For many years one of the predominant conventional wisdoms in both business and policymaking circles was that cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions necessitates a sacrifice in economic growth. We now know, through the experiences of both developed and developing countries, that economic growth can complement environmental conservation and transitioning to a low-carbon economy can go hand-in-hand with increased access to economic opportunity and higher levels of well-being.
I believe we can look to the experience of my own country, Indonesia, as an example of how, through wise policymaking and enough political will, countries can tackle both the challenges of climate change and inclusive economic development. Indonesia has in recent years embraced green growth policies that place great emphasis on the value of natural resources and the environment, on the eradication of poverty through the creation of jobs, while at the same time ensuring equitable and sustainable economic growth.
While I was president, we began to implement a four-track development strategy that is pro-poor, pro-job creation, pro-growth and pro-environment. We wanted to ensure a strong, balanced, sustainable and inclusive growth without damaging the environment. Taking this approach, the Indonesian economy achieved an average economic growth rate of 5.9% from 2009 to 2013. Meanwhile the poverty rate declined. In 2000, Indonesia’s poverty rate was 19.4%. By 2013, it had significantly declined to 11.3%. All of this was done while reducing GHG emissions by a projected 26% by 2020.
It is not just Indonesia that has embarked on this journey. As chair and president of the Global Green Growth Institute, I have made it our mission to assist developing and emerging economies with crafting and implementing their own, tailor-made policies and frameworks that will help them continue to realise strong, sustained economic growth while either cutting or limiting GHG emissions. For example, we, along with a number of other organisations, have been helping the Ethiopian government develop and implement its ambitious Climate Resilient Green Economy initiative that aims to help make Ethiopia a middle-income country by 2025 without producing any more GHG emissions than are produced today. Doing this includes putting in place an effective system for leveraging and spending climate finance and helping to build the capacity of the Ethiopian government to design and implement a comprehensive measuring, reporting and verification system for monitoring climate results. In the Philippines, GGGI has been working with the Climate Change Commission to help municipalities become ecologically stable and economically resilient to the effects of climate change.
In both of these cases, as well as in Indonesia, the essential ingredients for successfully pursuing pro-growth, pro-poor, and low-carbon strategies have been strong political will, wise policy choices, and a commitment to building internal capacity to implement the policies and strategies. And while we face significant challenges in keeping global temperature growth below 2ºC and in building low-carbon, climate-resilient societies, I believe through genuine commitment to green growth and putting it into practice in our policies, regulations and lifestyle, we will be able to ensure total harmony between the human race and Mother Earth.
* Our photo: Indonesia’s former President Susilo Bambang points out how critical sustainable management of the world’s forests is for equitable economic growth, at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), West Java, in June 2012, ahead of the Rio+20 summit.