Green growth: The stakes, issues, interests and views differ between rich and poor countries

Rich and poor countries differ in their assessment of environmental costs associated with economic growth; Rich and poor countries both still need that “growth”. But they differ not just in the pace, but also in the very nature of their “growth”.

by Thomas Nowotny

Excerpt from the article

Disregarding these differences is bound to deepen the policy gap between the rich and the poor of the earth. As past experience demonstrates, such disregard will complicate or even abort the search for global solutions to global problems. Poor countries resent being lectured about the need NOT to follow the production and consumption patterns of the already wealthy. At worst, such lecturing is interpreted as a neo-colonial attempt to keep them from catching up with well-to-do former imperial masters.
The wealthy, on their side, resent as callous and shortsighted the refusal of the poorer countries to adapt to their policy preferences. They would thereby jeopardize the common good, if not the very base of survival of the seven billion humans populating our planet.

We should not simply dismiss warnings on the grave consequences when in a world of soon nine to ten billion humans, the great number of the still poor will try to duplicate the patterns of consumption and production as they prevail among the wealthiest of the earth. But with an equal and even superior claim to plausibility, the argument can also be turned on its head. A world of nine to ten billion humans is not “sustainable” if not based on an order of ever rising productivity, of economic division of labor and competition; if not based on further advances in knowledge and in general education; on continued rapid urbanization; on greater use of energy. It is not possible to have “sustainability” without overall “growth”.

Would the cessation of rich countries’ growth be in the interest of the poor countries? To this question, recent history has provided us with a neat answer. No and on the contrary poorer countries have a substantial interest in the continued growth of their wealthy counterparts. The two sides have become to depend on each other...

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Thomas Nowotny is President of the SID Vienna Chapter. To learn more about SID Vienna activities, how to participate or how to become member of the chapter, please visit the SID Vienna Chapter website at:

Photo credits: flickr/byJoelLodge