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Is green growth good for the poor ?

  • Dercon, Stefan

The developing world is experiencing substantial environmental change, and climate change is likely to accelerate these processes in the coming decades. Due to their initial poverty, and their relatively high dependence on environmental capital for their livelihoods, the poor are likely to suffer most due to their low resources for mitigation and investment in adaptation. Economic growth is essential for any large-scale poverty reduction. Green growth, a growth process that is sensitive to environmental and climate change concerns, is often seen to be particularly helpful in this respect, leading to a win-win in growth and poverty reduction terms, with additional gains for the cause of greening the planet and avoiding further disastrous environmental change. This paper argues that such a view ignores important trade-offs in the nature of"green growth"strategies, stemming from a poor understanding of the sector and spatial processes behind effective poverty reduction. High labor intensity, declining shares of agriculture in gross domestic product and employment, migration, and urbanization are essential features of poverty-reducing growth. The paper contrasts some common and stylized green-sensitive growth ideas related to agriculture, trade, technology, infrastructure, and urban development with the requirements of poverty-sensitive growth. It finds that they may well cause a slow-down in the effectiveness of growth in reducing poverty. The main lesson therefore is that trade-offs are bound to exist; they increase the social costs of green growth and should be explicitly addressed. If not, green growth may not be good for the poor and the poor should not be asked to pay the price for sustaining growth while greening the planet.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 6231.

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Date of creation: 01 Oct 2012
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6231
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  1. Melissa Dell & Benjamin F. Jones & Benjamin A. Olken, 2008. "Climate Change and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Last Half Century," NBER Working Papers 14132, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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