By Rajesh Chakrabarti, Executive Director, The Bharti Institute of Public Policy

Hello and welcome to the Bharti Institute’s blogspace! Special thanks to my colleagues at the Bharti Institute of Public Policy led by Dr. Kaushiki Sanyal and the ISB communications team for making this blog a reality. Mark this site for regular updates on policy related inputs and analysis with a focus on India and other emerging markets. But in this inaugural blog I want to go global and tell you about a major conference where I spoke last week. With four Prime Ministers and the UN Secretary General speaking there, it was a big deal indeed. Well, you guessed it. I am talking about the just-concluded Fourth Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) at Copenhagen (www.3gf.dk). The forum is a platform initiated by the Prime Minister of Denmark in collaboration with the governments of China, Kenya, Mexico, Qatar and Republic of Korea. Other participating leaders at 3GF 2013 included the Prime Minister of France and Ethiopia.

The two-day conclave turned out to be a much-awaited meet of the global green brigade. Held in a massive four storey former warehouse at the heart of Copenhagen, the plenary sessions overflowed (and were telecast) to two major locations outside the main auditorium. The parallel sessions frequently were standing-crowd only. And if you thought the entire action was restricted to the wisdom being distributed at the sessions, well think again. There was as much buzz in the café area, well set-up with comfortable sofas, and meetings were being set up and concluded with the alacrity of a speed dating fair. And if you wanted longer and more serious meetings, the bilateral rooms could be booked as well, but getting a free spot on that calendar was not easy either. Every green foundation worth its name was there, talking furiously to multiple government and multilateral funding agency pushing various aspects of the green growth agenda, striking deals, signing MoUs and generally networking and card-swapping at a frantic pace. Private investors in green technology eyed opportunities and multi-billion-dollar green funds checked out on new initiatives they could focus on later.

What was the thrust of the sessions? The focus was less on the scientific and technological aspects of green technology and more on the economic, strategic and financial challenges. How to structure fiscal incentives, payment systems and build proper incentives to implement environment-friendly alternatives to drive the growth engine? Infrastructure was a recurring theme and deservedly so, for given the irreversibility and size of infrastructure projects, a country putting in place an environmentally inappropriate technology binds itself to a wrong growth path for decades to come. Public-private partnerships, particularly in the emerging markets of Asia and Africa occupied a central place in the dialogue. Policy makers were eager to learn from each others’ experiences. The Danish Environment Minister, for instance, cited the example of a road project in Holland that was supposed to pass through an ethnically sensitive neighborhood. Shunning the cheap way of taking it through the neighborhood, the authorities actually passed the road through a tunnel under it creating a park above the road solving multiple political and environmental problems in one stroke.

Sharing of national experiences brought out the universality of many of the challenges. Alignment of incentives was a critical issue.  Everyone understands that bringing in green alternatives would raise the cost of projects but ultimately also pay off in the long run, but the question is how to incentivize the bureaucrat to accept the higher project bid without stipulating stifling one-shoe-fits-all criteria in policies? How to create room for innovative environment-friendly solutions without putting the signing bureaucrat’s neck on the line? Similarly, the politicians wanted to know how to sell the “green” alternative to communities and to give it political voice. Hard and relevant questions all.

The two days passed in frenzied activity. The sharing of ideas as much as the contacts and deals struck surely helped push forth the shared agenda. Green growth is a big and expanding business space. Currently, it touches 19% of the energy generation globally and is expected to reach a size of $615 billion by 2015. In India itself, Renewable Energy accounted for 12% of total energy generation in 2012 up from 1% a decade earlier. In China it is a $67 billion industry. And this is only the beginning.

Thank you for visiting the Bharti Institute blogspace! Please keep coming back and share your views through comments on the blogs here as we keep posting blogs from Bharti Institute members, ISB faculty and invited experts on various topics of public policy. Let’s keep talking!

(The Bharti Institute is active in the Green Growth space though its collaboration with Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), the CPI-ISB Project).