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POID Working Paper

Innovation, growth and the transition to net-zero emissions


The climate crisis and the global economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis occur against a background of slowing growth and widening inequalities, which together imply an urgent need for a new environmentally sustainable and inclusive approach to growth. Investments in "clean" innovation and its diffusion are key to shaping this, accompanied by investments in complementary assets including sustainable infrastructure, and human, natural and social capital which will not only help achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, but will also improve productivity, living standards and the prospects of individuals. In this article, we draw on the theoretical and empirical evidence on the opportunities, drivers and policies for innovation-led sustainable growth. We highlight the importance of a coordinated set of long-term policies and institutions that can enable and foster private sector investments in clean innovation and assets quickly and at scale. In doing so, we draw inspiration from Chris Freeman's work on the system-wide drivers of innovation, and his early vision of achieving environmental sustainability by reorienting growth.


Nicholas Stern and Anna Valero

1 June 2021     Paper Number POIDWP008

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This POID Working Paper is published under the Programme on Innovation and Diffusion.