Green Growth in Practice Lessons from Country Experiences

Published: 25th May 2016 12:01Last Updated: 13th July 2016 11:46
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Green growth is becoming an attractive opportunity for countries around the world to achieve poverty reduction, environmental protection, resource efficiency and economic growth in an integrated way. Green growth strategies can generate policies and programs that deliver these goals simultaneously, and can accelerate investment in resource efficient technologies and new industries, while managing costs and risks to domestic taxpayers, businesses, communities and consumers.

Green growth strategies are, in part, a response to the serious risk now posed to the global economy by increasing pressure on the environment. Resource scarcity is increasing and water, land, biodiversity, and other natural resources have become degraded. Therefore, transforming economic activity to improve efficiency and management of natural resources is vital to the stability and sustainability of the future economy – a green economy. Reducing environmental liabilities and risks is critical as well. Pollution of the air, water and land, biodiversity losses, and climate-related hazards can endanger economic and social development if not proactively addressed. But this is not the only reason why green growth strategies are becoming increasingly popular among governments and reaching a new stage of maturity – green growth can unlock substantial economic, social and environmental benefits for societies and enable synergies between them.

Many of the stated benefits of green growth strategies are yet to be proven, but the findings presented here suggest that:

  • Green growth can enhance efficiency and productivity. Green, resource efficient technologies and practices often save resources and money compared to conventional alternatives. They enhance competitiveness over the long term, and sometimes in the short term.
  • Green growth can underpin industrial policy and macroeconomic goals. Growing demand for green technologies, products and services – domestically and internationally – offers countries opportunities for developing new industries and markets.
  • Green growth can improve quality of life and, if designed and implemented well, can address social equity issues. By reducing environmental degradation and conserving vital natural resources, governments can enhance the quality of life for citizens, especially the poor who are particularly vulnerable to natural resource limits and environmental damage.

While further evaluation of long-term impacts is required, there is emerging evidence that green growth works. Growing numbers of national and subnational governments in all regions are achieving results in implementing plans, policies, and programs that accelerate private sector green investment and changes in consumer behavior. These programs are most effective where they respond to trade-offs associated with green growth and invest in initiatives to mitigate the risks and costs of a transition to green development. Many of these and other countries have carried forward their visions into implementation programs that are achieving concrete results, while others are still at the early stages that have not yet realized impacts.

This report* is the first comprehensive international assessment of lessons from experiences of pursuing green growth across all levels of government and all regions. It engaged 75 authors in evaluating more than 60 programs around the world. The report focuses on nine interlinked elements that are commonly used by governments in green growth analysis, planning, implementation, and monitoring, as illustrated in Figure 1, below. These elements are not a linear, step-by-step process which has to be followed. Governments may choose different entry points or initiate several elements in parallel depending on the domestic context.

The authors identified specific good practices and lessons for each of these nine key elements. The report summarises these practices and provides lessons with supporting examples from countries, states and cities around the world.

*download the executive summary from the right-hand colum. The full report, executive summary and individual case assessments are available via the links under further resources.

Figure 1 from page 6 of the executive summary: Green growth topics addressed in the report

Effective practices for green growth

The effective practices for green growth are reiterated below. In the executive summary, key lessons, observations and/or the charactristics of successful approaches relevant to each lesson are described. The lessons are also presented alongside supporting case study examples and figures. The executive summary can be downloaded from the right-hand column, both the executive summary and full report can be viewed/downloaded via links under further resources. 

  1. Employ well designed planning and co-ordination processes: Planning processes driven by high level government leaders, with strong mandates and objectives, and which employ deliberate stakeholder engagement, sound institutional governance, and credible analysis are of utmost importance in establishing enduring green growth programs.

  2. Establish clear visions, targets, and baselines: Governments achieve greatest success when they define their green growth objectives in terms of a ‘vision’ for a desired end-state, at the end of an ambitious and long-term pathway of transformative change. This is usually accompanied by more concrete short and medium term goals related to economic growth, poverty reduction, employment, emission abatement, industrial growth, and natural resource protection. In many cases ‘business-as-usual’ scenarios are used as a baseline against which these stories about the future can be told. 

  3. Undertake robust analysis and balanced communication of the benefits of green growth: A green growth development pathway can offer a broad range of economic, environmental, and social benefits. Governments that are successful in pursuing green growth focus on leveraging the synergies between these three dimensions, while managing the trade-offs efficiently and seeking to facilitate transformational change, especially the de-coupling of growth from natural resource depletion and improving climate resilience. There is no uniform model of green growth, nor a set of universal aims or benefits. The appeal of green growth will be stronger in some countries than others and must be defined locally based on domestic preferences and circumstances. Governments need to conduct credible analysis of priority benefits to build a strong case for green growth and communicate these benefits in a comprehensive, robust and balanced way.

  4. Prioritize measures and technologies and construct credible pathways towards formulated targets: The selection of technologies and policies to achieve a desired outcome requires robust evaluation of options through consultative processes.

  5. Design portfolios of policies to address near-term development and longer-term green growth transformation goals and respond to specific market failures and political economy challenges: Governments pursuing green growth recognize the need for comprehensive and coherent policy reforms and developments to enable transformational change across the economy. Both economy-wide and sector-targeted policies are needed to achieve structural and behavioral change among consumers and producers and to mobilize private investment. These policies must address market failures, deal with political economy challenges, employ strong governance and enforcement regimes, and be integrated with other existing policies.

