Risk governance to support policy transitions: "Green growth" strategies are an oxymoron

Risk, Policy and Vulnerability (RPV) research has found the term "green growth" to be something of an oxymoron, as there is not much evidence to date of wide-scale decoupling of GDP from carbon-intensive energy use.

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Green Growth

Green economic growth discourses are increasingly replacing the catchword of "sustainable development"  in national and international policy circles. According to the green growth argument, modern economies can enjoy sustained or even augmented green growth, as policy intervention simultaneously ensures sustained environmental stewardship and improved social outcomes. 

RPV research focused on climate mitigation policy. The researchers [1] found that these claims for green growth are not well supported by economic theory, evidence, and applied modeling. When judged against the evidence, green growth is something of an oxymoron, as to date there has been little evidence of substantial decoupling of GDP from carbon-intensive energy use on a wide scale. 

In addition, the researchers argue that orthodox economic equilibrium and optimization thinking offer, in effect, little support to green growth claims as well as insufficiently meaningful interpretations of what actually constitutes green growth.  

Several exciting strands of new economic thinking (such as non-optimizing, econometric-based simulation models) are emerging. These offer a more robust and empirically validated understanding. They also show more promise in terms of capturing socioeconomic system dynamics and the importance of the role of macroeconomic policies for sustainability governance.  

In this new discourse, considerations of the quality of growth, equity concerns, and beyond-growth dimensions are important for delivering improved macroeconomic governance for sustainability.


[1] Scrieciu S, Rezai A, Mechler R (2012) On the economic foundations of green growth discourses: The case of climate change mitigation and macroeconomic dynamics in economic modeling. WIREs Energy and Environment 2(3).

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Last edited: 22 May 2014


Reinhard Mechler

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