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Putting green growth at the heart of development

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4 June 2013
Research

Jan Corfee-Morlot, Senior Policy Analyst and Environment and Development Team Leader, OECD Development Co-operation Directorate, shares her insights on the OECD's recent publication "Putting Green Growth at the Heard of Development."

The rapid pace of development in many developing countries raises the stakes for investments in development, but also begs reflection on the patterns or types of growth that are appropriate for a particular country context. Putting Green Growth at the Heart of Development is a new OECD publication. It explains why green growth is vital to secure a more sustainable future for developing countries and outlines how national and international action can help achieve this.

Green growth does not replace sustainable development, but is a key means to achieving it. Developing economies are highly dependent on natural resources and also highly vulnerable to resource scarcity and environmental risk. By integrating the value of natural assets into the growth model, green growth policies can deliver a range of developmental and environmental benefits. If policies are designed to respond to the needs of the poorest, green growth also can contribute to poverty reduction and social equity.

Based on in-depth consultations and engagement with a range of developing countries, this book brings to light 74 policies and measures from 37 countries as well as 5 regional initiatives that target green growth. Examples range from Cambodia to Ethiopia’s efforts to integrate green growth in national development plans, to China and Cameroon’s use of taxation policies to sustain the use of natural resources, or Indonesia and Ghana’s efforts to  boost government resources for priority issues and improve the incentives for clean energy investment through reform of fossil fuel subsidies. The large number of examples demonstrate growing interest and experience in developing countries with green growth policies. 

The report responds to many of the concerns and questions we often hear about green growth, for instance:  How do we manage the costs of implementing green growth? How do we make green growth and trade work together?

I’m sure that choosing a greener pathway for economic growth will generate up-front costs for some developing economies in the short term, whether to build better infrastructure or to put in place a system to limit over-harvesting of forests or fisheries. Balancing difficult short-term trade-offs with longer-term benefits will be challenging as countries make choices to deliver a more stable and sustainable future. Despite these challenges, the many examples described in the report present a clear and hopeful message: green growth can generate both wealth and well-being for citizens of current and future generations.

Developing countries will need leadership to integrate environmental concerns into development plans and to take bold actions to reform policies. It will be important to secure and publicise some immediate gains, but also to educate and inform people about the risks of non-green development pathways and the need to manage these. Lasting institutional reforms will need to build engagement, be step-wise and emphasise the need to learn and adjust to achieve green growth over time.

Beyond the national policy agenda, international cooperation can provide essential support to developing countries in managing a transition to green growth. Financing green infrastructure, strengthening access to international markets, boosting trade in green products and services, and promoting technological transfer and cooperation are key.

Highlighting both the opportunities and challenges, the OECD Secretary General Gurría said: “Putting green growth at the heart of the development agenda requires real political leadership to instil change at international, national and local levels. Our report shows that green growth can offer new opportunities for developing countries. We are looking forward to working with governments and the development co-operation community to reap the benefits of a greener growth path for the well-being of the people in our partner countries.”

Green growth can help countries to benefit from greater efficiency and productivity in natural resource use, and from innovation and new markets. More importantly, if we do not green our act today, the development achieved so far could be significantly eroded and future growth potential seriously compromised. Green growth is not an option – it is a must-do for delivering sustainable development and global security for all.

For more information on OECD work on green growth and development, see:
www.oecd.org/DAC/greengrowth

Themes: 
Development
Countries: 
Cambodia, Ethiopia
Senior Policy Analyst and Environment and Development Team Leader, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development