Ireland’s crisis presents opportunity for green recovery

28 Apr 2011

As the world moves towards a green growth regime, Ireland must decide what kind of economy it wants to see emerge from the current crisis. That is according to former UN climate change chief, Yvo de Boer, today global adviser on climate change and sustainability at KPMG.

De Boer will be in Dublin next month as keynote speaker at the second annual Green Economy Business & Leadership Briefing on 31 May, where leading international figures will discuss themes that include green economic growth, sustainable cities and the green credentials of cloud computing. He believes that Ireland’s current difficulties must be seen as an opportunity towards building a sustainable economy, with green recovery and jobs creation.

“The Chinese word for crisis consists of two characters – one is crisis and one is opportunity,” says de Boer.

“It is symptomatic of Chinese thinking that every crisis also represents an opportunity. What I’ve found interesting after the global economic crisis is that a number of countries have really used that crisis as an opportunity to reshape the direction of economic growth, for example China, Korea, the US and the European Union all have very significant green components in their economic recovery packages.

“So part of the question for Ireland is with what kind of an economy does it want to see emerge from this crisis?” de Boer continues. “When I was with you last year, there was a discussion going on about favourable tax rates to attract green companies into Ireland. That may be a little difficult under the current circumstances, but still I think there is an opportunity to have that conversation, and to decide in which direction the Irish economy should take as a result of this crisis, and how green government policies can help that to happen.”

Ireland’s progress towards becoming a so-called ‘knowledge economy’ is already a point in its favour, he says.

“Green enterprise is clearly a win-win, but investing in a knowledge-based economy is also a win-win, and Ireland already has an intelligent economy. It has knowledgeable and well-educated people and one of the advantages of knowledgeable, well-educated people is that they tend to do jobs that have a low environmental impact. That is already a key strength for Ireland in this space.”

Role of technology

Ireland’s strong technology base, too, will be pivotal to our recovery, as technology will be a key driver in climate change policy in the coming years. In recent weeks, member countries finally agreed on the 40 members to manage the UN Green Climate Fund, the institution that will manage long-term finance to enable developing countries address climate change.

Indeed, the Green Climate Fund committee holds its first meeting in Mexico City today and tomorrow (28 and 29 April), where it will prepare specifications for the fund for approval at the next UN Climate Conference in Durban in December.

The Green Climate Fund is being launched in the broad context of long-term financial support agreed at the Cancún Agreements last December, under which industrialised countries committed to a goal of jointly mobilising €100bn per year by 2020. A key part of the Green Climate Fund will be a Technology Mechanism to help develop new, cleaner technologies in developing countries.

“Personally, I think that technology transfer is a result of this whole transition, rather than a goal in and of itself,” says de Boer.

“Generally, technology is defined and transferred in the context of investment. People don’t wake up in the morning and say ‘let’s go and transfer some technology to developing countries’. This is where the Green Fund is so important, because it’s an investment vehicle, and I think it is as a result of that vehicle that the technology will be deployed.”

The second annual Business & Leadership Green Economy Briefing takes place from 8am on Tuesday, 31 May 2011, at the Four Seasons Hotel, Dublin. For further information, visit the website or contact Sharon Bolger.

Ann O’Dea is the CEO and co-founder of Silicon Republic and the founder of Future Human