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UNCTAD Discussion Paper Questions Green Growth Potential to Reduce GHG Emissions

UNCTADFebruary 2012: A discussion paper by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) argues that Green Growth based on enhanced material, resource and energy efficiency, as well as a drastic change in the energy mix will not lead to the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction necessary to avoid dangerous climate change.

The paper, titled “Some Reflections on Climate Change, Green Growth Illusions and Development Space,” shows that a number of growth and efficiency limits will prevent significant GHG emissions reductions through Green Growth strategies, including: slow reductions in carbon intensity of economic activity; a “rebound effect” by which increases in resource efficiency stimulate higher consumption; “outsourcing" of carbon emissions through international trade; technical and energetic limits to renewable energy expansion; abundance of coal resources; population growth; and persistence of western consumption patterns.

Furthermore, the paper suggests that governance constraints and systemic limits inherent in the current paradigm of economic growth will prevent the fundamental behavioral shifts necessary to achieve a drastic decarbonisation of the world economy while improving global equality and preserving development space for poor countries.

The report suggests targeted activities in specific sectors, such as: large scale transformation of the agricultural sector; renewable energy expansion in developing countries; improving energy efficiency in buildings and construction; and climate proofing ports and coastal infrastructures in developing countries. [Publication: Some Reflections on Climate Change, Green Growth Illusions and Development Space]