Innovation – the creation and diffusion of new ideas – is at the heart of the transition to a cleaner global environment. This includes not only technological innovation, but also innovation in economic and social systems and in lifestyles. Innovation is the main source of modern economic growth, which implies that the green transition is very compatible with long-term econonomic growth.
The green transition depends on the development and diffusion of new technological, economic, social, behavioural and business model innovations. These include electricity production, distribution and storage; agriculture and forestry; natural resource exploitation; buildings; transportation; water supply and treatment; waste management; and environmental remediation. Many of the necessary innovations in each of these sectors already exist and now need to be diffused and scaled up. This process can be eased thanks to the development of enabling innovations such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things and blockchain technologies. At least in the technological domain, the pace of innovation for the green transition has accelerated markedly since the mid-2000s. However, it is still insufficient to address the environmental challenges facing the planet today, and there is evidence to suggest that the pace of green innovation has slowed again in recent years. This suggests that major barriers remain and need to be lifted in order to accelerate the transition.