greenMexico, which is currently chairing the G20 group of major economies, wants to put “green growth” at the heart of any global economic recovery. Is this a cynical ploy to “greenwash” economic growth, or is it a genuine attempt to ensure the world leaves the crisis on a more sustainable trajectory? When we spoke to Debating Europe commenter Peter last week, he was willing to take Mexico at its word on greening the G20, but was slightly more sceptical about the concept of “sustainability”.

This is a point that Peter has made on Debating Europe before: if we accept that we live on a planet with finite resources, then no growth can be “sustainable” indefinitely. Eventually, we will reach the physical limits of our environment. On the other hand, Samo left a comment arguing that: “focusing our attention [on a] sustainable economy could not only end the eurozone crisis, but also make the EU the leading economy in the world.”

We had the opportunity to speak with Roberto Marino, Mexico’s Special Representative for its G20 Presidency, and we asked him whether he agreed with Peter or Samo.

Mr. Marino seems to very much agree with Samo on this point. He argued that:

[Green growth] is a complement to traditional sources of growth. It doesn’t go against growth, it’s making more efficient use of resources… When you use resources more efficiently, you increase productivity, when you increase productivity, you reach higher levels of growth and economic wellbeing.

We also had a comment from Enrique, who strongly disagreed with Mr. Marino’s position. Enrique argued that: “In a finite planet we cannot grow infinitely. In the face of growing scarcity of cheap resources… we must change the way the economy operates to extend the useful life of all material elements through mandatory legislation.” In other words, Enrique is arguing that the current legal and institutional framework will not be robust enough to force business and governments to behave more responsibly towards the environment. Will the G20, for example, really be able to pursue an aggressive “green growth” agenda, or do we need new international laws and institutions to cope with the scale of the challenge?

Mr. Marino’s answer was that, of course we need to “evolve” the international legal framework, but we don’t have time to wait for this to happen. We must work with what we have today, and make the best of the institutions and laws that already exist.

What do YOU think? Do you agree with Samo and Roberto Marino that “green growth” is the best way out of the economic crisis and onto a sustainable development paradigm? Or do you think that “green growth” is an oxymoron, and that governments have to choose between the environment or the economy? Finally, do you believe the G20 can really deliver on its promises? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – rollerkiller

8 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Nikolai Holmov

    Look East. Far East. Which nation has the fastest growing “green energy/recycling” economy? – China.

    China is positively leaving other nations standing when it comes to growth in all things “green” despite their still massive demand for traditional commodities.

    The answer to why the Chinese government is pushing this sector is the reliance on other nations for traditional commodities. In effect they see it as an eventual national security issue, knowing that all traditional things will ultimately be finite and self-sufficiency, as far as is possible, is the way forwards for the Chinese future.

    If there is a space in “green” on a global scale for the EU to become a world leader it is in R&D and innovation. How long that window will exist who knows? Once China changes its mindset from manufacturer and producer and purposefully enters innovation and R&D, that window for the EU in green innovation will slam shut as far as global dominance of the sector goes.

    It is not a question of “if” China takes this mental decision but rather a question of “when”.

    One has to suspect that when it becomes cheaper to manufacture and produce in Africa than China on a large scale, at that point (if not before) China will aggressively enter the innovation and R&D phase of its economic growth.

    Quite honestly, who would I put money on making this decision first and then implementing it most effectively between China and the EU? China.

    The growth of the EU economy, without serious restructuring, will not help the EU as far as every sovereign nation is concerned. The trade balances of the sovereign states will remain distorted. Germany would have to raise its wages by something close to 20% to make unit production costs the same in Germany as the peripheral states, or it has to face the prospect of continued subsidy of peripheral states.

    Any talk of EU economic growth must first come up with a solution that takes into account why Germany is so super-competitive compared to other EU nations.

    Greening the EU economy does nothing to address how to make the peripheral states as competitive as German economics and trade balances. Until the EU gets to grips with that there will be the same winners and losers in the EU economy whether it grows or not.

    Any major gain from such a greening comes in the form of EU energy security and reducing the reliance on others outside the block. As it is, Germany and Italy dumping nuclear will simply mean they buy nuclear produced energy from France or the Czech Republic instead.

    Bulgaria and France banning fracking will mean they buy additional gas requirements from others (not that I consider fracking in any shape or form “green”).

    Why does no politician ever address the “energy legacy” of R&D and green production? Every solar panel produced uses rare earths, silver, components etc all of which are designed, gathered, manufactured, transported and assembled by those using traditional methods. Every solar panel has an energy legacy far greater than the life-span of the solar panel. The solar panel simply doesn’t break even with such a massive “green deficit” from leaving the innovative traditionally powered computer screen to being assembled in a field.

    Now the cycle has to be broken somewhere that is true. However as yet there is no zero impact or positive impact production of anything “green” on an industrial scale. I hope the EU do set the standard in breaking this cycle. I don’t see them being able to compete with China or Africa when it comes to production of all things “green” but then aside from possibly India very few can.

    Will “greening” the EU solve the imbalances of the EU economy? Not as it is currently structured.

  2. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    In my opinion, yes, it can certainly help…It can not be the panacea for everything, but if we start investing and exploring this sector now, we will have a head start when compared with other regions…We have everything that we need in Europe..and we need to kick-start the economies of countries that are in crisis right now…so why not encourage them to invest in producing greener energy and the components that we are going to need for its exploitation..?? We need to diversify, shape up, reform and modernize our economies and the way we do business with each other and the world..and if in the future we are going to need more renewable energy anyway, then what is stopping us..??
    make the countries in crisis be Europe’s green energy production countries, give them this industry, and do not let everything be monopolized in Europe by a few rich states..their economies will blossom and that would be good for the whole more bail outs will be we can focus our attention (and money) in stabilizing the countries on the eastern continent, we could invest there and allow more states to join the rest of us…

    • avatar
      Leonardo Baggiani

      but what? economic policy eg. incentives to a certain industrial sector, be it fiscal advantages or contributions or direct government spending, is a source of bubbles (stop blaming witch-hunted and vague concept of speculation). All this babbling of “green-economy” too often sounds like mere lobbying, the EU should be aware of this.

  3. avatar
    Rui Duarte

    Green Growth is the only growth possible; and growth is fundamental for europa. I’ve seen a europe without economic growth and I don’t like it. It’s a racist europe. A europa with no place for the young, the old, the odd or the outsider. Europe can only be built under full employment: else it will be a racist fisco. 30 million unemployed in europe is a guarantee of racist policies that will undermine european union and deepen divisions. Therefore, economic growth is indisensible. The next model of growth will be GREEN; or else homo sapiens will become extinct.

  4. avatar

    There’s no thing such as “Green Growth”. All major economies in Europe are based on “Not So Green” foundation. This is just “star dust” blown in the eye of poorer members who might want to achieve energetic independence. Gas /Oil/Coal will always be cheaper and more reliable than any wind/solar/etc alternatives. Of course the “dealers” of “Green Technology” are based in countries that use extensively natural gas/crude oil/coal. Isn’t that just another hypocrisy ?

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