Is carbon neutral green economy a myth?

Green Growth-1In an interesting paper of Environmental Justice, it was questioned that the vision or philosophy of carbon neutral economy or green economy is a myth.  The author of the discussion paper, Kevin Smith narrated that carbon offsets are the modern day indulgences, sold to an increasingly carbon conscious public to absolve their climate sins. The author further stated that if we dig out more, a disturbing picture emerges, where creative accountancy and elaborate shell games cover up the impossibility of verifying genuine climate change benefits, and where communities in the South often have little choice as offset projects are inflicted on them. This discussion paper argues that offsets place disproportionate emphasis on individual lifestyles and carbon footprints, distracting attention from the wider, systemic changes and collective political action that needs to be taken to tackle climate change. Promoting more effective and empowering approaches involves moving away from the marketing gimmicks, celebrity endorsements, technological quick fixes, and the North/South exploitation that the carbon offsets industry embodies[1].

But in reality the picture of carbon neutrality and green economy is not bad, rather encouraging; thanks to the leadership of market leaders like Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) , which has been relentlessly working with the belief that economic growth and environmental sustainability shall go hand in hand and its integration is essential for the future of humankind. This fundamental vision of GGGI continues to inform and inspire its enduring commitment to the future – a resilient world where one can envisage growth to be strong, inclusive, and sustainable.

A few instances to demonstrate that carbon neutrality and green economic growth is a reality; one may like to go through the well-developed report on ‘Green Growth in Practice: Lessons from Country Experiences’. The report has convincingly described with evidences and rationale that carbon neutrality can be a part of the vision of a nation’s economic planning as well as it can be accelerate the economic growth engine of a nation with timely, cost effective and sustainable investment planning (resources and activities), delivery (implementation) and strong adherence to accountability (post-delivery ownership). Indeed, these principles are reflected in the Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) Strategy.

The strategy considers synergies between economic development, poverty reduction, climate change mitigation and resilience across all sectors of the economy, considering agriculture, energy and water as key sectors. In agriculture benefits include increased productivity, enhanced food security, jobs and stability of export income (through crop diversification). In energy and water compelling benefits come from expanding energy access and security and reducing economic and social vulnerability. At the same time, Ethiopia has to manage trade-offs in making policy decisions to improve the lives of the rural poor such as between forest conservation and increasing land for agricultural production. Possible solutions for managing these trade-offs are increasing the productivity of agriculture and providing economic incentives for forest preservation.  Ethiopia’s main framework for green growth focuses on how climate change resilience and greenhouse gas mitigation is crucial to achieving its economic and social goals of becoming a middle-income country by 2025.

The progress in Ethiopia on green economy development is impressive; for instance, the investment framework is in practice, investment and delivery plans for agriculture and climate resilience are developed and put in practices; and an effective results and knowledge development pathways for measuring results and impacts are also in the process of development. Hence, it will be naive to jump into a conclusion that carbon neutral green economy is a myth, rather we may conclude that it is complex, multi-dimensional and multi-sectorial, which needs critical, systemic thought process and a robust system to translate the systemic, contextualized delivery plans into real actions. And, this is the unique value proposition of market leaders like GGGI, who drives and commits itself in this mission!

Keshav C Das

Addis Ababa, May 17, 2015

[1] Red the full paper here: http://www.tni.org/sites/www.tni.org/archives/reports/ctw/carbon_neutral_myth.pdf

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