Despite solid growth, South Asia faces a risky outlook, the World Bank has said in its latest regional economic update, urging countries to fully capitalize on the global energy transition to help boost growth.
The report was released at a two-day conference, organized by the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) and the World Bank, which opened here on Monday with the theme of Toward Faster, Cleaner Growth.
Constrained by slowing growth and fiscal challenges, the Washington-based lender said South Asia's governments have limited room to help their economies make the most of the global energy transition.
The global energy transition presents an opportunity to boost productivity and investment, create jobs, cut air pollution and reduce reliance on fuel imports, it said in the report.
Even with limited fiscal space, countries can encourage firms to adopt more energy-efficient technologies through market-based regulations, information campaigns, broader access to finance and the provision of reliable power grids, according to the report.
Improvements in energy efficiency could accelerate progress toward both economic and environmental goals in South Asia, said the bank, adding that the region uses twice as much energy as the global average to produce each unit of output.
While South Asian firms are enthusiastic adopters of basic energy-efficient technologies, they lag in the adoption of more advanced technologies, it mentioned.
The energy transition will also reshape South Asia's labor markets, said the bank.
Almost one-tenth of the region's workers are employed in pollution-intensive jobs, it said, noting these jobs are concentrated among lower-skilled and informal workers who might struggle to adjust to job or income losses.
The report recommended a wide range of policies to protect such workers, including providing better access to high-quality education and training, finance and markets; facilitating worker mobility; and strengthening social safety nets.
"In South Asia, given the salience of our population and demographics, green growth agenda is not only a topic of central importance, but also a place to foster central innovation, and that's what we are looking forward to," said BIGD Executive Director Imran Matin at the gathering.
"The green growth agenda can not be advanced without really thinking about how it delivers on growth and the importance of interdisciplinary approach is key to understanding green growth," he added.
"Bangladesh has made some impressive progress in green development. For example, our garments sector ranks among the world's best on the number of green factories," Bangladeshi Planning Minister MA Mannan said.
"We must continue on the path outlined in Bangladesh's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Master Plan, which includes a series of programs that aim to help large industrial energy consumers, residential consumers, buildings, private companies and government agencies move toward energy efficiency," said the minister.