No-Growth Economic Model Needed for Developed Nations

Faced with the limits imposed by global climate change and the de-carbonization of the world’s economy required to address it, continued economic growth in the already affluent world does not offer the solution; it represents the problem. That’s the premise of a book published this week by Tim Jackson called Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet.

"Governments are locked into defending growth in a system where stability depends on growth. Chasing growth makes it incredibly difficult to chase climate goals too," said Jackson, who is Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey.

"So what we urgently need is an economic system that doesn’t rely on growth. Right now the one we have is undermining the ability of governments to function properly. It is undermining wellbeing in the richest nations and failing those in the poorest. It has already led us to the brink of economic collapse and it is driving us rapidly towards catastrophic climate change," he adds.

The book calls for a new vision of prosperity based around providing the capabilities for people to flourish–within the ecological limits of the planet. Key recommendations include the need for:

  • a massive uplift in ‘ecological’ investment: renewable energy, energy efficiency, local infrastructure, low-carbon transport, climate adaptation, ecological protection
  • support for ‘ecological’ enterprise-resource efficient, community-based activities that offer meaningful employment and deliver low-carbon goods and services
  • clear restraints on unbridled consumerism
  • the protection of public spaces and a renewed vision of social goods
  • investment in the capabilities for people to participate in society in less materialistic ways
  • real commitment by the richer nations towards low-carbon development in the poorer nations 

In the past few months, a number of leading figures have come out in support of the call to re-think economic growth. President Nicolas Sarkozy has asked world leaders to join a revolution in the measurement of economic progress, and Sir Nicholas Stern has warned “at some point we would have to think about whether we want future growth."

Jonathon Porritt said: "The idea that today’s model of
consumption-driven economic growth will secure sustainable, equitable
and decent lives for 9 billion people between now and 2050 is literally
laughable. The refusal of all the major parties even to acknowledge
this incontrovertible reality, let alone explore its implications, is

Last week, George Soros–backed by distinguished academic economists including Nobel laureate economists–launched the Institute for New Economic Thought, an independent think-tank charged with reinventing economics.

Chapter one of the book can be read at the link below.

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