Over the past few decades, the world has noticed a continuous rise in the temperature and its detrimental impact on human lives, which has made sustainable development the main goal of the policymakers, governments, civil society, and empirics (IPCC 2018). As a result, the nations are continuously in search of possibilities that can mitigate the effects of climate change. In this regard, the world leaders have signed a Paris Agreement in 2015, the main crux of which is to limit the world temperature below 2 degrees as compared to the pre-industrial level. Similarly, the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda of the UN also demand that world leaders should take quick action to make the environment better for this and future generations (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development—OECD 2020). According to OECD (2020) the developed and developing economy should strive together for attaining Sustainable Development Goals. Though all the countries have made commitments to attain environmentally sustainable economic development their efforts in this direction vary quite enormously.
Given the multi-dimensional nature of the environmental problems and the fact that one environmental strategy can’t resolve all the environmental problems which emerge as a result of increasing economic activities, we try to find the factors that can decouple economic growth from CO2 emissions. Such type of economic growth is given the name of green growth, which represents the sustained economic growth that can be attained with the help of more efficient use of natural capital (OECD, 2020). Green growth also represents the country's advancement towards a cleaner environment and sustainable economic development (OECD, 2020). To attain green growth the economies need to use natural resources in a sustainable and efficient manner. The ultimate objective of green growth is to attain economic growth that is more equitable in terms of material benefits and can also preserve the environment for future generations (OECD 2018). The idea of sustainable development i.e., attaining economic growth without compromising on superior environmental standards, calls for the more efficient use of input in the production and manufacturing process that reduces the burden on the environment and also spur economic growth.
Finance is slowly but gradually becoming the main driving force behind the economic development of a nation. A theoretical model proposed by Greenwood and Jovanovic (1990) provided a mechanism that explains the information asymmetries involved in the relationship between financial development and economic growth. They opined that a dynamic and vibrant financial system efficiently controls the issues of adverse selection and moral hazards that emerge due to information asymmetries and direct the funds towards the projects with the highest returns that will positively affect the overall productivity. Similarly, King and Levine (1993) integrated the concept of finance into the endogenous growth model and observed that an efficient financial arrangement help improve productivity and ultimately increases economic growth. Indeed, most of the studies have used banking sectors performance to represent the financial sector development and confirmed the positive impact of banking sector development on economic growth; however, few have also noticed the negative impact of banking sector development on economic development (Aghion et al., 2004 and Ullah et al. 2021). Ruiz (2018) has noticed asymmetric effects of financial development on economic growth; whereas, Asteriou and Spanos (2019) observed that the relationship between banking sector development and economic growth varies before and after the financial crisis.
The importance of financial development in fostering the growth of the economy has encouraged many empirics to analyze whether financial development can also help to decouple economic growth from environmental pollution. Recently, many studies are available that have analyzed the impact of financial development on the economy and confirmed the positive impact of the banking sector and other indicators of financial development on economic growth (Caporale et al., 2015; Tripathy, 2019). However, in recent times, the demand for a better environment has increased manifold, which is based on the more efficient and sustainable use of natural resources while performing economic activities (Longhofer and Jorgenson, 2017).
Apart from the relationship between financial development and economic growth, another important relationship that has grabbed the attention of the empirics is the link between environmental innovation and environmental pollution (Ullah et al. 2021 and Usman et al. 2021). It is widely recognized that an improvement in environment-related technologies, on one side, increase the productive capacity of the economy; on the other side, help the economy to produce a wide variety of environmentally friendly products and services that exert less burden on the environment and decouple economic growth from CO2 emissions. However, technological innovation has a dual impact on environmental quality and productivity (Yang et al. 2021). On one side, it saves human and material resources by improving the efficiency of producers and manufacturers, thereby decreasing the prices of the goods produced and raising their demand as well (Zeng et al. 2010 and Ullah et al. 2019). On the other hand, the rebound effect also plays its part and causes the demand for natural resources to rise (Herring and Roy 2007). At the same time, two different phenomena, “brown technology” and “pseudo-innovation”, also appear, which suggest that firms and businesses purposefully use a low level of outdated technology that help them to attain the scale effect but don’t allow them to contribute to the overall target of green growth. Further, education can also contribute to achieving the target of sustainable development goals and help to decouple economic growth from CO2 emissions. Education is the most important factor in the development of human capital, which is used as input in the production function. Promoting human capital and using the production techniques that are driven by human capital instead of physical capital can promote economic growth without exacerbating the environmental problem (Li & Ullah 2021). Hence, we can’t predict the impact of banking sector performance, education, and eco-innovation on green growth; therefore, banking sector performance, education, eco-innovation, and green growth relationship should be explored in detail and this study is an effort in this direction.