Published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature article titled “Reduced growth can work: This is how science can help” It is signed by a group of eight eminent scholars in environmental economics.
The publication addresses why more developed economies must reduce energy and material use to promote decarbonization and halt environmental degradation. It also provides a strategic framework for the governments of more developed countries to implement growth-lowering policies.
Rich countries can create prosperity while using less material and energy – if they set aside economic growth as the goal https://t.co/CHfY1wSGdg
– nature (@nature) December 12, 2022
“The global economy is organized around growth — the idea that companies, industries, and countries must increase output every year, regardless of whether that is necessary. This dynamic is driving climate change and environmental collapse. High-income economies, and the corporations and rich classes that dominate them, are primarily responsible for this problem and are consuming energy and materials at unsustainable rates.”
He adds that “rich economies” should abandon GDP growth as the goal, “reduce destructive and unnecessary forms of production” (private aircraft, for example) to limit the use of energy and materials, and focus economic activity on “satisfying human needs and well-being”.
According to researchers Jason Heckel, Georgos Kallis, Tim Jackson, Daniel W. O’Neill, Juliette B. Shore, and Julia K. “Providing energy and materials for low- and middle-income countries where growth may still be needed for development.”
In this sense, they point out that degrowth is a specific strategy for stabilizing economies and achieving social and environmental goals, in contrast to stagnation, which is chaotic and leads to social instability and occurs when growth-dependent economies fail to grow.
To achieve this purpose, the authors propose the following strategic axes:
Reducing production is less necessary. That means cutting back on destructive sectors like fossil fuels, mass-produced meat and dairy, fast fashion, advertising, automobiles and aviation, including private jets. At the same time, it is necessary to end the planned obsolescence of products, extend their useful life and reduce the purchasing power of the wealthy.
Improving public services. It is essential to ensure universal access to health services, education, housing, transportation, the Internet, renewable energy and high-quality, nutritious food. Universal public services can deliver strong social outcomes without high levels of resource use.
Introducing the Green Jobs Guarantee. This would train and mobilize labor around urgent social and environmental goals, such as installing renewable energies, insulating buildings, renovating environmental systems, and improving social welfare. Such a program would end unemployment and ensure a just transition out of work for workers in declining industries or “dying sectors,” such as those who depend on fossil fuels. It can be combined with a comprehensive income policy.
Reduce working time. This can be achieved by lowering the retirement age, encouraging part-time work, or adopting a four-day work week. These measures will reduce carbon emissions and free people to engage in caregiving and other well-being-promoting activities. It will also stabilize employment with much-needed production declines.
Enabling sustainable development. This requires canceling the unfair and unpayable debts of low- and middle-income countries, reducing unequal exchange in international trade, and creating conditions for reorienting productive capacity towards achieving social goals.
Some countries, regions and cities have already introduced elements of such policies. Many European countries guarantee free healthcare and education; Vienna and Singapore are known for their high-quality public housing; Nearly 100 cities around the world offer free public transportation. Many countries have used Employment Guarantee schemes in the past, and are experimenting with basic income and shorter working hours in Finland, Sweden and New Zealand.
But implementing a more comprehensive growth-reducing strategy, safely and equitably, faces major research challenges. Despite this, the degrowth theory begins to appear more and more in the scientific and political agenda at the global level. A few days ago, the European Union announced that it would, for the first time, fund scientific research on the feasibility of declining growth.
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