green economies for a better future
Our vision for the Greater Mekong is of an energy-secure region, resilient to climate change and economic shocks, where careful management of natural resources sustains and benefits everybody.
We want to see a thriving green economy that:

  • Safeguards natural capital and recognizes its role in creating economic value
  • Is low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive
  • Promotes equity and human well-being by providing, among other things, access to clean water, food and energy.
Realizing this vision will require a new development paradigm that promotes:

  • Natural capital as the foundation of sustainable development
  • Improved and more efficient management of the region’s interconnected ecological systems
  • Incentives to invest in building, restoring and protecting the region’s natural capital and ecological productivity.

Our goal

Our green economy strategy aims to spur a transformation in the way natural resources are managed across the region.

Our goals include:
• By 2020, decision-making maintains, enhances and rebuilds natural capital throughout the region.
• By 2015, at least three major decisions about land use and infrastructure affecting our priority landscapes maintain and ideally enhance natural capital.

Making green economies the “new normal”

To accelerate the shift toward green economies in the region, WWF is working with the six Greater Mekong countries (Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam) to:
• Develop strong policy and regulatory frameworks that enable sustainable natural capital management at all scales
• Build resilience to climate change by maintaining the region’s biologically diverse ecosystems.


Unlike conventional economic thinking, a green economy takes account of the value of nature and the services it provides. According to UNEP, “A green economy results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.”

A green economy is one where:
• Natural capital is maintained and restored
• Renewable energy and low-carbon technologies replace fossil fuels
• Resources and energy are used as efficiently as possible
• Urban living is more sustainable
• People use low-carbon forms of transport
• Nature’s resources and benefits are shared more fairly.

Third Green Economy Green Growth Forum

WWF supported Myanmar’s Green Economy Green Growth Forum ( Nov. 20-22, 2013 in Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon) – a gathering of some of the world’s leading experts on sustainable development that this year focused on the critically important nexus of energy, water and food.