Bruno Berthon writes about private investment in green growth, as part of a series of blog posts linked to the Green Investment Report 2013

After Hurricane Sandy, devastating storms in the Philippines and a spate of record drought across the globe, climate change came back on the agenda in 2012. There are now signs of increased political appetite to confront the issue. As is clearly illustrated by the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk 2013 report, greenhouse gas emissions and a failure to adapt to climate change remain key risks on the minds of business and policy leaders.

In this context, it is significant that The Green Investment Report 2013, launched by the Green Growth Action Alliance, provides an optimistic assessment of the prospect for supplying the global investment we need to deliver the low-carbon future we can’t afford to live without.

The Green Growth Action Alliance was founded at the 2012 G20 meeting in Mexico and is a collaboration of over 50 business, governments, civil society and international organizations aimed at securing investment for green growth. The Report, the first formal output from the Alliance, is just one of many ways in which the Alliance is looking to advance the green growth agenda. Its members are also collaborating on initiatives that aim to prove the efficacy of financing green growth, from energy efficiency to renewable energy and climate-smart agriculture.

Let’s be clear. Real progress has been made in driving global investment in renewable energy. In 2011, such investment reached US$ 257 billion, 93% higher than in 2007, the year before the economic crisis. But more is needed.

The Report estimates the investment required in a range of infrastructures to support population growth to be US$ 5 trillion per year. But this “business-as-usual” spending would be damaging to the environment. The Report suggests that a further US$ 700 billion per year is needed to make that investment sustainable. And that shortfall needs to be made up through the innovative use of existing public funds that leverage or “crowd in” private sector funds. With the right tools, leverage factors for public to private sector spend can reach levels of 1:10. This helps to create a shift in mindset from one focused on the shortfall in public sector lending to one that highlights the private sector opportunity.

To achieve the transition required, the priority, as stated by The Green Investment Report, is for government, business and public finance leaders to work together to accelerate the transition to investment-grade policy frameworks and encourage the development of targeted public finance.

Failing to shift from conventional investments to green alternatives has the potential to “lock in” inefficient high-emission technologies for the next 30 to 50 years. That is not just environmentally unsustainable, it is economically unsustainable as well.

Author: Bruno Berthon is the Global Managing Director, Strategy and Sustainability Services at Accenture. Accenture is a member of the Green Growth Alliance.  

Image: A man is reflected on the surface of a solar panel in Tokyo REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao