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Green Growth Policy

Korea has vital role in a green post-COVID world

Apr 20, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Rapid development and roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines globally are occupying the headlines of major media outlets. We are now well over a year into the COVID-19 crisis and most experts tell us that in the developed world, a return to normalcy is close. In the developing world, it will take significantly longer and depend on the efficiency and efficacy of the vaccine roll-out.

The pandemic occurred at a time when the world was already grappling with deep structural problems – systemic inequality and environmental degradation. Climate change encapsulates many of these problems – rapid deforestation, polluted air and the hydrological cycle all have impacts on climate systems. Developing countries, due in part to their geography, are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. 

COVID-19 has starkly exposed the interdependence between people, the planet, and the economy. The pandemic has already pushed over 100 million people into extreme poverty and worsened inequality in 2020. Climate change is further aggravating the situation and an estimated additional 130 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030 as a result. 

A “business-as-usual” recovery that neglects these interlinkages will not adequately address the complex challenges that confront the world, nor its structural weaknesses, and would likely result in a lost decade of development.

The World Bank Group has embraced a Green, Resilient, and Inclusive Development (GRID) approach which was endorsed by our Development Committee (a ministerial-level forum that represents 189 member countries of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund), in a communiqué issued at the institutions’ recent Spring Meetings. 

The proposed approach is tailored to country priorities and is supported by diagnostic work to assess where needs are greatest and where the binding constraints to a better development outcome may lie. It will require urgent investments at scale in all forms of capital (human, physical, natural, and social) to address structural weaknesses and promote growth. It also recognizes that greater action will be needed in several “keystone” sectors — for example, energy, food, manufacturing, urban and transport systems. However, the fruits of the transition may not be evenly distributed and will require a range of social and labor market policies that address adverse impacts, safeguard the vulnerable, and deliver a just transition.

Of course, the WBG has long worked with client countries to support better development outcomes and address the challenges of climate change. We were one of the first adopters and proponents of climate-smart agriculture that today has become part of the mainstream. We are also working to build resilient cities and help countries manage a just transition away from carbon-intensive sectors.

Through the generous contribution from the Korean government-sponsored Korea Green Growth Trust Fund (KGGTF), the World Bank has established a new set of diagnostics to be launched, which is summarized by the acronym RISE: for Resilience, Inclusion, Sustainability, and Efficiency. These four pillars are critical for a return to the path of prosperity, and to ensure both the quality and quantity of growth well into the future. 

With these indicators, our staff are working to diagnose and articulate development and sustainability challenges in over a dozen countries, with plans for a continued rollout in many more. Once they are finalized and launched externally, these RISE diagnostics will help change the way we work. We hope that by clearly seeing the quality of growth in a country, these indicators will also guide our country clients and other partners to pursue the type of green growth approach that Korea has modeled.

The Republic of Korea’s current Green New Deal initiatives and a previous decade of low-carbon Green Growth development experiences are in high demand from WBG partner countries. KGGTF, established in 2011 as a partnership between Korea and the WBG, has been playing a pivotal role in bridging the global need for greener development prior to the new GRID initiative.

To date, KGGTF has invested $88 million in 165 World Bank Group programs across the urban, transport, digital development, energy, environment, water, and agriculture sectors. The fund is a catalyst for green growth. It has already influenced $14 billion in WBG lending, funded the Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty (DMDU) work a new decision-making methodology responding to climate change which is now mainstreamed into WBG’s operations, and is also funding new innovative grants to create knowledge on insect farming for food and feed to increase food security in Sub-Saharan Africa. In short, KGGTF has provided the WBG with the financing and the know-how to experiment with new ideas and put them into action.

To harness knowledge gaps, KGGTF is hosting its seventh annual Korea Green Innovation Days (KGID) event which will convene leading experts and practitioners in the areas of green growth, climate change and sustainable development from the World Bank, Korea, and other global partners sponsored by Korea’s Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF).

KGID is action and policy oriented with a focus on the major issues surrounding green growth and long-term climate-smart development. It provides a platform for green growth experts to learn about frontier innovations, network, and exchange technical and operational knowledge.

The Republic of Korea is a global leader in green growth policies, technologies, and solutions to address climate change. And I believe it has a lot to share in terms of how such technologies and solutions are being deployed, connect with experts, and discuss potential opportunities for collaboration and partnership.

By Richard Damania

Korea has vital role in a green post-COVID world

Richard Damania is the Chief Economist of the Sustainable Development Practice Group at the World Bank

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