From Green Growth to Degrowth
The radical idea that economic growth might be more of a problem than a solution is no longer a radical idea. The idea of degrowth is emerging as a solid alternative to the growth-as-usual paradigm, which is an opportunity to revisit the growth debate with a more balanced view of each side. Instead of immediately picking a winner, let us look at where they disagree and where they agree. And let us reflect on what we can learn from this controversy.
- Decoupling is not enough. We should temper our optimism about green growth. The rates of decoupling observed so far are not enough to conciliate further economic growth and ecological sustainability.
- Sustainability is more than carbon. When assessing the impacts of economic growth, consider all types of environmental pressures like material footprint, water use, land change, pollution, waste, or biodiversity loss, and not only greenhouse gases.
- Mind imported emissions. When assessing the impacts of economic growth, use consumption-based indicators that include imported emissions.
- Don’t underestimate degrowth. Sufficiency-oriented strategies have a role to play in developed countries that are currently consuming more than their fair share of resources.
- Less is more. It is possible to live better with less income and material consumption, granted that quality public infrastructures are available.
- Forget about GDP. A transition to more socially just and ecological sustainable economies is complex and demand a dashboard of indicators. Social-ecological health should have priority over economic indicators like GDP.