What’s Next for Green Growth?

, October 2012

 

For a long time, international climate negotiations have been viewed as the cornerstone of global efforts to both curb climate change and support green growth. But the assumptions that launched the negotiations 20 years ago no longer hold true. New economies have grown in size and standing; they are no longer interested in following, but in leading. This is reflected on the ground as negotiations fail to make progress at the scale and pace that the climate challenge requires.

Despite lackluster progress towards a global accord, there are bright spots all over the world. Emerging nations such as China, Brazil, Indonesia, and India have been working seriously to explore the transition to clean economies. Many developed nations have taken a leadership role in reducing emissions or pursuing clean energy, are exploring innovative policies, and are supporting efforts of developing nations.

If we pay attention and learn from these bright spots, we may find that there are productive opportunities to advance our goals, and that in fact, there may be opportunities to reframe negotiations to build from these efforts.

At CPI we see three important ways to advance the next phase of green growth. And as an organization dedicated to finding and fast-tracking effective climate policies, we’re supporting all three around the world:

New models of climate finance are essential. 

New economies have grown in size and standing and are empowered by the public spending that comes with fast economic growth. These new players are increasingly implementing their own policies and blazing the path that any international accord will ultimately reflect. However, these countries remain committed to different models of finance than those the U.S. and E.U. followed for development.

Examples of these new models already dot the horizon: the efforts of Brazil and Indonesia toward green development of their forests, with support from the government of Norway; China’s reinforcement of local governments’ low-carbon city initiatives; the Green Climate Fund and other attempts to expand green finance. CPI is examining these efforts around the world to understand which are working and which are not, and to help others learn, replicate and scale up effective models.

Improved productivity will lead to greater prosperity and a healthier environment. 

Policymakers around the world have the same big picture goals: prosperity and health for their people. But prosperity and health are not possible if the planet isn’t livable. In fact, the pressures on the economy from environmental issues are higher than they’ve ever been. The global middle class has grown and will continue to grow. Three billion more middle-class consumers in 2030 will demand more food and fuel. As a result, prices for food, commodities, and fuel have risen and will continue to rise.

While many nations struggle to balance growth and a healthy environment, they can get closer to both goals by significantly increasing the productivity of natural capital. In the next stage of development, using resources like land and energy more efficiently will become a principal driver of competitive advantage. Therefore, nations must look for places where productivity can improve and advance these efforts, and we must replicate successes quickly across the globe. CPI’s work on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and land use supports this effort.

Supporting innovation is the next big challenge.

Today’s economic reality means that climate change policy must accelerate innovation in how we use land and produce energy. As we’ve seen in the information and mobile technology sectors, such innovation must be supported by public policy that drives research and provides needed infrastructure, entrepreneurial companies that bet their future on innovative products, and unconventional forms of finance that take on the risks inherent in these ventures. Aligning these necessary conditions for innovation is the next big challenge for every nation. CPI is supporting nations’ efforts to accelerate innovation, through our analysis of renewable energy policies and finance.

Successful international climate negotiations will be those that reflect today’s realities and tomorrow’s needs. If we acknowledge these realities and embrace new opportunities, we will discover not just a reinvigorated framework for curbing climate change, but one that provides development opportunities for all nations.

 

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