Building a new green growth path

CATEGORY: Economic Performance and Development
DATE: 17 November 2011

Building a new green growth path

In their approach to COP17, governments need to see the environment not in conflict with economic growth, but as a means of boosting jobs and livelihoods. A positive 'green growth' agenda can help to revive the global economy from its current malaise by using environmental activities to create new, sustainable economic opportunities, says Professor Ivan Turok, deputy executive director of the Economic Performance and Development programme at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).

Turok has just been awarded a R3.5 million grant by the National Research Foundation for a three-year study to develop ways of combining environmental and economic benefits in order to cut poverty and create more resilient towns and cities. It will explore how economic development can be compatible with environmental sustainability, and generate the income and jobs South Africa needs. He says it is vital for the environmental agenda to move beyond biodiversity conservation and resource efficiency if it is to capture the public imagination and gain high level political support. 'It must address the country's biggest social hazard – unemployment.

Examples of green growth include the conversion of household and industry wastes into energy generation, green building design and retrofitting, improving the energy efficiency of housing, shifting from private to public transport, managing and restoring ecosystems, and local food production.

'The benefits of the green economy are most apparent at the local level within cities because of their large share of population and activity. Cities account for 75% of energy consumption and carbon emissions. Concentrations of urban unemployment cause social hardship and disaffection. So there are big incentives and opportunities to link environmental and economic action at this scale', Turok says.

Cities are also the places with the strongest institutional capabilities to develop complementary solutions, and to help the workforce adapt to green jobs through education and training. The study will:

    •    analyse the enabling conditions for green growth,
    •    assess the obstacles to progress that policy needs to address,
    •    develop a diagnostic tool for measuring improvements,
    •    evaluate the experience of recent green growth initiatives, and
    •    devise practical guidelines to help the transition to a cleaner and more inclusive economy.

Capacity building is another important feature of the study. A total of five postgraduate students and researchers will be recruited and trained over the lifespan of the project.

For further information or interviews, contact Professor Ivan Turok, deputy executive director, Economic Performance and Development research programme, HSRC, Tel: 021 466 7866, Cell phone: 082 735 4078, E-mail: iturok@hsrc.ac.za.