The hidden byway to recovery?

James MacGregor's picture
Insight by 
James MacGregor
20 January 2010

The ‘slump as opportunity’ concept is alive and well in UK government. Ed Miliband, the country’s Energy and Climate Change Minister, said today that recession will not deflect government efforts to cut carbon emissions and move to a low-carbon economy.

That road is meant to be paved with innovation — smoothing the way for a new green economy and bypassing the rutted highways and tangled junctions of business-as-usual.

As one of the world’s premier knowledge economies, the UK is expected to be in the vanguard when it comes to seizing opportunities presented by climate change. One of those opportunities could be adopting new concepts of how to live more simply and efficiently day by day—ideas the recession is widely held to have pushed to prominence.

But if the UK is a genuine innovator and leader, what can developing countries learn from this behaviour to bring about sustainable development?

A recent report from the Commonwealth Foundation, authored by IIED’s Steve Bass and Tighe Geoghegan, indicates two areas of focus that are essential to bring about sustainable development in developing countries of the Commonwealth.

These are the environment or ‘green infrastructure’, and the informal economy. Both already play a disproportionate role in developing country economies, and under shocks like those expected from climate change will go on playing a key role in providing safety nets for the poorest.

Yet neither the environment nor the informal sector appear in most country’s national accounts, making the process of taking decisions over their importance trickier.

Finding ways of making these two ‘invisible’ elements policy tools for adapting and coping with changing climate is going to take renewed efforts from governments around the world. Yet, political will is there to make these commitments, as Mark Collins, Director of the Commonwealth Foundation, said: ‘The Commonwealth offers real potential for accelerating the transition to sustainability and for communicating solutions to the rest of the world.’

From the corridors of power to new, green, superclean and probably unpaved roads to recovery? We may still be drawing the map, but given the momentum, the transition is possible.