Green growth indicators: A practical approach for Asia and the Pacific

Flagship31 Dec 2013

Several countries in Asia and the Pacific have launched high-level policy initiatives and action plans to promote green growth, and the green economy. As a consequence the demand for indicators of economic growth that supports, rather than detracts from, sustainable development, is growing. Green growth indicator frameworks developed by international organisations and partnerships of organisations share a focus on a few key dimensions. These include human well-being, resource efficiency and productivity, economic transformation, environmental quality and natural capital, as well as policy responses. A review of the green growth policy priorities of many ESCAP member states shows that the policy context and the specific objectives for green growth in developing countries require closer attention to indicators that explicitly address inequality, access to basic ecosystem services, human capital investments (including traditional knowledge); urbanisation patterns and infrastructure development; governance (transparency, accountability and inclusiveness); resilience and a sectoral perspective (including in particular agriculture). This publication informs policy makers and practitioners involved in developing and monitoring green growth strategies. It proposes a framework for green growth indicators that seeks to respond to the context of developing countries and their expressed policy needs. It reflects ESCAP's mandate and experience in promoting, analysing and advocating green growth in the context of a broader vision of inclusive and sustainable development. In response to the mandate of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) the proposed framework is based on collaboration at the science-policy interface through the partnership of ESCAP with the Commonwealth, Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation of Australia. The proposed framework for green growth indicators is based on a wider concept of quality of growth, and puts attention on five main dimensions of economic development - equity and inclusiveness; efficiency and productivity; structural transformation; investment in natural capital; and planetary boundaries. ESCAP’s framework aligns with previous work on green economy and green growth indicators with particular attention to inequality and access to basic resources. It recognises the need to assess and mitigate risks – to set targets to ensure that economic activity and its resource use consequences stay within planetary limits. The importance of governance for each element of the framework is also emphasized. Several indicators are identified - some of which are well-known, widely-accepted and for which data is available, while others require further definition and investment for harmonization of methodology and data collection. The indicators proposed are not intended to be comprehensive or prescriptive - they are intended to assist government agencies and businesses to define indicators that address their particular circumstances, and to adapt them to priority economic sectors and specific geographic circumstances. Future work will be required to refine the indicators, make data available to strengthen the policy analysis capacity through economic modelling for sustainable development, and support governments that wish to develop their own information base and institutional capacity to measure and model green growth policy alternatives.