Is Climate-smart development and economic Prosperity Mutually Exclusive?

Many in the Climate skeptic community have peddled the notion that climate-smart development and economic growth are mutually exclusive. And too often, this narrative has dominated mainstream climate change debate.

With governments at all levels often preoccupied with delivering jobs, stimulating their economies and spurring competition, it might look like environmental and economic prosperity are mutually exclusively.

Well, recently the World Bank produced a report debunking this notion. The report found that there are multiple benefits to agriculture, heath, employment, energy and GDP when policy and project designers pursue climate-smart development.

Two years ago as the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) attempted to shape the outcome of the Rio+20 Summit with an emphasis on green growth, it conducted global surveys of 17.000 consumers and thought leaders in 17 countries in the North and South. The surveys revealed significant shifts in global public opinion from what may be characterized as the ‘old economy’ and ‘new economy’.

Chris Coulter, President of GlobeScan, thought leader from a developing country was interviewed as part of the UNEP survey. He said "The degree to which people in developing countries believe that a Green Economy will lead to more and better jobs is remarkable. Old concerns about a tradeoff between environment and development do not seem to apply today.”

By wide margins, consumers worldwide said in the surveys that a green economy will be more effective than the traditional economy in protecting the environment by (70%), creating a better future for our children (68%), improving quality of life (61%) and addressing climate change (61%).

The recent World Bank and ClimateWorks Foundation study did not conduct a global survey as UNEP. But assessed multiple benefits in health, employment, energy and agriculture in seven case studies. Findings showed that there is significant additional value that is not always recognized in policy and project financial analysis.

In addition, the study provides an adaptable framework to capture and measure the multiple benefits of reducing emissions of several pollutants. The framework is particularly useful for project and policy designers wishing to adopt climate-smart approaches to development.

Now the question becomes: shall we see a shift in economic development that reflects the findings of this study especially in the next several months when the international community is expected to experience a huge change in its development architecture especially with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015?

The study does a good job of laying a compelling case for combining climate action with sustainable development and green growth.

Join the debate -- Do you think environmental and economic prosperity are mutually exclusive? 

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