COMMENTARY: Creating a green growth guarantee for the Rio Earth Summit

Posted: 30 April 2012

Author: Simon Maxwell

The G20 countries will meet on 18-19 June in Los Cabos, Mexico, a day before the world’s nations  meet for the Rio+20 Summit on sustainable development  in Rio de Janeiro. Here, Simon Maxwell, Executive Secretary of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) explains his hopes for the outcome of these meetings.

I don’t know how much progress has been made on the outcomes envisaged from Los Cabos. However, in the case of the Rio+20 Summit, we know that the original outcome document, a mere 19 pages long, has swelled to a ‘compilation document’ of 137 pages. The question is: how ambitious are our leaders prepared to be?

Woman carrying crops on her head
Woman carrying crops on her head. Photo credit: P. Casier, CGIAR

I suggest that the G20 members pledge a ‘green growth guarantee’, which they could then take forward to the Rio+20 Sustainable Development Summit.
This guarantee would support developing countries wishing to commit to green growth, both in the planning itself and in its implementation. The guarantee would be backed up by commitments by the G20 themselves with respect to their own economies, with the development of indicators (based on OECD green growth measures, but also the green economy index), and a process of peer review. Tongue (somewhat) in cheek, I have drafted a post-Los Cabos press release; it reads in part like this:

‘Speaking at the conclusion of the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, President Calderon announced agreement to a new G20 Green Growth guarantee. ‘All of us in the G20’, he said, ‘recognise that humanity’s future requires that our economies grow in a sustainable and inclusive manner. That is why we have today agreed to guarantee support to countries which set out on this path.

‘No country which shows true commitment to green growth will be denied the opportunity to fix measurable targets and milestones; and no country that asks for help in leveraging the necessary resources will be turned away. The G20 does not on its own determine what actions the international community will take. However, we will lead ourselves, holding each other accountable for our actions through peer review and regular reporting, both with regard to our own societies, and the support we provide to others. We will share knowledge and resources with all other countries.

‘Make no mistake. Today we mark a break with the past, and take the first steps on a new path of inclusive and sustainable growth.'

Mobilising funds

Of course, the G20 communiqué would need to be a little more measured than this, but the elements would include indicators, support to planning, financial engagement, and peer review. There could even be an infrastructure of learning platforms and tool-kits. If the G20 could champion an initiative like this, then it could easily be carried over to the Rio outcome document.

It goes without saying that there is work to do on each of the elements – but also that many organisations stand ready to contribute, including CDKN, which recently co-hosted a major international gathering of the Low Emissions Development Strategies Global Partnership .

The point is that developed countries and international agencies hold considerable public funds that could be mobilised in support of green growth planning and implementation in the global South, if leaders at the highest political level can agree high level, ambitious sustainability objectives as a basis to unlock the cash.

Simon Maxwell was formerly Director of the UK Overseas Development Institute. You can read more on the rationale for a green growth guarantee in his extended essay here. CDKN supports decision-makers in designing and delivering climate compatible development. combining research, advisory services and knowledge management in support of locally owned and managed policy processes.