Green Growth: An Imperative of Economic Development

By Samans, Richard | International Trade Forum, January-March 2012 | Go to article overview

Green Growth: An Imperative of Economic Development


Samans, Richard, International Trade Forum


As the world recovers from the economic downturn that followed the 2008 financial crisis, it has become clear that industrial development models created in the past are increasingly unsustainable, both economically and environmentally. Economic progress and population growth, particularly in developing countries, have compounded the already enormous strain developed economies have put on the world's natural resources and ecosystems. This has increased global commodity prices and stressed the environment and supply of natural resources, stymieing growth. The world needs to embrace a new economic growth paradigm, green growth, if emerging economies are to expand and prosper and developed countries are to maintain high standards of living.

Put simply, green growth is a development model that does not view the concepts of economic growth and environmental sustainability as separate and distinct. All too often, development planners both in government and in the private sector view environmental protection as an obstacle to economic modernization or, at best, a luxury for nations that have passed through the industrialization phase of development. Conversely, environmental activists and climate change experts see market forces as the primary drivers of ecological degradation and destruction. These opposing views have been counter-productive and have impeded progress on both fronts. Green growth attempts to integrate key aspects of economic performance, such as poverty reduction, job creation and social inclusion, with those of environmental performance, such as the mitigation of climate change and biodiversity loss, and access to clean water and energy.

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Political will and technological breakthroughs have made it possible for emerging economies to skip the dirty stages of development that marked much of the 20th century and for developed countries to green their economies more rapidly. Through partnerships between governments, local and international institutions, and private players, numerous countries around the world are forming green growth policies. For instance, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) has partnered with the governments of Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and the United Arab Emirates as well as a multitude of local and international organizations to assist countries in developing broad national green growth programmes tailored to meet specific national and local needs.

Clearly defining and measuring green growth outcomes and successes is an ongoing and fluid process, and depends significantly on local conditions on the ground. In broad terms, the GGGI tends to measure success in terms of the implementation and continuation of green growth plans (GGPs), not only the level of commitment from partner governments and institutions and the number of stakeholders in the process, but also the degree to which the GGP is institutionalized at local and national levels, the internal capacity it has built, its development and diffusion of suitable green technology, and the level of financing it has received.

A real world example of this is GGGI's work in Ethiopia, one of the largest African countries in terms of population, with 88 million people and growth at over 3% per year. It has a diverse geography with a wide variety of climate zones and soil conditions. In recent years, the country has experienced rapid economic growth, and despite many challenges it has demonstrated significant capacity for further economic expansion. …

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