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Green GDP: Balancing Economic Growth with Environmental Sustainability

Green GDP UPSC Green GDP is an economic measure that takes into account the environmental impact of economic activities. It is an alternative to the traditional Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which only focuses on the monetary value of goods and services produced within a country’s borders. The concept recognizes that economic growth should not come…

By Shubham Mittal


Green GDP is an economic measure that takes into account the environmental impact of economic activities. It is an alternative to the traditional Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which only focuses on the monetary value of goods and services produced within a country’s borders.

The concept recognizes that economic growth should not come at the expense of environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources. It seeks to incorporate the costs and benefits associated with environmental factors into the calculation of a country’s economic performance.

Green GDP also referred to as environmentally adjusted domestic product, is an indicator that assesses the sustainability of a country’s economic growth and its impact on the well-being of its population.

Measuring Green GDP

  • The increasing concerns about the environment have led to a growing demand for green national accounts, which aim to highlight the assessment of environmental wealth, its utilization, and depletion within the conventional national accounts of society.
  • Green GDP recognizes the importance of including both environmentally beneficial and harmful products, taking into account their social value.
  • It proposes a classification system for products based on their environmental impact and suggests a method of data collection and analysis using the Supply and Use tables provided by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI).
  • The integration of green accounts into the conventional GDP requires expanding the definitions of production, consumption, and wealth.
  • It emphasizes the need to account for both environmentally beneficial and harmful products in the national accounts, while also considering their social value in relation to economic activities.

Significance of Green GDP

  • Environmental Valuation: Green GDP incorporates the valuation of natural resources and ecosystem services, which are typically not considered in traditional GDP calculations.
    • By quantifying their economic value, it provides a more comprehensive measure of the costs and benefits associated with economic activities, taking into account environmental factors.
  • Sustainability: Green GDP aligns with the concept of Sustainable Development Goals by explicitly integrating environmental considerations into economic assessments.
    • It enables policymakers to better understand the trade-offs between economic growth and environmental sustainability, facilitating the formulation of strategies that promote both economic and environmental well-being.
  • Policy Relevance: Green GDP provides policymakers with a holistic view of economic performance, including the environmental dimension.
    • Incorporating environmental factors helps prioritize resources and informs policy decisions.
    • It identifies sectors and activities with significant environmental impacts, enabling targeted interventions and regulations to achieve sustainable development goals.
  • Resource Management: Green GDP emphasizes the importance of sustainable resource management.
    • Recognizing the economic value of natural resources, it promotes their conservation and efficient utilization.
    • This leads to improved resource allocation and reduced environmental degradation, fostering long-term sustainability.

India and Green GDP

  • India recognizes the importance of accounting for environmental impacts in its economic assessments, aligning with its sustainable development goals.
  • The country faces environmental challenges such as pollution, deforestation, and climate change.
  • By incorporating Green GDP, India can better understand the economic costs of environmental degradation and take corrective measures where needed.
  • To integrate environmental considerations, the Indian government has taken initiatives such as releasing the “Report on Environmental Accounting in India” by the MoSPI.
  • This report provides a framework for incorporating environmental dimensions into national accounts, laying the groundwork for calculating Green GDP in India.
  • Although Green GDP is not officially measured or reported in India, there have been attempts by researchers and institutions to estimate it.
  • A paper published by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in October 2022 estimated India’s green GDP to be around ₹167 trillion in 2019, indicating a 10% reduction from the conventional GDP of ₹185.8 trillion in the same year.
  • These estimates provide insights into the environmental costs associated with economic activities in India.

Other Countries Using Green GDP

  • China: In 2004, China initially planned to publish Green GDP statistics, but the process was halted due to political and methodological challenges. A preliminary report showed that environmental costs were reducing GDP growth, which created difficulties in the implementation of Green GDP.
  • USA: The United States has developed a comprehensive system of environmental-economic accounts that provide various indicators of the relationship between the economy and the environment. These accounts cover environmental expenditures, taxes, and other relevant factors. However, the USA does not produce a single measure of green GDP.
  • Europe: In Europe, member states are required by the EU to compile accounts that encompass emissions, taxes, materials, and protection expenditures. These accounts can be used to derive measures such as green GDP or adjusted domestic product, providing insights into the environmental dimension of economic activities.
  • Sweden: Sweden is recognized as a top performer in the Global Green Economy Index, which evaluates the green economy performance of countries worldwide. Sweden excels in areas such as leadership and climate change, efficiency sectors, markets and investment, and environment and natural capital. The country has also developed a set of indicators to monitor its progress in achieving green growth goals.

Challenges in Implementing Green GDP

  • Availability and Reliability of Data: Calculating green GDP is challenging due to the lack of reliable data on environmental costs, benefits, and the value of natural resources. Estimations involve assumptions and subjective judgments, affecting the reliability and comparability of results.
  • Value Assignments: Assigning monetary values to environmental goods and services is a contentious issue. Critics argue that certain aspects of the environment, like biodiversity and cultural heritage, hold an intrinsic value that cannot be adequately captured through economic valuation methods. The process of assigning economic values to the environment can be seen as oversimplifying and commodifying nature.
  • Complexity and Indicators: Green GDP is a complex indicator that considers social, economic, and environmental factors. There is no universally agreed-upon method for combining these factors and selecting the appropriate indicators can be challenging.
  • Policy Implementation and Trade-offs: While green GDP provides valuable insights, translating it into effective policies can be difficult. Implementing policies requires cooperation, political support, and overcoming obstacles. Moreover, finding the right balance between economic growth and environmental protection varies in different situations, making it challenging to formulate universal policies based solely on green GDP.

Way Forward

  • Develop and adopt a standardized framework and methodology to accurately measure and value environmental costs and benefits. This should be based on the latest scientific and economic knowledge. Conduct pilot projects and case studies to test and improve Green GDP methodologies.
  • Enhance the availability and quality of data on environmental indicators, such as emissions, resource use, and ecosystem services. Ensure that data is consistent and comparable across different countries and regions.
  • Raise awareness and understanding of green GDP among policymakers, businesses, and the public. Emphasize the advantages of green GDP over conventional GDP as a measure of economic performance and social well-being.
  • Foster collaboration and engagement among various stakeholders, including governments, international organizations, civil society, academia, and the private sector. Encourage their active participation in designing and implementing green GDP policies and initiatives.
  • Address potential trade-offs and conflicts that may arise when pursuing green GDP goals. This includes finding a balance between economic growth and environmental protection and promoting fairness and equity among different groups and regions.


Who gave the concept of Green GDP for the first time?

The concept of Green GDP was first introduced by William Nordhaus and James Tobin in 1972. They proposed a new measure of economic welfare called the Measure of Economic Welfare (MEW), which adjusted GDP to include the value of leisure time, unpaid work, and environmental damages.
MEW was a precursor to more sophisticated measures of sustainable development, such as the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) and the Ecological Footprint. These measures have been used to argue that economic growth is not always synonymous with progress and that it is important to consider the environmental impact of economic activity when measuring well-being.

Which is the first country to incorporate Green GDP?

China was the first country to incorporate Green GDP. In 2004, it published its first data for the year 2004. The data from the preliminary report showed that China’s economic growth had come at a significant environmental cost and hence, the process was halted due to political and methodological challenges. For example, the country’s carbon dioxide emissions increased by 20% between 1995 and 2004.


  • Shubham Mittal

    Shubham Mittal is a renowned current affairs writer and expert in government exam preparation, inspiring readers with insightful articles and guiding aspirants with his expertise.

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