Page 50

32

I N C LU S I V E G R E E N G R O W T H: T H E PAT H WAY TO S U S TA I N A B L E D E V E LO PM E N T

the environmental damages of pesticides and chemicals. Fifth, although some dimensions of environmental quality improve with average income, many others do not. Local environmental issues with short-term, highly visible manifestations (such as local air and some types of water pollution) are usually resolved spontaneously as countries develop. In contrast, global public goods with long-term consequences (such as climate change or biodiversity) and local environmental issues with complex and less visible consequences can keep getting worse (box 1.1). The case of Costa Rica illustrates the contrast between local, visible pollutants and global ones. In 1978, when per capita GDP was about $2,200, emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) peaked, before leveling off and then declining slightly. Over the same period, however, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions continued to rise (figure 1.2).

Delaying action can be costly Making the “grow now and clean up later” argument even less palatable is the fact

BOX 1.1

that it may simply be too costly to do so. Indeed, it may be more economical to reduce or prevent pollution at an early stage of growth than to incur the higher clean-up costs at later stages, even when future costs and benefits are discounted. Acting early is critical when the choice of technology and infrastructure can “lock in” high-carbon or polluting lifestyles or economic structures. This issue is particularly relevant in developing countries, where most of the infrastructure will be built in the next few decades. As for climate change, a variety of experts have studied the optimal timing of action (Nordhaus 1992; Wigley and others 1996). Prematurely depreciating investments can be costly if climate change turns out to be less threatening than expected or if the discount rate used to calculate future losses is too low. But early action may well result in savings. Lecocq and others (1998) fi nd that in the absence of perfect foresight, specific policies regarding green infrastructure and long-lived capital must be adopted early to achieve mitigation objectives at a lower cost. Jaccard and Rivers (2007) show that early action is preferable in long-lived

Persistent concerns about local pollution in high-income countries

Complex and “invisible” local environmental issues do not necessarily improve with income. In countries like France, efforts to understand the transfer of pesticides to the environment (mostly water bodies) began only some 20 years ago, under the pressure of a European Union Directive regulating drinking water (Aubertot and others 2005). Soil contamination is harder to monitor and can lead to severe long-term environmental and health hazards, as the example of the insecticide chlordecone illustrates. Chlordecone, which was banned only recently, was used extensively in the French West Indies for more than 30 years, exposing the population to severe health hazards (Multignier and others 2010). The chemical remains in the soil for decades,

polluting water and agricultural productions, and contains known carcinogenics (Aubertot and others 2005; Multignier and others 2010). In the United States, the Safe Drinking Water Act regulates only 91 contaminants, despite the fact that more than 60,000 chemicals are used within the country’s borders. Scientists have examined many of these chemicals and have identified hundreds associated with a risk of cancer and other diseases at small concentrations in drinking water, according to an analysis of government records by the New York Times (Duhigg 2009). The implication is that millions of Americans are exposed to water that does not meet safety standards meant to protect against cancer or other serious diseases.

Inclusive Green Growth  

As the global population heads toward 9 billion by 2050, decisions made today will lock countries into growth patterns that may or may not b...

Inclusive Green Growth  

As the global population heads toward 9 billion by 2050, decisions made today will lock countries into growth patterns that may or may not b...