Much to Gain From Green
“Green Growth” is one of the seven priority areas announced in the Union Budget 2023–24 speech, reflecting India’s growing confidence in a strategy that puts sustainability at the core of economic development.
By Merlin Francis.
We all desire a better quality of life, but if in the bid to get it, we destroy the things that make our planet ‘habitable’, what is better or desirable about it? This is the question at the heart of the climate crisis. The answer? Green growth.
What is green growth?
The concept of green growth originated at the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development (MCED) held in Seoul in March 2005. With a view to harmonise economic growth with environmental sustainability, while strengthening the synergies between environment and economy, 52 governments and other stakeholders from Asia and the Pacific region adopted a Ministerial declaration (the Seoul Initiative Network on Green Growth) and a regional implementation plan for sustainable development. Pursuing a path of “green growth” was viewed as a key strategy for achieving sustainable development as well as the Millennium Development Goals (particularly, 2 and 7 relating to poverty reduction and environmental sustainability).
Simply put, green growth refers to a rethinking of traditional development strategies by factoring in how economic growth would impact the environment, and today’s climate crisis prescribes urgent worldwide action on this.
India and Green Growth
India has the largest number of poor people in the world and many unmet developmental aspirations. Addressing the climate crisis while meeting its development goals required a radical shift from the carbon-intensive development pathways that developed countries had immensely benefitted from. India recognised early on that adopting green growth as a strategy for economic development was crucial for poverty eradication. The Fourteenth Finance Commission that made recommendations for the period 2015- 20, emphasised that such a strategy would not only enable environmental sustainability, but also ensure that the poor had access to environmental resources.
In 2016, India signed the Paris Agreement, making ambitious commitments to increase the share of renewable energy, reduce the energy intensity of its development (gross domestic product), and create additional carbon sinks. In 2021, higher climate targets were set, as we committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2070.
Besides the evident role it plays in meeting India’s climate commitments, green growth can aid economic development, taking India sustainably towards becoming a USD 5 trillion economy by 2025–26.
It can open up new markets through innovation and enhance productivity, thereby expanding economic opportunities. For instance, the transition to renewable energy alone is expected to create at least 20 million jobs in energy generation and distribution.
Further, green technology can help build basic infrastructure as seen in Goalpara, Assam, where recycled plastic and geogrid technology was used to build a green road. The alternative technology came to the rescue of the district that had been facing a severe scarcity of road construction material after a bridge that was the lifeline for supply of essentials was washed away by floods.
Union Budget 2023–24 Paves the way for Climate Action
Economic Survey 2022–23 puts climate change front and centre of our development aspirations and goals, and the Union Budget announcements mirror this line of thought. Steps for clean energy transition, conservation efforts involving local communities, measures introducing more circularity in our economy, and the green credit programme are among the many announced to embed green growth in India’s development strategy.
Hear it from our domain experts:
Despite all the good things that the ‘green growth’ budget offers, there is no denying that there would be challenges to balancing our climate goals and development aspirations. Nonetheless, we are on the right track!
More insights on the Union Budget 2023–24 from CSTEP:
#Budget2023: What is in the budget for #climateaction? — YouTube
The author works in the Communication and Policy Engagement team at CSTEP.