Making green growth sound easy

Nicholas Stern makes it sound so easy. The author of the British government’s Stern review on the economics of climate change makes the achievement of green growth appear straightforward.

At a lecture at the London School of Economics (LSE ) today he played down any tensions in relation to what he defined as the two defining challenges of the age: climate change and overcoming policy.

His emphasis was on the need to manage the risk of climate change. To the extent he talked about growth it was as a secondary consideration to be taken into account.

Stern identified three areas in which action to tackle the two challenges could be combined: energy efficiency, low carbon technology and dealing with deforestation.

There was little about how economic growth can be generated. Instead it was assumed that climate change is the over-riding priority.

Difficult questions were put to one side. For example, as long as fossil fuels are much cheaper should there be any principle against anyone, particularly poor countries, using them? Does he believe that cuts in living standards in the developed world are necessary? How much scope is there to raise living standards in the poor countries? Why does he give a logical priority to climate change when he says it is only one of two defining challenges of the age?

Stern needs to tackle such tough questions.