Global interest in the 'green economy' has heightened since 2008, and this article contributes to these discussions by elaborating on (a) four alternative, and sometimes competing, discourses of the green economy, and (b) the particular politics of the green economy in South Africa. Most research on the green economy tends to focus on European and North American countries, however in the context of a changing global economy and the 'rise of the South' the politics of the green economy in countries like South Africa is of increasing importance. South Africa faces many challenges in pursuing a transition to a more sustainable development path, yet has been cited as a global green economy leader. This article argues that this is related to the particular discourse of 'green growth' which is dominant in South Africa, and proposes two significant lines of critique of this discourse. The first cautions that commitment to the green economy may not be particularly deep-rooted, sustained or coherent; and the second highlights some of the more troubling political implications of the type of green growth advocated, even if it were to be pursued with more determination. With this in mind, it is important to consider whether transitions to a green economy might produce new power relations of inequality and injustice, just as the industrial revolution helped produce today's deeply unequal world. © 2014 South African Association of Political Studies.