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Voices of Youth: Green Dreams, Making Cities Serene

Sunera Saba Khan's picture

At the 9th South Asia Economics Students' Meet on Green Growth, participants shared their vision about South Asian cities of the future. These are their innovative ideas.

Without taking care of the environment we are shaving digits off GDP and, therefore, limiting our very potential for the future.

Economic growth in South Asia is driven primarily by exports which has led to expanded production requirements needed to fuel an ever increasing amount of trade. This has accelerated the environmental degradation of many countries in the region. Gradual environmental degradation, climate change and diminishing natural resources create extra pressure to adopt different approaches in supporting the export-driven economic activities. The past axiom of “grow first, clean up later” cannot run more in a region which has limited natural resources and a rapidly growing population directly dependent on natural resources. These countries are now shouldering an increasingly greater share of regional and global environmental production-related burdens.

Economic growth without consideration for the environment can lead to many events which hamper growth itself. Due to globalization South Asian countries are becoming major contributors to global warming. The carbon emissions from the mounting numbers of flights taken, fuel related industrial projects undertaken are already leading to many natural disasters. These not only hamper production but also devalue the standards of living for the victims in South Asia.

Green growth will become a reality for South Asia if the region invests in green technologies. Introducing efficient technologies can reduce costs and increase productivity, while easing environmental pressure. Innovation plays a key role in greening growth by breaking dependence on established ways of doing things and helping to decouple growth from natural capital depletion.

Many environmental externalities are under-priced or not priced at all. For example, a carbon price can encourage innovation to tackle climate change, but current levels of carbon prices are too low to provide the necessary incentives.

New technologies may find it hard to compete with existing technologies, establshing  place in the market and scaling up, particularly in markets such as energy and transport, where existing technologies dominate. Investment in relevant research and temporary support for the development and commercialization of green technologies may be needed. This support has to foster the emergence and uptake of efficient technologies while minimizing the risks of technology lock-in, lack of competition or crowding out of private investment. Strengthening markets for green innovation is also important and this can be efficiently carried out through well-designed public procurement standards and regulation.

Trading of environmental goods and services will result in an inflow of green technology in South Asia. Exporters of environmental goods and services have access to the latest technologies which provides countries with knowledge and a  stronger basis for sustainable development in local communities.

Through some of these measures and others, we may begin tackling our environmental challenges and realizing the dream of a green South Asia.