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Towards a common approach on green growth indicators

MTACAGIThe Green Growth Knowledge Platform’s recent publication Moving towards a Common Approach on Green Growth Indicators proposes a set of headline indicators for monitoring and communicating progress on greening growth and a greener economy and an international agenda for action for taking these forward.

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The Green Growth Knowledge Platform (GGKP) aims to help countries design and implement policies to move towards a green economy, and to identify and address major knowledge gaps in the theory and practice of green growth. The GGKP emphasises a practical orientation for research and believes that the best policy can only emerge from close collaboration among scholars, practitioners, and policy makers.

The GGKP was founded by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the World Bank. The organisation also works with a number of knowledge partners active in areas related to green growth and green economy at the local, national, regional, and international levels.

Defining green growth and the green economy

The GGKP defines green growth as:

“​Green growth means fostering economic growth and development, while ensuring that natural assets continue to provide the resources and environmental services on which our well-being relies. It focuses on the synergies and trade-offs between the environmental and economic pillars of sustainable development. Importantly, green growth does not neglect the social pillar; on the contrary, without good governance, transparency, and equity, no transformative growth strategy can succeed.”
Green Growth Knowledge Platform website

The report states that by fusing sustainable development’s economic and environmental pillars into a single intellectual and policy planning process, green growth recasts the very essence of the development model so that it is capable of producing strong and sustainable growth simultaneously. The OECD has defined green growth as fostering economic growth and development, while ensuring that natural assets are used sustainably, and continuing to provide the resources and environmental services on which the growth and well-being rely (see Towards Green Growth: Monitoring Progress – OECD Indicators, OECD 2011). The World Bank has stated that green growth must be efficient in its use of natural resources, clean in that it minimises pollution and environmental impacts and resilient in that it accounts for natural hazards (see Inclusive Green Growth: The Pathway to Sustainable Development, World Bank 2012).

UNEP has previously defined a green economy aims for improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities (see In Towards a green economy: pathways to sustainable development and poverty eradication, UNEP 2011). The report asserts that the concept of green economy rests on the economy, the environment and the social pillars of sustainable development, while a broader concept of ‘inclusive’ green growth or sustainable development incorporates fully the social sustainability aspects, in particular enhancing human development and the conditions for the poor and vulnerable.

Measuring progress on green growth

The GGKP’s report represents a major effort by the partner organizations to ramp up efforts to establish a common basis for measuring green growth progress. It outlines how strong international cooperation on testing, exploring, and refining measurement tools on green growth and green economy is essential for supporting practical implementation and assessing progress of policies in both developed and developing countries.

The report stresses that greening growth and the move towards a green economy are complex and multidimensional, with green growth and the move to a green economy together entailing:

  • Pricing externalities and valuing natural assets for the long-run services they provide and pricing externalities
  • Innovation as a means of breaking with unsustainable growth paths
  • The creation and dissemination of new, more environmentally sustainable technologies, goods, and services
  • Sectoral shifts and changes in comparative advantage that inevitably imply winners and losers

Identifying relevant indicators to measure progress on such a complex and multi-dimensional change and is a challenging task.

The report proposes a “long list” of indicators selected from among the multitude of indicators that are currently used. But while a long list is necessary to monitor progress, it does not lend itself to easy communication or conclusions on whether progress is being achieved, so the report then explores a dashboard of headline indicators as proposed by the OECD:

  • Natural asset base
    • Index of natural resource use
    • Change in land use and coverage
  • Environmental and resource productivity / intensity
    • Carbon producivity
    • Non-energy material productivity
    • “Green” multi-factor productivity measure
  • Environmental quality of life
    • Population exposure to air pollution
  • Policies and opportunities
    • Indicator of environmental policies

While this proposal is at a preliminary stage, and indicators may be dropped, added, or adjusted, the report concludes that the proposed indicators constitute a concrete starting point in focusing the green growth measurement debate.

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