As Asian growth slows, a green push could pay - experts

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 14 Mar 2013 23:26 GMT
Author: Chelsea Diana
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By Chelsea Diana

LONDON (AlertNet) - As Asia moves away from export-led growth, the need to invest in green growth instead is key, panelists said at an Overseas Development Institute-held discussion.

But, who is green growth for and what implications does it have for both the public and private sector?

The answer is complicated, with some seeing “inclusive” green growth as a way to reduce poverty, while others see poverty reduction as the eventual result of an improved and more resilient economy.

ASIA IN CRISIS

Global financial crises have had a major impact on Asia, which has seen declines in exports and GDP growth. Masahiro Kawai, chief executive of the Asia Development Bank Institute, said inclusive green growth could help.

To cope with changing conditions, inter-regional trade has become more common in Asia, in particular incorporating developing countries such as India and Cambodia into supply chains.

With more countries involved in regional trade, green growth, specifically low-carbon growth, will be key to ensuring environmental stability, improvement of human health and pollution reductions, he said.

GREEN ECONOMICS

With environmental degradation and climate change making big impacts on the continent, one solution is to focus on the three pillars of green growth: environmental, economic and social, said Alex Bowen, a green growth research fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences.

To satisfy all three, innovation and green jobs must be the priority, he said.

At the moment, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore are at the top of worldwide green innovation, he said, but India and China have fallen behind.

Environmental policy initiatives and flexibility to try out new models could help, as could helping workers acquire needed skills.

COSTS AND BENEFITS

James Cameron, chairman of the board of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and chairman of Climate Change Capital, said the way the developed world views infrastructure must change to help developing countries, like those in Asia, adapt to climate change.

The perceived costs of “green” technology – and the belief that only the rich can afford it – are based on a misconception, he said. For poor people with no access to power, for instance, the payoff for investing in a solar power system is enormous despite the costs, while for a richer family that already enjoys a consistent power supply, the payoff of switching to solar is perceived to be less. That suggests green technology could be more enthusiastically adopted than expected.

So what incentives or pressures would push private companies to help achieve these green goals? Shelagh Whitley, an ODI researcher, said a mix of taxes, laws, licenses and education could work.

“Putting ourselves in a box” and focusing just on green growth is not the way to go, Whitley said. To be sustainable, changes – and economies – need to be looked at in a more holistic way, she said.

Chelsea Diana is an AlertNet Climate intern.