The Political Economy of Green Growth: Illustrations from Southern Africa

UNU-WIDER working paper 02/2012; 2012/11

Posted: 14 Dec 2014

See all articles by Finn Tarp

Finn Tarp

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics

Danielle E. Resnick

United Nations University - World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER)

James Thurlow

UNU-WIDER; International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 1, 2012

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.

Keywords: development policy, green growth, political economy, Southern Africa

JEL Classification: D72, N57, P48, Q00

Suggested Citation

Tarp, Finn and Resnick, Danielle E. and Thurlow, James, The Political Economy of Green Growth: Illustrations from Southern Africa (February 1, 2012). UNU-WIDER working paper 02/2012; 2012/11, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2537899

Finn Tarp (Contact Author)

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics ( email )

Øster Farimagsgade 5
Bygning 26
1353 Copenhagen K.
Denmark

Danielle E. Resnick

United Nations University - World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) ( email )

Katajanokanlaituri 6B
Helsinki, FIN-00160
Finland

HOME PAGE: http://www.wider.unu.edu/aboutus/people/resident-researchers/en_GB/resnick-danielle/

James Thurlow

UNU-WIDER ( email )

Katajanokanlaituri 6B
Helsinki, FIN-00160
Finland

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

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