China, South Korea lead in green tech funding

All other G20 nations lag behind for percentage of GDP spent on green infrastructure, United Nations book says.

Candace Lombardi
In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.
Candace Lombardi
3 min read

China may arguably be the world's biggest polluter, but it seems the country is also the most serious investor in green tech.

A third of its economic recovery package was spent on green-technology investment in the form of high-speed rail trains and infrastructure, wind energy, solar energy, and energy-efficient lighting. It equates to about 3 percent of China's GDP (gross domestic product), according to a new United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) book released Wednesday.

The UNEP book, "A Global Green New Deal: Rethinking the Economic Recovery," was published by the UNEP and Cambridge University Press (CUP). It was authored by Edward Barbier, the John S. Bugas professor of Economics at the University of Wyoming and a consultant to the UNEP's Green Economy Initiative.

Cambridge University Press 2010

"Last year UNEP and its advisors recommended that countries which invest one percent of their GDP in environmental sectors could begin realizing this low carbon, resource efficient, green economy path," UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said in a statement.

"Professor Barbier's book underlines that while some economies have seized this opportunity, others have not: with the exception of several Asian economies, there remains a gap between ambition and action," Steiner said.

The widespread media coverage of all the rhetoric and official meetings by the G20 nations suggests a strong world commitment to green investment as a way to stimulate the economy. But the money trail tells a different story, according to the UNEP book.

The book reports that only $460 billion of the estimated $3 trillion that's been spent globally on fiscal stimulus was spent on green tech. It equates to about 0.7 percent of the G20 nations' collective GDP.

"The G20, which accounts for two-thirds of the world's populations, 90 percent of Global GDP and three quarters of global greenhouse-gas emission, should be financing this," the UNEP said in a statement.

The U.S., despite talk of turning to a green economy, spent the equivalent of 0.7 percent of its GDP on green tech investment, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 only allocated 12 percent to green tech projects, according to the book.

For those who believe the European Union is more green than the U.S., here's a statistic that may shock. For all its talk of a green economy, the EU as a whole only spent the equivalent of 0.2 percent of its GDP on green tech investment, according to UNEP statistics.

Asia seems to be the most serious about investing in green technology, according to the UNEP book.

In addition to China, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) percentage-wise was found to be one of the leading green tech investors, spending the equivalent of more than 3 percent of its annual GDP on green tech. The report noted that the country has allocated 95 percent of its economic stimulus package to green technology, and implemented a plan in July 2009 to spend $60 billion on green tech infrastructure within the following five years.

Other countries with the highest percentage of its GDP equivalent invested in green tech include: Saudi Arabia at 1.7 percent; Australia at 1.2 percent; Japan at 0.8 percent; Germany at 0.5 percent; France at 0.3 percent; and Canada, South Africa, and the United Kingdom at 0.2 percent.