GLOBE-Net, August 27, 2012 - The 'clean
economy' has become something of a catch all phrase being used in a
variety of contexts to describe the desired end state of a
transition to a lower carbon future. Like the often overused phrase
'green economy' it carries many meanings, not all of which are
grounded in reality.
The GLOBE Group has been engaged in some groundbreaking research
on the clean economy and it would seem appropriate to share some of
the insights gained from our work.
It is important to note at the outset that the 'clean economy'
is not something separate from our everyday economy. In truth, we
live in only one economy. Making that economy 'cleaner'
represents a shift toward less carbon intensive solutions and
longer-term sustainability planning and programming.
It is not dissimilar from the how companies in the private
sector are continually improving their operating efficiencies to
reduce wastes and to conserve energy, thereby enhancing their
The transition toward a cleaner economy
is about creating and retaining wealth and jobs, reducing the
carbon footprint of societies, restoring the natural environmental
balance of critical ecosystems, and implementing improvements in
energy and industrial efficiency, all of which contribute to
enhanced economic competitiveness.
And while the payoff for a corporation is improved profitability
and shareholder benefit, the payoff of a cleaner economy is
measured in terms of creating better jobs and promoting more public
and private sector investment.
The second key point to note is that while clean and renewable
energy sources and technologies figure largely in the substance of
a cleaner economy, the opportunities for job creation and
investment promotion range far wider and find expression in all
areas of public policy and corporate governance.
In broad terms, the transition toward a cleaner economy is about
creating and retaining wealth and jobs, reducing the carbon
footprint of societies, restoring the natural environmental balance
of critical ecosystems, and implementing improvements in energy and
industrial efficiency, all of which contribute to enhanced economic
These words may sound like platitudes, but in truth the
transition toward a cleaner economy is a demanding and in some
respects risky proposition requiring courage and determination in
terms of public policy and programming, and leadership from the
Is the Clean Economy Important?
Absolutely! The Brookings Institution summed it up nicely in a
recent report: "the clean economy matters because its emergence
responds to critical global and national environmental, security,
and economic trends and associated challenges, most notably the
growing demand for global environmental sustainability, the
sharpening need for resource security, and the aspiration
everywhere toward economic transformation."
As illustrated in GLOBE's research summarized in the West Coast Clean Economy
Report published by the Pacific Coast Collaborative in
March of this year, the transition toward a cleaner economy
throughout the West Coast region (California, Oregon, Washington,
and British Columbia)could result in over one million net new
full-time equivalent jobs between 2010 and 2020.
Gross domestic product (GDP) contributions of up to US $142.7
billion and increased investments of between US $147-$192 billion
are also possible during this period.
Five market opportunity areas or 'sectors' that hold the highest
potential in terms of new investment and job growth were identified
in the March 2012 West Coast Clean Economy report. These
- Clean Energy Supply and Storage;
- Clean Transportation;
- Green Buildings and Energy Efficiency;
- Environmental Protection and Resource Sustainability; and
- Knowledge and Support.
These five key sectors exist at the 'core' of a cleaner economy
and supply the products, technologies, and services that are
helping to accelerate the transition to a lower-carbon
Accelerating the Transition to a Cleaner
What are the key factors driving the transition toward a cleaner
economy? Our research has identified the following basic
- Clear and stable policy frameworks-Having clear and stable
policy frameworks that encourage private sector investment and
which foster competitive market-based platforms for cleaner goods
and services are crucial to the creation of more jobs and to the
wide-spread deployment of innovative technologies.
- Support for market-based mechanisms- While government financial
support and related incentives are important for reducing
technology risk and accelerating market adoption during the
transition phase, market-based mechanisms must be allowed to work
their way into the functioning of a cleaner economy. Market-based
mechanisms are able to work faster than public policy in order to
accelerate economic growth.
- Establishing partnerships and increasing collaboration-
Collaboration between governments and also between companies can
help identify and exploit synergies to grow the cleaner elements of
the economy. Promoting shared use of resources can accelerate the
- Sustainable business models- Sustainable business models are
not about re-inventing the wheel, but rather about developing
strategies that allow them to realize existing and emerging
opportunities. Business models should be a reflection of current
and anticipated market demand. While incentives are useful in the
short-term, good products and sound business models will endure the
test of time.
- Focus on increasing productivity- Increasing productivity is
critical to achieving the opportunities of a cleaner economy. This
will require a combination of investment and technology innovation,
as well as training for skilled workforce development. Investing
more in skills-based learning will be critical for boosting
- Facilitating knowledge transfer-The skill sets required in
individual sectors are increasingly becoming integrated. As a
result, more cross-training and systems-based approaches to problem
solving are required. Promoting knowledge transfer is critical to
cleaning the entire economy. Demonstration projects are also
important, not only as a means for proving new technologies and
solutions to potential buyers, but also as tools for education and
Presently the GLOBE Group will be publishing new research on
three key market opportunity sectors in British Columbia -
specifically in the areas of clean energy supply and storage, clean
transportation, and green buildings and energy
This new research offers some very practical guidance for
leaders in business and government. Suffice it to say, we believe
the transition process described above represents the single most
important global necessity and opportunity on the medium-term
John D. Wiebe
President and CEO