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The Political Economy of Green Growth: Illustrations from Southern Africa

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  • Resnick, Danielle
  • Tarp, Finn
  • Thurlow, James

Abstract

The concept of `green growth´ implies that a wide range of developmental objectives, such as job creation, economic prosperity and poverty alleviation, can be easily reconciled with environmental sustainability. This study, however, argues that rather than being win-win, green growth is similar to most types of policy reforms that advocate the acceptance of short-term adjustment costs in the expectation of long-term gains. In particular, green growth policies often encourage developing countries to redesign their national strategies in ways that might be inconsistent with natural comparative advantages and past investments. In turn, there are often sizeable anti-reform coalitions whose interests may conflict with a green growth agenda. We illustrate this argument using case studies of Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa, which are engaged in development strategies that involve inorganic fertilizers, biofuels production, and coal-based energy, respectively. Each of these countries is pursuing an environmentally suboptimal strategy but nonetheless addressing critical development needs, including food security, fuel, and electricity. We show that adopting a green growth approach would not only be economically costly but also generate substantial domestic resistance, especially amongst the poor.

Suggested Citation

  • Resnick, Danielle & Tarp, Finn & Thurlow, James, 2012. "The Political Economy of Green Growth: Illustrations from Southern Africa," WIDER Working Paper Series 011, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  • Handle: RePEc:unu:wpaper:wp2012-11
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    File URL: https://www.wider.unu.edu/sites/default/files/wp2012-011.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Channing Arndt & Kenneth R. Simler, 2007. "Consistent poverty comparisons and inference," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 37(2-3), pages 133-139, September.
    2. Schut, Marc & Slingerland, Maja & Locke, Anna, 2010. "Biofuel developments in Mozambique. Update and analysis of policy, potential and reality," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(9), pages 5151-5165, September.
    3. Hallegatte, Stephane & Heal, Geoffrey & Fay, Marianne & Treguer, David, 2011. "From growth to green growth -- a framework," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5872, The World Bank.
    4. Arndt, Channing & Benfica, Rui & Tarp, Finn & Thurlow, James & Uaiene, Rafael, 2010. "Biofuels, poverty, and growth: a computable general equilibrium analysis of Mozambique," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(01), pages 81-105, February.
    5. Arndt, Channing & Makrelov, Konstantin & Thurlow, James, 2011. "Measuring the Carbon Content of the South African Economy," WIDER Working Paper Series 045, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    6. Minot, Nicholas & Benson, Todd, 2009. "Fertilizer subsidies in Africa: Are vouchers the answer?," Issue briefs 60, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    7. Winkler, Harald, 2005. "Renewable energy policy in South Africa: policy options for renewable electricity," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 27-38, January.
    8. Davis, Mark, 1998. "Rural household energy consumption : The effects of access to electricity--evidence from South Africa," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 207-217, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mark Purdon, 2015. "Advancing Comparative Climate Change Politics: Theory and Method," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 15(3), pages 1-26, August.
    2. Arndt, Channing & Davies, Rob & Gabriel, Sherwin & Makrelov, Konstantin & Merven, Bruno & Hartley, Faaiqa & Thurlow, James, 2016. "A sequential approach to integrated energy modeling in South Africa," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 161(C), pages 591-599.
    3. repec:eee:agiwat:v:207:y:2018:i:c:p:80-90 is not listed on IDEAS

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    Keywords

    Economic development; Environmental aspects (Economic development); Economic policy; Sustainable development;

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