26 August 2013

Alpbach session addresses stagnation of green growth

IIASA experts participated in panels at the European Forum Alpbach today focusing on the complex issues around green growth and global development.

Pavel kabat at Alpbach ©Luiza Puiu, Forum Alpbach

Pavel kabat at Alpbach ©Luiza Puiu, Forum Alpbach

The panel for the morning plenary session included IIASA Director and Chief Executive Officer Prof. Dr. Pavel Kabat, Earth Institute Director Jeffrey D. Sachs, Honorary Executive Director of the Energy and Resources Institute Leena Srivastava, and Climate Group Greater China Director Changhua Wu. The group discussed how to address the many challenges around the issue of green growth and how the concept ties into sustainable development.

“Green growth, as it is currently understood, is in a state of stagnation,” said Kabat during his opening remarks. What is needed, he said, is a change in thinking that brings cross-sectoral systems thinking to the problem. “We need a new paradigm for green growth – a positive narrative. And along with that a new generation of partnerships to support sustainable development goals, including academia, business, government, and civil society,” Kabat said.

Wu noted that current international governance structures may not be enough to spur green development in developing countries, since these economies will drive future growth, but are also vulnerable to the effects of climate change and pollution.

From left, IIASA Director and Chief Executive Officer Prof. Dr. Pavel Kabat, Climate Group Greater China Director Changhua Wu, Earth Institute Director Jeffrey D. Sachs, and Honorary Executive Director of the Energy and Resources Institute Leena Srivastava. Credit: Forum Alpbach

Sachs noted that we have already surpassed planetary boundaries on ecosystem destruction, climate change, and other earth systems including ocean health. “A shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources is feasible—but the world is not geared towards doing it,” said Sachs. “There is a complete disjunction between need and politics right now. And we don’t have the analysis that we need to make good decisions. However, organizations like IIASA are taking the lead in doing the required type of analysis.”

Srivastava described efforts to improve energy efficiency and access in India. But with huge proportions of the population without access to energy or financial services, she said, the changes to the economy must include a push towards greater education. She said, “We need to be careful we don’t repeat the same mistakes of the past.”

Solutions for development

A follow-up session took place this afternoon where Kabat and Wu joined IIASA experts Michael Obersteiner, David McCollum and Roberto Sanchez-Rodriguez to discuss how an integrated approach can help solve the complex problems associated with development. The panel gave specific examples to show how interdisciplinary knowledge can help lead to specific solutions.

For example, Obersteiner pointed to the case of deforestation in Brazil, in which the government cut deforestation to just 20% of previous rates and also talked about how the Norwegian government made investments based on compensation for avoiding deforestation and simultaneous work with consumer associations.

He said, “There are two arguments, one is to keep things simple and focus on carbon and deforestation, while the other argument is take land use into account. But the policies need to be addressed together; otherwise separate policies will not be integrated.”

Wu demonstrated four cases which illustrated international thinking and the integrated approach, and stressed the importance for a multilateral mechanism, across national local and sector levels which need to include political leaders, business leaders and civil society. And Kabat gave a summary of the IIASA-coordinated Global Energy Assessment (GEA), and the pathways that were developed that could achieve the sustainable energy goals for all objectives.

Participants then were given the opportunity to discuss in breakout groups, and McCollum demonstrated one of the tools developed as part of the GEA.

IIASA experts Prof. Dr. Pavel Kabat, Micheal Obersteiner, and David McCollum participated in the afternoon breakout session on development. Credit: Forum Alpbach

More from Alpbach

Sessions continue all week, with IIASA participation in closing sessions on Saturday, 31 August. For more information see the IIASA web page: European Forum Alpbach.

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Last edited: 25 February 2014

Event Information

European Forum Alpbach

12 Aug 2013 - 31 Aug 2013

Tweets from the session

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313