A key challenge at Los Cabos will be articulating a vision for green growth that is focused and feasible, yet integrates with other economic, development and multilateral governance reform initiatives already undertaken. The danger is that otherwise, especially at Rio+20 later the same week, green growth will mean everything and nothing — wish lists will prevail over strategic leadership. By putting energy and economics at the centre of the definition of green growth, the G20 could make a major contribution to the global understanding of what green growth means.
The G20 will need to provide a strategic vision for green growth that is compelling to all stakeholders and constituencies, which not only needs to be focused, but also comprehensive, inclusive, synergistic, multi-layered and multi-dimensional. This will require it to embrace:
- the big industry dimensions of green energy;
- the ongoing evolution of the development paradigm embodying green development;
- the sustainable development concerns of green environment; and
- the micro and macroeconomic dimensions of the green economy.
Such an approach would not only be consistent with, but also build on and enhance, major elements in the G20 summit lexicon, namely:
- the G20 Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth;
- the G20 Infrastructure Investment Plan;
- the G20 Seoul Development Consensus emphasizing economic growth and infrastructure investment; and
- the G20 ministers of foreign affairs’ support for linking green growth to development and the Millennium Development Goals.
A new green growth vision would also need to address and include a continuing focus on the big energy dimensions of green energy, such as the transition from coal to natural gas production, now driven in part by significantly lower natural gas prices; the possible “renaissance,” despite Fukushima, of nuclear energy as a major clean energy source; technological innovation for carbon storage and sequestration; the ongoing work of G20 summits to reduce fossil fuel subsidies; and the debate about the implicit and explicit price of carbon.
Creating such an approach would position G20 leaders as articulating a green growth vision that, as an economic strategy, is consistent with the mandate, history and priority of G20 summits on global growth. It would also enable G20 leaders to connect with their publics in a more direct way, by focusing on the micro-elements of Jeremy Rifkin’s five pillars of “The Third Industrial Revolution” (TIR), which are proposed here as the core elements of a global green growth strategy:
- increased supply of renewables;
- innovative buildings as mini-power plants;
- electrical storage technologies;
- electrical vehicles; and
- integrative smart grids.
These five TIR pillars are powerful elements in urban development strategies for the future. By 2030, seven out of 10 people will be living in urban areas. These five elements empower families, farms, firms and factories to take control of their energy future, rather than relying on big government, big industry and big banks to do it for them. Taken together, they are a mobilizing force at the local level, where people live and work.
An agreement at the G20 summit at Los Cabos on a global green growth strategy that embraces these dimensions could make a significant contribution to the Rio+20 Green Growth Summit held later that same week, providing a foundation and focus for further deliberations and enhancements from an environmental perspective. By the end of the Los Cabos summit, this sequence might lead to a global green growth vision for the world, which could be comprehensive and compelling enough to simultaneously make a difference for the future of the planet and humanity.