BRICS and the green transformation - will mutual learning help achieve sustainability?

20 March 2014

While Europe and North America remain politically paralysed over the pursuit of green growth and renewable technologies, the BRICS countries, particularly China and India have stepped up their low carbon investment. Today, IDS and its partners will be sharing valuable insights and positive examples from the BRICS, as part of the Rising Powers in International Development programme of events in Rio, Brazil, this week.

China, Wuxi, Jiangsu Province - Workers assemble solar panels at the Suntech electronics factory. Suntech Power Holdings uses photovoltaic (PV) cell technology to convert sunlight into clean electricity. Credit: Panos / Qilai Shen

The World Centre for Sustainable Development, Rio + Centre and IDS Rising Powers in International Development (RPID) programme are co-hosting a high-level round-table on exploring mutual learning around "BRICS and the Green Transformation" today, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

This event will bring together leading academics working on this topic to explore the opportunities for mutual learning from and with the BRICS which can contribute to greater long-term sustainability. 

Dr Rômulo Paes de Sousa, Director of the World Centre for Sustainable Development, the Rio+Centre, and Senior International Associate with the RPID programme, said:

"The 'Green' Agenda cannot be ignored in our work and we recognize that Brazil, China, India and South Africa share issues in common in this context and also have approached the issue differently.

Take note, for example, of the significant and visible commitments by India, China and South Africa to low-carbon development and South Africa to a long-term development planning process which is green in many aspects. This event allows us to explore these actions, activities and agendas and their implications for the broader sustainable development agenda and for the leadership of BRICS countries in this context.

At a time when most Western countries are politically paralysed or heavily entrenched in political debates on greening and also have little financial room to manoeuvre, this momentum within the BRICS has unmistakable global implications....... policy and otherwise"

Professor Hubert Schmitz, who leads the research programme on green transformation at IDS, added:

"Most Western countries are politically paralysed and have little financial room to manoeuvre. They cannot carry out their expected role of leading the green transformation. In contrast, the BRICS, in particular China and India, have stepped up their low carbon investment.

China has become the global lead investor in renewable energy and India has seen the highest recent growth rate. The problem is that these countries have also become the main contributors to the recent increases in carbon emissions. So whilst there is no easy answer to the question of how the BRICS have affected the green transformation, our work suggests that:

  • The BRICS have become the default movers and shakers in the global economy, including the green economy
  • Alliances within and across countries are critical for accelerating the green transformation
  • Positive examples – rather than repeated warnings of climate catastrophes – are needed to inspire policies and actions"

Spanning IDS' work with its partners on the green transformation and climate policy, this event will showcase valuable insights from the experiences of the BRICS.

Chaired by Dr Paes, contributors include.

  • Professor Ambuj Sagar, of the Indian Institute of Technology will share lessons from India in meeting multiple energy challenges
  • Professor Hubert Schmitz, IDS, will examine the drivers of low-carbon policies, based on the work he has done with Dr Yixin DAI (Tsinghua University School of Public Policy) on lessons from China
  • Professor Emilio Lèbre la Rovere of the Climate Centre at COPPE-Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) will share insights from Rio de Janeiro, in the context of Brazil's low-carbon policies
  • Ms. Nozipho Mabebe Wright sets out what this means for those living in the African continent, based on the work she does at the International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy (Energia-Africa).
  • Dr Adrian Ely, from STEPS Centre, will stress that there are different pathways to the green transformation, exploring the contrast between high-tech, capital-intensive low-carbon innovations, versus lower-cost options which often emerge as innovations from the grassroots, born out of necessity.

The World Centre for Sustainable Development, Rio + Centre was set up as a joint venture between the UN and the Government of Brazil after the Rio+20 Summit in 2012 to promote sustainable development globally.

This event is part of a programme of events which RPID is co-hosting with its partners, which in Brazil include the COPPE-UFRJ, the BRICS Policy Center, CEBRAP, and Articulação SUL.This programme of events has been run in parallel to the BRICS Academic Forum, where academics from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa engage with each other to promote "academic exchange, strengthen dialogue with civil society, as well as provide policy advice".

Blog series on green transformation

 

Image credit: Qilai Shen / Panos