While they all conceded that thus far there had been more talk than action, several also argued that it is almost impossible to overstate their case."/> Rio+20 : Experts ask if the 'green economy' is oversold
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  • Published on: 19 Oct 2011
  • Source: Business Live/GILLIAN BROCKELL
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Experts ask if the 'green economy' is oversold
While they all conceded that thus far there had been more talk than action, several also argued that it is almost impossible to overstate their case.

"Are we promising too much and delivering too little? Where are the green economy jobs?" challenged policy expert Crispian Olver. "I'm not convinced there's enough on the table."

Ravi Naidoo from the Development Bank of Southern Africa agreed that there has been "a lot of talk and there needs to be more action," but also said investors need to take a long-term approach.

"We have to position ourselves in the long run, and that means environmental goods and services, and those aren't going happen in the next five years," Naidoo said. "We shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking if we don't do it in the next five years, [then] we should give up."

SA should leverage off of massive infrastructure projects instead of waiting for international funding, he said.

University of Stellenbosch TK Mark Swilling raised the bar further, saying the coming green revolution wasn't just about jobs or one industry sector but a "completely new development paradigm". To invest in non-green technology would be a "gross misapplication of capital", he said.

"If you're going to spend money on technologies like coal-fired power stations, what you're effectively doing in crowding out investments that stimulate innovation," he said. "It's a bit like saying in 1980: 'Listen, we really don't think this microcomputer revolution is going to drive an information technology revolution. We're very happy with our slide rules and maybe one or two big mainframes, so we're going to sink all our money in that.'"

Andrew Donaldson of the National Treasury said that while the green economy isn't oversold, "green finance" is.

"There is an enormous flurry of innovative financing arrangement internationally, most of which will never work," he charged. "The very big promises of money are likely to deliver 10% of what they're offering."

Green innovation as an economic driver is also oversold, he said, suggesting instead that investors should better employ "old-fashioned principles in planning and resource use."

Another government official, Guy Preston from the Department of Water Affairs, said that contrary to over-selling, "we've been very poor salespeople of the enormous logic" of green economic investment.

Dhesigen Naidoo, CEO of the Water Research Commission, agreed that the green experts had failed to communicate the potential beyond its own community.

"We have the potential of seeing a revolution that is not dissimilar to the end of sailing ships and horse-drawn carriages into the motorized space," he said. "That is the kind of revolution that is available to us."

SA could capitalise on the green revolution regardless of a weak economy, he said, citing Korea's move to a knowledge-based economy during a recession as an example.

Olver challenged the experts during a panel at a biodiversity conference sponsored by the Grasslands Partners Forum.

While they all conceded that thus far there had been more talk than action, several also argued that it is almost impossible to overstate their case." />
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