Green development is now the only option
In the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh, this year’s energy crisis has intensified the debate over what policies developing countries should be putting first. Some argue that poor countries should focus on development rather than decarbonisation; others advocate “green development,” which would involve leapfrogging fossil fuels altogether. To capitalise on high oil and gas prices, some are auctioning off their peatlands and rainforests for drilling and mining. Not mincing words, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s lead climate representative recently pointed out that his country’s priority is to achieve stronger growth, “not to save the planet.” This way of framing the matter is understandable, given the rich world’s longstanding failure to meet its promises and help finance climate mitigation and adaptation in the Global South. But the supposed tradeoff between economic development and green policies is unconvincing – or at least suffers from a high degree of short-termism.