Skip to main content

Green growth and win-win strategies for sustainable climate action

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - GREEN-WIN (Green growth and win-win strategies for sustainable climate action)

Reporting period: 2017-03-01 to 2018-12-31

Win-win strategies (WWS) are strategies that simultaneously meet both economic development and climate mitigation/adaptation goals. They underpin the concepts of green economy and green growth, which are rapidly gaining policy attention around the globe. Furthermore, WWS might be necessary for solving the climate problem, given the urgent need for development in poorer countries, and the unwillingness of developed countries, businesses and individuals around the globe to sacrifice near-term economic development for emission reductions. But to what extent can the concepts of green economy and green growth live up to their promises? How do we switch our economies to green growth pathways, what kind of policy instruments and green business models (GBM) exist or need to be developed for this?

Drawing together 16 project partners and 25 supporting organisations from UN agencies, NGOs, financial institutions, universities and think tanks from around the world, the GREEN-WIN project aimed to identify, develop and critically assess WWS and GBM for private and public actors at multiple levels, and co-develop shared narratives around these.

From this research we conclude that WWS can indeed be found in many areas of climate action but these strategies emerge under specific circumstances, and are usually not self-evident but need to be discovered. Generally, climate action is driven more by economic and social opportunities that exist today than by long-term mitigation targets. Hence, significant additional potential for climate action can be unleashed through bottom-up work searching for green development opportunities and enquiring how to overcome barriers to their realisation.
GREEN-WIN explored the potential for WWS to contribute to both economic growth and climate goals (i.e. green growth) by developing new economic models that better account for financial market constraints, technological innovation and diffusion of carbon technologies. We find that carefully designed climate clubs could – by enhancing technological diffusion and providing access to low-cost finance – support countries to develop sustainable and economically viable modes of cooperation, as well as adopt uniform ambitious mitigation pathways. These results formed central input to subsequent projects such as H2020 RIPPLES (grant number 730427) and the green Fintech incubator project CLIMEX (grant number 851876).

In the domain of coastal flood risk management, we focused on WWS and GBM that can help public actors to overcome financing barriers to coastal adaptation, with case studies in Germany, Jakarta, Batumi, The Maldives and The Netherlands. We found three general strategies: i) generating real estate development revenues through land reclamation; ii) generating tourism revenues through beach nourishment (replacing eroded sand); and iii) generating non-monetary nature benefits that attract additional funding, e.g. from environmental NGOs. Within all three strategies, financing and flood risk reduction responsibilities are shared between public and private actors. Findings from these studies have been used in flood risk reductions studies in, e.g. Indonesia and assisted in mainstreaming nature-based flood protection solutions in Bangladesh and India.

In the domain of transformations in urban systems, GREEN-WIN focused on studying WWS and GBM from an integrated and systemic perspective, relating them to the SDGs, with case studies in Shanghai, Istanbul, Barcelona, Venice and Beirut. It was found that a necessary condition for viable GBM to emerge is the co-creation of sustainability values between the green businesses and society. Furthermore, the success of city-level green transformations depends on the extent to which business, society and government are able to co-evolve with the socio-economic reconfigurations emerging from globalization and technological development. Results were taken up by the China National Development and Reform Commission in the process of designing local mobility plans, as well as by Beirut local government and several companies at the Global Virtual Summit for Zero-Waste Businesses.

In the domain of energy poverty and climate-resilient livelihoods, GREEN-WIN focused on WWS such as community renewable-energy systems in India and South Africa, coupling green coffee business with biogas technology in Indonesia, and integrated organic farming in South Africa. It was found that, GBM combine various streams of revenues with other social and environmental needs. Key enabling conditions include: the ability to collaborate and share different kinds of expertise, the ability to yield tangible benefits in the short term but as part of a long-term vision, and the inclusion and empowerment of economically excluded groups. Results in SA have been used by public servants working on infrastructure and climate resilience and have fed into new project proposals. The Indonesian case kick-started a sustainable coffee business which installs biogas digesters on farms and conducts climate field schools.

Cutting across all domains and levels, GREEN-WIN critically assessed financing conditions for GBM and WWS, and policies that could redirect financial flows towards climate action. Main supply side barriers impeding investments in green businesses include a lack of standardised information on green assets, the assumption that green is economically not viable or less profitable, a lack of GBM track records, and a lack of a common methodology for assessing the environmental impact of GBM. From the demand side, the main challenges for greening SMEs include finding their specific market niche, a lack of funding, and a shortage of “green” and financial skills. Policy levers for addressing these barriers include, green bond standards, adopting clear and coherent regulation, creating enabling market conditions for green products and services and facilitating access to funding and capacity-building programmes for green SMEs.

All of GREEN-WIN's research activities were embedded in a sustained global dialogue that critically absorbed research results and promoted mutual learning on GBM and WWS amongst international organizations, UN Agencies, financial institutions, business, and research. As a final result, a Narrative booklet was co-produced comprising 15 transformative narratives arranged around the project themes, promoting the wider realisation of win-win opportunities in climate action.
GREEN-WIN was the first European project that explicitly focused on how economic development can be combined with climate action at different levels. We provided the first quantitative assessments of the impact of the premium attached to green bonds by financial markets, and the costs and benefits of climate club architectures. GREEN-WIN also built business and investment-readiness capacity for entrepreneurs in Indonesia, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Rwanda, South Africa and the Philippines through targeted workshops with green entrepreneurs, to help them assess their business model, financial expectations and sustainability impact from the perspective of an investor. Finally, GREEN-WIN has broadened narratives of “win-win” potential from climate change action at multiple levels (e.g. through the UNESCAP SDG Help Desk) and formed the nucleus of growing capacity on climate finance at European research institutes.