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Towards a green growth strategy

3 March 2011
by Guest author

Click to go to workshop web page

Last month, Nathalie Girouard, the OECD Green Growth Strategy Coordinator, gave us an overview of the issues to be discussed at the Green Growth Strategy Workshop. We asked her to tell us about the discussions and the next steps towards defining the strategy.

Who came to the workshop?

The response to our invitation was very positive, regarding both the number of people and their backgrounds. We had over four hundred participants, from member and partner countries, government, civil society, academics and other experts.

It was particularly encouraging to see that green growth isn’t just seen as an “environment” issue. In fact, around two-thirds of the government participants were from ministries other than the environment,  notably finance and economy agencies, but statistics, innovation, labour, development and others too.

With so many different perspectives, was it possible to agree on the main issues?

One of the aims of the workshop was to give participants the chance to test their ideas and compare their experiences, and with such a rich variety of contributors,  you wouldn’t expect agreement on everything. That said, the need to transition to greener growth was acknowledged as a core economic issue, requiring coordinated policy action by various different ministries.

There was broad agreement too that the potential of green growth is associated with new opportunities presented by innovation aimed at addressing environmental concerns, and more efficient use of resources.

It was interesting for us as authors of the synthesis report discussed at the workshop to see which areas participants thought we should focus on more, for instance, the distributional and social aspects associated with the transition to green growth. Similarly, there were suggestions as to how to strengthen the development dimension.

And although the key issues are much the same everywhere, a number of contributions stressed the fact that the actual strategies used to achieve green growth objectives, and the priorities of those strategies, would vary from one country to another. Developing countries may need a different policy mix from more advanced economies, for instance. 

On a more technical issue, the was general agreement on the approach to designing green growth indicators. For example, given that many indicators require linking environmental data to economic data, accounting frameworks have an important role to play, in particular the System of Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA) that is expected to help improve the coherence of underlying statistics.

What common elements should green growth strategies contain?

There was wide agreement that market-based instruments should be at the heart of implementing green growth strategies. For example, a recent OECD study documents how Sweden’s charge on NOx emissions led plants to introduce a variety of abatement measures depending on what was most fit – and least costly – in each context. At the same time, there was also a consensus that market-based instruments wouldn’t be enough on their own, plus the fact that there is still public resistance to paying energy or carbon taxes.

Non-technological innovation, including social innovation, was raised as an important component of a green growth strategy. Participants pointed to the need for organisational innovation, including in the public sector, changes in city planning, mobility patterns and work practices, amongst others. The role of the consumer was also highlighted by several delegates in this context. In addition, it was suggested that business-to-business demand (supply chain management).

What are the next steps?

The workshop was extremely useful in clarifying the broader picture, and now we’re looking at more detailed written comments. We’ll use this input to redraft the synthesis report and the two other reports we discussed at the workshop – one on indicators, one on food and agriculture.

The workshop was only one step. We’ll be presenting the final synthesis report to a meeting of OECD ministers in May. We’ll be producing a number of reports on different aspects too – on development for instance.

We don’t see this as a one-off exercise. We’re learning all the time and it’s probably more accurate to say that we’re working towards a green growth strategy at this stage and that our views will evolve thanks to the contributions of our partners.

Useful links

OECD work on green growth

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