The bank in a report said political considerations, entrenched behaviour and a lack of appropriate financing systems are the chief obstacles to environmentally friendly development.
It urged governments to rethink their approach to growth, measuring not only what is being produced but what is being used up and polluted in the process.
“There is a frequent misconception that poor countries cannot stimulate growth without degrading the environment and burning the cheapest and dirtiest sources of energy,” said Kandeh Yumkella, director general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, in a statement.
“This simply isn’t true. Developing countries won’t replicate growth patterns of previous centuries, nor should they try. They need to grow smarter, greener and quicker.”
The report was released at a Green Growth Summit in South Korea, which will discuss ways to support countries pursuing environmentally friendly growth and green economy strategies.
Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, said the two-day meeting of business leaders and experts can “give confidence to those who believe these discussions (on green growth) are only futuristic”.
South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, who is pushing to develop environmentally friendly technologies and industries as a new growth engine, said a Seoul-based think-tank would be launched as an international organisation later this year.
Seoul set up the Global Green Growth Institute in 2010, and Lee said that government ministers would upgrade the organisation at a meeting in South Korea in October.
The ministers will meet to prepare for December’s UN Climate Change Conference in Qatar.
“Green growth is now transcending borders and becoming a global asset,” Lee said in a speech.
Among the main speakers was Masayoshi Sen, founder and CEO of Japanese mobile phone operator Softbank Corp.
He urged a worldwide end to “uncontrollable” nuclear power, following last year’s Fukushima nuclear accident which led to the testing of children and others for radiation.
“We should not repeat this tragedy, for the sake of these children and humankind. So I say no nuclear power anywhere in the world,” Sen said.
He called instead for a massive harnessing of solar and wind power in places like the Gobi Desert, and an electrical “super-grid” linking Asian nations.