Multiple environmental crises facing the planet today such as climate change and dwindling resources send a clear message to the global community: “Business-as-usual” ways of production and consumption are no longer acceptable.
The good news is, there is no shortage of ideas to halt global warming and conserve resources. Frequently-cited solutions include replacing oil, coal, and gas with renewable wind, solar, and hydropower; integrating more public transport into cities; and reducing the private sector’s carbon footprint.
Delivering these solutions, however, will require massive investments in new technologies and infrastructure, as well as policy measures which promote efficient, low-carbon practices.
Critics say this transition to a low-carbon economy is a prohibitively expensive venture. But for others, the need to reduce emissions represents new opportunities for business growth.
This strategy of aligning climate mitigation and economic progress goes by many names—green economy, climate prosperity, and green growth, among others.
As Yvo de Boer, director general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)—a Seoul-based international organisation promoting green growth in emerging economies—notes in a recent interview, “sustainability is an opportunity for growth through innovation”.
Green growth strategies not only boost the development of technological solutions which countries can export, but they also help countries and organisations save on energy, water, and raw material costs by promoting greater resource efficiency, notes de Boer. The value of sustainability to a company’s brand image is yet another benefit, he adds.
Also the former chief of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, de Boer dismisses claims that environmental action is expensive as a misconception arising from a failure to understand the hidden costs of unsustainable practices.
“Sure, coal is cheaper than natural gas or renewables,” he says. “But if you factor in the healthcare spending on pollution-related ailments and premature deaths, coal is actually very expensive to society”.