The Green Economy in the G-20: New research

Photo © Sergiu Bacioiu

Climate change, the focus of the 19th Conference of Parties (COP19) underway in Poland from 11 to 22 November 2013, is one challenge that requires a truly global response that encompasses environmental, social and economic issues.

Reflecting this the term “green economy” has seen an upsurge in interest globally and SAIIA’s Economic Diplomacy Programme is undertaking new research in this area, especially since the issue was placed on the Group of 20 (G-20) agenda in 2012.

The new research will interrogate the outcomes of the 2012 summit, held in Mexico, in areas of energy efficiency, poverty eradication, youth employment, trade and reduction in inequality in the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) group of countries.

The G-20 represents 85% of the world’s output and world trade, and two-thirds of the world’s population. With its substantial economic power, this leading forum for global economic cooperation aims to drive the world economy on a growth path that is socially inclusive, sensitive towards the environment, and pro-poor.

However, despite its size and economic capabilities, the G-20 has failed to translate its rhetorical commitment to green growth and sustainable development into practice.

Hastening the development and diffusion of new low-carbon technologies worldwide is central to lessening carbon emissions. However, there are no rules of engagement concerning how to achieve green growth, nor are there clear guidelines on what are appropriate policies to implement it.

The debate is complicated by the fact that energy-efficient technologies are being developed in industrialised countries, whereas they are urgently required to mitigate carbon emissions in fast-growing emerging economies, like Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – the BRICS countries. Global diffusion of these technologies will require considerable policy and economic manoeuvres, since developing countries are unwilling to bear the financial costs associated with their adoption, while the inventor firms in industrialized countries are reluctant to sign over their intellectual property rights.

What are the challenges that the BRICS countries contend with in reorienting their economies towards a low-carbon growth trajectory? What kind of trade-offs have to be made? Do they have the capacities to undertake this structural change?

Three new SAIIA Occasional Papers address these questions in relation to China, India and Brazil.