Why Now is a Great Time for Developing a Green Economy

There’s no doubt that Covid-19 has taken a human and socio-economic toll over the course of the last six months, with more than 10 million cases and 500,000 deaths recorded so far. However, the pandemic has always provided moments of hope and economy across the globe, from the boom in ecommerce and the rise of remote working to the unexpected 8% emissions reduction reported in the UK. These trends have also been impactful across the globe, and there’s no doubt that they have the potential to sustain significant and positive change into the future.

This is definitely the case when it comes to the environment, but is now really the ideal time for a developing a green and sustainable economy?

green-economy-coronavirus-pandemic

What is a Green Economy and Why Should the World Care?

Of course, the Covid-19 outbreak came on the back of global environmental protests by organisations such as Extinction Rebellion, which sought to drive radical change and introduce a green economy that would make the UK carbon neutral by 2025.

This was deemed to be incredibly ambitious by some commentators, although the current Conservative government has pledged to create a greener, carbon neutral economy by 2050.

OK, we hear you ask, but what exactly is a green economy? In simple terms, this refers to an economy that aims to actively reduce the environmental risks posed by business and wealth generation and ecological scarcities, while also driving sustainable development without degrading the environmental landscape.

While regulations and multilateral agreements such as the Paris Climate Change Agreements take care of the first element of this, it’s socially responsible investment that drives the second.

The best example of the latter exists in the form of investment in renewable technology, which is arguably the single most important dynamic for future infrastructure spending throughout the global community.

Can Covid Trigger Increased Green Technology Spending?

With this in mind, the importance of green economics and increased renewable technology spending is clear, while the sharp decline in emissions during the coronavirus outbreak has raised hopes that a green global economy may be on the horizon.

Green Finance

Remember, China was already emerging as the world’s leading investor in renewable technology prior to the outbreak, with a global report also highlighting the continuing decline of oil values as being indicative of a changing global landscape.

Of course, there’s some argument as to whether the record decline in oil prices is triggered primarily by an ongoing imbalance between supply and demand, while the recent fluctuations of the US dollar may also be influential.

Still, there’s no doubt that fossil fuel consumption is set to decline incrementally in the coming years, and this is definitely a factor when appraising the issues faced by oil of late.

Ultimately, these facts hint at a greener and more sustainable future, and it cannot be denied that most developed economies were investing in renewable energy sources at record levels prior to the pandemic.

The question that remains, of course, is to what degree the recent emissions reductions across the globe have been inspired by such changes? The answer is telling, particularly if it turns out the reduction in CO2 emissions over the course of the last two months was solely driven by the widespread lockdown measures that curbed road and air travel.

Regardless, now is clearly the ideal time to push a greener agenda and continue laying the foundations for a more sustainable future.

The Global Green Economy Index 2016 – Key Findings

green-economyThe 5th edition of the Global Green Economy Index (GGEI) is a data-driven analysis of how 80 countries perform in the global green economy, as well as how expert practitioners rank this performance. Since its launch in 2010, the GGEI has signaled which countries are making progress towards greener economies, and which ones are not. The comparison of national green performance and perceptions of it revealed through the GGEI framework is more important than ever today.

Top Performers

Sweden is again the top performing country in the 2016 GGEI, followed by the other “Nordics” and Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. Amidst these strong results, the GGEI identified areas where these countries can improve their green performance further. These opportunities – focused around innovation, green branding and carbon efficiency – could propel their national green performance forward even more in the future.

Developing countries in Africa and Latin America–including Ethiopia, Zambia, Brazil, and Costa Rica– also perform well in this new GGEI edition, ranking in the top fifteen for performance. While Brazil and Costa Rica receive similarly strong results on our perception survey, Ethiopia and Zambia do not, suggesting a need for better green branding and communications in these two African countries.

Like in 2014, Copenhagen is the top green city, followed by Stockholm, Vancouver, Oslo and Singapore. This new GGEI only collected perception values for green cities as lack of data availability continues to impede our efforts to develop a comprehensive green city performance index. Given the significant role of cities in the global green economy, city-level data development is an urgent priority.

Laggards

No country in Asia ranks well for performance on this new GGEI, with the exception of Cambodia, which was the most improved country as compared to the last edition, rising 22 spots to 20th overall. China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea do better on the perception side of the GGEI, but continue to register concerning performance results.

