For many, the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) presented a unique historical opportunity to tackle major environmental and economic challenges simultaneously by directing a ‘stimulus package’ of public investment towards green infrastructure and the development of ‘clean’ technologies. Many governments in industrial economies embraced this supposed ‘win-win’ solution and invested billions of dollars in green projects.
Despite the fascination of scholars with the GFC and increasing interest in the notion of a ‘green economy’, very little attention has been paid to the emergence of ‘green stimulus’ policies. This neglect should not be taken as evidence that the issue is unimportant: public investment in key areas, particularly green infrastructure, is considered crucial in ensuring that economies are not ‘locked in’ to carbon intensive paths for decades to come. Furthermore, given the high probability that the world will have to deal with further economic crises in the near future (and corresponding calls for government intervention) it is critical to understand the successes and failures of the initiatives taken in 2008/09.
Against this backdrop, the overarching research question of this project is: What do green stimulus packages tell us about the viability of government-driven paths to a green economy?
More specifically, this study aims to:
- unpack the notion of green stimulus and explain how and why it emerged in the wake of the GFC
- compare the 2008/09 green stimulus packages produced in five countries (Australia, Canada, China, Japan, and South Korea) and in the European Union (EU)
- determine what theories best explain the variation in the size and scope of these packages
- distil key lessons for policy-makers from the successes and failures of green stimulus in these countries.
It is of note that this project is not concerned with the number of jobs created by green stimulus or its impact on growth. These are questions more suited to a study in the discipline of economics. Rather, the project is situated at the intersection of the fields of politics, regulation and social theory and is concerned with how best to direct public investment from an environmental policy perspective.