A European clean growth mindset

Policy Brief


“Clean growth” versus “degrowth” is a highly contentious political debate. It ought not to be. The seeming clash of worldviews is more about rhetoric than actual policy. First and foremost, it is a distraction from focusing on the actual policies needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions – quickly – and doing so while keeping competing priorities in mind.

Making the green transition work for people and for the planet is key to achieving sustainable emissions cuts without stirring political resentment and policy retrenchment. Doing so means finding a balance between energy efficiency measures on the one hand, and research, development, and the rapid deployment of new, cleaner technologies on the other – between demand-side policies that guide behaviour and energy use in the right direction, and the clean (re)industrialisation of Europe and the world.

This mirrors a pledge made by 118 governments at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP28, to both double the annual rate of energy efficiency improvements and to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030. In combination with the explicit identification of fossil fuels as the cause of massive environmental degradation, this means that some polluting sectors and industries will necessarily shrink, while others will thrive. 

It also means that policies must focus on guiding the transition and channeling market forces in the right direction, towards a high-efficiency, low-carbon economy and world.

The global clean energy race is on. Europe must take advantage of its policy environment and structural advantages, unique among advanced economies, while minimising some of the potential disadvantages. This requires finding the right balance between decarbonising Europe’s economy domestically and leading the rest of the world to do so. By balancing the demands of domestic consumers, producers, and citizens with their global counterparts, while helping stabilise the global climate in the process, Europe can square the circle of green growth.

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