In an increasingly demanding context of climate change, exhaustion of fossil energy resources and sustained economic crisis, a concept is gradually gaining ground, the concept of “green growth”, which aims to promote an environmentally-friendly form of economic development. “Greening” economic growth means developing ecological activity, investing in renewable energies and in improving yields from energy and materials use etc. However, moving from the political declaration of such ambitions to their realization is something that has not yet been done convincingly, particularly in Europe. To make that move, we would need a solid vision of the economic model that properly applies to “green growth”.
Pierre-André Jouvet and Christian de Perthuis have examined the subject and present their economic analysis of such growth in this article. They stress, initially, that we have moved from a “rarity barrier” where resources are concerned to an “environmental barrier –in other words, from a physical limit associated with a store of resources to a limit associated with human capabilities to regulate the natural system. It is actually becoming essential to integrate natural capital into the factors of production (alongside capital and labour). This implies that investments can be made to improve this factor of production. It also implies that natural capital comes into play in the distribution of wealth between factors of production.
Yet, as Jouvet and de Perthuis argue, most initiatives implemented in the name of green growth are, for the moment, cosmetic and do not truly bring the environment into the productive system. Hence they have little chance of sparking a new economic dynamic. Real change can come only from the remuneration of natural capital by reallocating the incomes from both labour and capital on a basis proportional to their initial contributions to environmental pollution. With this aim in mind, the authors propose various courses of action –expanding the concept of efficiency, effecting “ecological transition”, incorporating fairness into ecological choices etc.– and show what financial levers are available for achieving green growth.