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Is Green Development an Oxymoron?

Decarbonization will transform global production and trade patterns so radically that new growth opportunities are bound to arise for the Global South. The goal for them should not be to stop global warming by restricting domestic emissions, but rather to carve out a role for themselves in a rapidly greening world economy.

CAMBRIDGE – Suppose you are a policymaker in a developing economy. Your country’s income per capita is a fraction of that in the United States, Western Europe, or Japan. Your economy has grown over the past 30 years, but so have richer ones, meaning that the income gap has barely budged. Your young people are impatient and dream of leaving the country, often at high personal risk, in search of a better life.

Now you are told that, because of carbon dioxide emitted mostly by advanced economies, your country will have to adapt to a changing climate and restrict CO2 emissions, which will make energy more expensive and economic progress harder. Should you disregard green issues and focus solely on national development instead?

No, you should not. The reason is that decarbonization will transform global production and trade patterns so radically that new growth opportunities are bound to arise for savvy countries of the Global South. Their goal should not be to stop global warming by restricting domestic emissions, but rather to carve out a role for themselves in a rapidly greening world economy.

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