While many European Union (EU) members perform near the top of this GGEI edition, others including the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia rank near the bottom. These results are worrisome and suggest uneven national green performance across the EU.

Many of the countries with high annual GDP growth today rank poorly on the GGEI, further highlighting the limits to GDP as a growth indicator. These countries are mostly in Asia (Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines) and Africa (Nigeria, Tanzania).

The top green economy performers worldwide

The top green economy performers worldwide

Countries with a high reliance on fossil fuel extraction and export generally perform poorly on the GGEI, with a few exceptions. Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Russia all perform poorly while Norway and Canada do much better.

Continuing Trends

Rapidly growing economies, China and India continue to show performance weakness on the GGEI Markets & Investment dimension. Given the large investment required to achieve their climate targets, green investment promotion, cleantech innovation, and corporate sustainability should be developed further.

The United States ranks near the top of the GGEI perception survey and it is widely viewed as a vital market for green investment and innovation, yet overall the U.S. continues to have mediocre performance results, ranking 30th of the 80 countries covered. However, the GGEI found that U.S. company-level initiatives to green supply chains and reduce carbon footprints are accelerating.

Despite having a new prime minister, Australia continues to register a poor result on this new GGEI, ranking 55th of the 80 countries covered for performance. While green markets there are showing some strength, the overall carbon intensity of the Australian economy remains extremely high.

Hosting the annual Conference of Parties (COP) can positively impact the host country’s green brand. Yet this short-term image boost does not always translate to improved green performance in the longer-term, as demonstrated by the low GGEI performance results for Poland (COP19), Qatar (COP18) and South Africa (COP17).

The United Kingdom’s GGEI performance continues to lag behind its EU peers, ranking 25th of the 80 countries covered. While the UK does very well on both the perception and performance side of the Markets & Investment dimension, inconsistent policies supporting renewable energy and green growth continue to hurt the UK on other parts of the GGEI.

Note: The full report can be accessed here

Green SMEs: Catalyst for Green Economy

With ‘green’ being the buzzword across all industries, greening of the business sector and development of green skills has assumed greater importance all over the world. SMEs, startups and ecopreneurs are playing a vital role in the transition to a low-carbon economy by developing new green business models for different industrial sectors. Infact, young and small firms are emerging as main drivers of radical eco-innovation in the industrial and services sectors.

Green SMEs

What are Green SMEs

Green SMEs adopt green processes and/or those producing green goods using green production inputs. A judicious exploitation of techno-commercial opportunities and redevelopment of business models, often neglected by established companies, have been the major hallmarks of green SMEs.

For example, SMEs operating in eco-design, green architecture, renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainability are spearheading the transition to green economy across a wide range of industries. The path to green economy is achieved by making use of production, technology and management practices of green SMEs. Impact investment platforms allows individuals to invest in environmentally sustainable companies.

Categories of Green Industries

Environmental Protection Resource Management
Protection of ambient air Water management
Protection of climate Management of forest resources
Wastewater management Management of flora and fauna
Waste management Energy management
Noise and vibration abatement Management of minerals
Protection of biodiversity and landscape Eco-construction
Protection against radiation Natural resource management activities
Protection of soil, groundwater and surface water Eco-tourism
Environmental Monitoring and Instrumentation Organic agriculture
Research and Development Research and Development

Key Drivers

The key motivations for a green entrepreneur are to exploit the market opportunity and to promote environmental sustainability. A green business help in the implementation of innovative solutions, competes with established markets and creates new market niches. Green entrepreneurs are a role model for one and all as they combine environmental performance with market targets and profit outcomes, thus contributing to the expansion of green markets.

Some of the popular areas in which small green businesses have been historically successful are renewable energy production (solar, wind and biomass), smart metering, building retrofitting, hybrid cars and waste recycling.

As far as established green industries (such as waste management and wastewater treatment) are concerned, large companies tend to dominate, however SMEs and start-ups can make a mark if they can introduce innovative processes and systems. Eco-friendly transformation of existing practices is another attractive pathway for SMEs to participate in the green economy.

The Way Forward

Policy interventions for supporting green SMEs, especially in developing nations, are urgently required to overcome major barriers, including knowledge-sharing, raising environmental awareness, enhancing financial support, supporting skill development and skill formation, improving market access and implementing green taxation.

In recent decades, entrepreneurship in developing world has been increasing at a rapid pace which should be channeled towards addressing water, energy, environment and waste management challenges, thereby converting environmental constraints into business opportunities.