Are There Limits to Green Growth?

Edward B. Barbier

Published: September 2015

Although there is progress in developing green sectors in some countries, the key challenge facing the expansion of economy-wide green innovation and structural change is the absence of relevant policy follow-up to the green stimulus enacted during the Great Recession. The boost to green sectors provided by such measures is waning quickly, given that much of the green stimulus focused on energy efficiency. The biggest obstacles to sustaining green growth are major market disincentives, especially the underpricing of fossil fuels and market failures to spur green innovation. A three-part strategy to overcome these obstacles would involve, first, removing fossil fuel subsidies, second, employing market-based instruments to further reduce the social costs of fossil fuel use, and third, allocating any resulting revenue to public support for green innovation and investments. Such a strategy would ensure that green growth is not about promoting niche green sectors but instigating economy-wide innovation and structural transformation.

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