  6. Design public finance instruments to overcome barriers to mobilizing private investment into green growth sectors: Transition to green growth depends on large-scale shifts in capital mobilization. Successful financing strategies for green growth create the market conditions for these mostly private sector investments to take place and overcome barriers such as investment risks, insufficient rates of return for some green technologies and practices, competing subsidies and policies, insufficient capacity, information gaps, and regulatory and institutional barriers. Effective green growth financing strategies combine three primary roles in mobilizing private green growth investment through: i) creation of an effective enabling environment for long term green investment; ii) allocation of public budgets and investments, including through dedicated funds and/or financial intermediaries to encourage green growth; and iii) tailored application of financial instruments to mitigate risks and increase returns on investment to mobilize private green investment.

  7. Tap the power of public-private collaboration: Successfully achieving green growth will require engagement from all parts of society to build new skills, unlock innovation, achieve more sustainable management of resources, and create new visions and pathways for how economies are developed and communities interact. Strong government and private sector collaboration is an important tool to mobilize the resources, expertise, and innovative leadership needed to achieve green growth goals. 

  8. Pursue mutually reinforcing action across subnational and national levels of government: Along with nationally led green growth programs, an increasing number of subnational governments are implementing green growth initiatives and in some cases are leading or catalyzing national efforts. Successful implementation of these national and subnational efforts requires close collaboration to enable activities to be mutually reinforcing.

  9. Build and maintain robust green growth monitoring and evaluation systems: Effective monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems enhance learning, decision-making and management, strengthen government accountability, improve public trust and enable stakeholder participation. Such systems should be built and maintained to assess, track, and communicate green growth progress and results. 

Lessons Learnt

Green growth can unlock substantial economic, social, and environmental benefits. Green growth strategies enable governments to achieve significant near and long-term benefits in economic growth, environmental protection, and poverty reduction. These synergistic benefits can be achieved through improvements in resource efficiency and management, support for green technology and business innovation, and investment in initiatives to mitigate the risks and costs of this transition to green development.

Integrated and robust planning, analysis, implementation, and monitoring are essential. Green growth strategies tend to be most effective where they link robust and credible planning, analysis, implementation, and monitoring processes in an iterative and reinforcing cycle and with active stakeholder engagement. Regardless of whether green growth starts with a head of state as champion or through action at the subnational level, successful strategies couple robust planning and co-ordination processes across different levels of government, thorough evidence and analysis, coherent policies and financing measures, strong partnerships with the private sector and other stakeholders, linked national and subnational action, and effective monitoring and evaluation that allows for ongoing refinements.

Broad support for transformative change is required. Green growth plans are most effective when driven by ambitious yet achievable visions with high level and broad government and stakeholder support. They should pursue both near and long-term opportunities for dynamic shifts from the status quo in resource management, technology use, community development, industrial practices and competitiveness, education and worker training, and other factors.

Further efforts are needed to assess and validate the long-term and transformational benefits of green growth. While emerging evidence is demonstrating the value of green growth, this information is fragmented and is not yet adequate to determine the long-term economic, social, and environmental impacts of green growth and whether it is achieving the desired scale of transformation. Additional attention should be given to ongoing rigorous assessment of these longer-term impacts across countries and regions.

Greening growth represents a pathway for economic and social development that can sustain wealth creation and prosperity across society in a world threatened by global environmental risks and resource constraints. Governments in all regions face the challenge of fostering a transition to green development that enables durable economic growth and social development, while avoiding risks to public goods, natural assets, and social equality from the status quo. While not all encompassing, this Green Growth Best Practice assessment provides a strong foundation to inform and guide national and subnational governments as they address this vital challenge and seek to achieve sustainable development goals. It offers inspiring examples of green growth leadership around the world that can motivate others and create momentum towards more inclusive and sustainable economies. 

Further resources


    Suggested Citation

    GGBP (2014) Green Growth in Practice: Lessons from Country Experiences. Executive Summary. Green Growth Best Practice.

    About the Green Growth Best Practice Initiative

    Green growth is a relatively young field of public policy practice. The Green Growth Best Practice (GGBP) initiative was set up to accelerate learning and to inform design of green growth programs, by undertaking an analysis of early experiences. For this report, GGBP engaged 75 authors in evaluating practices and lessons from green growth programs in all regions of the world. GGBP is also conducting a broad array of activities to build awareness and support countries in applying results of the findings to their national and sub-national programs, such as by presenting results through seminars and dialogues requested by government agencies and partnering with others on policy dialogue workshops, e-learning and peer learning programs.

    GGBP is supported by the European Climate Foundation, Climate and Development Knowledge Network, and the Global Green Growth Institute, and is governed by a steering committee with representatives from the following organizations: Children’s Investment Fund Foundation; Climate and Development Knowledge Network; European Climate Foundation; Global Green Growth Institute; International Climate Initiative of the German Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature, Conservation, and Nuclear Safety; LEDS Global Partnership; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; United Nations Development Programme; United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific; United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean; United Nations Environment Programme; and the World Bank. GGBP is also working in close collaboration with various other regional and global partners and green growth experts.