The other side of Durban: Green Growth

There are in fact two conferences going on in Durban: one is about the official UN negotiations on further international agreements on climate change. The other is a huge gathering of people exploring and showcasing things that are happening on the ground around the world. A theme that is attracting a lot of attention is Green Growth.

It is important to integrate climate change into the main policies on development, economic growth and job creation, as discussed in chapter 4 of Controlling Climate Change (see book contents section to download). For most nations these central economic issues are far more important than dealing with climate change. By starting from the development and economic growth side the question then is how these economic goals can be achieved, while also creating an economy that has low greenhouse gas emissions, is less vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and is efficient with its water, energy and other resources. This is green growth, and it’s necessary to confront climate change.

This idea replaces the traditional thinking of seeing climate change action as a threat to economic growth into a new paradigm in which climate change, environment and resource efficiency become fully integrated in economic policy as a way to secure future economic growth. This would avoid environmental and climate disasters and scarcity of water, energy or other resources damaging growth and development.. Many countries, but also cities, are beginning to apply this new thinking. In Durban there are many events where countries present their green growth or low carbon emissions development plans.

Some examples: China was showcasing its low carbon cities and provinces programme under which strategic plans are developed for 5 provinces and 8 cities to shift the economies of these cities and provinces to a low carbon trajectory. Korea has adopted a formal green growth strategy, personally overseen by the President. It also established a Global Green Growth Institute that is charged with assisting developing countries to do the same. Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru are developing low emissions development plans with assistance from various institutes and South Africa. This is an interesting example of South-South collaboration, made possible by the fact that South Africa did start developing its own plan years ago and has now issued a South African national climate change response strategy. In Africa also Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya and Rwanda are developing such plans. Follow this link to the Open Energy Info site to see an overview.

The official negotiations are in fact still based on the old paradigm (action in climate change is bad for the economy), which leads to an attitude of “you first”, “only if you act too” or to attempts to be exempted from action. The new paradigm is getting more and more support- particularly at the national level, but has not yet reached a critical mass to significantly influence the official negotiations. The hope is that the belief in and experience with Green Growth will increase and that at some point (which could be years away unfortunately) it will begin to dominate the thinking. At that moment it could lead to a very different negotiation dynamic. If Green Growth is beneficial to countries, they all want it and will seek cooperation to speed it up. That could really make a big difference.