Green Stimulus Update: China and the US Lead the Way

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Green dollars are a clear staple of some nations’ fiscal stimulus plans, but not all green spending is created equal.

HSBC’s research wing dove into the numbers and ranked the major countries’ economic stimulus plans by their investments in green technology and environmentally friendly programs.

Percentage-wise, South Korea leads the pack by sinking a full 81% percent of its fiscal stimulus into green works. China is second, with 34% of its stimulus plan going to projects that are eco-friendly. The U.S. comes in fifth — after France and Germany — allocating some 12% of its stimulus to green programs, while Italy is putting just 1.3% of its stimulus into green, and India’s would invest almost nothing in combating climate change.

By shear volume, the U.S. and China are the leaders, investing huge sums in green projects: $94 billion and $200 billion, respectively.

Ultimately, though, it’s how the money is spent that matters. And on that metric, the U.S. should see the biggest return on its green stimulus among all nations, said Nick Robins head of climate change at HSBC. He explained to EurActiv why:

It had the largest allocation to buildings [efficiency] and then to renewables. So in terms of grading and effectiveness, it seems to be quite well positioned.

In fact, the U.S. is the "only plan with a real boost to renewables," HSBC reported. An unexpected and disappointing find, Robins said:

That’s the area we found surprising when we did the analysis. We were expecting to find more, and we didn’t.

Of the total $2.8 trillion in global fiscal stimulus, the world has dedicated roughly $430 billion to low-carbon growth. The bank is optimistic that "these commitments are but the first installments of further efforts."

It seems HSBC is holding out hope for the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009 to produce more green recovery dollars because there’s no mistaking that the G-20 negotiations of April 2 were a total bust in that regard.

On the national level, the bank sees the potential launch of a Renewable Portfolio Standard in America, a federal "Green New Deal" in Japan and a low-carbon manufacturing strategy in the UK as major game-changing events.

Those may be safer bets. The UN climate talks in Bonn ended this week with no substantial progress. What emerged instead was plenty more evidence that rich and poor nations remain oceans apart on the fundamental issue of emissions-reduction targets, among others.

The data, released on March 31, was an update of a previous 48-page report by the bank on green stimulus. The original paper, Climate for Recovery: The Color of Stimulus Goes Green, is available here.


See also:

Lost Opportunity: Global Warming Getting Sidelined at G-20


G20 Forgets the Environment (Guardian)

Lord Stern’s Call for a $400 Billion "Green" Fiscal Stimulus

How to Pay for a Global Climate Deal

New Stern Warning: Unabated Climate Change Would Dwarf Financial Crisis